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 :)
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 :)
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 :)
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 ;)
Mel Was Here