Southern hospitality, a rich history, and temperate weather makes Galveston Island a destination unlike any other. With a sprawling beach, stunning historical mansions, delicious local seafood restaurants, and a picturesque pier, this Texas town is a special and affordable vacation spot for every type of traveler.

What to see

No trip to Galveston is complete without visiting the beach and historic Pleasure Pier (individual ride tickets start at $4) for an iconic view of the Galveston beachfront. Reminiscent of the beachside amusement parks of the 1940s, Pleasure Pier offers rides, midway games, and live entertainment throughout the summer. Moody Gardens (all-day adult pass, $69.95) hosts a myriad of exciting attractions, including a newly-unveiled $37 million upgrade to their aquarium, a live rainforest, botanical gardens, a water park, and an adventure course complete with zip lines and climbing ropes. For an in-depth look at Texas history, head to the Bryan Museum (adults, $14) to view the world’s largest collection with over 70,000 historical artifacts, documents, and artwork dedicated to the American West. Architecture buffs will not want to miss any of the four nationally recognized historical districts of Galveston that, when combined, boasts one of the largest concentration of preserved Victorian homes in America. Nature lovers can explore Galveston’s wilder side in the Galveston Island State Park with kayak excursions led by Artist Boat (2-hour excursions, $50), an enlightening and fun way to learn about the local ecosystems.

Where to stay

Experience old-world style and charm at the historic beachfront Hotel Galvez & Spa (standard king rooms start at $122) where you can enjoy top-notch service, borrow bicycles for a scenic ride along the seawall, and maybe even hunt down a resident ghost. Those seeking sleek and modern furnishings during their stay in Galveston should check into the Tremont Hotel (standard queen rooms start at $122) in the historic downtown district for a sophisticated, urban feel. The San Luis Resort (ocean view king rooms start at $179), complete with a stunning pool complex with private cabanas and fire pits, offers a luxurious escape. For a more private, homey vacation, Sand ‘N Sea Properties (rates vary depending on rental type and size) offers a variety of picturesque home and cottages for rent in the idyllic West End of Galveston.

What to eat

Stop by the Sunflower Bakery and Cafe, a local favorite, for breakfast and weekend brunch. Fill up on their bread pudding French toast ($8.95), Southern-style eggs ($9.95), or their popular pancake stack ($8.29). After some fun in the sun, head to the island-style beachside restaurant, The Spot, for burgers (starting at $8.79), shrimp po’boys ($11.99), and fish tacos ($12.19). Don’t miss out on a scoop (or two) of local favorite, Hey Mikey’s ice cream ($3.75 for a single scoop) on your way out. For a fun and laid back happy hour, make your way to Riondo’s Ristorante in the historic Strand District; the family recipes from northern Italy made with locally-sourced ingredients are fabulous should you decide to make a meal out of it. If you prefer a more hands-on approach to your next meal, sign up for a cooking class with the Kitchen Chick. Classes start at $65 per person for a fun afternoon in the beautiful kitchen and kitchen wares shop, culminating with a dish you won’t believe you created yourself. Rudy & Paco, serves up grilled seafood and steak with a South American twist. While everything on the menu is truly enticing, standout dishes include the red snapper ceviche ($22) and plantain-encrusted red snapper with raspberry chipotle sauce topped with jumbo lump crab meat ($45).

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