Early morning sunrises, warm sea breezes and the invitingly sandy shores of Galveston Island attract beachgoers from all over Texas and beyond. While enjoying Galveston’s beaches in the summer is a slam dunk, there are many ways to make the most of your stay here. After all, this one-of-a-kind coastal city has world-class attractions you won’t find anywhere else. Where do you get started? Check out these 12 essential things to do in Galveston and you’ll be well on your way to having your best summer ever.
Insider’s Tip: Plan your trip around one of Galveston’s unique summer events to get the most out of your time here.
Ride the Galveston Island Trolley
Want to see Galveston in style? Hop aboard the old-fashioned trolleys that are making their return to the island this summer. With routes running along the Seawall, into Historic Downtown Galveston, and up to Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Moody Gardens, these trolleys provide fun and easy way to get around Galveston. The Seawall Trolley runs along much of Seawall Boulevard to Stewart Beach, giving you the chance to scope out a great place to dip your toes in Galveston’s warm coastal waters.
Whether you’re sightseeing or traveling to and from the island’s world-class attractions, the Galveston Island Trolley will get you there. Better yet, you can leave your car behind as fares are free throughout the summer.
Soak Up the Sun on Galveston’s Refreshed Seawall Beach
It’s not every day someone can say they played on a brand-new beach, but that’s exactly what you can do in Galveston this summer. The famous Seawall beach has been a hotspot for sun-soakers for a long time, but now it’s better than ever thanks to a $20 million makeover.
Insider’s Tip: The best time to hit the beach is from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Not only are you more likely to have first dibs on your spot of choice, you’ll savor the cool sea breeze and rolling surf before the crowds arrive.
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Experience the Tallest Water Coaster in the World
We all know that everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the Schlitterbahn Waterpark’s MASSIV Monster Blaster, the world’s tallest water coaster. Feel a rush of adrenaline as you ascend the 123 steps to the apex of the 81-foot-tall record breaker. Zoom through hair-raising twists, turns and drops before skidding across a pool the length of three football fields. With all the heart-pounding excitement, we won’t blame you if you get back in line.
Meet the New Penguins at Moody Gardens’ Recently-Opened Aquarium Pyramid
Get up-close and personal with sharks and stingrays and admire the many creatures that live in the oceans across the world as you explore Moody Gardens’ brand-new Aquarium Pyramid. The pyramid recently opened after $37 million in renovations that saw the addition of new exhibits like the Jellyfish Gallery and the Gulf of Mexico Rig Exhibit. Don’t miss the new Humboldt Penguin Habitat, home to 10 of these South American showstoppers located next to the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat.
Dine & Shop in Historic Downtown Galveston
Savor first-rate dining, browse boutique shops and art galleries, and take in all the breathtaking Victorian-era architecture as you wander around Historic Downtown Galveston. While the island’s beaches get plenty of attention, its 36-block downtown area is a destination in its own right. New restaurants like the Hubcap Grill broaden the district’s already wide array of dining options, while such stores as Play on The Strand and Blu provide plenty of unique things to see. Bars, nightclubs, and hotels can be found throughout Downtown Galveston as well, making it the place to be day and night.
Take Your Pick from Affordable Hotels to Luxurious Resorts
Looking for an affordable beachside getaway or a few days living in the lap of luxury? In Galveston, the options are limitless. Take your pick from straightforward hotels and comfy condos to luxury hotels with restaurants and full-service spas. Yet there’s more. Adore an unforgettable retreat with your sweetheart at a romantic bed and breakfast, or book one of the island’s colorful houses, some of which are as large as seven bedrooms.
Insider’s Tip: Stay on Sundays, and mid-week, and you can save as much as 50 percent on your reservation. With all that extra cash, you can experience even more of what Galveston Island has to offer while you’re here.
Experience Galveston & Save Up to 40% with Island Pass
Go on an epic dolphin sightseeing tour, embark on a “The Amazing Race”-style adventure starting in the Strand Historic District and step inside the beautiful and historic 1895 Moody Mansion, all while enjoying huge discount. How? With Island Pass you can save up to 40 percent if you buy tickets for at least four of the 12 participating attractions, including the 61st Street Fishing Pier and the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid. Build your own Galveston adventure and save.
Enjoy All the Free Summer Fun
Beachfront fireworks shows, art walks through historic downtown Galveston, outdoor concerts and tours of the island’s beaches are just a few of the things going on here during the summer. Better yet, all of them are free. Fireworks shows are held every Sunday after July 4 (another reason to stay on Sunday and save on your hotel booking), and the Art Walk occurs on one Saturday in July and August.
Family Beach Challenges and beach tours are some of the other fun things to do for free in Galveston during the summer. Finally, learn how to build a sandcastle like a pro at the free sandcastle building lessons conducted by a professional sandcastle builder. Registration isn’t required, but you should bring your own sand buckets and shovels. Find out more about Galveston’s free summer fun here.
Savor a Locally Made Beverage
What’s better than an ice-cold beer after a day on the beach? When that beer is locally made, of course. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far for delicious beers as the island is home to both the Galveston Island Brewing Co. and Beerfoot Brewery. A tantalizing array of margaritas can be found at Squeeze Rita’s and Tequila’s and Taquilo’s Tex-Mex Cantina. For imaginative craft cocktails made with house-made spirits and freshly squeezed juices, head to the uber-trendy Daiquiri Time Out in the downtown area.
Cool Off With A Few Scoops of Ice Cream
Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? There are local options for that too. Chill out at Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream, a Galveston original where you can savor scoops of creative flavors made on site, including bananas foster, Nutella, sweet ice tea and red velvet made on site. Other types of award-winning treats can be found at the historic La King’s Confectionary, where you can watch the master candy maker show off as he creates peanut brittle, pecan pralines and hand-dipped chocolates.
Catch a Show at The Grand 1894 Opera House
The Grand 1894 Opera House is both a historic Galveston icon and a cornerstone of the performing arts scene. While its main season runs from the fall through the spring, that doesn’t mean there aren’t shows in the summer. Concerts by world-class performing artists, musicals, and other shows are held at The Grand throughout the season, allowing you to add some culture to your summer beach getaway.
Enroll Your Kids in a Summer Camp
What’s more fitting for the season than hitting the beach? Summer camp, of course. Enroll your kids in one of the several summer camps in Galveston that cover a range of topics. Ohana Surf & Skate offers one-, three-, and five-day surfing camps for kids age six to 17, while the Sea Scout Camp provides a more in-depth experience for budding 13- to 17-year-old sailors.
Meanwhile, the Bryan Museum hosts a five-day historical fiction-writing camp for students in the fourth to sixth grades. For young golfers, enroll them in the Moody Gardens Junior Golf Camp that features eight hours of instruction in small groups. If your youngster is an aspiring maestro in the kitchen, place him or her in a The Kitchen Chick’s cooking camp, where they’ll how to prepare everything from baked goods to food truck favorites from two certified instructors.
These are just a few of the adventures that await in Galveston this summer. Visit Galveston.com to start planning your very own summer getaway.