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22 Best Things to Do in Galveston, Texas

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Galveston, Texas, isn’t like most beach destinations. Sure, it’s got the beach (duh – it is still a beach destination), but there’s more to it than that. The historic pier is lined with rollercoasters, expensive carnival food, and seagulls dive-bombing the $30 shrimp cocktail you just ordered – but there are also dolphin tours, naval museums, and stunning American architecture.

At first glance, the “things to do in Galveston” list looks similar to every seaside town’s “to-do list.” That is, until you add in a ghost walking tour, World War II battleships, and Galveston’s rich historical background and colorful houses.

I live within 1-2 hours of Galveston, and as a teenager, I visited many times with my friends and family. There are tons of things to do in Galveston, and if you know where to look, you’ll find it’s an awesome vacation destination.

So, take a deep dive into the following guide and find a mixture of your average beach town activities with a fair amount of history and a dash of something eccentric. Hopefully, you won’t be disappointed!

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
  • Best park – Galveston Island State Park
  • Free activity – Going to the beach
  • Activity for kids – Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston
  • Activity for adults – Partying on East Beach
  • Place to eat – Gaido’s
  • Nightlife – Ghost Tours around Galveston
  • Place to stayThe San Luis Resort, Spa and Conference Center

Things to Do in Galveston, Texas

1. Act Like a Kid Again at Pleasure Pier

View of beach umbrellas and Pleasure Pier amusement park on Galveston Island Texas
Mark Taylor Cunningham / Shutterstock.com

Address: 2501 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX

What good beachside town to-do list wouldn’t include a trip to a pier? Guilty as charged, but the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier truly is the icon of Galveston Island, so it’s only fair that it kick-starts this list.

Pleasure Pier is Texas’ version of the famous Santa Monica Pier in California. It’s a bona fide American adventure park on wooden legs! The pier’s history dates back to the 1940s. After a brief time as a recreational facility during World War II, the pier quickly grew to become a full carnival midway, complete with fishing facilities and an aquarium.

It would even go on to become a hotel. As the years went on, the pier suffered damage from multiple natural disasters and hurricanes, including Hurricane Carla in 1961. In 2010, Landry’s, Inc. began plans to restore the pier to its previous status as an adventure park.

It reopened in 2012 with 16 rides, including a few of the only over-water rides in the world, a rollercoaster, carnival games, souvenir shops, and food. Texas’ first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was also built on the pier at the same time.

Now, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is a tourist destination that attracts Texans and tourists alike. Its location directly on the beach also makes it an attractive option for visitors. Whether you get on a ride (try the Iron Shark Rollercoaster) or simply stop by to see the sunset, it wouldn’t be a trip to Galveston without visiting the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

If you want to be just steps away from the historic pier or just be able to walk to the beach without the hassle of parking, consider staying at The San Luis Resort Spa and Conference Center on Seawall Blvd. The hotel offers a view of the gulf, three on-site restaurants, beach access, a fitness center, and a spa. 

Staying at the resort will also provide you with close access to Gaido’s, one of the best places to eat in Galveston. This elegant seafood restaurant has been open since 1911. The most mouth-watering items on the menu include the Pecan Encrusted Mahi Mahi, Seafood Pasta, and the Famous Fried Platter.

See Related: Things to Do in Dallas, Texas

2. Splash Around at Schlitterbahn Waterpark

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston pool amenities
Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston / Facebook

Address: 2109 Gene Lucas Boulevard, Galveston, TX

Schlitterbahn Waterparks are massive attractions. There are only two of these waterparks in Texas; one is in New Braunfels near West Texas, and the other is Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark.

The park is similar to most waterparks in the country, but the old cliche that “everything is bigger in Texas” also applies to our waterparks – this 26-acre waterpark features more than 33 attractions.

For example, take the Massiv Monster Blaster. You need to climb 123 steps to reach the top of the 81-foot slide. Well, it’s more of a water rollercoaster than a slide, but you get the point. It’s huge!

You slip and slide for the length of what is essentially three football fields. Other rides like the Screaming Serpents, Infinity Racers, and the Rohr will drop you from the top of a 70-foot tall tower at speeds of more than 30 mph. You will be adjusting your bikini bottoms after the Rohr – just a heads up.

Of course, not all rides at the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark will make your heart momentarily stop (or maybe I’m just dramatic?). There are plenty of regular waterpark rides that are safe for all ages, heights, and thrill levels.

You have a lazy river, tube rides, beach areas for kids, and a wave pool. There are also two heated pools with swim-up bars. Visitors can rent cabanas and beach chairs or purchase a fast pass to skip the lines, which I highly recommend.

The waterpark is one of the best places in Galveston to take your kids, simply because there is so much to do. It’s also a favorite activity because in the middle of a scorching Texas summer, there really isn’t any other place you wanna be than in the cool water.

The waterpark offers an alternative to the sticky sand and difficult parking you’ll find in the typical beach areas of Galveston. Pack tons of sunscreen, water shoes, sunglasses, and drinking water.

See Related: Best Water Parks In The USA

3. Visit Downtown Galveston

Strand Historic District with cruise ship in background in Galveston, Texas, USA
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Address: 502 20th Street, Galveston, TX

Galveston’s Downtown District comprises four sections — The Strand, Postoffice District, West Market, and Pier 21. Each section of the district in the downtown area is known for different major or historical attractions tied to Galveston’s history. There’s a lot to take in, and one of the best ways to digest it all is on a private tour of Downtown Galveston.

The Strand Historic District is commonly referred to as just “The Strand.” It is the main shopping street in Downtown Galveston. Along the strip, you’ll find boutiques, restaurants, gift shops, and historic buildings.

The Strand Historic District is home to the Galveston Railroad Museum, which features historical locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars. The Galveston Railroad Museum is housed in the former Santa Fe Railroad station.

Saengerfest Park is also located in Galveston’s Historic Strand District. The 5,154 square-foot small square park is an outdoor venue with a built-in stage. Saengerfest Park is mostly known for having a large, playable chess set in the center of the square.

Its other unique features include a large compass which can be used as a seat, wooden benches, an old-fashioned British-style phone booth (likely an homage to The Strand in London), and a stage used for movie and music nights throughout the year.

The Post Office District is the art sector. Here you’ll find the Galveston Arts Center, antique shops, and entertainment venues where local artists often hang out and display their talents.

The West Market is full of old-fashioned establishments, speakeasies, and evening entertainment. It has an old-school alley feel with businesses boasting names like “Maceo Spice and Import Company” and “Gypsy Joynt.”

Lastly, completing Downtown Galveston’s collection of historical districts is Pier 21. Pier 21 is pretty straightforward — it is the hub for all kinds of tours of Galveston Bay. From here, visitors can sign up for dolphin tours, historic harbor tours, jet boat rides, and romantic sunset cruises. Pier 21 is also the place to see the tall ship Elissa at Galveston Historic Seaport.

See Related: Things to Do in Houston, Texas

4. See the Tall Ship Elissa at Galveston Historic Seaport

The boat the Elissa, located in Galveston, Texas
Stephanie / Adobe Stock

Address: Pier 22 Suite 8, Galveston, TX

Speaking of the tall ship Elissa, this historic vessel is one of the top Galveston attractions along the historic seaport. Its history dates back to 1877 when the Galveston Historical Foundation brought the square-rigged iron barque from a scrapyard in Greece.

The historical foundation began to restore the ship in 1978 and starting turning the historic vessel into a floating museum — and now it is a part of the Texas Seaport Museum. 

According to the Galveston Historical Foundation, the ship is only one of three ships of her kind in the world that still actively sails. The Elissa also serves as the Official Tall Ship of Texas and a National Historic Landmark. Approximately 40,000 guests visit Elissa a year to get a chance to sail into history.

Visitors can explore the decks while the ship floats in the ocean, watch the educational video that shares the history of the Elissa, and overall, feel like an old-school merchantman (or pirate, depending on your preference) and get a glimpse into life on a true sailing masterpiece. Many day tours out of Houston will visit the tall ship Elissa because it is truly a wonder.

See Related: Things to Do in Corpus Christi, Texas

5. Explore WWII Warships at Galveston Naval Museum

World war 1 & 2 destroyer on dry dock in Galveston, TX. Galveston Naval Museum today.
B. Franklin / Shutterstock

Address: 100 Seawolf Park Boulevard, Galveston, TX

The Galveston Naval Museum is another stop that allows visitors to explore a piece of floating history. The naval museum includes a WWII submarine and destroyer, which, as far as historical landmarks go, is pretty cool. Or maybe it’s just anything with the name “destroyer” in it that is likely to pique interest.

The most notable vessel is called the USS Cavalla, and in 1971, it was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II in Texas before being transported to Seawolf Park in Galveston. The USS Cavalla sank the massive Japanese aircraft carrier, IJN Shokaku, which was involved in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Galveston Naval Museum now maintains and operates four unique symbols of maritime war history — the USS Cavalla, USS Stewart, the sail of the USS Tautog, and the conning tower of the USS Carp. USS Stewart is one of only two remaining Destroyer Escorts in the world.

If history, or ships, is a fascination for you, consider taking your tour a step further and looking into the Galveston Naval Museum’s sleepover option. Visitors can sleep in the same quarters where sailors bunked 75 years ago aboard the USS Stewart and receive an exclusive private tour, learn the science of ships, the importance of preservation, and the heritage of the nation’s navy.

See Related: Best Museums in the US to Visit

6. Spend a Day Fishing and Learning at Seawolf Park

Fly fishing Galveston, Texas flats. Fishing near the Gulf Coast on a summer morning.
Megan McHatten / Shutterstock

Address: 100 Seawolf Park Boulevard, Galveston, TX

If you are visiting the Galveston Naval Museum, then you are inside Seawolf Park. Located on Pelican Island, the park is home to the naval museum and a memorial to USS Seawolf.

The USS Seawolf was a United States Navy submarine that was sunk by friendly fire in World War II. Yes, you read that right. It came under attack from the destroyer USS Richard M. Rowell in 1944.

The park also includes one of the most popular fishing piers on Galveston Island. The pier extends out into the sea and is lit up at night. If you plan on fishing at Seawolf Park or anywhere else on the island, remember a fishing license is required in the state of Texas.

If you are visiting Galveston, there are plenty of other great fishing spots to visit besides this pier. Top fishing spots include the Galveston Fishing Pier, the 61st Street Fishing Pier, San Luis Pass, and Galveston Island State Park.

Many public piers will include fishing gear for rental. Also, for even more thrill and bigger fish, consider going on a 6-hour Jetty Fishing Charter.

7. Look for Ghosts on an Old City Cemetery Tour

Historical cemetery, Galveston, Texas, covered by blooming yellow flowers one time in a year
Natalia Kuzmina / Adobe Stock

In contrast to all the sunny beaches, Galveston also has a dark side. The city is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in America.

Galveston was incorporated in 1839, meaning it’s pretty old. Throughout the last eight or so decades, it’s seen many deadly storms and tragedies that changed men into spirits.

Many ghost tours will visit the same historical landmarks, cemeteries, and haunted houses. You are likely to hear about ghosts inside Sealy Mansion, The Normandy Inn, Ashton Villa, Mayfield Manor, Stewart’s Mansion, and the Van Alstyne House.

Additional stops in some Galveston ghost tours are also the most historic places in Galveston, including the Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace. There is also a haunted orphanage and cemetery thrown in for the full scary effect (no, thanks!).

However, if you want the full “haunted” hotel experience consider staying at Grand Galvez. It’s no secret that Hotel Galvez is haunted, and it’s easy to find dozens of news reports and books detailing the paranormal activity of the hotel.

Perhaps the most famous name you’ll see is The Lovelorn Bride, a story of a bride-to-be, Audra, who hanged herself after her future husband was reportedly lost at sea. Her fiancee was rescued by a passing ship and returned to find his bride gone. Today, if you’re brave enough (not me, no, thanks), you can stay in room 501, where Audra stayed during her visit in the 1950s.

See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota

8. Play in the Sand at Stewart Beach

View of purple beach umbrellas on Galveston Island Texas
Mark Taylor Cunningham / Shutterstock.com

Relaxing in the sun and playing in the sand at the beach might sound like a no-brainer on your list of things to do in Galveston, but sometimes people get busy trying to sightsee and forget to sit and relax. So this is your reminder to do just that.

No matter if it is first thing in the morning, on a lunch break, or before you depart for the day, park your car, grab a blanket, and sit on the beach. You can watch the waves lap against the sand and feel the breeze from the swaying palm trees, and take in the gorgeous island, beautiful beaches, and natural beauty that surrounds you. Absolutely nothing else is required. 

If you have kids, send them off to take a sand castle lesson, so you can relax peacefully at the best family-friendly beach in town.

Stewart Beach was named one of the “Best Beaches for Families” by the Family Vacation Critic. Located near where Broadway meets the Seawall, Stewart Beach has all the amenities you need for a day of family fun at the beach, including restrooms, a snack bar, chair rentals, as well as lifeguards on duty. 

When staying on the island with children, the best option is to rent a beach house. Check out this rental property>, with a gulf-view porch, private deck, free WiFi, and shared yard, laundry room, and grill. 

See Related: Things to Do in Austin, Texas

9. Go Birdwatching at Galveston Island State Park

Blue Heron in Galveston Island State Park
Colin S. Osburn / Adobe Stock

Address: 14901 FM 3005, Galveston, TX

There are many things to do at Galveston Island State Park. You can swim, fish, picnic, hike, kayak, or enjoy a bit of birdwatching.

Owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the recreational refugee is a favorite place for tourists and locals to flock to get away from the crowded beaches. The state park stretches to include both the beach and bay sides.

Guests can explore four miles of trails and check out the surrounding nature and habitats. Rent beach chairs, umbrellas, private cabanas, bikes, and paddle boards to best explore the natural preserves.

If you enjoy spotting wildlife, the state park protects 2,000 acres of the upper Gulf Coast barrier island ecosystem. Visitors may spot raccoons, armadillos, marsh rabbits, and native birds.

In case you’d like to camp, the park has 95 sites for tent or RV camping. Note that Galveston Island State Park is the only place you can camp on the beach in Galveston.

There are also lodges for rent that include electricity, fireplaces, and outdoor decks. If you’re visiting Galveston on a budget, consider camping or lodging at the state park or a nearby campsite to save money. 

See Related: National Parks in the USA to Visit

10. Go for a Thrill Ride around Galveston Harbor in a Jet Boat

Jet Boat ride at Galveston, Texas
Galveston Water Adventures / Facebook

The mechanics of a Jet Boat differs slightly from most propeller boats. The engine creates a jet of water (hence the name) and forces it out nozzles at the rear of the boat, much like the jet engine on an airplane – just wetter.

But all you really need to consider is that these go faster and make sharper turns. Most jet boats can reach speeds of at least 50 mph, while some models can exceed 70 mph. The fastest boat in the world was a jet boat (Spirit of Australia), and it clocked just over 317 mph in 1978.

In Galveston, while you can’t experience the thrill (or anxiety) of going over 300 mph on water, you can ride a standard jet boat around the harbor. Small group tours include piling into a massive jet boat and reaching top speeds while the captain volleys into spins, right-angle turns, and tricks.

Expect to be splashed, squished, and absolutely exhilarated. If you are a thrill seeker, the jet boat is a lot of fun and often provides a quick 25-30 minute adrenaline rush. 

However, if you prefer steady waves to fast speeds, there are other types of boating excursions, including sunset cruises, eco-tours, or sailing options. The Texas Seaport Museum offers a harbor tour on the 50-foot twin-engine motor vessel known as the Seagull II.

The Seagull II is still pretty fast, but it feels more stable and is mostly used for harbor sightseeing excursions and education. It’s certainly a milder option for the faint of heart. 

See Related: Where To Stay In Austin, Texas

11. Spot Dolphins with BayWatch Dolphin Tours

Dolphins in Galveston
Baywatch Dolphin Tour / Viator

Address: 2100 Harborside Drive, Galveston, TX

Now, what good would a trip to the beach be without sightseeing for dolphins? I’m guilty of indulging in this classic tourist trap activity at every beach town I’ve been to, but why mess with a classic? Seeing dolphins is fun and exciting no matter where or how many times you’ve seen them.

Perhaps the most popular dolphin tour in the area is BayWatch. BayWatch’s Dolphin Tours carry visitors three miles through the Galveston Harbor and share interesting facts about the harbors’ most common dolphin species, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Not to steal BayWatch’s thunder, but my favorite fun fact is that adult dolphins eat about 5% of their body weight per DAY. 

You’ll get many more fun facts during the tour which has been operating out of Galveston for over a decade. The most popular touring option is the regular open-air tour, where guests sit on the deck underneath the sky as the sea washes by. They also offer an enclosed and heated tour with a 360-degree view.

See Related: Best Breweries in Austin, Texas

12. Take a Walk through Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) moulting into breeding plumagein Bolivar Peninsula, Texas
Brian Lasenby / Shutterstock

All birdwatching fans need to listen up for this one. The Bolivar Flats is a Globally Important Bird Area and an International site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

If you aren’t a major birdwatching fan, all that basically means it’s a crucial sanctuary for birds of all kinds. It is one of the best things to do in Galveston for avid twitchers. 

A multitude of complex habitats within the sanctuary vary from mud flats and salt marshes to uplands and beaches. The unique system provides the best sanctuary for thousands of birds to rest, breed, and eat.

You can see 25 different types of shorebirds, including the endangered Piping Plovers and threatened Snowy Plovers. Dozens of species of wading birds also visit the flats. 

The wildlife within the sanctuary is protected. Guests can walk along the beach and observe the habitats from a safe distance, and vehicles are not permitted beyond the parking lot.

If you choose to visit the Flats, please be mindful of the sanctuaries of plants and wildlife. I recommend bringing binoculars if you want a closer look at the birds. 

For lovers of nature and marine life, I also recommend visiting The East End Lagoon Nature Preserve. The 684-acre East End Lagoon Nature Preserve is one of the few remaining sizable tracts of undeveloped coastal prairie and salt marsh on the island. The area is home to a diverse collection of birds and marine mammals.

See Related: Things to Do in Lubbock, Texas

13. Learn About the History of Texas at The Bryan Museum

Visistors looking at The Bryan Museum exhibit
The Bryan Museum / The Bryan Museum

Address: 1315 21st Street, Galveston, TX

The Bryan Museum is probably one of the newest museums to open in Galveston, Texas. The doors opened in 2015 inside the historic Galveston Orphans Home.

The mission of The Bryan Museum is to bring the history of Texas and the American West to life. The museum started with two small pieces acquired by J.P. Bryan—Moore’s Patent Front Loading Revolver and a Sharps Patent Four-Barrel Derringer. 

Now, Bryan Museum is a 20,000-square-foot building with dozens of exhibits, world-class collections, and history. The museum focuses on artists who lived during the West’s Golden Age.

The galleries from the Spanish Colonial Era to the Rest of the West depict decades of history. In fact, the Bryan Museum collection is one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts, documents, and artwork relating to Texas and the American West.

According to the museum’s website, there are approximately 70,000 items in total. The collection includes 20,000 rare books, more than 30,000 documents, three dozen saddles, over 250 antique firearms, several hundred spurs, and a large collection of fine arts, maps, and artifacts. There are also Native American stone tools and arrowheads on display. 

See Related: Things to Do in Beaumont, Texas

14. Find Out Why R.A. Apffel Beach Park is Where Locals Go to Party

Aerial view of East Beach R.A. Apffel
R.A. Apffel Beach Park / R.A. Apffel Beach Park

Address: 1923 Boddeker Road, Galveston, TX

If you’re looking for a party in Galveston, look no further than R.A. Apffel Beach Park or, as it’s more commonly known, East Beach. East Beach is famous for its many festivals and live concerts held throughout the summer.

The beach park is home to a pavilion, boardwalk, and entertainment stage, as well as restrooms and concessions. The expansive, scenic beach is also suitable for outdoor activities, such as volleyball, beachcombing, and horseback riding.

East Beach is located at the far eastern tip of the island, and unlike most of Galveston’s beaches, alcohol is permitted. This makes it a hotspot for local parties and concerts to occur regularly. Even with the addition of a children’s playground, I wouldn’t necessarily deem this particular beach family-friendly. 

Aside from parties, East Beach also hosts several events a year, including the American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition. In this competition, over 50 teams sculpt designs in sand and compete for, quite literally, a Golden Bucket Award.

People flock from all over the island and beyond to participate or watch these incredible sandcastles sculpted from nothing but sand. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of creativity during this competition.

See Related: Best Beaches in the US to Visit

15. Learn About Oil and Gas at Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum in the Galveston harbor
Geofox / Shutterstock.com

Address: 2002 Wharf Road, Galveston, TX

It wouldn’t be a proper Texas destination if there wasn’t at least one museum dedicated to the oil and gas industry. For Galveston, it’s the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. The museum is housed on a retired, jack-up drilling rig next to The Strand’s National Historic Landmark District. 

The rig operated in the Gulf of Mexico from 1969 to 1984 and drilled over 200 wells in its tenure. In 1995, the OEC purchased the Ocean Star and, after lengthy refurbishment, opened it as a museum in 1997.

The museum is designed for self-guided exploration with videos and interactive exhibits throughout. It takes most visitors about 1.5 hours to completely tour the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig. 

There are three floors of exhibits with film presentations and video kiosks weaved in between. There are actual examples of equipment like drill bits and ROVs and scale models of different kinds of rigs. While the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig is situated in the water, a pedestrian bridge connects the rig to the public pier. 

See Related: Things to Do in San Antonio, Texas

16. Visit the East End Historic District

Beautiful vintage homes of the historical district in Galveston, Texas
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Address: 1501 Postoffice Street, Galveston, TX

The East End District is one of Galveston’s Historic Districts. Next to the Strand Historic District, The East End Historic District is comprised of over 50 city blocks bounded on the south by Broadway, the east by 10th Street, the north by Mechanic Avenue, and the west by 19th Street. The District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The neighborhood is full of charm and grace. One of my favorite things to do is to drive by historic neighborhoods and try to imagine the life of the people in them and the history they must have seen.

The East End in Galveston is one of the best places to simply see the city’s unique character. You’ll see grand, elaborate houses in all colors and architectural styles. 

The architecture of the East End Historic District reflects a range of time periods. According to the East End’s Association, the earliest example dates back to the Greek Revival style built during the 1850s. I’m nowhere close to being an architect, but I love viewing different styles of houses and trying to think about why that person chose that exact style to construct their home.

Viewing the East End District is one of those things to do in Galveston that costs no money but will tell you a lot about its residents and history. 

See Related: Best Breweries in San Antonio, Texas

17. Stop by the Moody Mansion Museum

Beautiful building of the Moody Mansion in Galveston, Texas
Victoria Ditkovsky / Shutterstock.com

Address: 2618 Broadway Avenue J, Galveston, TX

The Moody Mansion is another part of the restored Galveston history. This 28,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1895 with four stories and over 20 rooms. The wealthy Texas family, known as the Moody family, passed down the Moody Mansion through centuries.

W.L. Moody Junior bought the mansion in the 1900s. The house remained the home for Moody’s family members until 1983. After Hurricane Alicia caused major damage, the Galveston Historical Foundation decided to have Moody Mansion undergo extensive repair and restoration and reopen as a museum in 1991.

The Galveston Historical Foundation now oversees Moody Mansion and offers tours of the massive home, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior since 1994 and a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark since 1967.

18. Spend the Day Exploring Moody Gardens, or Stay the Night!

Moody Gardens Rain forest Pyramid
Richard Frazier / Shutterstock.com

Address: 1 Hope Boulevard, Galveston, TX

There is a lot to do at Moody Gardens any time of the year. During Christmas, the gardens are transformed into the closest thing Texas has to a winter wonderland when the hosts transform the center with ice sculptures, giant Christmas trees, sparkling lights, and fake snow.

In the summer, the gardens open up as a reprieve from the hot sun, equipped with a water park, a zip line, and a ropes course.

Moody Gardens’ day job is operating as an educational tourist destination that includes a hotel and the Moody Gardens golf course. Inside, the center includes an aquarium pyramid, a rainforest pyramid, the discovery museum, and interactive 3D and 4D theaters. In the aquarium pyramid, visitors can interact with the animals, including penguins and river otters. 

The Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa, and Convention Center is also one of the best places to stay in Galveston. The hotel includes a spa, dining options, and a golf course. Along with being close to many of Galveston’s major attractions, amenities include a fitness center and indoor and outdoor pool.

19. Experience Victorian-era Wealth at Bishop’s Palace

The famous Bishop's Palace was built by Colonel Walter Gresham and architect Nicholas Clayton designed in the classic Victorian renaissance style
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

Address: 1402 Broadway Avenue, Galveston, TX

Bishop’s Palace is located in the East End Historic District. Like the Moody Mansion, the 1892 Bishop’s Palace is a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its significant architecture.

The American Institute of Architects even deemed it one of the 100 most important buildings in America. It was built from 1886 to 1892 by architect Nicholas Clayton and is also known as Gresham’s Castle.

The palace is renowned for its Victorian-era style stained-glass windows, winding staircase, and an unparalleled view of the gulf coast. Behind-the-scenes tours offer a view of the palace from the basement to the attic, but just walking by the castle is a sight all its own.

See Related: 19 Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

20. Visit The Grand 1894 Opera House

The 1894 Grand Opera House in Galveston, Texas
The Grand 1894 Opera House / Facebook

Address: 2020 Postoffice Street, Galveston, TX

The Grand 1894 Opera House is a part of the Galveston Historic Downtown Cultural Arts District. The opera house is one of the few remaining theaters of its era in Texas and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1993 the 73rd Texas Legislature even proclaimed The Grand 1894 Opera House “The Official Opera House of Texas.”

The venue survived major storms in the 1900s, including Hurricanes Ike, Carla, and Alicia. Major restoration efforts took place between 1974 and 1990, and today, the Grand 1894 Opera House is open as a nonprofit performing arts theater.

The opera house performs shows from the Galveston Symphony Orchestra, Galveston Ballet, and The Texas Tenors. The Romanesque Revival style The Grand 1894 Opera House is located in Galveston’s Historic Downtown Cultural Arts District.

21. Watch the Ships Depart from the Port of Galveston

Cruise ship Carnival Vista in port at a deserted cruise terminal in Galveston Port
Patrish Jackson / Shutterstock.com

Address: 123 Rosenberg Street, Galveston, TX

I have to start this item with a warning: prepare your wallet. Watching the ships depart Galveston is more than likely going to inspire you to book a cruise. The hoards of massive cruise ships with their winding rollercoasters, glistening pools, and massive decks will leave you wondering exactly where they are going — and if it’s too late to sneak into someone’s suitcase.

I’ve been on two cruises out of the Port of Galveston. My first cruise was out of college and was a four-day trip to Cozumel. My second cruise was in 2022 and was a 7-day trip to Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica.

Cruie liners based at the Port of Galveston offers different short and long-term trips to a variety of western Caribbean islands and Mexico destinations. While you’re watching them deport, I highly recommend planning to take a cruise yourself – they won’t all break the bank.

22. Find a Different Way to Tour Galveston

Beach Break Souvenir Shop on the Seawall in Galveston Island Texas.
Mark Taylor Cunningham / Shutterstock.com

One of the first things you should decide when visiting Galveston is exactly how you plan on touring the city. One of my favorite ways to discover a new city is to sign myself up for pubs and bar crawls.

Galveston offers many different ways of viewing the beach and historic sites, including self-guided tours, exclusive private bus tours, Segway tours, or guided tours via e-bike. You can even rent a replica 1908 Model-T Electric Golf Cart!

However, if you want to be cool, like me, you can rent a peddle bike and work up even more of a sweat than the hot Texas sun provides. If you choose this option, proceed with caution, it is quite a workout, and it must be said again: wear an ample amount of sunscreen.

I do recommend pairing any of these tour options with a stop by Bahama Bucks for a frosty snow cone. My personal favorite is a piña colada-flavored snow cone with sweet cream on top, but you can mix and match a variety of fruity, tart, or sweet flavors and toppings.

FAQ

What is Galveston, Texas, known for?

Galveston is known for its sandy beaches, a multitude of activities, and rich history. It is one of the top tourist spots in Texas.

What is the best thing to do with kids in Galveston?

Galveston is one of the best beach towns in Texas to take your kids. There is an abundance of outdoor activities aside from the beach to entertain children of all ages, including the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier, the massive Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark, Moody Gardens, Galveston Go Karts and Fun Center, and Galveston Children’s Museum.

When is the best time to visit Galveston, Texas?

The best time to visit Galveston is March-August. During the early spring months, the crowds are few, and the weather is mild.

However, most tourists flock to the beach in the summer months to dip in the cool water for a reprieve from the hot Texas sun. There will be more crowds and higher prices.

Where can I park in Galveston, Texas?

There are metered and free parking spots along the seawall. Pay stations are located around the downtown Historic District as well. Visitors can also find other paid parking areas around the pleasure pier. Some restaurants and businesses will double as a source of parking spaces.

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