Historic Galveston Island delivers miles of sandy beaches & more.
Thirty-two miles of Gulf Coast beaches welcome five million visitors a year to Galveston Island. Thankfully, Galveston has fully recovered from Hurricane Ike, which provided many local businesses an excuse to renovate, update, and expand, much to the delight of locals and visitors alike. The island’s rich history is on full display with museums, landmarks, and homes open for public tours. Restaurants feature Gulf Coast seafood prominently on menus, though plenty of other cuisine is available to please everyone in the family. Oh, and did I mention the Texas-sized water park?!
Photo courtesy: Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
What to do?
Escaping the Texas heat is no small task, but Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark (2026 Lockheed Rd.) is well-equipped for the challenge! Boasting 33 attractions over 26 acres including 60-foot slides, lazy river, family rides, and water play area both inside and out, plan on spending the day. Cost: Youth (3-11) $40.99; Adults $52.99. For a complete review, click here.
If you would rather stay dry, head to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (2501 Seawall Blvd.) to ride the Iron Shark Rollercoaster with a 100-foot vertical lift and speeds of up to 52 miles an hour. Soar high above the beach on several other rides, play carnival games with the family, and pick up a souvenir or two. Cost: Youth (under 48”) $19.99; Adults $26.99; discounted family all-day packages available.
It’s hard to choose from so many beach options, but Galveston Island State Park (14901 Farm to Market 3005) is our family’s favorite. My kids love the knowledgeable and entertaining staff at the nature center that includes animal skeletons, interesting books, and a fun bee hive display. Several hiking trails with observation platforms run through the park. Cost: Youth (0-12) Free; Adults $5.
Kidtripster Tip: Check the Galveston Island State Park website for seasonal events. We’ve hunted for sea turtle tracks, taken hikes along the ocean, and watched as staff gathered up sea creatures for observation.
For the conductors in the family, chung on down to the Galveston Railroad Museum (2602 Sante Fe Pl.), displaying everything from model trains to an 18th century caboose. Cost: Youth (4-12) $5; Adults $10. For those with their heads in the clouds, the Lone Star Flight Museum (2002 Terminal Dr.) hosts a bevy of aircraft, including some that still participate in airshows across the country. Cost: Youth (5-17) $8; Adults $10. Flights experiences are available for enthusiasts by scheduling in advance, though they tend to be quite pricey ($250-450 for 20-25 minutes in the air).
Those with younger tikes can head over to the Galveston Children’s Museum (2618 Broadway Ave. J) with activities generally targeted to kids, ages 2 to 10. My kids are the hands-on types, and there’s plenty of interactive and sensory toys here to keep them busy. The museum is located in the Moody Mansion, built in 1895; tours of the mansion itself are available, as well. Museum cost: All (Ages 2+) $7.
Over 27 art galleries call Galveston Island home, including several within walking distance in the Cultural Arts District, anchored by the Galveston Arts Center (2127 Strand). Every six to eight weeks, the center produces the Galveston Artwalk, showcasing new sculpture, photography, and paintings, as well as live ballet rehearsals.
Photo courtesy: Galveston Island Tourism
What to eat?
On several occasions, Mosquito Café (628 14th St.) alone has tempted us to make the trip to Galveston. For breakfast, feast on gorgeous, crustless quiche and amazing corned beef hash tacos with potatoes and caramelized onions. Lunch and dinner fare includes burgers, salads, and sandwiches with vegetarian options available upon request. A close second with an extensive vegetarian menu is the Original Mexican Café (1401 Market St.), a healthy alternative to the glut of Mexican restaurants in the region. Dive into the authentic enchilada plates or mouthwatering chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp fajitas.
After the Mosquito Café, our kids love to venture over to Patty Cakes Bakery (704 14th St.), which touts an assortment of cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts. My kids usually go for the cupcakes, but my husband and I sometimes branch out and try the gluten-free options, including chocolate flourless cake and almond orange biscotti. For local seafood, head to Galveston island favorite Miller’s Seawall Grill (1824 Seawall Blvd.). Breakfast is served all day, but don’t skip the seafood – local shrimp, oysters, fish, and scallops feature prominently on the menu.
Photo courtesy: Patty Cakes Bakery
Where to stay?
Continue the historic Galveston theme by staying a few nights in Hotel Galvez and Spa, an island hit since opening in 1911. The elegant, lavish guest rooms give a nod to the hotel’s Big Band and Jazz Era origins. Amenities include a large outdoor heated pool with a swim-up bar. The hotel is ideally located on the beach and is in close proximity to both the Galveston Children’s Museum and the Cultural Arts District. Starts at $179/night.
Budget-friendly Inn at the Waterpark is simple, comfortable, and within walking distance of Schlitterbahn. Starts at $110/night for a family of four.
Located directly on the seawall, we enjoy the Victorian Condo Hotel Resort for our return visits to the island. The resort offers individually-owned condos, each with their own style. Starts at $205/night for a family of four.
Photo courtesy: Hotel Galvez
Galveston is a one-hour drive from downtown Houston, headed south on I-45. In a city that stubbornly refuses to invest in public transportation or HOV lanes that extend all the way to Galveston, that time can easily double on holidays and weekends. Luckily, Texans tend to rise late, so a head start in the morning can easily shave a significant portion of time off your trip.
Photo courtesy: Galveston Children’s Museum
Carla Reed escapes to Galveston several times a year. Her three boys love building sand castles and dipping their toes in the salt water.
This writer received some complimentary activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.