A Visit To The Texas State AquariumAs part of a really fun Thanksgiving vacation in Port Aransas, on the way home we spent 3 days in another one of our favorite Texas Cities - Corpus Christi. Corpus is loaded with fun things to do from beach activities to lots of attractions plus great restaurants, lively night life, and more. But one of our favorite things to do when we visit Corpus Christi is go to the .
The Texas State Aquarium opened in 1990 and was named by the Texas Legislature as the "Official Aquarium of Texas." The Aquarium is dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and rehabilitation of the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico. The mission is to "connect people with nature and inspire conservation in the Gulf of Mexico" and education is the cornerstone of the Aquarium's mission.
The Aquarium is three levels - the second level is the Weston's Library Family Learning Center, the first level is home to the exhibits and gift shop and dolphin Bay, and the ground floor level has more exhibits, splash park, the Shoreline Grill, and a boardwalk into the Corpus Christi Bay. Don't miss the Observation Deck which provides a breathtaking view of the Bay, the USS Lexington which is next door, and downtown Corpus and the marina just across the ship channel. The ship channel which is always busy with huge ships and barges passing just in front of the aquarium.
Some of what we think makes Texas State Aquarium one of the best aquariums in Texas includes:
- it's clean, well maintained, and staffed by lots of friendly, outgoing, and very knowledgeable staff members
- the exhibits are well done and each one has several informative plaques about what is in that exhibit as well as there are staff members nearby each exhibit to answer any questions
- the prices are reasonable
- the daily shows are fun, informative, and interesting
You need to plan to spend a full day at the Aquarium to enjoy all that it has to offer. Plan you day around the schedule of presentations and then take your time going through the exhibits. During our visit the presentations started at 10 AM and concluded at 4:30. The presentations included:
- Rigs To Reef - an interesting presentation on the fish that inhabit the offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico
- Dolphin Show - you don't want to miss what these loveable and intelligent dolphins can do to entertain you and themselves and you'll lean about how they are trained
- Diver in the Water - we watched a diver feed the fish in a Texas coral reef and explain a lot about the fish eating habits
- Wild Flight Show - an exciting show with raptors soaring through the amphitheater and an opportunity to meet some native and exotic animals up-close
- Turtle Tales - here we learned what makes sea turtles so unique
- Animal Encounter - it differs each day but we got to meet some remarkable reptiles, touch a baby alligator, meet a couple snakes, and say hi to a tortoise
- You "Otter" Know This - it was fun watching these cute creatures enjoy their environment and the water side
- Stingray Chat - we learned about stingrays and were amazed how these friendly stingrays would let us pet them
- Shark-ology, Birds of Prey, and Animal Encounter - unfortunately, we missed these three shows
Between shows we visited the exhibits all of which are very well done and extremely interesting and some are very unique. The exhibits on the first level include:
- Living Shores with touch pools with hermit crabs, pencil urchins, and more
- Nearshore Gallery has sand dunes and mangroves with colorful spoonbills
- Islands of Steel is a 125,000 gallon tank that offers a view of the habitat formed around oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico
- Amazon has a wide variety of species that live in the Amazon rainforest
- Flower Gardens is a 40,000 gallon tank with a hundreds of different that live in the Flower Gardens 300 miles from our coast line
- Floating Phantoms is several displays of different jelly fish, many of which are found along our coast
- Dolphin Bay is home to some amazing bottlenose dolphins
On the ground level of the Texas State Aquarium are the flowing:
- Otter Creek - home and playground for the Otters
- Stingray Lagoon - here we were able to pet some very friendly stingrays
- Eagle Pass - home to Grace, a bald eagle rehabilitated in Alaska, and other raptors rescued and rehabilitated at the Texas State Aquarium
- Dolphin Room - underwater viewing room, featuring a 70-foot acrylic window with a view into the 400,000-gallon saltwater pool where the two dolphins frolic Tortuga Cay - this large tank allows you to observe turtles that were rehabilitated and then deemed non-releasable
- Swamp Tales - all we saw was one huge nasty looking 10' alligator (named Bo) resting on the bottom of a pool - I wouldn't want to be one of the several turtles living with him when he's hungry
- Hawn Wild Flight Theater - an outdoor tiered seating theater that is home for the bird and other animal shows
- Shark Touch - you can actually pet a nurse shark and go home with all your fingers
- Splash Park and Owen’s Paleo Park - zero-depth wetscape water play area and an area where you can unearth fossilized remains of animals that lived here over 13,000 years ago
All of the exhibits and shows were outstanding but our favorites included:
- The interesting lionfish, jelly fish with long flowing tails, colorful (yellow and blue and red) frogs, the green moray eels, the friendly stingrays, and the wide variety of fish in the Islands of Steel stole the show for us.
- The Dolphin Show was interesting as we learned how these playful dolphins are trained, how intelligent they are, and got to watch them do several tricks like catch and toss a ball back to the trainer, wave with their flippers, or come flying out of the water from the bottom of the tank, do a couple twists and flips, and gracefully dive back to the bottom of the tank. And watching them after the show just having a good time swimming and playing in their home was awe inspiring.
- Diver in the Water was interesting to watch as he feed the fish and had to hand deliver some of the food to specific locations where some fish were too timid to come out and get it
- And it was amazing to understand how interesting and intelligent and playful the North American River Otters are.
In addition to the shows and exhibits, you can load up on some food between presentations at the Shoreline Grill and some souvenirs to take home at the Gift Shop.
Texas State Aquarium offers a wide variety of different educational and fun programs throughout the year. During our visit they were doing a Sleep With The Sharks - a camp-in program for all ages that also included a pizza dinner and a continental breakfast.
The Texas State Aquarium is still growing and nearing completion is the $50 million Caribbean Journey addition which will introduce Aquarium guests to the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean plus the Coastal Bend areas and a new 4D theater.
The Texas State Aquarium is a don't miss attraction if you're in the Corpus Christi area!