Galveston Island is a unique coastal destination: An historic Victorian-era downtown surrounded by beaches that offer classic seaside fun. Whether you’re on a day trip from Houston or stopping over to or from a cruise, here’s how to make the most of it.
Tour the Historic District
Taking a closer look at the historic grand mansions and the stories behind them reveals why Galveston is truly a Treasure Island. Check out Moody Mansion, a four-story, 28,000-square-foot home restored to its 1895 splendor. A tour of this home belonging to one of Galveston’s most influential families depicts life of wealth at the turn of the century. Then hop on an electric shuttle from Galveston Island Tours to check out the entire landmark district, including the unique tree sculptures that dot the island and were artistically carved from trees that were killed in Hurricane Ike.
Be one of the first to visit the new Bryan Museum
If you still haven’t gotten your history fix, stop here for more on Galveston and beyond. Opened on June 19, 2015, The Bryan Museum showcases the world’s largest private collection of Southwestern historical artifacts, including 70,000 rare items spanning more than 400 years. J.P. Bryan, who co-founded the museum with his wife, Mary Jon, started his collection at 14 years old. A direct descendant of Moses Austin (Stephen F. Austin’s father), the lifelong historian offers such items on display as the Joel Robison sword used to aid in the capture of Santa Anna and original correspondence from the pirate Jean Lafitte.
Visit a Rainforest, Aquarium or Water Park at Moody Gardens
Spread over 242 acres, this amazing complex offers nine attractions including a rainforest pyramid with free-roaming monkeys, macaws, and other endangered animals and plants; a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium where visitors come face-to-face with sharks, stingrays, and penguins; discovery museum and 3D/4D theaters; a water park and white sand beach; and a brand new five-tier ropes and zipline course. There are plenty of options for lunch here, from concessions and café food to fine dining restaurants. Those interested in aviation, especially combat during World War II, should stop in at the Lone Star Flight Museum next door.
Dine at the Galvez Bar & Grill
Located in the recently renovated, century-old Hotel Galvez, this restaurant features freshly caught Gulf Coast seafood and Lone Star State specialties. The ambience is a modern throwback with Thomas Edison vintage lightbulbs and Prohibition-style cocktails, and there’s live piano or jazz music Wednesday through Saturday evenings. If you’re here overnight, try their brunch; the restaurant is one of the Top 100 Brunch Spots in America by OpenTable diners. Insiders tip: Check out the lower level of the hotel for an impressive Hall of History with photographs, informative panels, antiques, and other collectibles from the hotel. You can also download smartphone apps for a free history and ghost tour.