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One of the state’s best vacation destinations, Galveston boasts the perfect combination outdoor recreation and cultural attractions. Located just 50 miles west of Houston, Galveston is home to 32 miles of picturesque coastline and a wealth of enticing restaurants, antique stores, art galleries and entertainment options, where visitors are spoiled for choice in how they fill their itinerary. From sunny days on Stewart Beach to the Historic Pleasure Pier, here are the top things to do in Galveston, Texas.
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Home to over 2,000 acres of natural landscapes, a visit to Galveston Island State Park offers a wide array of options. Soak in the views of the park’s beaches, ponds, estuaries, wetlands, and dunes, or take a day to enjoy the outdoor splendors that this gem has to offer. Here you can pack a picnic or swim in the gentle waters at the beach, or kick your day up a notch with a day of hiking and mountain biking through the area. Nature enthusiasts will revel in the beautiful spots where you can go fishing, bird watching, canoeing or kayaking, while those looking for a night of star gazing can camp overnight.
Galveston’s premier family beach park, Stewart Beach is the perfect escape from the everyday stresses of life. The little ones will enjoy a day out building sand castles and playing in the water, while adults can dig their toes in the sand and enjoy the sounds of the surf. Named one of the Top 10 Best Beaches for Families by Family Vacation Critic in 2013, here you’ll find an array of amenities that include a shaded pavilion, restrooms, and showers. Indulge in a hotdog or burgers at one of the numerous concession stands, play a game of volleyball at one of the courts, or simply lounge and enjoy the views under a beach umbrella.
One of the city’s newest attractions, the Galveston Island Historic Pier offers an abundance of family-friendly fun along its historic pier. A nostalgic boardwalk-style amusement park, stroll along the Seawall and night, and you’ll be overtaken by the eye-catching glow coming from its neon lights. A delight for thrillseekers, here you satisfy your need for speed on the pier’s array of unique rides that over glittering views over the Gulf of Mexico. From a 230-foot-tall Texas Sart Flyer to a double-decker carousel and a variety of carnival-style games and activities, there is something here to entertain visitors of all ages.
One of the biggest highlights of this area, the Strand Historic District is located in downtown Galveston. It’s here that you can capture views of its breathtaking architecture, while charming boutique shops and a variety of restaurants and art galleries line the area. Admire Victorian and Greek Revival architecture while taking a stroll, as the area offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Spread across five blocks, it’s easy to do a self-guided tour of the top attractions nearby and relax in one of the beautiful waterfront restaurants. Offering a unique ambiance of bustling locals, grab a cocktail at one of the district’s many bars and pubs and spend the afternoon people-watching.
Perfect for those interested in the wonders of flight, the Lone Star Flight Museum combines the history of aviation with interesting displays of restored aircraft and aviation artifacts, particularly in its Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. Here you’ll get an in-depth understanding of the state’s aviation history, where you can observe a unique perspective of the technological developments that this industry has gone through over the decades. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can also partake in a thrilling flight experience in one of the legendary World War II-era aircraft. Listen to the engines come alive as you jump in a B-17 Flying Fortress and knock this memorable experience off your bucket list. UPDATE: They will debut in late 2017 in a new location, check the website for details.
While the Moody Gardens might be famous for its pyramid-shaped attractions, this unique landmark is as much about having fun than it is about its educational opportunities. Home to three different worlds, these eye-catching structures offer visitors the chance to watch penguins, seals, sharks and other aquatic animals in the Aquarium Pyramid and be awe-struck by the creatures that come from Africa and Asia in the Rainforest Pyramid. That’s not all, as the Discovery Pyramid is the third wonder, filled with interactive exhibits that serve to inspire and educate visitors of all ages. You’d be amiss if you didn’t also ride the zip-line, experience the tallest steep ropes course on the Gulf Coast, or visit the colorful botanical gardens.
Located at the Texas Seaport Museum, the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa is a sight to behold. With its mesmerizing white sails and rich history, it is one of the world’s oldest sailing hulls still in operation. Launched in 1877 from Aberdeen Scotland, this beauty has sailed the waters under Norweigan, Finnish, Greek and Swedish flags. A National Historic Landmark, climb aboard this historic ship and image what life was like when it was navigating the high seas. You can browse the ship’s fascinating exhibits and see an engaging presentation about the ship’s restoration. Other highlights include a look at the history of the Port of Galveston, where you’ll find the names of over 133,000 names of immigrants that first set foot on American soil in Galveston.
One of the city’s finest historic structures, the Grand 1894 Opera House is a cultural icon in the heart of The Strand. Also known as the “Official Opera House of Texas,” a visit to Galveston wouldn’t be complete without catching a glimpse of this beautiful Victorian theater. Still playing host to various musical and theatrical performances, a visit to this attraction would make for a perfect date night out. Watch the drama play out or catch a performance from an award-winning musician, as its here that you’ll experience a part of Galveston history. The Opera House is also home to an array of exciting events held throughout the year, from food and wine festivals to the kid-friendly Grand Kids Festival.
Originally built as a private residence, a visit to Bishop’s Palace in the East End of the Galveston Historic District is the perfect destination for history buffs. Ranked as one of the top 100 homes in the United States for its architectural significance, its here that you can admire and appreciate this National Historic Landmark’s castle-like exterior and sculpted granite, limestone and sandstone features. Its details, such as the carved woodwork and bronze dragons are impressive, to say the least, while the high ceilings and vintage furnishings add to its opulent atmosphere. Take a guided tour of the property to hear the detailed history of why it’s such a treasured part of Galveston and see the unique octagonal mahogany stairwell surrounded by glimmering stained glass artwork.
A part of the community for over 30 years, the Galveston Railway Museum was created to highlight the history of rail transportation. An attraction that appeals to visitors of all ages, come here to witness the unique artifacts and memorabilia, from the large collection of steam and diesel engines to the passenger and freight cars and cabooses. The famous streamlined Texas Limited passenger train is a real highlight, along with the Santa Fe diesel and large model train layout. For a spooky look at the industry, find the Ghosts of Travelers Past exhibition to see plaster molds of individuals who passed through the area. Playing host to a variety of train shows and parades throughout the year, this family-friendly attraction is not to be missed.