50 Things Every Coastal Bend Local Must Do - The Bend Magazine

50 Things Every Coastal Bend Local Must Do

What does it mean to be a local through and through? To us, it means sharing a boundary-transcending bond with one another. It’s a shared experience with other Coastal Bend locals.

By: Kylie Kinnett  Photos by: Rachel Benavides and Brynn Osborn

What does it mean to be a local through and through? To us, it means sharing a boundary-transcending bond with one another. A bond that when you come across it, you know. It’s a shared experience with other Coastal Bend locals. It’s an inside joke that only someone from Corpus would understand. We took the idea of that bond and turned it into a list of 50 things every local should do, know, or experience. How many on here have you done? Who knows, you just might find out something about the Coastal Bend you’ve never known before. 

1. Take your grocery shopping to the Downtown Farmers Market

The next time you’re on the hunt for fresh produce and goods, wait until Wednesday, and then head to the Downtown Farmers’ Market. Stop by any of the vendor booths and you’ll find a bounty of squash, carrots, tomatoes, peaches, local honey, fresh bread, and so much more. Bring your reusable bags and stock your kitchen with local goodness.

2. Actually wake up at the crack of dawn for the sea turtle release

The sea turtle release is one of those things almost every Coastal Bend local talks about, but few have actually participated in it. During this event, newly hatched sea turtles slowly make their way to the water. While the releases do not occur on a regular schedule, they typically happen between June and August. You might not be too happy when your alarm goes off, but watching baby turtles return to their true home will definitely be worth it.  

3. Explore Downtown on foot

With all the one-way streets downtown, it can be fairly easy to become so used to the surroundings you see when driving, that you might not even know about some of the things you’re driving by every day. Explore Downtown on foot and you’ll discover murals, cool architecture, sides of buildings with more character than you could ever imagine, and optimum photo opportunities.

4. Get out of your car at Swantner Park and sit by the water

Regardless of what part of town you might have grown up in, Swantner Park probably has some type of special place in your heart. Whether you went on a “first date” there or brought breakfast tacos at sunrise, getting out of your car and sitting by the water is a sure-fire way to enjoy a peaceful moment in the city. Plus, there is a killer view of the downtown skyline from here!

5. Attend a performance of Rocky Horror at Aurora Arts Theatre

Janet! Dr. Scott! Janet! Brad! ROCKY! Any true Coastal Bend local absolutely will have attended a performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Aurora Arts Theatre. Not for the faint of heart, this annual production gets better year after year and is unlike any other theatre performance. From the prop bags to the call outs, you’ll most definitely leave this show a whole new person.

6. Take a ferry ride to San Joe’s Island and watch the dolphins along the way

The chance to immerse yourself in unruffled Texas nature is just a ferry ride away from Port Aransas. This privately owned island is a hub for birding, fishing, shell searching, and beach lounging. Plus, there is a pretty solid chance you’ll spot a dolphin or two on your commute.

7. Time travel with Doc McGregor

Our city is so rich in history. With the development of a new(ish) app, Frontera, you can take a walking tour of various historic buildings with photos from Doc McGregor. Once you download the app, it will give you directions to where each tour begins and provide you with interesting tidbits and super cool photos of what each spot looked like between the 30s and 70s.

8. Wander the Art Museum of South Texas by yourself

Exploring a museum with friends can be fun, but wandering around aimlessly for hours is a whole other experience. Carve some time out of your day and allow yourself to get lost in the Art Museum of South Texas. With new exhibits every few months, filled with beautiful and culturally rich pieces of art, it will be more than easy to spend a day here.

9. Ride the Ferris wheel at Buc Days

Catching a ride on the Ferris wheel at Buc Days is an absolute must. There is truly no better way to view our beautiful city than from atop the wheel. Not only will you get a bird’s eye view of the carnival in all its glory, but you’ll also see the water and a view of downtown that is pretty hard to beat. Make it a romantic gesture or use it as a way to overcome your fear of heights.

10. See literal jaw dropping works of art made from sand at the Texas SandFest

10-foot-tall sand sculptures are something we common folk might not ever be able to create, but walking the entire length of the beach, which is lined with sculpture after sculpture, is good enough. Try not to have your jaw dropped as you gaze upon these magnificent works of art made completely out of sand. Every April, rain or shine, this event should be on your Coastal Bend bucket list.

11. Have a cocktail at Grand View Lounge

Sipping on your favorite cocktail amidst floor to ceiling windows showcasing one of the best views in town is pretty ideal. Well, that is exactly what is in store for you when having a drink at the Grand View Lounge. Atop the Best Western Hotel on Shoreline Blvd., this bar offers a sophisticated libation break in your week.

12. Sit outside and eat a Texas Wave at Hester’s Café in the Art Museum of South Texas

With three locations to choose from, figuring out which Hester’s to go to can be a little overwhelming. However, nothing quite beats a lunch with a view, and that is exactly what the Hester’s inside the Art Museum of South Texas provides. Order that beloved Texas Wave, take a seat on their outside deck, and watch the boats as they float on.

13. Watch the Wednesday Night Regatta Races

If you ever find yourself wondering what to do on a drab summer Wednesday night, an often unknown or overlooked activity is to head down to the T-heads and experience beautiful sailboats of all sizes racing. You can either sit in the designated bleachers or head to Joe’s Crab Shack and sit outside with a cocktail and watch.

14. Eat raw, open shell oysters at Water Street Oyster Bar

Even if oysters aren’t really your thing, every Coastal Bend local should attempt to eat them at least once. Water Street Oyster Bar has some pretty great ones (which would explain why it’s in the name). Order a dozen and spruce them up with horseradish, fresh lemons, and a dash of Tabasco sauce. Even if you don’t enjoy the experience, at least you can say you’ve tried it!

15. Take a Carbomb at Cassidy’s Irish Pub to start your night of drinking Downtown

A shot of Baileys dropping into a full pint of Guinness and then being chugged is quite possibly one of the best ways to start your night of drinking. The next time you head Downtown for a night of bar hopping, make Cassidy’s Irish Pub your first stop. It will give you just the right amount of buzz you’ll need to energize your spirits for the night ahead.

16. Make a movie for CC 7 Day Film Festival with your friends

You don’t have to be a professional filmmaker to participate in CC 7 Day (although it might help if you’re looking to snag some awards). This annual event permits filmmakers 7 days to create a film that fulfils certain requirements such as a local location, a key line, and a prop that must be incorporated. Even if filmmaking is way out of your wheelhouse, you can attend the full day of viewing at Alamo Drafthouse and watch local shorts on the big screen!

17. Fall in love with Austin Street

A year and some change after hurricane Harvey and Austin Street is still a street every Coastal Bend local should adore. Filled with art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants, and so much more, this staple of Rockport provides almost everyone with something they will enjoy. The arts and culture scene you’ll encounter when wandering up and down this street is well worth it.

18. Ride a Bird scooter to get to your destination

The Bird Scooter is the newest transportation fad in the Coastal Bend and quite possibly one of the most fun ways to get from point A to point B. The coolest part? There is no limit on where you can take these bad boys. Ride them wherever you want and park them on the sidewalk with the kickstand when you’re done!

19. Cry while driving down Ocean Drive

Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter what the easiest route to your destination is, Ocean Drive is the preferred road traveled. Driving down this street, with your windows down and the music blaring, often times encourages tears to roll down your face. Whether they are happy or sad tears, it doesn’t matter. It just feels good to let those emotions out amongst those beautiful rows of palm trees.

20. Go to Pint Night at the Surf Club

Two-dollar draft pints every single Tuesday night. That in it of itself should be enough of a description. The Surf Club is a longtime staple in our community and Pint Night has been allowing old and new friends alike gather and enjoy one another’s company over some crazy cheap beer. While you’re at it, order some battered fries, you won’t regret it.

21. Stargaze at the National Seashore

While we aren’t the biggest city ever, it can still be hard to view the stars under the city lights. Instead, take a drive out to the National Seashore and allow yourself to be awed by your surroundings. Our advice would be to get out there a little before sunset, so you can watch as the sun descends over the dunes and the sky becomes illuminated only by the moon and the stars.

22. Get your karaoke on at Rehab Karaoke Bar

Whether your go-to karaoke song is “Don’t Stop Believing” or something more along the lines of a Whitney Houston ballad, Rehab Karaoke Bar has you covered. This is the perfect place to live out all your failed rock star dreams and not feel judged for any of your missed notes. Get a couple drinks deep and show us what you’ve got.

23. Walk the Harbor Bridge before you no longer can

While the new Harbor Bridge will be great for tons of reasons, one can’t help but feel saddened when envisioning our skyline without the silhouette of the Harbor Bridge we all know and love. You still have a couple years to accomplish this, but walking the bridge, end to end, is a must before you no longer can! Will there be a Harbor Bridge Walk when the new bridge is completed? We aren’t sure, but we aren’t taking any chances on missing our opportunity.

24. Ride horses on the beach

This might sound like a cheesy rom-com storyline, but really, it’s just a classic Coastal Bend activity to partake in. Horses on the Beach: Corpus Christi, just south of Bob Hall Pier, will take you on a tour of the beach, lasting anywhere between an hour and an hour and a half. You can even book a “Sunset Ride” and take in the beach and all its glory from atop a four-legged friend.

25. Make a team and run Beach to Bay

As one of the largest relay marathons in the country, Beach to Bay is something every Coastal Bend local should do at least once. You don’t have to be a seasoned runner to participate! Simply gather five other people and create your team. Come up with a clever name, make some t-shirts, and walk the whole thing for all anyone cares. This race literally takes its participants from the beach to the bay and is such a cool event to be a part of.

26. Order a slice from House of Rock

We aren’t quite sure why ordering pizza by the slice feels so cool? Maybe because it makes us feel like we are on the streets of New York, visiting a classic pizza shop in a random neighborhood. Whatever the case might be, getting pizza at House of Rock is a real tasty item on this list. As one of the few spots in town that will serve you by the slice, you’ll be thanking us for the recommendation with every bite you take.  

27. Break out of your comfort zone and take a Water Dog Floating Yoga class

When you live in a beach town, it is almost inevitable for usual land activities to make their way to the water. Next time you’re looking for a yoga class to partake in, try out a session with Water Dog Floating Yoga! This unique approach yoga allows participants to go through the normal flows atop a floating paddle board. There are even classes where your pups are welcomed!

28. Get a fully loaded baked potato from the Trade Center

Parked right outside the Trade Center, every Saturday and Sunday, there sits a little red train. Inside, you’ll find a family working hard to serve the absolute most delicious dish, the fully loaded baked potato. The potato contains butter, corn, mayonnaise, shredded cheese, lemon pepper, chili powder, and more cheese. You can also add sausage or steak. It’s hands down one of the best things you’ll ever eat in the Coastal Bend.

29. Get an entire box of kolaches from S&J’s

S&J’s kolaches are in a world of their own. Its perfect outside is just the right combination of buttery, salty, and sweet. The inside, filled with cheese and your choice of meat, oozes out and satisfies every single one of your taste buds. We promise we aren’t exaggerating when we say you’re going to want to get an entire box of these to take with you when you leave.

30. Attend Pops in the Park

This is one of those events you’ve probably always heard about, but maybe haven’t actually had the chance to attend yet. This year make it a must-attend occasion. The Corpus Christi Symphony pairs their wonderful music with a firework show, filling the night sky with vivid colors. It is quite an extraordinary experience and totally family friendly.

31. Go to a comedy show at Mesquite St.

Located right in the heart of Downtown Corpus Christi, Mesquite St. has been a staple in the ever-growing comedy and stand up scene in town. Every week you’ll catch national touring comedy acts bringing the laughs. An added bonus? While you’re catching a show, you can also grub on their delicious food!

32. Take a Ghost Tour of the Lexington

During the month of October, the bravest of souls board the USS Lexington to explore the ship in all its spooky glory. The tour will take you through dark corridors, creaky hatchways and allow you to experience unimaginable sights, screams, and sounds. IT might not sound super scary, but trust us, this is not for the faint of heart.

33. Find your go-to breakfast taco joint and become a regular

It’s no secret, we Coastal Bend locals love our tacos. Heck, our entire November issue revolved around the food item. But finding the perfect taqueria that suits all your needs is quite important. So, find your go-to spot and become a regular! You’ll feel connected and known, you’ll eat a great taco, and you’ll be supporting a local business. Wins all around!

34. Attend the Rockport Art Festival

There are tons of festivals in the Coastal Bend area year round. However, there is something about the Rockport Art Festival that sets itself apart from the others. The city of Rockport has always been a hub for the arts, and for this festival they pull out all the stops. Rows and rows of artists, vendors, live music, food trucks, and more.

35. Buy that new house plant you’ve been wanting at the Botanical Garden’s Annual Big Bloom Plant Sale

The Botanical Gardens is a true gem of the Coastal Bend. You can visit any time of year and be mesmerized by the nature inside its gates. However, every spring they host their annual BIG BLOOM Plant Sale where each visitor can enter the gardens for only one dollar. Inside you’ll find rows and rows of plants for sale, a butterfly release, tons of local vendors, and so much more.

36. Order a Hug in a Mug from Coffee Waves

It could just be because of the name, but there is nothing more comforting than a Hug in a Mug. This deliciously cozy drink combines chai, soymilk, and coconut to make the perfect beverage. Order it hot or iced and allow the flavors to give you a hug.

37. Play a game of giant chess at BUS

Playing bar games is always a fun activity to partake in when out drinking with friends, but when the games are five times their normal size, things get taken up a notch. Grab a friend and play a game of giant chess at BUS (or giant checkers, giant Jenga, or giant Connect Four).

38. Grab a drink at Mikel Mays on Bob Hall Pier after a day at the beach

After a long and sweaty day at the beach, nothing beats an ice-cold adult beverage. Mikel Mays, which sits pretty at the top of the pier, is a longtime Coastal Bend favorite. When visiting the establishment, you’ll always be greeted by friendly faces and unbeatable views. Plus, they have a new drink special every single day. Yes, you read that correctly.

39. Discover the Chapel on the Dunes in Port Aransas

High up on a sand dune in Port Aransas, sits the tiniest white chapel. Built in the late 1930s by Aline B. Carter, the Chapel on the Dunes is a true Coastal Bend treasure. Inside the white structure, you’ll find beautiful paintings floor to ceiling, all designed by Aline herself. The chapel is truly a sight that will take your breath away, both with its presence and its story.

40. Play a friendly (or not so friendly) game of volleyball at Dewey’s Beer Garden

A little friendly competition never hurt anybody. Gather a group of people together and play a game (or five) of volleyball at Dewey’s Beer Garden. Even if volleyball isn’t really your thing, they have tons of other activities like horseshoes, giant Jenga, corn hole, dodgeball, and more!

41. Get a dozen donuts from Gates Donut Shop

Are you even a true local if you’ve never woken up early enough to grab a dozen donuts from Gates? This local donut stand is a Corpus Christi staple and never disappoints. The only trick is making sure you get there before they sell out!

42. Spend a ridiculous amount of time in the jellyfish room at the Texas State Aquarium

It might be because of the intense ultra-violet lighting and the lack of any type of natural light, but when you are in the “Tentacles” exhibit at the Texas State Aquarium, it feels as though you have taken a deep dive into the ocean. Several species of jellyfish call this room home, allowing guests to view the floating phantoms up close and personal.

43. Participate in a beach clean-up

Living in a beach town, we should all take it upon ourselves to participate in a beach clean-up from time to time. Taking care of our beaches means taking care of our home! There are tons of organizations in town that host regularly scheduled clean-ups at each of the beaches in our area. Take your family and make a fun, yet impactful, day out of it.

44. Eat a bowl of poblano soup from Nuevo Café

There is no soup quite like the poblano soup at Nuevo Café. It will leave you sniffling from the heat it contains, but it is well worth it. Their homemade croutons that are placed ever so gracefully atop the bowl of creamy soup add the perfect crunch to this delicious Corpus staple.

45. Watch the Blue Angels from Oso Pier

The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels make an annual appearance in the Coastal Bend as a part of the Wings Over South Texas Air Show. The best seat in the house can be found at Oso Pier. It’s in the perfect location to watch the Angels as they zip through the sky for a memorable performance.

46. Take the family to watch a movie at the Cole Park Amphitheater

The Bay Jammin’ Concert & Cinema Series is one of the coolest summer activities in the Coastal Bend. Every Thursday and Friday during June and August, you can head to the Cole Park Amphitheater to catch a show or movie screening. The live music ranges from classic rock to jazz, and the films are always family-friendly. Bring your friends, your kids, your dog, your snacks, and your lawn chairs, and you’ll be set for the perfect evening.

47. Tour the Old Bayview Cemetery

Did you know the oldest federal military cemetery in Texas is right in our own backyard? That sounds a little spooky, but really, it’s jam-packed with rich history. Lined with mesquite trees winding down the pathways, the cemetery is home to the remains of military veterans and the earliest settlers of Corpus Christi. Wander around by yourself or take a tour; either way, you’ll learn a whole lot about Corpus’ history.

48. Attend a Summer Melodrama at the Harbor Playhouse and throw popcorn at the actors

Sensational dramatic pieces, exaggerated characters, acts appealing to your emotions – sounds like an evening filled with excitement, no? Add to that the fact that you can throw popcorn at the actors while they perform, and you’ve got yourself the Summer Melodrama Series at Harbor Playhouse. These interactive theater performances make for a fun night on the town and are sure to bring you all the feels you never knew you needed to feel.

49. Take a helicopter tour of Corpus

If you’ve ever wondered what a bird’s eye view of our city looks like, Espejo Helicopters is here to help you out. They have a variety of tours for the public and, depending on what parts of the Coastal Bend you’d like to see, they’ll take you out. They even have “Discovery Flights” where you can get basic ground training and even experience 30 minutes of hands on flying.

50. Get your tasting on at KEDT’s annual events, Classic Brew and Food and Wine Classic

Every year, KEDT puts on both the Food & Wine Classic and the Classic Brew events, which feature tastings of wine, food, and beer from all around Texas! These really are some of the most fun events to attend in the Coastal Bend. You get a tasting glass and can walk around to sample any and everything your heart desires. Plus, you get to keep the glass as a souvenir!