Galveston rests on Galveston and Pelican Islands off the coast of Texas, south of Houston. Although the islands have been pounded by hurricanes throughout the last century, today the city has a large number of famous historic buildings scattered around the islands in six historic districts. There are a number of tourist attractions in Galveston that allows families and friends to have fun in the city either on a low or high-end budget, either in nature or within the city.
10. Bishop’s Palace
Built between 1886 and 1892, Bishop’s Palace stands out from the standard houses that you see around the city because of its grand Victorian style. Although it is built on a small lot, the house is oversized and has a number of unique combinations of materials, like a cast iron gallery. Found in the East End Historic District, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the National level. Hours run from 10 am – 5 pm Sunday through Friday and stay open until 6 pm on Saturdays. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for youth. Tours are generally offered on a daily basis at 1:30 pm, but if you cannot get a tour guide, self-guided audio tours are available on request.
9. Galveston Railroad Museum
Originally created to show how transportation worked in the state of Texas and in the city of Galveston, this museum holds one of the largest restored railroad collections in the United States. Special events occur throughout the year and the museum strives to offer a number of engaging exhibits for all visitors. Depending on the weather, you may be able to catch a ride on the Harborside Express Train on Saturdays between 11 am and 2 pm, with the last train leaving at 1:45 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, with discounts offered for seniors, youths, and active military members. If you choose to ride the train, you’ll need to add an additional $5 per rider.
8. Galveston Island State Park
Perched on a narrow spot on the island, this park allows swimming on multiple beaches on both the ocean and bay sides. But there’s more to do than just swimming, including fishing, bird watching, hiking and biking, and paddling, among several other activities. There are also a number of cabins and campsites that you and your family can rent in order to spend a lot of time at the park. The park is open daily, and the entrance fee is $5 an adult. However, you can get a Texas State Parks Pass or a Texas Parklands Pass, each of which comes with their own benefits and works at other Texas state parks.
7. The Grand
Constructed in 1894, The Grand had only been used for six years before a massive storm in 1900 tried to take it out. The community grouped together and restored the opera house, only to have three more hurricanes attempt to destroy the building during the 1900s. In 1974, The Grand underwent a massive restoration project, which allowed the building to be reopened in 1990. It has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being declared The Official Opera House in Texas in 1993. If you’re interested in seeing The Grand, the best way would probably be to purchase show tickets, attend the show, and make it into a romantic evening.
6. The Lone Star Flight Museum
Created thirty years ago, this museum tends to focus on Texas aviation and holds the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. The museum holds a number of period planes as well as some retired American military aircraft for the education of their visitors. Although this museum is a not-for-profit museum, there is still an entrance fee of $10 for adults and $8 for youth and seniors in order to keep the museum going. On a daily basis, the museums is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
5. Texas Seaport Museum / ELISSA
Home of the 1877 ship ELISSA, the museum explores maritime history and immigration throughout the years. At the museum, you may take tours of the restored ship ELISSA and view movies of her restoration in the attached movie theater. The museum closes on a yearly basis because the ELISSA goes through sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. When the ship is in port, you can find her and the museum in the port of the city. In the summer, the museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm, while the winter hours are from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets for adults are $12 apiece and the last tickets are sold an hour before closing.
4. Schlitterbahn Water Park
Have lots of sunscreen on hands when you visit the Schlitterbahn Water Park because there’s a good possibility that you’ll spend a majority of your day here when you visit. There are a number of different rides and it has areas for parents, teenagers, and younger kids. On a hot summer day, it will keep your family cool for around $28 an adult. However, the park offers a number of discounts for where you buy your ticket and who you’re buying your ticket for. In the fall and early spring, you can buy tickets for a severely reduced price if you come after 2 pm.
3. Pleasure Pier
Found near the Galveston Seawall Boulevard, the Pleasure Pier is designed to bring back nostalgic feelings of the Navy Pier in Chicago and the Coney Island Pier in New York. However, this Pier has had to go through a number of restorations after being battered by hurricanes, the most recent being Hurricane Ike. At the Pleasure Pier, there are a number of rides, restaurants, shops, and games. However, what is open will depend on the weather, so make sure to take a look at that before you go. Prices for games and rides will depend on each ride individually.
2. Tree Sculpture Tour
After Hurricane Ike struck in 2008, a number of trees were destroyed or damaged by the storm. Some homeowners decided that they would like to save what they could of the trees and hired sculptors to go through and carve the trees into something beautiful. Found in the East End Historic District, you can take the tour at any time of day for free since you’re walking, biking, or any other safe method of transportation that you would like. If you would like to go on the tour, it is offered once a week on Saturday and costs $15 a person, but allows you to ride on a bus for the tour. Since the sculptures are on private property, it is requested that you stay off of the properties and admire the sculptures from a distance. Maps of the tour are available online.
1. Moody Gardens
As one of the top places to visit in Galveston, Moody Gardens offers a large number of things for people of all ages to participate in. There are a number of educational pyramids for people to experience, including an aquarium, rainforest, and a discovery museum. Besides the educational and year-round experiences, there are seasonal attractions that rotate throughout the year. This park is more expensive than others, with a day pass running at $60 for one day. If you have a time crunch, however, tickets for individual attractions are sold.
Although the city covers two separate islands, be prepared to have a car on hand because you will need to do a lot of driving to get anywhere. There are a number of things to do in Galveston, but be prepared to experience heavy traffic and meeting lots of people because it is an extremely popular tourist destination, especially over the weekend.