“It’s Island Time” in Galveston

Just an hour’s drive from Houston is a small island that is one of “The Best Beaches in Texas” according to USA Today.

This place is Galveston Island, Houston’s playground, and it’s full of surprises for visitors who want to enjoy a quick escape this summer. A barrier island two miles offshore, Galveston Island is surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches.

Murals depict the early history of Galveston. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murals depict the early history of Galveston. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Do? Well, where to start? For those who want to enjoy the sun, venture to Galveston’s recently replenished beaches. Galveston has just completed a $19.5 million beach nourishment project widening the beaches by up to 150 feet from 12th to 61st streets, including the beaches in front of Hotel Galvez. This definitely provides good reason to put some sand between your toes.

New beach activities include horseback riding at East Beach and helicopter rides at Stewart Beach. Active travelers may also want to give stand up paddle boarding or surfing a try. By the way, visitors can choose from four harbor excursions at Pier 21.

Bishops Palace was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine, with whom he had nine children. An attorney and entrepreneur, Gresham came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bishops Palace was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine, with whom he had nine children. An attorney and entrepreneur, Gresham came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier extends over the Gulf of Mexico at 25th Street and is the place to be for thrill-seekers young and old. The Pleasure Pier is home to midway games and 16 rides, from exhilarating coasters for thrill-seekers, to gentle rides for young visitors. There’s also a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, along with cool shops to check out.

The adult rides include the Iron Shark Rollercoaster, Pirate’s Plunge, Gulf Glider, Revolution, Galaxy Wheel, Cyclone, and Sea Dragon. For the kids, there’s the Carousel, Big Wheelin’ car ride, the Frog Hopper, Texas Tea, and Pier Pileup bumper cars.

History buffs should put The Bryan Museum on their itinerary. This new museum offers a one-of-a-kind collection of Southwestern United States artifacts and historic documents.

Galveston’s 70-block historic downtown is a veritable treasure chest of culture, historical landmarks, museums, art galleries, and theaters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston’s 70-block historic downtown is a veritable treasure chest of culture, historical landmarks, museums, art galleries, and theaters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’d like to soak up the ambiance of Galveston’s past that has melded with the future, you won’t want to miss a trip to the 70-block Historic Downtown District that includes The Strand and Post Office Street. There, you’ll find an enchanting blend of art galleries, antique shops, and eateries—many located in restored 1900s-era buildings.

Be sure to pop into La Kings Confectionary at 2323 Strand, which features a 1920s soda fountain serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, and splits. To be sure, there’s enough sweets to make Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory jealous!

Experience a slice of that maritime glory by walking along Elissa’s decks as you imagine another world powered by wind sails. The Texas Seaport Museum, home to Elissa, tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience a slice of that maritime glory by walking along Elissa’s decks as you imagine another world powered by wind sails. The Texas Seaport Museum, home to Elissa, tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston has one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the U.S. Must-see historical attractions include the 1859 Ashton Villa, 1861 Custom House, 1885 Moody Mansion, and 1892 Bishop’s Palace. The first of Galveston’s great Broadway “palaces”, 1859 Ashton Villa set the standard for the magnificent homes that followed.

Galveston’s grandest and best-known building, the Bishop’s Palace is an ornate delight of colored stone, intricately carved ornaments, rare woods such as rosewood and white mahogany, stained-glass windows, and impressive fireplaces from around the world—including one lined with pure silver.

Or watch a historic documentary at Pier 21 Theater and take a tour of the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa at the Texas Seaport Museum.

Visitors should also check the schedule for The Grand 1894 Opera House. There is no place like it to watch a favorite Broadway show or performer.

An exciting entertainment paradise, Moody Gardens has something for just about everyone, from its white sands Palm Beach, to the exciting educational pyramids and MG 3D Theater. At the Aquarium Pyramid, the kids will meet penguins, sharks, and other aquatic animals; and at the Rainforest Pyramid they’ll experience close encounters with free-roaming monkeys, macaws, and other endangered animals and plants.

While at Moody Gardens, consider taking a ride aboard the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, a triple deck sternwheeler that cruises the adjacent waters.

Step back into the past, when Galveston was known as the Wall Street of Southwest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step back into the past, when Galveston was known as the Wall Street of Southwest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the ultimate family fun in the sun adventure, slide on over to Schlitterbahn Waterpark and plunge into more than a dozen heated water adventures, including the MASSIV—one of the largest water park rides in the nation.

Downtown Galveston’s Saengerfest Park is host to free movies and concerts weekends March through October. Movie Nite is the first Saturday of the month and Music Nite is the second Saturday.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.

—Glen Campbell

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