An hour from Houston, the biggest city in Texas, Galveston island has long been the playground of the Texas Gulf Coast. Since Hurricane Ike, the island has seen a revitalization in its tourism bringing great developments to the area. In addition to "what's new", Galveston has a rich history and amazing locals.
Galveston's architecture dates back to the late 1800's and reflects the prosperity of this port town as well as the devestation of catatrophic hurricanes. Historians of all ages will enjoy the ornate homes, Victorian store fronts and military hardware available for touring.
Children of all ages will love what the island has to offer with year round water fun at Sclitterbahn Galveston Island, the only indoor, heated water park in Texas; Moody Gardens brings fun and education with its rainforest pyramid, aquarium, and Palm Beach attractions; The Pleasure Pier with 16 rides, concessions, music and an amazing view and much more.
Of course there are always activities and events on the beach, Galveston Mardi Gras, numerous musical events, Art walk, kayak tours, Christmas on The Strand, plays, operas, performances and more. With mild winters, the calendar stays full! If you are just visiting the area and aren't used to the heat, chances are, anywhere you go will have air conditioning. Just make sure you pack your sunscreen and stay hydrated.
10 THE GRAND
The Grand has survived multiple storms and hurricanes and is one of the few surviving theatres in Texas from this era. The theatre is a fully functioning theatrical performance venue with touring shows and local performances year round. Patrons are treated to top notch touring acts, amazing acoustics and beautiful venue. There is not a bad seat in the house. During the summer, The Grand Summer Theatre Camp offers free performances by the children enrolled in the program. The theatre is open for tours as well. Step inside and imagine all of the performances that have taken place there. Make sure you call ahead to schedule.
9 THE BISHOP'S PALACE
Constructed from 1887 - 1892, the Bishop's Palace comes complete with a variety of attractions for history aficionados. Fireplaces from around the world adorn several rooms, and the ballroom's mantle won first prize at the Philadelphia World's Fair in 1876. The octagonal mahogany stairwell is forty feet tall surrounded on 5 sides with stained glass. Recognized as one of the nation's most significant architectural structures, the palace also includes woodwork fashioned from white mahogany, rosewood, maple, and satinwood. Young visitors will feel like they are in a castle with carvings of mythical animals and decorative plaster on the ceilings and walls.
8 MENARD HOME
With its Greek Revival architecture, The Menard Home (1838) has been restored to its original beauty and charm earning it's spot on the National Register of Historic places as the oldest historic home in Galveston. In fact, the founders of Galveston and Houston once owned the house. The current owners saved the home from demolition in the 1990's and worked on the research, repair and restruction of the home. Today, tourists visit the home to explore its array of mid-19th century Neoclassic antiques and take a tour to learn about its long history. The home is available for private events and provides a beautiful backdrop for an islands wedding.
7 MOODY MANSION MUSEUM
The 28,000 square foot, 4 story Moody mansion was once inhabited by one of Texas's most influential and affluent families, headed by W.L. Moody, Jr. The family's prominent ties reached into cotton, banking, and eventually hotels. Their mansion in Galveston provides an excellent example of how one of Texas's foremost families lived around the turn of the 20th century. The family spent over 80 years in the home before opening it to the public. Visitors will enjoy the hand-carved décor, coffered ceilings, and stained glass as well as the Moody family possessions that still inhabit the rooms. Open tours occur daily on the hour.
6 HAUNTED MAYFIELD MANOR
Haunted Mayfield Manor is a year round haunted house located on The Strand- Galveston Island's historic shopping district. The Manor consists of "12 rooms of terror that will leave you screaming!" The attraction gives participants some history as well as some scares. Paranormal investigations do occur at the Haunted Mayfield Manor. Call for time and availabilty if you would like to be a part of this unique experience. The Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast is the sister attraction that gives your family a chance to attend Pirate school, get their faces painted and participate in a scavanger hunt. Special rates are available if you attend both.
5 TEXAS SEAPORT MUSEUM
Only Ellis Island has welcomed more immigrants than Galveston's port, and the Texas Seaport Museum chronicles their amazing stories through displays and historical records. One of the museum's high points is the Elissa, an 1877 iron-hulled sailing ship that saw many immigrants safely into port. Another attraction is the museum's database of over 133,000 immigrant names and records, which is a veritable goldmine for genealogists looking for relatives who first set foot on American soil in Galveston. While you are there, you can see Galveston Harbor by boat tour aboard the Seagull II. On this tour, you can see dolphins and evidence of the recovery from storms and hurricanes in the area.
4 SCHLITTERBAHN GALVESTON ISLAND WATERPARK
You don't want to miss an opportunity to experience all that Schlitterbahn has to offer. A great family destination, you'll find something that appeals to the more adventurous in your crowd and milder attractions for the kids. Don't forget to take a ride on the Dragon Blaster, an uphill water coaster or get a bird's view of the park on the Soaring Eagle Zipline. The park is situated within a lazy river, rather than sidewalks to get around the park. Rental lockers are available as well as private cabanas and "luxury lounges". There are shaded areas to sit around the park but be sure to bring your sunscreen. That Texas sun is powerful!
3 GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARK
This 2,000-acre state park provides all the necessary elements that attract outdoor lovers. The campsites are complete with electricity and water hookups, and the barbecue pits and picnic tables provide a little luxury for the family. When everyone is ready to go exploring, they can choose from hiking or biking trails, surf fishing for red fish and flounder, or just exploring the great Gulf Coast environs. The naturalist in the group will appreciate the park's wildlife, which features a variety of tidal birds, armadillos, and raccoons. Join the Friends of Galveston State Park for beach walks on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10 AM. Turtle tours are Thursdays at 10 AM and 1 PM. Call ahead to make reservations.
2 MOODY GARDENS
Moody Gardens offer a variety of activities, including two state-of-the-art theaters, a vast aquarium, several playgrounds and pools, and an expansive botanical garden. With a full hotel, spa, convention center and golf course, the attraction is perfect for business, pleasure or both. Visitors should make time to visit the 13-story Rainforest Pyramid, which boasts an impressive display of flora and fauna from places like Africa and Asia. Another attraction is the Discovery Pyramid, which NASA helps make interesting with over 40 interactive exhibits. If the clan wants something extra, schedule a private cruise on an authentic replica of an 1800s paddlewheel boat.
1 THE PLEASURE PIER
The Pleasure Pier opened in May of 2012. With the island recovering from the devastation cause by Hurricane Ike, Galveston native (or as the locals say B.O.I.- born on island) Tillman Fertitta, owner of the Landry's restaurant chain, redeveloped the pier to bring a nostalgic boardwalk-style amusement park to the island. The Pleasure Pier has 16 rides for all ages, concessions, shops and lots of shady places to sit. A wrist band gets you in and out of the park for the entire day. The rides include the Pirate's Plunge- a water ride to cool you down from that Texas heat, a double decker carousel, 2 sizes of bumper cars- for big kids and the little ones, The Texas Star Flyer- a 200 foot swing set over the ocean, and a dozen more. At night, the pier is transformed with lights and often times, live music. The view of the island from the carousel and the evening breeze are a perfect end to a day of fun.