Traditionally a popular holiday destination for Texans, Galveston belongs on the list for all travelers. The town has a storied past, from once being the richest town in the state to even being the Texas capital.
Its well-preserved history is on display in several beautiful locations. So, each morning one of the most rewarding things to do in Galveston is to stroll to cozy cafes and galleries amidst it splendid scenery.
In search of endless sun and white sand beaches, vacationers flood to Galveston in the summer. However, its golden shores and water parks are ready to be enjoyed year-round thanks to balmy shoulder seasons and mild winters.
17. East End Historic District
Covering an enormous space of 50 blocks, the East End Historic District is lined with colorful homes and carefully groomed gardens. Pastel-hued historic homes lie in wait as you wander down the beautiful leafy streets and the first neighborhood in Galveston.
The district has some of the best-preserved residential homes in all of Texas and offers unrivaled insight into life in town during the 19th century. However, what you may not expect on your journey into the East End Historic District is the sculpted trees.
After Hurricane Ike ripped through town, local artists saw an opportunity. Using what was left behind, alligators, guitars, dolphins, and more were created from the trunks.
16. Galveston Island State Park
Save the beach day for tomorrow and enjoy some resplendent nature in Galveston Island State Park. Around 15 miles from downtown, the spacious park comes with all your top outdoor activities, from hiking to fishing and birdwatching.
The state park has a wide range of habitats, allowing for a vast amount of wildlife, including migratory birds. Wander from estuaries to dunes where you can venture out on a SUP or a kayak to explore where you can’t go on foot.
The park also offers a range of camping and cabins for a memorable night among nature.
15. Galveston Railroad Museum
Through its interesting displays, the Galveston Railroad Museum dives into the history of rail transport in southern Texas. The museum’s historic collection elevates the experience into something more.
Visitors can enjoy the impressive collection of old diesel and steam engines along with cabooses and passenger cars that once carried people across the United States. The collection includes the memorable Texas Limited, a famous streamlined train.
Two fascinating permanent exhibits steal the show, however. The first being the Depot, which recreates the passenger train experience from eras past, while the Ghost of Travelers Past even has plaster molds of passengers.
The museum has regular events, so check ahead to see what’s on when you’re in town.
14. Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston
All year long, families and friends can enjoy the wide range of rides and entertainment at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The expansive and award-winning location offers over 30 different adrenalin pumping rides that never get old.
For the young and young at heart, enjoy a thrilling day that includes a range of tube slides, speed slides and the memorable Torrent Tidal Wave River. Importantly, there are spaces just for the little ones with multiple activity areas for kids, while mom and dad can rest up in the private cabanas within the picnic areas.
It’s not all about the water though. The park features the Soaring Eagle, a gondola that offers amazing views over the town.
13. Galveston Historic Seaport
Take a journey into the past while enjoying Texan culture at the Galveston Historic Seaport. On Harborside Drive, the seaport is home to the vast ELISSA, an iron baroque built in 1877.
ELLISSA was rescued at the eleventh hour from Piraeus Harbor in Greece. After being brought to Galveston, four years of restorative efforts brought the beautiful ship back to life.
Today, you can explore the museum that is within the ship. However, what makes ELISSA a must-see attraction is that she’s only one of three of her kind that still takes to the ocean. Jump on-board for a new way to explore the Gulf of Mexico.
12. Grand 1894 Opera House
Texas’ official state opera house is a sight for sore eyes. The Grand 1984 Opera House is still throwing extravagant shows to this day despite the efforts of multiple hurricanes.
The beautiful theater features two seating decks and several private boxes from which to admire the regular performances. Inside the main auditorium, you’ll be able to see the high-water mark from a previous hurricane that flooded the interior.
It took over a decade for the opera house to return to its former glory. However, thanks to the help of thousands, it makes for a splendid night out.
11. Bryan Museum
Born out of childhood wonder, the Bryan Museum is home to over 70,000 artifacts once owned by J.P. Bryan that celebrate the American West. The first of the thousands of objects now in the museum was .22 caliber Derringer from 1859. The gun was purchased by an eight-year-old Bryan who had scrounged together money earned from various odd jobs.
This purchase inspired a passion that would lead him to curate a vast collection. The assemblage of historic artifacts now makes up the bulk of what is the fascinating Bryan Museum, housed in the restored Galveston’s Orphans Home.
Aside from artifacts, find a wonderful collection of art, including works by Andy Warhol.
10. Moody Mansion
On the Register of National Historic Places, the Moody Mansion stands out from afar with its vibrant red brick facade. Built towards the end of the 19th century, this Victorian-era mansion rivals the opera house and the Bishop’s Palace as the most historic sites in Galveston.
Once home to W.L. Moody, the mansion is now a museum open to the public. Come inside to explore the adorned interior that showcases the home’s unique designs.
As you wander through the 20 rooms on display, you’ll discover a range of period furniture, antiques, and vintage Cadillacs, which once belonged to the Moody family. Embark on a guided tour to learn more about the home and the family.
9. Galveston Naval Museum
With the choice of either a self-guided or guided tour, you can learn all about the Navy’s impact in the Second World War. Here, you’ll be able to explore the USS Stewart and USS Cavalla to enjoy what is a thorough and captivating educational experience.
Learn all about the events in the Pacific onboard the USS Cavalla. The submarine responsible for the sinking of a Japanese aircraft carrier that was a part of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the USS Stewart is the only Edsall-class destroyer escort that still exists in the US today.
The Galveston Naval Museum present a range of wonderful events so even return visitors can have a fresh experience. These include ghost tours and opening up the museum at night.
8. Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum
As it rolls off the tongue, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum won’t strike you as an enticing attraction. However, that’s all the more reason to visit one of the most unique museums in Texas.
You’ll find the museum on a retired oil rig. After starting the experience with an introductory video, giving you the low-down on the rig’s history, you can then embark on a fascinating self-guided experience.
The museum features three floors of exhibits along with two areas outside that showcase the drilling equipment. The highlight of the tour is the Offshore Drilling exhibit that dives into the complicated process that is drilling for gas and oil in the ocean.
7. 1892 Bishop’s Palace
At the eastern end of Galveston’s Historic District, the Bishop’s Palace is a colorful and intricate piece of architecture. The palace was constructed in 1892, and features a mix of different colored stone, delicate carvings, and ornate decorations, such as dragons.
The interior is just as exquisite, presenting luxurious period furnishings, and several masterful sculptures in what is a display of pure Victorian-era opulence.
The National Historic Landmark, which is also known as Gresham’s Castle, offers guided tours. These only take place on Saturdays but will grant you a behind the scenes look at a nationally significant piece of architecture as you venture from the basement all the way to the attic.
6. Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry
If you’re looking for a fun and free activity, then look no further than the Galveston Port Bolivar Ferry. Traveling between the island and the Port Bolivar Peninsula, the ferry offers splendid views along the way. Common sights include dolphins bobbing up from beneath the surface and the Point Bolivar Lighthouse.
While it’s a memorable on-water experience, that doesn’t mean Point Bolivar isn’t worth exploring. Aside from the historic lighthouse, you can explore the Bolivar Flats and Fort Travis.
The former allows camping on the beach with a permit, allowing you to lie under the star-lit sky. While at Fort Travis, built in 1898, visitors can explore two original bunkers created to protect Galveston Harbor.
5. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
On Seawall Boulevard, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier soars out into the Gulf for over 1000ft. The stilts jump out of the water holding up the historic pier that features over a dozen hair-raising rides including roller coasters and a Sky Wheel.
In 1961, the original pier was destroyed, and it wasn’t until five decades later that its successor opened to the public. The Pleasure Pier quickly became a go-to attraction, being an enthralling location for couples, friends, and family. When you aren’t experiencing the adrenalin pumping rides, enjoy momentous views of the coastline along with the balmy golden hour.
The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is open every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but only on the weekends in the winter.
4. Moody Gardens
Offering an abundance of exciting choices, Moody Gardens provides endless fun for young and old. Depending on how you choose to experience the many attractions, you could easily spend an entire day between its three impressive pyramids.
Moody Gardens is home to rainforest, aquarium, and discovery pyramids, each with something unique to experience. The hands-on nature of the gardens will keep you entertained for hours on end. Whether that be walking among animals found in the rainforest or gazing upon marine life from all around the world in the Aquarium Pyramid.
Perhaps that most interesting is the Discovery section where you can put your brains to the test while learning about nature and science. When you’re beat, kick back in front of the largest cinema screens in Texas to watch the latest hits.
3. East Beach
Alongside Stewart Beach, East Beach is the destination in Galveston for beachgoers. Here, the soft warm sands dance between your toes as you stroll along, searching for that perfect spot. The salty aroma of the Gulf of Mexico floats across the beach as the palms sway overhead.
The spacious East Beach leaves plenty of room for a friendly game of volleyball or to throw the football around. Meanwhile swimming in the Gulf is a great way to cool off and get a break from the scorching Texan sun.
In the summer, East beach is a hive of activity. Locals and travelers alike enjoy a packed calendar of festivities and live music along with an iconic sandcastle competition. For other adventures, head to the adjacent East End Lagoon Nature Preserve.
2. The Strand
A National Historic Landmark District, the Strand comprises five blocks of beautiful 19th-century buildings in downtown Galveston. The Strand offers an aesthetically pleasing look at the beginnings of this bustling coastal town, but it’s what is inside the historic buildings that will have you sticking around.
Inside the row of pleasant architecture are boutique shops, independent art galleries and bars, along with some of the best restaurants in town. One of the best sights along the strip, however, is the Grand 1894 Opera House, which is still hosting shows to this day.
Continue walking along the Strand all the way to the wharf area. Within restored warehouses you can visit Pier 19, Texas Seaport Museum, before walking to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum.
1. Stewart Beach
On the northern end of Galveston’s renowned Seawall, Stewart Beach is the perfect beach day destination for families. Warm white sand and calm waters overlooked by lifeguards awaits. The popular beach is a long strip of sand with plenty of room to spread out, long with sun lounges and umbrellas available to hire.
Aside from having gorgeous views out into the Gulf, it’s the amenities that help make Stewart Beach a must-visit. Beyond the sand are lines of concession stands selling all your favorite beach eats and drinks. Visitors can also make use of the bathrooms and showers while the kids will love the playground.
The fun doesn’t end there. After enjoying your beach day, you’ll have just a short stroll to the action of Broadway Avenue along with the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier