This one is kind of a no brainer. After all, while Galveston is famed for its gorgeous architecture and fascinating history, what draws many is its coastal charm. There are seven beaches in Galveston that you can choose from, all just minutes away from your hotel (and all the other things to see and do on the island). For an escape to the peace and quiet of nature, head to Galveston Island State Park. If you’d rather be among the crowds, pay a visit to the Seawall Urban Park. No matter where you end up, you’ll enjoy soft sand between your toes, inviting Gulf tides, and plenty of warm sunshine.
The three glass pyramids at Moody Gardens are much more than eye-catching structures. Step inside each and you’ll be immersed in three very different worlds. Watch the penguins, seals, sharks, stingrays, and other aquatic animals in the Aquarium Pyramid, then marvel at the creatures hailing from Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the Rainforest Pyramid. The third, the Discovery Pyramid, is packed with a rotating set of art and interactive exhibits that will inspire and educate.
While touring Moody Gardens’ pyramids is one of the coolest things to do with your kids in Galveston, that’s not all that’s going on here. Take on the tallest steel ropes course on the Gulf Coast, ride the zip line, play a round on the 18-hole golf course, and then hang your hat in the on-site hotel. Moody Gardens serves up a world of adventure not to be missed during your next trip to Galveston.
Beachfront restaurants, funky shops, and high-end hotels all reside along Galveston’s Seawall, one of the most happening places in town. Wake up early to watch the rising sun cast luminous orange and pink light across the wide-open sky, then spend the day relaxing on the beach or jogging along the Seawall. A variety of eateries are just steps away, as is the famous Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (more on that later). There’s so much to see and do just along the Seawall that you can spend all your time here. But don’t get too comfortable, as you’d miss out on everything else the island has to offer.
Breathtaking architecture, captivating boutique shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and a selection of art galleries await in The Strand Historic District, also known as Galveston’s downtown. Admire all the Victorian and Greek Revival architecture as you walk from one store and gallery to another. Make sure to stop by LaKing’s Confectionary, an old-fashioned candy shop where you can watch saltwater taffy being made. Cap your day in The Strand by enjoying a stiff drink at one of the district’s many bars and pubs, then head back to your hotel to rest up. After all, this just scratches the surface of what there is to do in Galveston.
Nestled in the heart of The Strand is a true Texas cultural icon and a place you shouldn’t miss while you’re here. The Grand 1894 Opera House, also known as “The Official Opera House of Texas,” is both a historic attraction and a great place to see a show. Settle into your seat in the restored venue as you watch a drama play out on stage or listen to a top-shelf musician perform his or her hits. With events nearly year-round, you can catch a show no matter when you visit Galveston.
Now that you’ve hung out at the beach and taken in a show, it’s time to spice things up with a thrill or two. If that sounds like a good plan, then a visit to Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark should be on your itinerary. The 26-acre park is full of all manner of adrenaline-accelerating slides and rides, as well as other attractions that will make your kiddos smile. Within the enormous aquatic getaway is a 70,000-square-foot indoor waterpark that has its fair share of its own rides, making it a great place to go in Galveston in the winter.
Along with its beaches and family-friendly attractions, Galveston is also home to a plethora of gorgeous historic homes and buildings beyond what you’ll find in The Strand. Stroll the quaint tree-lined streets of the East End Historical District to see homes dating back to the 1850’s. Then head just a few blocks south of The Strand to Kempner Park to see two of the oldest houses on the island: the Michel B. Menard House (1838) and the Samuel May Williams House (1839). Among the many must-sees in Galveston are the stately Moody Mansion, the castle-like Bishop’s Palace, and the distinct Garten Verein that was built by German immigrants in 1880.
To see even more historic buildings in Galveston, click here.
With its majestic white sails, the tall ship Elissa is a sight to behold. It’s also one of Galveston’s oldest residents, having been built in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1877. But it’s no relic of a bygone era; this restored vessel is fully functional. Head over to the Texas Seaport Museum and climb aboard this historic ship, where you can imagine what it was like to navigate her on the high seas. Then visit the museum to see a presentation about the ship’s restoration, check out the exhibits, and search the immigration database of those who arrived in Galveston, “The Ellis Island of the South.”
The Elissa, and the Texas Seaport Museum, sits within Pier 21, a waterfront dining and entertainment district that has a wealth of its own adventures. Step aboard an oil rig at the Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center, watch a film at the Pier 21 Theater, and get a bite to eat at one of the district’s four high-end restaurants. Pier 21 is also the place to go for a tour of the Galveston Ship Channel. Sunset cruises, thrilling speedboat rides, and even dolphin spotting trips are all on the menu, allowing you to choose your own adventure.
Stroll along Seawall at night and you can’t miss the glow of the neon lights and the sound of a rushing roller coaster coming from the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. This family-friendly amusement park perched on a historic pier is home to an astounding variety of rides for all ages, Midway games, restaurants, and shops. Satisfy your need for speed on the Iron Shark Rollercoaster and enjoy the view from the 230-foot-tall Texas Star Flyer or the Galaxy Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel lit up by colorful lights. When you need a break from all the fun, sit down for something tasty at Texas’ first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. With all there is to do, you’ll be coming back for more.
Galveston Island’s beaches, wetlands, grasslands, and woods supplies an essential habitat for native and migrating birds, meaning it’s one of the best places to observe these majestic creatures regardless of the time of year. Much like the rest of the Gulf Coast, Galveston is an important nesting ground for hundreds of species of birds in the winter, including the rare sandhill crane. Some of the best places to go birding are the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, and Pelican Island. For more information about birding in Galveston, including a comprehensive list of what you may see in each season, click here.
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