Salty beaches, sand between your toes, shopping, amusement and water parks, museums and tall ships, savory seafood and evening grogs all on one small island off the Texas Gulf Coast! So, pack your bags, we’re going to Galveston Island, just outside of Houston where island life will make you forget big city trife.
Although passing through Houston isn’t really what we’d describe as fun. But the sun, sand and starry nights were waiting to reward us with our two-week vacation at Galveston Island RV Resort; (now Galveston Island KOA Holiday). Located about 20 minutes south of the City of Galveston, halfway down the island between Galveston and Surfside, we enjoyed amazing sunset walks on the beach, views of the grasslands and marshes mixed in with a little city adventures.
We hooked up our fifth wheel and headed to Galveston Island to explore and enjoy this beautiful coastal Texas island and city. But, you don’t need an RV to enjoy the island life! You can drive, fly or sail in to Galveston!
But that’s not all that we got to enjoy while visiting Galveston Island. We got to enjoy everything under the sun that Galveston Island and Galveston, Texas has to offer. So, put on your sandals, sun hat and walking shorts as we show you all the great places to play, adventure, eat, shop and stay on Texas’ Gulf Coast island.
Things to do at Galveston, Texas – Trip Planning Guide
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Where to STAY on Galveston Island
Since we visited Galveston Island with our RV, we made reservations and stayed at Galveston Island RV Resort (now Galveston Island KOA Holiday) further south on the quieter section of the island. If you will be driving your motorhome or van, pulling your fifth wheel or travel camper, you may be interested in looking at Drivin’ & Vibin’s 7 Awesome Galveston RV Parks in 2020.
If you’re looking for other lodging, Galveston Island has a tremendous variety of accommodations for every budget and preference. From luxury hotels and resorts to elegant bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals and condos, you’ll find the perfect place to unwind, sleep and prepare for your next island adventure.
And if you’re cruising from the Island? A number of hotels on the Island offer parking and transfer packages with an overnight stay, so guests can leave their car at the hotel and catch a ride to the cruise ship terminal.
Or, you can spend a night or two in one of the Island’s beautiful resorts or bed and breakfasts, or find a condominium on the beach for a relaxing view.
Where to ADVENTURE on Galveston Island
With 32 miles of shoreline and a variety of parks, Galveston Island offers something for every kind of beachgoer. And with warm Gulf waves from spring through October, there’s plenty of time to explore each beach’s unique personality. Whatever your sunseeking fancy, Galveston has a beach for you.
You can also ride your bike safely on the wide sidewalk along the beach and the back streets away from the hustle bustle.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Artist Boat’s Coastal Heritage Preserve currently encompasses a 690 acre conservation area on West Galveston Island. Artist Boat’s goal is to preserve and restore 1,400 contiguous acres from beach to bay. In addition to conservation, they educate youth during Eco-Art Camps, Workshops, and Adventures, offer Stewardship Training Programs, and have regularly scheduled kayak adventures to places on Galveston Bay carefully chosen for their natural significance.
Bird Watching and Photography
Ecotourism is a growing trend in travel, thanks in no small part to bird watchers, for whom Galveston is a kind of nirvana. More than 500 bird species live on or migrate through the island, often stopping to refuel when crossing the Gulf of Mexico.
Where to PLAY at Galveston Island
Pleasure Pier Amusement Park
Pleasure Pier Amusement Park is the pictorial icon of Galveston Island that you see on brochures. Literally jettying out in the Gulf of Mexico, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier features family-oriented attractions including rides, midway games, a wide selection of food venues and retail shops.
However, know that they are open only on weekends. You can get your tickets to see Battle the ancient Megalodon at their 5D Theatre with jaw dropping special effects. But, since we’re not big into amusement parks anymore (or at least until our Grandson gets a little older) we forgo that.
However, the best part is getting a good distant view of Pleasure Pier at sunset and after dark when it’s lit up at night! While walking the beach, the midway lights up in circus faire. On a clear night, set up your tripod and set your up camera for some good shots.
I wish we had more time to go to Moody Gardens but as I write this, but I’m putting Galveston Island on first on our list of places to return next time we make our way back to Texas.
Moody Gardens® is one of the premier educational/leisure facilities in the Southwest. It also provides horticultural therapy, education and employment for persons with a wide range of physical and emotional disabilities.
Since its inception in 1983 and adoption of an eight phase master plan in 1985, Moody Gardens has grown enormously with attractions and the coolest innovative programs.
Today, It’s so popular that over 2 million people visit annually. And for good reason! Just a few of the many attractions inside:
- Aquarium Pyramid
- Rainforest Pyramid
- Discovery Museum
- 3D & 4D Theaters
- 20,000 Leagues: An Interactive Adventure
- Reef Rescue Virtual Reality Experience
- Colonel Paddlewheel Boat
- Ropes Course & Zip Line
- and other amazing seasonal attractions!
The Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, sister to the same name park in New Braunfels (San Antonio), is the largest collection of fast, tall, and thrilling attractions in the Schlitterbahn family of water parks.
But if you’re like us and prefer a slower go with less heart-pounding thrill, you can enjoy the rivers, wave pools, and lounging in the sun. It literally has over 31 slides, pools and rivers!
From heated pools to lounge in to slides that take your breath away, the Schlitterbahn is a great place to let the kids yell, scream and enjoy the exhilaration.
Tickets purchased online can quickly and easily be scanned from your mobile device using your email confirmation. We are thrilled that they offer military discounted tickets at different military installations.
LEARNING ADVENTURES in Galveston
Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship “Elissa”
We strolled down to the Port of Galveston to check out the cruise ship terminal and ships in port and get a view of the three-masted barque Elissa.
You can share the adventure of the high seas at the Texas Seaport Museum, home of the celebrated 1877 tall ship Elissa. Explore the decks of this floating National Historic Landmark which has also been designated one of America’s Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Walk her decks and imagine the days when daring sailors challenged the world’s oceans. In the adjacent museum and theater, witness the story of Elissa’s dramatic rescue from the scrap yard and her meticulous
Today bringing in over 40,000 visitors, Elissa serves her proud title as the Official Tall Ship of Texas. She also has earned distinction as a National Historic Landmark. She berths at the Galveston Historic Seaport.
We didn’t get to tour Elissa as she was closed for repair at the time of our visit. However, self-guided tour tickets of Elissa are available.
If you enjoy visiting Tall Ships, check out our visit to the U.S. Brig Niagara in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum
Since Houston, Texas is the world’s energy capital, then between the exhilaration of the amusement parks, you can take in a little education at the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center.
It’s docked at Pier 19 in Galveston, less than an hour from downtown Houston, which makes it a wonderful showcase in a perfect location for an offshore experience. You and your family get to experience the offshore industry first-hand on an actual retired jack-up drilling rig.
By the way, this is a great educational venue for road schoolers! The museum is designed to be a self-guided facility so that visitors can experience the exhibits at their own pace.
Galveston Railroad Museum
If you love trains, the Galveston Railroad Museum is a great place to get a bit of a history lesson.
The main entrance to the museum is on 25th street. The Galveston Railroad Museum is open everyday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, they may have special hours, so check their website before heading out.
You can take a ride on the Harborside Express; an open air caboose that travels 1 mile up Harborside Dr., then returns to the Galveston Railroad Museum. Boarding for the Harborside Express begins at 11:00 am, with the last train ride ticket sold at 1:30 pm.
The train is a standing ride without seats. The train rides are about 15 minutes long. Be aware that the rides may be closed due to inclement weather, so plan your visit accordingly.
The Galveston Railroad Museum’s admission ticket prices are fair. Adults (ages 13-64) are $10, Seniors (over 65) are $8, Children (ages 3-12) are $5 and Children under 2 are free. You can park for free at the west ticket office on Santa Fe Place in downtown Galveston.
Where to SHOP in Galveston and Galveston Island
While we were visiting the City of Galveston and Galveston Island, one of my favorite things to do was to browse the souvenir and specialty shops.
One of my favorite places to show was the 36-block district. It has over 100 boutiques and shops of every kind. There’s a ton of restaurants for every palate, book stores, artisan and stationary shops, antiques, spices, teas and candy!
I loved The Naked Mermaid on Postoffice Street. I loved their cute coastal novelties that I’ve never found elsewhere which made them all the more special to my giftees. They have a couple friendly kitties that live in the shop. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a head butt if they like ya! (YAY! I got head butts!). But they’re not for sale but the sure help in making a sale with their cuteness.
Since Dan is a salt water taffy guy, we stopped into LaKings Confectionary on the Strand not far from the Port of Galveston cruise terminal. This fun sweet shop and ice cream parlor will take you back to the 1920’s when folks came out to enjoy a treat and visit. I don’t know what was better; the taffy and ice cream or the ambiance. And the best part? They are open every day so no one misses out on the sweet stuff!
Star Drug Store and Diner
What’s not to love about being belly up to this bar! But this is not your typical bar. It’s where they prepare and cook diner food right in front of you; just like they did over a century ago!
In fact, we sat on two of those bar stools to the left in the photo above. We watched the cook fry and build our burgers while our server lady tend to our place settings and making sure our drinks were full.
The historic Star Drug Store was built in 1886 and later in 1917, the Star Drug Store was fully operational, and a horseshoe shaped, tile soda fountain counter was added to the pharmacy. And since, it’s been subject to fire and hurricanes that wouldn’t dampen the spirit of Galvestonians.
Being rebuilt several times, Star Drug continues now as a full diner bar complete with bar stools and great conversations heard around the bar. But you won’t find any wine, beer or any spirits served there. But their burger are to die for!
And while we were waiting for our plates to arrive, I even took a stroll to see all the antiques and wares that were for sale on the first and second level. Oh, and even though they bring you napkins, let’s just say you won’t need them! You’ll not want to miss a morsel!
Where to EAT in Galveston and Galveston Island
I can tell you you’ll not want to sit in your RV when visiting Galveston Island. I’m here to attest our favorites of different flavors and cuisine. If you’re a seafood connoisseur, Galveston and Galveston Island IS the place to score a great meal or ten! From shrimp and red snapper to amazing Texas BBQ with little mixes in between (even good Mexican food), plan to chow down after all of your touring and visits.
Between touring the city and island, we’d head to our favorite eatery near downtown Galveston, not far from Moody Garden, the Cajun Greek. If you love those little red mud bug Craw Dads, Scallops and Shrimp PoBoys, this is the place for you. They had ample servings and the staff was exceptional! I swear, we should have gotten frequent flier points there!
But visiting Texas would not be complete without getting a little Texas BBQ at Bahia Oaks BBQ on Stewart Street. We found this hole in the wall on a motorcycle ride around the island. The local fire department was having a fundraiser so what better thing to do than support the GIFD and enjoy chin dribbles of BBQ sauce on brisket sammiches.
NOTE: We are disappointed to learn that Bahia Oaks BBQ is now closed.
Another favorite was actually a family-friendly chain restaurant that we fell in love with. And if we could find one to take our Grandson to the Rainforest Cafe would be it. It’s part restaurant and part adventure! As we entered the restaurant, we felt like we literally walked into the jungle! Lots of cool animatronics and tropical vibe.
While the food was basic chain restaurant kid friendly food with appetizers, burgers and fries, it was still fun to sit back and enjoy the jungle safari fare with meals geared more for adults. And considering they’re located in a vacation destination, their prices aren’t bad.
Oh, and their Rainforest Cafe Retail Village is incredible with lots of goodies to pick up for the kids. And if you don’t have a lot of room in your luggage or RV, they have a great online store to have your souvenirs shipped right to the Grands!
We’ve eaten at several other places and honestly, we can’t remember them all. However, you can check out Tripadvisor’s 10 Best Restaurants in Galveston.
Wrapping up our Reasons to visit Galveston Isand, Texas
As you’ve just read, Galveston Island is a cool Gulf Coast vacation destination in Texas to take your family, honeymoon or even go solo. There’s just so much to see, do and eat that will keep you busy for weeks but years to talk about!
Bon voyage! We hope you enjoy your visit!
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