Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Seawall Urban Park - Galveston Texas

When planning a trip to Galveston one of the top things on most everyone's itinerary is spending time at the beach. With 32 miles of gulf beaches it's easy to see why. But, which beach should you go to? You have Stewart Beach which is popular with families, East Beach (aka party beach), Galveston Island State Park, and many others to choose from. If you're looking for a bit of history, sight seeing, and beach fun then look no further than my favorite spot in Galveston - Seawall Urban Park. 

Seawall Urban Park stretches for over 10 miles and consists of beaches, restaurants, resorts, and fun activities. The Galveston Seawall was constructed after the Hurricane of 1900 (which totally devastated the city and is the deadliest natural disaster in US history) to help protect the island from future hurricanes. The initial segment was constructed from 1902-1904 and was only 3.3 miles long. Construction continued from 1904-1963 which extended the Seawall to over 10 miles long making this the longest continual walkway in the US. Along this popular tourist destination you can find stone plaques commemorating the building of this walkway. 

Access to the beach here is free but you will be required to pay for parking. The cost to park along the Seawall is $1 per hour or $7 for the entire day. Seriously not expensive at all considering you could very well spend all day here with all there is to do. Rent a family bike and ride along the sidewalk taking in the beautiful beach scenery, take a Duck Tour and learn some history of Galveston, spend a few hours having fun at Pleasure Pier, or just take a stroll along the Seawall stopping at the gift shops along the way. And of course spend some time at the beach making sand castles or swimming in the water :) 

My personal favorite place to stop along the Seawall is Murdoch's. This historic building was originally a bathhouse that was built sometime in the 1800s. It was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1900 and was rebuilt the next year with a gift shop added in 1910. It was destroyed yet again by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and now a sparkling new building full of unique souvenirs stands on the site of the original bathhouse building. If you're looking for a small trinket or t shirt to remember your trip to Galveston then a stop at Murdoch's is a must.

No trip to Galveston is complete without at least taking a walk along the beach. Looking for seashells and watching my 2 year old son attempt to make sand castles was the ultimate highlight of my day. There's no greater feeling than the waves crashing at your feet as the salty air breeze caresses your face. I could stand on the beach watching the water for hours getting lost in my thoughts. So, do not miss the opportunity to do the same.

-No Glass Bottles On The Beach
-Pets are permitted on leashes
-No alcohol
-Parking is enforced from 10am-6pm

Helpful Hints:
-Even spending an hour on the beach can result in a bad sunburn (I learned this the hard way) so make sure to bring plenty of sunblock.

-There are no parking meters along the Seawall. It's pay by phone so make sure you have your credit card and license plate number ready. 

-Murdoch's sells little pails with shovels for the little ones to make sand castles so be sure to stop by and pick one up before making your way down to the beach. 

-Parking along the Seawall is limited and fills up fast especially on weekends and holidays so be sure to arrive early to get a parking spot or you'll be walking a long way. 

No matter which beach you decide to visit or what activity you decide to do I know you will have a blast. There are so many things to see and do in Galveston that there's no way to not have fun. Have you been to Seawall Urban Park? How was your experience? I'd love to hear about it so please leave me a comment. You can also send pics of your trip to my facebook page @melwashere I love seeing my readers having fun :)

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Bishop's Palace: Galveston, Texas

Are you planning a Galveston vacation and looking for something to do besides the beach and the typical tourist filled attractions? If you're a history nerd (like me) or just interested in learning some local Galveston history then you should definitely check out The Bishop's Palace. An architectural wonder this beautiful home stands out as one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful buildings in Galveston. A stop here is certainly a memorable experience that you won't regret :) 

The Bishop's Palace (aka Gresham's Castle) was built between 1887 and 1892 for Walter Gresham, his wife, and their 9 children. At the time it was constructed it is said to have cost an estimated $250,000. In today's market that's over $5.5 million!!! Made of stone, this mansion was sturdy enough to withstand the hurricane of 1900 and able to house many survivors which the Gresham family welcomed into their home. The Victorian style is evident throughout the entire home with the most impressive being the beautiful main staircase which was completely hand carved and took many years to complete. The home was sold in 1923 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston who used it as the residence of Bishop Christopher Byrne earning the name The Bishop's Palace and giving us the beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel (GORGEOUS). The home was opened to the public for tours in 1963. 

Today the home still stands tall and proud on Broadway Street. It's impossible to drive by this mansion without noticing it's grandeur. At 19,082 square feet it's quite impressive! The home is open for tours daily so if you have time you should definitely stop by and check it out. All tours are self guided (unless you make a reservation for a guided tour) so you can tour this beauty at your own pace and take the time to really appreciate all the hard work that went into making this little piece of Galveston history. 

-The home is open for tours daily from 10am-5pm
-Cost of admission: adults $12, Children (6-18) $9, 5 and under are Free
-Basement to Attic Tour $30 per person
-Private Tour $50 per person
-Private Behind the scenes Tour $80 per person
-Not Handicapped Accessible
-Parking is free but limited 

Helpful Hints:
-The basic tour is a self guided audio tour and the volume is quite low so make sure to hold the tablet as close to you as you can (depending on the size of your group this may be hard to do).

-You don't enter the home through the main staircase. There are stairs to the left leading down to the basement where you enter the gift shop. This is where you purchase admission tickets. I made the mistake of walking all the way up the stairs before realizing this. 

-The tour may not be suitable for small children as there is nothing to keep their interest and they will become bored quickly. My 2 year old son wouldn't stand still and thought this huge house was his personal playground. 

-Don't miss the sign in the gift shop which shows how high the water level was during Hurricane Ike 2008. I was shocked at just how high the water was at that time. 

Overall, I give this 5 stars for historical significance and architecture. I will visit again when my son is older and can actually focus (and let Mom focus) on the audio guide. Don't miss out on this historical treasure! 

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here 

Have you been to The Bishop's Palace? I'd love to hear about your experience and see some pictures. You can find me @melwashereblog

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Top 10 Things To Do In Galveston

Planning a Galveston vacation soon? Not really sure what you want to do or maybe just looking for extra ideas to add to your itinerary? I've done the research for you and have compiled a list of the top 10 things to do in Galveston. Some of these I've personally been to and others are on my bucket list....but all 10 of these places are considered a must for any first, second, or even third time Galveston visitor!

A brief history lesson:

The city of Galveston was founded in 1836 and served as the capitol of The Republic of Texas (before Texas became a US state). In the mid 1800s Galveston became Texas' largest city and one of the busiest ports in the nation. In 1900 Galveston was devastated by a hurricane that remains the deadliest natural disaster in US history. The popular seawall was built to protect the island from future hurricanes. In the early 1900s Galveston became known as the sin city of the gulf with casinos and other illegal activities taking place. All of these establishments were shut down in the 1950s leading to an economic decline. Thankfully the city has reemerged into a tourist destination centering on history, entertainment, and of course the beach..... 

1. The Beach

When you think of Galveston what's the first thing that comes to mind? THE BEACH of course! Millions of tourists flock to Galveston every year to relax on the beach and swim in the Gulf of Mexico. There are many beaches up and down the coast of Galveston island. Some have entry fees and some are free. I prefer to visit the beach along the seawall near Murdochs. There is no fee to access the beach here but there is a fee for parking, It's $1 per hour or $7 for the whole day paid for by calling the number on the meter sign and using a credit card. Mel Was Here :)

2. Seawall

While visiting the beach in Galveston don't miss the popular and historic seawall. Construction of the seawall began in 1902 and was completed in 1963. At 10 miles long, this tourist destination actually serves as a barrier to protect the city from another devastating hurricane like the deadly storm of 1900. You can walk along the beach or on top of the seawall. Either way you will have beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico. Along this walk you will find historical plaques and colorful murals painted by mostly children which adds to the beauty of this little piece of history. Mel Was Here :)

3.  Ferry

Looking for something free to do while in Galveston? The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry runs every day and is completely free. It takes travelers on state highway 87 between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. You can either drive on or park your car and walk on. I always walk on so I can do the return trip as well without having to get back in the car line. You can feed the seagulls and watch the dolphins jumping all for free! This is definitely at least a one time thing for every Galveston tourist. Mel Was Here :)

4. Pleasure Pier

One of Galveston's newest attractions is located right on the beach. Pleasure pier was opened in the summer of 2012 and is fast becoming one of the best things to do when visiting the island. The original Pleasure Pier was located here from 1943 - 1961 when it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla. In 1965 an over the water hotel, USS Flagship, was built on the pier but was demolished after it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008. The new and improved Pleasure Pier features games, rides, shops, and restaurants which is perfect for anyone looking for some fun and excitement while on vacation. The price to walk onto the pier (if you're not riding any rides) is $10. If you purchase an all day ride pass it's $26.99 and includes access to the pier. There is discount pricing for both children and seniors. Mel's Bucket List.

5. Moody Gardens

Arguably one of the most popular destinations in Galveston is Moody Gardens. This exciting and educational attraction is open all year long and offers many different exhibits and activities to keep you and your children entertained. Enjoy the aquarium and rainforest pyramids, a ride on the paddlewheel boat, a 4D theater experience, and much more. The price of a one day value pass is $69.95 per person and it includes everything except animal encounters. There is also discount days so check the website for information on how to get a discounted ticket. Mel's Bucket List.

6. Bishop's Palace

Built in 1892 and surviving the hurricane of 1900 this beautiful home is a step back in time when the Victorian style reigned supreme. Rising 3 stories above the street this majestic piece of architectural excellence will wow even the toughest critic. Don't just stand outside and stare, (although it's certainly easy to do) be sure to come inside and take a self guided audio tour which explains the history of this beautiful place. The price of the tour is $12 per person with a discounted ticket for children. A must if you're interested in learning some history of Galveston. Mel Was Here :)

7. Moody Mansion

Another historic and beautiful building, the Moody Mansion was built in 1895 and was purchased by the Moody family shortly after the hurricane of 1900. The house remained a family home until 1986 and is still filled with memorabilia and furnishings from the Moody family estate. It has been restored to it's original splendor and visitors can tour 20 rooms to learn the history of the powerful and influential Moody family. The price is $12 per person for a self guided audio tour with discounts for children available. Another beautiful home for learning a bit of Galveston history. Mel's Bucket List.

8. Rainforest Café

One of my favorite places to eat while in Galveston! The food itself is nothing to write home about, but the atmosphere makes this definitely worth a visit. Eating here is like dining inside a real rainforest (except it doesn't actually rain). There are animatronics all over the walls that come to life every 30 minutes or so when a mock rain storm takes place. It is a very unique experience that I recommend at least once. Mel Was Here :)

9. Schlitterbahn

Considered one of the best waterparks in the country, Schlitterbahn Galveston is visited by millions of tourists every year. With huge slides, a water coaster, and a swim up bar this place has something for everyone! General admission starts at $50.99 per person and goes up depending if you want to buy extras (towel, water bottle, ect.) Not too bad for a whole day of fun. Mel's Bucket List.

10. Seawolf Park

Seawolf Park is located on Pelican Island and is a great place to fish and visit historic warships. The cost to enter the park is $6 per car. If you want to fish it's $9 per person and $10 per person to visit the warships. The once beautiful pavilion that stands at the end of the park was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. A few months ago the city decided to demolish the building since it has become an eye sore. Hopefully there are plans to rebuild with perhaps a café and gift shop inside. The main attraction of this park is seeing the warships. You can go inside an actual submarine and battleship. Such an interesting piece of history that everyone in the family can enjoy. Mel Was Here :)

Bonus: Mardi Gras (Seasonal)

Looking for something a little extra in Galveston? The Mardi Gras celebration is a smaller version of the one in New Orleans but it packs just as much fun and entertainment. The Galveston Mardi Gras lasts about 2 weeks and it's only once a year so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. For the 2019 season Mardi Gras is scheduled for February 22 - March 5. Discounted tickets will be available online soon so be sure to check the website periodically to get the best deal on your Mardi Gras tickets. Mel's Bucket List. 

Galveston is more than just a beach! There's so much history and entertainment here that if it's not already on your bucket list it certainly should be. What's your favorite thing to do in Galveston? Do you know of an awesome place or activity that I should check out on my next visit? Please leave a comment or hit me up on my Facebook page @melwashereblog. I love suggestions on where to go and I will certainly look into any and all of them :) 

Have an amazing day friends ;) 

Melanie Holmes 
Mel Was Here 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Living The Travel Dream

Have you ever had a dream? I have....many of them. I've dreamed of becoming an actress, winning the lottery ( I think everyone's had that one ), and being a princess :) But, the dream that has always been first and foremost on my mind is traveling. I want to see EVERYTHING!!! I know that seeing literally everything the world has to offer is probably not going to happen seeing as I haven't won that lottery yet, but I made myself a vow that I would see as much as I can until I'm no longer on this Earth and I would share my travels and adventures with everyone I can. So, welcome to my blog....

Who am I? My name is Melanie Holmes and I live in the small town of Cleveland, Texas. I work for a major pharmaceutical company full time which helps fund my travels and of course pays the bills. I'm engaged to a wonderful man and have 4 future step children that I love with all my heart ( ages 17, 12, 10, and 2 ) I can't wait to take them on some of these adventures with me. I know they will have a blast!


How did I come up with my name? Well, in high school my girlfriends and I were always writing "our name" was here on everything we could. Back then it was cool to spell was "wuz" but I'm not 17 anymore ( and have become somewhat OCD in my older years LOL ) so I decided to spell it the correct way. So, everywhere I go from now on will be signed with Mel Was Here ;)

I've been many places in the past that I may talk about from time to time, but I really want to focus on current travels so I can give you up to date information about where I went and relevant tips on how to make the most of your next adventure. Since I'm not made of money and I have a full time job and children that require a lot of time and attention ( and money ), I won't be able to post all the time since I can't afford to quit my job and travel full time. I'm hoping for at least once a week but we'll see how things go. Who knows....maybe I'll win that lottery one day after all :)

Are you ready to go on adventures with me? Let's do this.....


                                                                                                                          Mel Was Here 

UPDATE: I am no longer in a relationship with the man pictured above! I tried to keep everything together for the sake of the children but he was extremely emotionally and mentally abusive and I had to get away. I am still going to travel and see everything I myself if I have to. But I have many friends who are supportive and one day I know I'll find that one man who will treat me the way a man is supposed to treat a woman and he will love to travel as much as I do. Until then I will continue to live this travel dream of mine alone. Thanks so much for following my blog :)