The magnificent Texas State Aquarium (2710 N. Shoreline Blvd., 361/881-1200, www.texasstateaquarium.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $15 adults, $13.50 seniors, $10 children 3–12, parking $3.50) offers an ideal way to take a quick break from the beach while still being surrounded by the region’s fascinating natural resources.
The layout of the Texas State Aquarium is rather clever, leading visitors into Texas’s marine world at sea level with exhibits containing birds, alligators, and stingrays, and proceeding to explore the Gulf of Mexico at sequentially deeper levels.
One of the aquarium’s main exhibits showcases menacing sharks, a 350-pound grouper, and hundreds of other species as they slither and glide around the barnacle-encrusted poles of a replicated offshore oil rig.
The 350,000-gallon Dolphin Bay habitat uses seawater from Corpus Christi Bay for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that cannot live in the wild. A shaded seating area provides respite from the relentless sun for daily interpretive programs, and a long viewing window allows visitors to get nose-to-nose with the dolphins.
Other popular exhibits include Otter Space, featuring the frisky fellas cavorting on slides and in pools, and Living Shores, allowing kids to handle nonthreatening sea creatures.
The Texas State Aquarium recently expanded to include terrestrial critters, particularly in the Amazon rainforest exhibit, containing boa constrictors and poison dart frogs, and in the bird theater, featuring “flight performances” by hawks, falcons, and parrots.