Texas and island life typically don’t appear in the same sentence unless you’re talking about Galveston. Galveston is a small island off the coast of Texas accessible via a sea highway. The island is a local hotspot to experience island life without having to travel to an exotic location.
Galveston combines historical attractions with scenic beaches to make it an exciting place to visit for the whole family. Spend a few days checking out the island and discover the impressive revival of a city frequently rebuilt.
We’ll explore some of the top things to do in Galveston to add to your bucket list – and it’s much more than just relaxing on the beach!
Things to Do:
- Check out the Beaches
Scenic beaches surround the entire Galveston Island, so you’ll easily find one (or more) to call your favorite. Many of the hotels and condos line the beaches, so you’ll see a mix of tourist and local crowds hanging out all year round.
Galveston Beach is the most famous beach on the island. Walk along the seawall built for hurricane protection before walking on the extensive beach. It’s a family-friendly destination where you can enjoy swimming and various water sports.
If you find Galveston Beach a bit crowded, you have several other great options. Porretto Beach is another favorite family destination that features a children’s playground and picnic areas. Stewart Beach is on the island’s northern end, where you can lounge and enjoy one of the top-ranking beaches.
- Pleasure Pier
Built in 2012 to replace the original pier, Pleasure Pier quickly became a landmark attraction in Galveston. The pier features a full-scale amusement park built over the water, extending 340-meters into the Gulf of Mexico.
Pleasure Pier is a destination for the entire family with lots of fun rides to give you a bit of thrill. Take a ride on the Iron Shark roller coaster, or go on a high-flying Texas Star Flyer to soar above the pier, or enjoy views from the massive Ferris wheel.
The pier also features a carnival, arcade games, and an aquarium. Fishing is permitted on the pier. You can access the pier at the end of the seawall near Galveston Beach.
- Discover the Historical Buildings
Galveston is an island shaped by many historical events, many of them natural occurrences. The island is frequently devastated due to record-breaking hurricanes that still show evidence today. Some of the most destructive hurricanes occurred in 1900 with the Great Storm, Hurricane Carla in 1961, and Hurricane Ike in 2008.
A popular tourist activity is riding around the island to see some of the notable houses that have withstood the test of nature and remain standing, preserving their architectural beauty. Some of the homes to include on your list of stops are:
- Moody Mansion
- Bishop’s Palace
- Ashton Villa
- St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
As you spend time on the island, you’ll also notice many buildings featuring plaques and dated markers on the side of their buildings. The objects highlight that the building survived the Great Storm of 1900, and the markers point to the unbelievable water levels achieved by the storms.
- Galveston Historical Seaport
As you approach the Galveston historical seaport, you’ll see the towering masts of Elissa. Elissa is one of the oldest active ships in the world – it first set sail in 1877 and still goes on sea excursions today. It’s not recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
The primary use of Elissa is a museum, featured as part of the Texas Seaport Museum. Visitors can climb aboard the ship to see the restoration to its original appearance. You can explore above and below deck while hearing stories about historical journeys.
Onshore, the museum exhibits history about the maritime history in Texas. It’s a great place to discover local maritime heritage. You can also find sea cruises to sail into the sunset.
- Strand Historic District
Did you know that Galveston was one of America’s wealthiest cities at the end of the 19th Century? You can discover a lot of the opulence in the Strand Historic District, a section of Downtown Galveston.
The Strand Historic District was established in 1850 as a place where the wealthy lived. You’ll see a lot of incredible architecture with Victorian-era homes and other buildings. The entire district is designated as a National Historic Landmark District.
It’s a popular area to walk around and immerse in the local atmosphere. In addition to sightseeing, you’ll encounter many antique shops, souvenir stores, and restaurants. You can easily spend an entire day hanging out.
Where to Stay in Galveston?
Galveston is a small Texas island that draws a lot of tourists, so accommodations are abundant – but where should you stay? The great thing about Galveston is that it has accommodations located nearby many of the top tourist attractions. It makes it convenient for checking out the local landmarks or accessing the beach.
Check out these areas for accommodations in Galveston:
- Near Galveston Beach
- Near Pleasure Pier
- Downtown Galveston
Since the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Galveston, staying near the beach is a prime location for visitors. You’ll find a range of hotels, beach cottages, and rentals nearby that you can reach the beach within minutes of your accommodation.
Pleasure Pier is another favorite area to stay. There are many hotels nearby for checking out the pier and hanging out at some of the other attractions along the seawall.
Downtown gives a more historical ambiance to Galveston, where you can find historic hotels and bouquet bed and breakfast accommodations established in vintage homes.
Best Time to Visit Galveston?
Galveston is a popular travel destination, but most people time their visits around the weather. The best time to visit Galveston is between March to May. It’s when you’ll find the best weather for enjoying the beach, and not too hot where it’s uncomfortable.
If you can, avoid traveling to Galveston during the hurricane season, which lasts from June to November. Due to the island’s past experiences with massive destruction during the season, it’s become accustomed to preparing for potential hurricanes. Some attractions even shut down leading up to the season.
Even if no hurricane lands, you may still get weather effects like rougher waters, rain, and stronger winds.