Galveston Destination Overview
This balmy island outlining the southeastern coast of Texas may be as slender as a toothpick, but the hot spot packs a wide selection of beachside activities. Catch some sun and sand along the 32 miles of Gulf beaches, go surfing and birding, or head to nearby amusement parks to keep the young ones full of smiles.
Not to be outdone is Galveston's history. (For the record, Galveston is the city located on Galveston Island and Pelican Island). Let the history reel run on city tours to learn how the coastal haven served as a main port for the Texas Navy during the Texas Revolution. Six historic districts contain one of the largest and historically significant collections of 19th century buildings with more than 60 structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
On a vacation in Galveston, you hardly have to change out of your bathing suit.
Named among the "10 Best Beaches for Families" by Family Vacation Critic in 2013, Stewart Beach is Galveston's go-to family beach park. With lifeguards on duty, parents can let their kids hit the waves without worrying. For beach partiers, look no further than East Beach where bikini-clad vacationers can listen to outdoor concerts, live bands and compete in bikini contests. Seawall Urban Park is the heart of Galveston's beach activity, located along the island's famous Seawall Boulevard.
Ferry Ride and Dolphin Watch:
Bringing visitors on a 20-minute ride each way between Port Bolivar and Galveston, the Bolivar Ferry is a top draw. On the waters your vessel might be joined by boisterous dolphins swimming by. The peak months for ferry use are June, July and August. Throughout the year more than 8 million people climb aboard the ferry.
Schlitternbahn Galveston Island Waterpark:
Sandwiched between Moody Gardens and the Lone Star Flight Museum, Schlitternbahn Galveston Island Waterpark has over 35 water adventures, with crowd favorites including Cliffhanger speed slides and Screaming Serpents. To navigate the park, relax on mile-long set of interconnected waterways. A part of the park was designed with a retractable roof so the aquatic attractions can stay open year-round.
Birding, Shopping and Art Galleries
Galveston's art galleries make for a pleasant pastime between beach activities. You can also stretch your legs along the famous Strand before making your way to one of the birding trails through which hundreds of migratory birds fly each year.
The Strand - Museums, Shops and More:
A stroll along the historic Strand District is inevitable on any Galveston vacation. Zig-zag between dozens of shops and eateries housed in quaint, historic buildings. At the head of the Strand, the Galveston Railroad Museum showcases one of the largest railroad collections in the Southwest. Kids won't want to miss the new pirate museum, Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast. Down the road, things are always looking up at the Lone Star Flight Museum, home to a fascinating selection of aircraft and aviation exhibitions.
Aesthetically-minded vacationers should check out the ArtWalk, where downtown galleries open their doors for an evening of art viewing, live entertainment and refreshments from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, held every six weeks. The ArtWalk takes place from March through November.
Boasting over 300 species of birds that fly through the island during spring and fall migrations, Galveston is one of the best locations in the U.S. for birding. Winged wonders span from the fulvous whistling duck to Pacific loon to the golden eagle. Moody Gardens and the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council even hosts a series of "Birding 101" classes.
Eateries and Nightlife
Catch dinner and a show in buildings as historic as they are intimate.
Grand 1894 Opera House:
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Grand 1894 is a great place to come for a night of live performances. Check out off-Broadway musicals, comedy shows and classics such as "Phantom of the Opera." This Official Opera House of Texas is an intimate venue that has top-notch acoustics and no bad seats in the house.
Rudy & Paco Restaurant & Bar:
Next door to the opera house is Rudy & Paco, a family-friendly restaurant that's perfect for grabbing dinner before a show. Dig in to marinated Gulf red snapper filet or jumbo lump crab cake. The lobster tempura ain't bad either. If you're seeking savory seafood, this place has your name on it.
La King's Confectionery:
For travelers with a sweet tooth, La King's Confectionery is royalty heaven. Inside this 1920s throwback store, glass fronts glimmer with salt-water taffy, clusters, peanut brittle and delicious fruit slices. Don't miss out on the chocolate breakups, which consists of chunked milk or dark chocolate and broken white chocolate ribbons.