Galveston, Texas is a lovely barrier island on the Gulf Coast. It is less than an hour from Houston and is popular for its beautiful sandy beaches, a port for cruise ships, and historic downtown.
Galveston was once the biggest and wealthiest town in the state and was even the capital of the Republic of Texas at one time. The magnificence of the era can still be found in the historic establishments and elegant Victorian architecture.
Galveston also offers outstanding adventures like sightseeing, bird-watching, fishing, water sports, museums, and dining.
With an abundance of things to do and places to visit, Galveston offers tours of all kinds — from guided to self-guided —all tailored for your individual needs. Here are 17 things to do in Galveston that everyone will enjoy.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN GALVESTON
- Best Historic Home: The George Manor steps you back in time to a unique setting with all the comfort of modern amenities. With garden views, The George Manor has a restaurant, a shared lounge, bar, garden and terrace.
- Best Near The Beach: Located in Galveston adjacent to the beach, Four Seasons on the Gulf offers a spacious outdoor pool and free WiFi. Pleasure Pier is only 1 mile away.
- Best Tried and True: Best Western Plus Galveston Suites is located on the beachfront in Galveston, a few steps from Seawall Urban Park and a 19-minute walk from West Beach. The resort has an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a buffet breakfast.
East Beach is the ultimate destination for those looking for some good wholesome fun in the sun. The beach is found at the far eastern tip of the island.
The sweeping, panoramic beach is great for outdoor activities like beachcombing, beach volleyball, sandcastle building, and horseback riding.
It also has an entertainment stage, boardwalk, and an outdoor pavilion suitable for private parties or corporate events. Other amenities include showers, restrooms, chairs, umbrella rentals, concessions, a kiddie playground, and many more. Alcohol is allowed.
Plan your visit when they hold special events and concerts during the high peak. East Beach is a sure bet for rest and relaxation.
Stewart Beach is located near where historic Broadway Avenue joins the iconic Seawall. It is undoubtedly Galveston’s premier family beach park on the Gulf Coast and is an excellent getaway for all visitors.
If you get a case of the munchies, Stewart Beach offers several concession stands. Choose from the available beach treats like hotdogs, burgers, and sweet cake. Remember, alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
Test your beach volleyball skills or swim under the watchful eyes of lifeguards. Rent a chair and an umbrella and work on your tan as you watch your kids make merry on the kids’ playground. Clean restrooms and standard showers are also conveniently located here.
GALVESTON RAILROAD MUSEUM
The Galveston Railroad Museum tells the history of railroad transport in Galveston. Explore six permanent exhibits showcasing a huge collection of steam and diesel engines, passenger and freight cars, cabooses, and affiliated artifacts.
The museum has more than train equipment to show you. Find your way to the People’s Gallery, which will take you back to the year 1932 when fancy hats, gowns, and suits were fashionable.
Plan your visit to coincide with a train show for an opportunity to take a ride on the historic machines.
GALVESTON HISTORIC SEAPORT
The Texas Seaport Museum at the Galveston Historic Seaport is the proud home of the tall ship Elissa. Elissa was built in 1877 and still sails the waters to this day!
Walk the deck of this floating historic landmark while you marvel at the beautiful workmanship. The museum and theater will give you a deeper understanding of the history of seafaring.
GRAND 1894 OPERA HOUSE
The Grand 1894 Opera House is one of Galveston’s fine old buildings. The restored Victorian theater has survived many hurricanes. The Grand 1894 Opera House still hosts musical and theatrical renditions.
The main theater has three seating levels and small side balconies near the stage. For a bit of history, take a look on a wall just past the main entrance. A plaque reveals the point of the high water mark from Hurricane Ike.
THE BRYAN MUSEUM
The Bryan Museum was opened in 2015, and displays an eclectic art collection and antiques from the American West, spanning over 12,000 years.
Take a tour and admire the permanent collection that has everything from Native American history, the Spanish Colonial Era, and Texas Independence. Famous artists, like Andy Warhol, are well represented here.
There are also touch screen displays that make history fun and an adventure to all.
Your visit to Galveston is incomplete if you have not been to the historic downtown strand seaport areas. Bring your walking shoes because the 70 blocks that make up downtown are filled with areas of interest.
The Strand Historic District, or the Strand, is in the heart of downtown Galveston. The Strand survived the storm of 1900 that killed more than 6000 people in Galveston.
The Strand is comprised of several elegant Victorian buildings that are now home to boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, nightlife, and antique stores.
On the Harborside is Pier 19, where you can visit the Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center and Museum. Remember to check what is showing at the modern Pier 21 Theater, and appreciate the beauty of the tall ship Elissa at the Texas Seaport Museum.
Pier 19 offers unbeatable waterfront views and a cluster of attractions for the whole crew.
The most well-known detail along the Seawall is Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. This amusement park sticks out into the ocean like a carnival on stilts. The park can be seen from a distance along the beachfront.
There are many fun rides suitable for kids of all ages. Games and activities like balloon pop, ring toss, build a bear, and more are there to keep you entertained.
Scream as your stomach somersaults on the iron shark and on a thrilling swing ride straight over the ocean that you will not forget any time soon!
Several dining options and retail shops are also available.
The Seawall is the longest continuous sidewalk in the United States! Built in the 1900s to protect Galveston from hurricanes, The Seawall is 10.3 miles long.
The Seawall offers lots of beachside fun, restaurants, and resorts for you and your family. Foodies, photographers, shoppers, and beachgoers will all have a blast here.
Splash in the water, go on a stroll or a jog, or simply take in the rays. Shop for souvenirs at the local beachside shops, and do not forget to bring your surfboard. Build sandcastles or just lounge as the waves lap at your feet. The view alone is worth a visit while you make memories to last a lifetime.
1892 BISHOP’S PALACE
Bishop’s Palace, also known as Gresham’s Castle, is one of America’s most significant Victorian mansions. It was built between 1887 and 1893.
Admire the lovely castle-like exterior, detailed with turrets and towers and carved granite, limestone, and sandstone.
Walk inside and be amazed by the labored carved woodwork, high ceilings, stained glass windows, fireplaces, and fine furnishings. Self-guided tours are offered daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
MOODY GARDENS AND AQUARIUM
Moody Gardens is an enormous complex with so many things to do for the entire family. The three glass pyramids’ most prominent details are the Rainforest Pyramid, the Discovery Pyramid, and the Aquarium Pyramid.
The Aquarium Pyramid showcases marine life in different water systems like the Pacific, the Antarctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and the Caribbean. Walk in the underwater tunnel and interact with otters and penguins.
In the Rainforest Pyramid, you will see flora and fauna from the tropics. Get up close and personal to monkeys, sloths, birds, and fish. At the Discovery Pyramid, lovers of science explore nature.
Movie buffs will be thoroughly tickled by Moody Gardens, which has the widest movie screens in Texas. You’ll also find a hotel, spa, golf course, a paddlewheel boat, and events throughout the year.
The Moody Mansion Museum is packed with antiques, beautiful furnishings, and lovely personal effects from the Moody family. Every room has a specific theme, and with a guide, you are assured of learning something new.
This 28,000 square-foot, four-story building was home to the Moody family for more than 80 years. History buffs will be in for a treat as the Moody Mansion sends them back in time to see how families lived then.
The Moody Mansion exudes character. The phantom-like house has lived through a hurricane that almost wiped Galveston off the map. Some claim it is haunted, and spirit photographers have made it quite popular. Could it be that those who died during the hurricane wandered to the Moody House…and never left?
OCEAN STAR OFFSHORE DRILLING RIG AND MUSEUM
A visit to the Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig and Museum gives an intriguing understanding of the energy business. Learn about what it takes to pipe oil from offshore rigs and touch huge machines that make it happen.
The massive Ocean Star is an actual oil rig built in 1969 turned into a museum. It showcases several excellent exhibits that show the process of oil drilling from exploration to extraction. You cannot divorce Texas from its rich oil history, and this oil rig is just one way of paying homage to Southern history.
GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARK
Galveston Island State Park sits on 2000 acres and is positioned along the Central Flyway, which makes it a famous area for birding, with chances of seeing migrating and resident birds. You will get to enjoy the bay, beach, and Gulf here too.
Enjoy a natural beach environment, go fishing or kayaking, or hike the trails and climb the observation platforms. Rent a bike and explore any of the four miles of trails. Camping is also available.
Seawolf Park is found on Galveston’s Pelican Island on a retired immigration station site. The park offers a famous fishing pier for those who enjoy the sport.
There are also many picnic sites and a beautiful playground for the kids. Seawolf Park is also home to naval attractions, like the WWII submarine USS Cavalla, and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart.
What remains of the WWI tanker S.S. Selma, which is the largest concrete ship constructed, can be seen northwest of the park’s fishing pier.
BIG REEF NATURE PARK
Big Reef Nature Park features a nature trail at East Lagoon and a dune walkover.
The nature park also has an extensive sand spit separated by the entrance to Galveston Bay.
If you look closely, the lagoon is full of life with butterflies, dragonflies, robber flies, and an astonishing variety of brilliantly colored insects. Some of these insects are among the tiniest of their kind in the whole world.
Thousands of shorebirds, gulls, and terns roost on this nature park. Be on the lookout for birds like the Black Skimmer, Black-necked Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, and many more. If you visit in winter, check for the rare Marbled Godwit, the Black-bellied Plover, and the beautiful Red-breasted Merganser.
LONE STAR FLIGHT MUSEUM
With plenty of aviation history to investigate and wonderful displays of rare warplanes to admire, a tour of the Lone Star Flight Museum is a welcome break for history enthusiasts and flight lovers of all ages and abilities.
The Lone Star Flight Museum is the proud home to the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. You will find airplanes from days gone by, all with a story to tell. Feel the miracle of flight in a warbird ride and receive hands-on experience in the high-tech Aviation Learning Center and Flight Academy.
Numerous interactive and scholarly programs build a memorable museum experience for visitors of all ages.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TEXAS
- YOUR TEXAS VACATION
- RESORTS: 17 Amazing Texas Resorts Perfect For Pampering
- WEEKEND GETAWAYS: 11 Amazing Kid Friendly Weekend Getaways In Texas
- SAN ANTONIO: 16 Awesome Things To Do In San Antonio With Kids
- HOUSTON: 22 Amazingly Fun Things To Do In Houston With Kids
- EL PASO: 16 Thrilling Things To Do In El Paso
WHERE TO STAY IN GALVESTON
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