Any native Texan will tell you that Galveston Island often gets a bad rap. Galveston is notorious for it's muddy brown water, influx of jellyfish, and in recent years, an outbreak of flesh eating bacteria. You'd think I'm really trying to scare you guys away from the place, wouldn't you? :)
Actually, since moving to Houston, we've been to Galveston dozens of times and with every trip, I fall a little more in love with the island. That's saying a lot for someone who's a bit of a self-proclaimed beach snob. I've been all over the East and West coasts of the United States, ate ceviche on the beaches of Lima, Peru, stood on West Sands Beach in St. Andrews, Scotland (where Prince William went to university!), snorkled in Oahu's stunning Hanauma Bay, soaked up the sun on the "Island of Gold" in Venice, Italy (the 7-mile long sandbar along the Venice Lagoon and Adriatic Sea), and most recently, enjoyed fun in the sun on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. So while Galveston may not have the most picturesque beaches, the colorful and historically rich island has so much more than just ocean to offer.
Whether you're heading to Galveston for a quick day trip or for a week-long stay, there are plenty of activities for all ages on the island. Delicious food and tons of fun await you!
1. Go Deep Sea Fishing- For the fisherman (or woman!), the gulf of Texas is a great place to catch the big one. I recommend Rod Bending Charters if you're looking for a great experience and kid-friendly trip.
2. The Strand- Quite possibly my favorite place on the island, The Strand is home to countless shops, restaurants, and museums. Many of the buildings survived the 1900 Storm and have a vast and vital importance in Texas history. Stop in La King's for delicious ice cream and watch how their delicious salt water taffy has been made for the past 100 years right before your eyes. You'll also want to enjoy a chocolate malt and their to-die-for pecan pralines!
3. Moody Gardens- There's really no way to describe how amazing this place is, except to tell you that it's a must-do while you're on the island. Some of the attractions include:
-Aquarium (closed for renovations until May 27, 2017)
-Two theaters – one MG 3D theater and one 4d Special FX theater
-Ropes course & zip line area
-Interactive animal adventures
-Discovery pyramid with themed attractions (SpongeBob & Dinosaurs in Motion)
-Seasonal activities like a water park area, an ice village and more
4. Ride the free Galveston Ferry- Every local you meet will recommend that tourists take the Galveston Island Ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar and back. You can also take it one way and bring your car along for the ride, which we've done and it worked out perfectly! The ferry operates 24 hours a day and you'll have great views of the gulf, feel the ocean breeze, and often you'll even see dolphins swimming alongside the boat. Round-trip takes 45 minutes.
5. See a musical or play at The Grand 1894 Opera House- This is a true gem of Galveston that only most locals know about so if you get the chance, you must see a show here! We saw the off-Broadway play Mamma Mia! here last summer and fell in love, not only with the incredible musical but the venue itself. We felt as though we'd stepped back in time to the Victorian period into what the 73rd Texas Legislature proclaimed “The Official Opera House of Texas“.
6. Eat at one of the delicious restaurants- Zach laughs at me because I typically refuse to branch out and try new places when it comes to grub in Galveston. What can I say, why change a good thing?! Some of our favorites eateries include:
-Mario's Seawall Italian
-Home Cut Donuts
-The Gumbo Diner
7. Drive the Island- Years ago, I was a nanny for a family who had a beach house in Galveston and we spent weekends in the summer soaking up the gulf sun (tough gig, I know). During this time, I learned to appreciate driving along the coastline with the windows down listening to Jimmy Buffet's "Volcano" album. So much of Galveston can only explored via vehicle and without consulting Google- put the iPhone down and explore the island the old fashioned way for a real treat.
8. Pleasure Pier- This new attraction is family friendly and a great way to spend the afternoon for kids of all ages. It can be a little pricey- we've found that you get the best deal when buying an all-day pass. Once you ride a few rides and taste a funnel cake, you won't want to leave! There are even toddler friendly rides- we've taken Bear the past several years and he absolutely loved it.
9. Stewart Beach- While I've already stated that beaches in Galveston don't tend to have the best reputation, our little family loves Stewart Beach. Houstonians all have a different take on which beach is best but we've tried many and Stewart is our favorite, hands down. Pay $8 for the day and pull your car right up to the beach, and rent a cabana with a colorful shaded umbrella if you don't feel like lounging in the sand. There's a large playground area for kids, outdoor and indoor showers, a restaurant and sno-cone stand, and clean public restrooms.
10. Schlitterbahn- If you love water but not so much the beach, you must visit this over 70,000 square-foot indoor waterpark. Endless slides, tidal wave river, kids activities area, a secluded beach, surfing wave, and even a gondola for a birds eye view of it all await you.
-Stop in this one of a kind cafe, Board Game Island, for hours of fun with endless floor to ceiling board games to choose from. The menu is also delicious!
-Take a tour of the Moody Mansion. Built in 1895 and boasting over 28,000 square feet of splendor, step back in time and learn about this prominent and powerful Texas family.
-BayWatch Dolphin Tours isn't one we've done and I only recently found out about but it comes highly recommended from a friend!
-Walk around Broadway Cemetery. This may sound a bit morbid but Zach and I do this almost every time we're on the island- we find it fascinating and see who can find the oldest headstone. It's also said to be haunted, if you believe in that sort of thing. :)
If you've stuck with this lengthy post, you are a trooper! And hopefully that means a trip to Galveston, Texas is in your future. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with what was once the main port for the Texas Navy during the Texas Revolution, and later served as the capital of the Republic of Texas. A wonderful mix of old and new fun are in store for all who visit!