Galveston, Texas, a historic island city on the Gulf of Mexico, is an alluring seaport with buildings and homes that still show off its classic Victorian heritage. Arrive a day early for your cruise to experience the city's culture and vibrancy, easily accessible from the nearby cruise terminal. And in between filling up on good ol' Texas steak and barbecue and sunning at the city's gorgeous beaches, check out our top choices for things to do in Galveston:
1. Find your inner child at Pleasure Pier.
The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park is an updated version of the 1940s entertainment complex that was originally built as a recreation site for military members. The Coney Island of the Deep South is one of the world's top seaside parks, with its 1,130-foot pier reaching into the Gulf of Mexico. You’re sure to feel a wave of nostalgia as you ride the Galaxy Wheel, Cyclone roller coaster, and other thrilling rides. Hungry? Of course you'll find the amusement park staples — burgers, pizza, funnel cakes, and fries — plus a Landry's Seafood and a Saltgrass Steak House.
2. Soak up the sun at Seawall Urban Park.
Ten-mile Seawall Boulevard is the hub of Galveston’s beach activity. Take a jog, walk, or bike ride along a stretch of the country's longest continuous sidewalk here. Better yet, claim a spot on the sand and settle in for a day of bodysurfing, collecting seashells, and grabbing a meal at one of the dozens of beachfront restaurants.
3. Splash around at Schlitterbahn.
Find relief from the Texas heat with a day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which showcases dozens of fun rides and activities. You can cool off on waterslides and thrill rides, ranging from lazy rivers to high-speed slides, plus wave pools for boogie boarding. Tip: Buy your admission online for discounts, and don’t hesitate to pack your own food and drinks.
4. Walk through Texas history at Moody Mansion.
The legacy of a family that built a financial empire in everything from banking to hotels and ranching, this 1895 home provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of Texas power brokers. For $12, you can tour the 28,000-square-foot home full of antiques. If your kids won't be excited about stained glass and gilded furnishings, the Galveston Children's Museum is actually located on the first floor. This interactive space geared to kids ages 2 to 10 highlights fun hands-on projects, and admission is $7. Note: It’s closed on Mondays.
5. Sample suds at Galveston Island Brewing.
Beer lovers always on the hunt for new flavors in the fast-growing craft brew scene can stop by to savor the creations of a former tugboat captain, Mark Dell'Osso. The brewery contains 11 taps filled with year-round varieties, such as Blue Ridge Amber Ale, Excelsior IPA, and the flagship Tiki Wheat, as well as seasonal specials. Free tours of the brewing room are available at 1 pm on Saturdays (no free tastings, though).
6. Wander through The Strand.
Just a few blocks from the cruise terminal, this downtown district is a National Historic Landmark filled with stunning Victorian buildings (luckily, most survived the infamous storm that wrecked the area in 1900). These structures are now home to restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, and museums, including the popular Galveston Island Railroad Museum. If you plan ahead, you can also experience ArtWalk, an exhibition of galleries held every six to eight weeks on Saturday nights.
7. Go paddling.
Three paddling trails — from 3 to 5 miles long — weave through Galveston Island State Park to explore calm waterways around the pristine refuge. Nonprofit organization Artist Boat provides guided tours through the park as well as in several locations in Galveston Bay. Tickets are $50 per person. You’ll navigate the marshes and spot wildlife just as the native Karankawa people did in the 1600s in their dugout canoes, only you’ll have a kayak.