Galveston is the epitome of beach town culture. While located less than an hour from Houston, it is both a weekend escape for those nearby and a destination that offers a plethora of activities (and plays host to some of the top festivals in the state) that make it the ideal getaway from families, couples, and singles. And since it’s only a few blocks from the cruise terminal, exploring Galveston Island is a great addition before or after your cruise vacation.
Although Galveston does have its fair share of art galleries and museums, including The Galveston Children’s Museum, Galveston Railroad Museum, Lone Star Flight Museum and the Galveston Arts Center, visitors to the area may opt to enjoy their art outdoors. The Tree Sculpture Tour, Public Art Tour, and ArtWalk all feature visual art installations that help to promote the island’s art community. A visit to Bishop’s Palace may be worth your while too. One of eight historic buildings open for tours, this beautifully preserved Victorian mansion was named one of the 100 Most Important Buildings in America by The American Institute of Architects. For those interested in learning about Galveston’s rich African-American heritage (Galveston is the birthplace of the Juneteenth holiday), the island is perfect for exploring its African-American historic sites.
In Galveston, visiting the island’s top attractions is the way to go. With so much to see and do, jumping aboard one of the old-fashioned Galveston Island Trolleys makes getting around the area a breeze. The routes run up and down the famous Seawall making stops at the Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park (one of the world’s top-five seaside parks), transporting you straight to the Historic Downtown and Strand District (36-blocks filled with over 100 shops, restaurants and galleries), and up to Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and Moody Gardens. Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark boasts the tallest water coaster in the world and Moody Gardens is a destination in itself featuring a massive resort, its own waterpark, an aquarium pyramid, 3D theater, and a tropical rainforest. You can even save some dough by grabbing a Galveston Island Pass which saves you a lot if you’re planning to explore multiple attractions. Galveston Island has a plethora of beaches, wetlands, and grasslands and has become one of the top locations in the country for birding. Using the Great Birding Guide, you’ll find it very easy to seek out different birding habitats, including Galveston Island State Park.
Less than one-hour from Houston, the coastal city of Galveston Island offers 32 miles of calm beaches, resort hotels, and one of the largest and most beautiful concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country.
The Beaches & Watersports
With its beaches and warm weather (most of the year), Galveston is ideal for those seeking a little fun in the sun. And it’s a must that you plan to spend several relaxing hours at the beach and getting an adrenaline rush enjoying a few intense water sports. The Seawall Trolley route can take you to family friendly Stewart Beach, and you can head to East Beach for some adult fun. East Beach is famous for its festivals, competitions and live concerts; and unlike most of Galveston’s beaches, alcohol is allowed. You could also rent a surrey (four-wheeled bikes with canopies) from Island Bicycle Company or go fishing at the 61st St. Fishing Pier where you can fish whenever you want, 24 hours a day. For the more adventurous, try your hand at flyboarding and hoverboarding with Extreme Water Sports. Or take it easy with a paddle board, surf board, boogie board, or golf cart rental with K6 Island Sports. There are several dolphin tours, sunset cruises, and harbor tours available as well.
The Main Events
Mardi Gras! Galveston, named the largest Mardi Gras festival in Texas, offers ten days of balcony parties, 22 parades, live entertainment and three million beads to the island. The AIA Sandcastle Competition (occurs every August) brings together Houston area architects, designers, engineers on East Beach for the one of the world’s largest amateur sandcastle competitions. For beer lovers, the Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival should not be missed. Over Labor Day weekend, Galveston’s Moody Gardens becomes home to one of the largest craft beer festivals in Texas featuring more than 400 craft beers, award-winning brewmasters, live music, beer, food and brew seminars, and much more. And another summertime event, the Galveston Cajun Festival, is a family fun weekend of sun, fun, food, contests, races and live music, and of course, lots and lots of crawfish!