Galveston Island, Texas may be well known for its 32 miles of beaches, but there’s so much more to do and see in this charming historic beach town.
Home to family attractions, historic sites, a bustling cruise terminal, a thriving culinary scene and a full slate of special events, there’s always a good time to visit, whether for business or pleasure.
Pyramids on the Island?!?
The iconic pyramids at Moody Gardens beckon visitors as they roll across the causeway. This 242-acre complex is home to a living rainforest, an aquarium that recently received a $37 million renovation, several movie theaters, a paddlewheel boat, lazy river and zip line. The Moody Gardens Hotel acts as the perfect home base for those who wish to take in the attractions here and it’s walking distance from the sprawling water park, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island – home to water coasters, slides, cabanas, a kids’ area and more.
Families can play games and enjoy thrill rides when they visit the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier perched above the Gulf of Mexico on Galveston’s famous seawall.
Southwest Artifacts in an Orphans Home
Galveston was once the capital of Texas, one of the richest cities in the United States and the site of the second busiest immigration port to the United States.
This history comes to life at several museums and historic sites. Opened in 2015, The Bryan Museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of art and artifacts relating to the Southwest. Its proprietor, J.P. Bryan, says “History is not boring!” and his museum bears this out with displays that include saddles, weaponry, art, documents, maps and there’s even a diorama depicting the pivotal battle of San Jacinto. The Bryan Museum is housed in what was once the Galveston Orphans Home and much of its history has been retained.
History at the Harbor
The island’s proximity to the port helped build its status in the late 1880s. At Pier 21, visitors can see and tour the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa and visit the Texas Seaport Museum. There’s also a movie theater here screening films depicting the Great Storm of 1900 that remains the nation’s worst natural disaster in history.
The Broadway Beauties
The port also served to build the wealth of several prominent families whose legacy lives on today. The Moody Mansion, designed by architect Nicholas Clayton, is open for tours daily. It is among several stately mansions along Broadway Avenue, known as the “Broadway Beauties,” that also includes the Bishop’s Palace and Ashton Villa.
Galveston is home to one of the nation’s largest collection of well-preserved Victorian architecture. Many of the neighborhoods on the island’s East End display plaques declaring them 1900 Storm Survivors and historic landmark designations.
Don’t Miss Historic Downtown
Downtown Galveston is itself a historic district. Here, centuries old buildings front its main street known as The Strand. Lined with shops and restaurants, this area is also home to the nation’s third largest Mardi Gras festival. Hundreds of thousands of revelers gather here and line the streets from balconies above or from the sidewalks, throwing beads and taking in the music and merriment of the more than 20 parades along the route.
Cruising out of Galveston? Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney Cruise Lines all call Galveston their home port. Many island hotels offer free transportation to the terminal and give seafarers the opportunity to extend their vacation with an extra night or two in Galveston.
When it comes to food, Galveston’s got a lot going for it. Having been a melting pot hundreds of years ago, influences from Italy, Greece and Germany linger today and flavor the island’s diverse culinary offerings. Fresh seafood reigns supreme here – Gulf shrimp, red fish, snapper, crabs and oysters bring foodies back to the table again and again.
Stay and Play
Hotel, lodging and vacation rental options abound in Galveston. Choose to stay in a historic hotel on the seawall when you book The Hotel Galvez or its more modern counterpart, The San Luis Resort. If you prefer an off-the-beaten-path abode, many homes in Galveston’s charming, quiet neighborhoods can suit your needs.
For all things Galveston Island, connect with the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau to get the story – and stories – about how to get on Island Time.