Think Outside of the Beach
Six Ways to Spice up Your Galveston Visit Sans Sand
When you think of an island, idyllic images of sun, sand and surf inevitably come to mind. And while Galveston is one of Texas’ top vacation destinations for this very reason, its 32 miles of sparkling beaches are just the tip of the iceberg (not a Titanic pun, though if you’re into cruising Galveston has that, too!)
1. Discover Galveston’s Rich History, Arts & Culture Scene
Once considered the Wall Street of the South, many families immigrated to Galveston—the second-busiest immigration port in American history— and made their fame and fortune there until the Great Storm of 1900 devastated the island. What is left today paints a vivid picture of its legendary past. Meander through Galveston’s East End Historical District to relive the island’s golden era and witness magnificent streets lined with one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country. Continue toward The Strand and visit Postoffice Street where you can catch a show at The Grand 1894 Opera House, Island ETC Theater or enjoy an evening of art, wine and hors d’oeuvres at the island’s ArtWalk event held every six weeks. The district is also home to a wide array of museums, shops and restaurants.
|Porch Cafe Patio|
2. Treat your Palate to the Island’s Diverse Cuisine
Touring the sites above are bound to work up an appetite and luckily Galveston is a gourmand’s paradise. All that history isn’t for naught in this quaint coastal town where you can enjoy family recipes passed down over many generations from all over the world. Plus, the freshest Gulf seafood abounds at eateries across the island and is served up any way you like it! For breakfast or brunch, enjoy the coastal comfort food of Sunflower Bakery & Café, tucked away amid quaint historic homes on the island’s East End. For a more upscale brunch with a view, the aptly named Porch Café never disappoints with its wraparound porch for the best Gulf views. Some of my favorite lunchtime spots include, Cajun flavors from Gumbo Bar, the vegetarian offerings at EATcetera, old-fashioned combos from Star Drug Store, the spicy fish tacos at Shrimp 'N Stuff and BLVD. Seafood for a meal with a view along the iconic seawall. For dinner, kick it up a savory notch at award-winners like Gaido's Famous Seafood Restaurant, Rudy & Paco, The Steakhouse or Shearn's Seafood and Prime Steaks.
|Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier|
3. Get your Thrill on with Galveston’s Many Attractions
Sure, lounging surfside is always pleasant, but you can only veg out for so long before your inner thrill seeker needs satiating. Moody Gardens offers adventure for the whole family with a living rainforest, aquarium, Discovery Museum, golf course, water park, historic paddlewheel boat, ropes course and zip line. Afterward, head next door to cool off at Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark and ride the world’s tallest water coaster. You can even visit their indoor park during winter. Not intent on giving up views of that gorgeous expanse of shoreline? The Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park is the place for you. To balance a rush of adrenaline with serene surroundings, try swinging on the Texas Star Flyer 200 feet over the Gulf at sunset!
|Artist Boat Kayak Adventure|
4. Soak Up the Natural Beauty of the Texas Gulf Coast
Galveston’s location along the trans-Gulf migration route creates a perfect setting for nature lovers. You can take your pick from birding, dolphin watching, fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, sailing, flyboarding and more. I like to stay active while getting closer to nature, so Artist Boat Kayak Adventures fits the bill. Another fun and unique offering is to take a sailing lesson from Sea Scout Base Galveston. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal on nautical knowledge of this caliber anywhere else. If you’d rather someone else pilot your vessel, take a dolphin harbor tour from Pier 21, go parasailing over the Gulf or take a helicopter tour.
|Hotel Galvez & Spa|
5. Unpack + Unwind at These Unique Lodging Options
Galveston’s old-world charm is ever present, even in its accommodations. My personal favorites are the historic with sweeping views of the Gulf, Tremont House in the heart of all the action downtown and Harbor House at Pier 21. For a resort experience, kick back at the San Luis Resort and Spa, which now offers luxurious private Villas. If the kids are in tow, Moody Gardens Hotel is a convenient choice for families looking to visit the complex’s many attractions. If you prefer the comforts of home along with beachfront views, rent a spacious condo at Casa del Mar or rent out an entire beach house on the island’s peaceful West End. You can even transport yourself to another era by staying in a historic mansion at quaint B&B options like Carr Mansion and website.
|Mardi Gras! Galveston|
6. Party Like the Locals at these Special Events
Prefer to skip the touristy experiences? Live it up like the locals with year-round festivals and special events. The island kicks off the year with Galveston Restaurant Week followed by the third-largest Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration in the country, then the much-anticipated Galveston Island Food & Wine Festival in spring. During summer you can attend the Yaga’s Wild Game & BBQ Cookoff, the Galveston Island Shrimp Festival and the Brew Masters Craft Festival over Labor Day weekend. Fall brings ARToberFEST, Island Oktoberfest, Lone Star Rally and Galveston finally closes out the year in Victorian Christmas fashion with Dickens on The Strand. This is in addition to recurring special events like Movie and Music Nite on the Strand and ArtWalk, which are free and open to the public.
Tip: Music and Movie Nites take place in the entertainment district, so feel free to BYOB, snacks and even the family dog!