Although just 50 miles south of H-town, Galveston feels like it’s a world away in spirit… and that’s not a bad thing. The relationship between the fourth largest city in the U.S. and its tiny island neighbor to the south is synergistically complementing. While Houston offers all the big-city excitement you could ask for, Galveston is home base for when you want to kick back, relax and breathe in the sea air. Ahhh… yet, getting to know Galveston is a layered experience. Its rich history and cultural heritage make it much more than a beach town.
“Galveston is home to one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country and has a very storied past,” said Mary Beth Bassett, public relations director for Galveston’s tourism bureau. “Visitors can explore this through the island’s many museums that chronicle its encounters with the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte, its growth into one of the wealthiest cities in the nation in the 1800s, its place as the second busiest immigration station in U.S. history and more.”
Historical & Cultural Attractions
The best way to admire Galveston’s stunning historic architecture is to take a bicycle tour through the East End Historical District. Here, colorful homes line the streets in Victorian, Greek Revival and Queen Anne styles. Then, make your way to historic downtown Galveston, where The Strand’s majestic iron-front buildings house coastal boutiques, art galleries and the iconic old-fashioned candy shop, La King’s Confectionery. Across Harborside drive at Pier 21, you can explore the island’s immigration history at the Texas Seaport Museum and step on board the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA. If you must choose just one museum to visit, make it The Bryan Museum with its 70,000-piece collection of rare artifacts, documents and artwork relating to the American West.
Galveston’s 32 miles of sparkling beaches make finding entertainment easy, from its bustling seawall to its quiet West End. After the beach, a good place to start is the magnificent pyramids of Moody Gardens. Here you’ll find one of the largest aquariums in the state, a living rainforest with free-roaming animals, a discovery museum and golf course among other attractions. Across the road, Schlitterbahn Galveston is home to MASSIV, the world’s tallest water coaster, and a new eight-story “Infinity Racers” water slide opening this June. For classic thrill rides and boardwalk games, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier stands over the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t leave town without trying to spot a few of the island’s gigantic sea turtle statues – part of a new “Turtles About Town” public art tour that includes 20 different art pieces.
“The creation of these statues help raise money for sea turtle restoration efforts and helps showcase the amazing art scene we have on the island,” said Amy Owens, one of the creators of the project and owner of Galveston’s Clay Cup Studios.
For adventure at sea, the Galveston Cruise Terminal is just steps away from the island’s downtown attractions. Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line offer year-round itineraries from Galveston, while Disney Cruise Line departs from the island seasonally with Bahamian and Western Caribbean cruises.
Where to Stay
Book a room at Carr Mansion for a unique over-night stay. This stunning bed and breakfast, housed in an 1866 Greek Revival–style mansion, underwent an extensive restoration before opening last summer. The Tremont House and the 108-year-old Hotel Galvez also offer historic charm while The San Luis Resort has a resort-like appeal with its massive pool, swim-up bar and in-house restaurants. On the West End, Sand ‘N Sea Properties manages about 150 vacation home rentals that provide quick access to the beach and bay.
All Photos Courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau