26 Best Things to do in Galveston, Texas

Published By Ketki

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Galveston Island, located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, is one of the best places to visit in the Lone Star State.

It is famous for its pretty, accessible beaches and the historic downtown district. 

The mild weather around Galveston makes it a top year-round vacation destination in Texas.

Galveston is the closest beach to Houston Texas
Galveston is the closest beach to Houston Texas

Also Read: 12 Best Island to Visit on the Texas Gulf Coast

It is popular to visit for couples looking for a romantic time together or for families in search of kid-friendly activities. 

Fun fact: Did you know that Galveston was once the capital of the Republic of Texas? 

Galveston Island makes an easy road trip from Houston.

It is just 51 miles away and can be visited either on a day trip from H-town or on a romantic weekend getaway. 

Galvestons Strand District is full of historic buildings with lots of character
Galvestons Strand District is full of historic buildings with lots of character

History of Galveston

While most associate Galveston with a fun beach getaway, the island is also rich in history.

In the 19th century, this was the largest and wealthiest city in Texas.

Most prominent people in Texas lived here.

That’s right, Galveston was once bigger than Houston!

Historic Strand District has many prominent landmarks
Historic Strand District has many prominent landmarks

The city is named after Bernardo de Galvez, a Spanish governor.

He ordered an exploratory expedition to the Texas Gulf Coast in 1786.

However, Galveston has been inhabited long before that.

The Quran Karankawa Indians settled here in the 16th century. 

The island was also once the lair of pirates and it is rumored that Jean Lafitte’s treasure is still buried somewhere on the island.

Galveston Cotton Exchange Building was once a thriving and flourishing structure
Galveston Cotton Exchange Building was once a thriving and flourishing structure

Galveston’s prosperity and prominence as a seaport had made it one of the most important cities in the American South. 

However, the hurricane of 1900 changed all that.

The city was devastated and over 12,000 lives were lost.

Till date it remains the deadliest natural disaster in US history.

Markers showing flood water levels in Galveston downtown
Markers showing flood water levels in Galveston downtown

As Galveston remained inaccessible and was rebuilding itself, Houston built the ship channel and surpassed Galveston’s economic claims. 

Today, Galveston has lost its political significance and remains a commercial port and tourist destination. 

Best Things to do in Galveston

Galveston Island is home to several top-rated beaches in Texas including Stewart Beach and Jamaica Beach.

The city also has several museums and historic places including Strand District which are amazing to explore at your own pace. 

Juneteenth mural in Galveston Downtown Texas
Juneteenth mural in Galveston Downtown Texas

From the incredible exhibits in Moody Gardens to the amusement rides on Pleasure Pier, Galveston has something to do for visitors of all ages.

You can go swimming, kayaking, or hiking on the dunes and enjoy birding on the Gulf Coast.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Galveston, Texas. 

Galveston has really pretty beaches
Galveston has really pretty beaches

Enjoy relaxing time on the Galveston beach

Galveston is famous for its beaches.

In fact, Galveston is home to the best beaches near Houston.

It is also one of the best beach towns in Texas.

There are several within the city including Stewart Beach, East Beach, Jamaica Beach, and Galveston Beach. 

East Beach in Galveston is great to spend a day swimming and surfing in Texas
East Beach in Galveston is great to spend a day swimming and surfing in Texas

Galveston Beach is the most popular one since it is located next to the 61st Street Fishing Pier and right in the center of the town.

East Beach located at the very northeastern end of the island is popular for the sandcastle festival. 

There are many other pretty beaches on Galveston island including Poretto Beach and Sunny Beach.

However, if you are expecting a pretty white sand beach with crystal clear water then you are in for a surprise.

Poretto Beach is centraly located on Galveston Seawall Blvd
Porretto Beach is centrally located on Galveston Seawall Blvd

Related: Best Beaches in Texas

The water near Galveston Bay is typically brown year-round.

It’s definitely not as pretty as the beaches for the South near Mustang Island or Boca Chica but considering that Galveston is just an hour away from Houston, it is home to some of the most popular beaches in Texas. 

Also, the beaches often have jellyfish, so be careful.

Watch out for the Portuguese Man o War which can get washed up on Galveston beaches
Watch out for the Portuguese Man o War which can get washed up on Galveston beaches

The beaches are most crowded from spring to fall.

However, winter is also a good time to visit if you do not mind the cold water. 

Explore historic Strand District

In historic downtown Galveston, you will find the charming Strand Historic District.

It is a designated National Historic Landmark district and a testament to the rich Galveston history.

This was once the shipping and banking hub of the Gulf Coast and was considered to be the Wall Street of the American Southwest. 

The Strand Galveston has murals historic buildings souvenir shops and restaurants
The Strand Galveston has murals historic buildings souvenir shops and restaurants

After the hurricane, the historic downtown district was neglected.

That changed in the 1980s, when the area was revitalized and repurposed.

Many of the historic buildings were restored and now house cafes, art galleries, and boutique shopping.

We love walking through the beautiful historic downtown and enjoying the timeless architecture.

The Galveston Square Texas
The Galveston Square Texas

Shop for gifts, home decor, and souvenirs.

If you want more adventure, take a haunted ghost tour of the downtown at night.

Plan a Galveston honeymoon trip!
Read our post on 21 Romantic Things to do in Galveston for couples to plan your getaway.

Historic buildings in Strand District
Historic buildings in Strand District

Spot the fantasy Mardi Gras arch and enjoy the parades

A distinct feature of the Strand Historic District is the Mardi Gras arch.

Once a series of creative arches designed by various architects could be seen throughout downtown.

These were commissioned by the Texan philanthropist George Mitchell in the 1980s.

Boone Powell arch during the day
Boone Powell arch during the day

Today, just one of these Fantasy Arches remain standing.

You can see the Boone Powell arch at Mechanic and 24th Street. 

Needless to say, the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations are one of the best in Texas.

Thousands visit the city during Mardi Gras every year to celebrate the local culture, see the parades, and catch beads and throws. 

Boone Powell Mardi Gras arch lit up at night in Galveston Texas
Boone Powell Mardi Gras arch lit up at night in Galveston Texas

See the mural in Saengerfest Park

In the middle of the historic downtown, you will find Saengerfest Park.

This former public Square has lots of green places, a stage where concerts are held, benches, and public art. 

Saengerfest Park in Historic Strand District is a must visit spot in Galveston Texas
Saengerfest Park in Historic Strand District is a must visit spot in Galveston Texas

We especially love the giant chess set in the park.

The park is great for people watching and drinking a cold beer.

Multiple restaurants line the park and are great for having lunch in Galveston. 

Vintage telephone booth in the park makes for great photo ops
Vintage telephone booth in the park makes for great photo ops

But one of the most popular things to do in the park is to take a photo with the ‘Greetings from Galveston’ mural.

This is also one of the most popular Instagram spots on Galveston Island. 

Greetings from Galveston Mural
Greetings from Galveston Mural

Admire the architecture in East End Historic District

The East End Historical District of Galveston is famous for its elegant Victorian architecture.

This was a large, wealthy residential area in the 19th century and is home to amazing mansions.

The area is also home to the famous Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace.

Walking the tree line streets and seeing the ornate homes is a delightful experience.

Beautiful Victorians are perfect for a romantic stroll
Beautiful Victorians are perfect for a romantic stroll

It takes you back into the past when horse carriages were a prominent feature of the streets.

You can see a variety of architectures including Greek revival style, Italianate style, Queen Anne, etc. 

Many of these homes are open for seasonal tours and events such as the Holiday Home Tour when the homes are beautifully decorated and the Fall Garden Tour where you can admire the landscaping.

Historic district also has beautiful parks such as the Darragh Park and Alderdice Park. 

Galveston East End Historic District
Galveston East End Historic District

Tour the Bishop’s Palace or Moody mansion

Galveston Island has not just one but two historic mansions that are open for guided tours.

The Bishop’s Palace was built in 1892 whereas the Moody Mansion was built in 1895. 

1892 Bishop’s Palace is a significant historical landmark in Galveston.

Moody Mansion Galveston
Moody Mansion Galveston

This enormous Victorian mansion is simply stunning and looks like a castle with its intricate wood carvings and striking architecture. 

On a self guided tour of the building, you can see its gorgeous interior including the ornate wooden detailing, grant fireplaces, and lavish decor. 

Moody Mansion was built in 1895 and has been lovingly restored in recent times to its original furnishings.

Visitors can see the amazing house museum on an hour long guided tour. 

Historic facade in downtown Galveston Texas
Historic facade in downtown Galveston Texas

Visit the famous Moody Gardens

Moody Gardens and its three glass pyramids are one of the iconic images of Galveston.

Visitors can spot these glass pyramids as soon as they cross the causeway and reach Galveston Island.

The three pyramids are the Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest pyramid, and Discovery pyramid. 

Moody Gardens Pyramids Galveston Island Texas
Moody Gardens Pyramids Galveston Island Texas

Inside the pyramids you can see a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and marine animals.

The amusement park also contains many other attractions including the zip line, ropes course, and a paddlewheel boat.

The Moody Gardens golf course is also popular.

During the holiday season it is home to Iceland, a festival of holiday ice sculptures and amazing holiday lights. 

Beautiful tropical waterfall at Moody Gardens Iceland in Galveston
Beautiful tropical waterfall at Moody Gardens Iceland in Galveston

You can also stay in Moody Gardens close to all the attractions.

Moody Garden is definitely the most famous family attraction in Galveston. 

Spend a day at the Historic Pleasure Pier

The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, located on the South shore, is one of the top attractions in Galveston.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is one of the best amusement parks in Texas
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is one of the best amusement parks in Texas

Here you will find a variety of amusement and thrill rides including a wooden roller coaster as well as restaurants and shopping.

Our kids love making a beeline for the Iron Shark roller coaster.

Other popular rides include Galaxy Wheel, wooden carousel, Pirate’s Plunge ride, and more.

The Pleasure Pier is one of the best things to do in Galveston with kids.

Wooden carousel at Galveston Island Pleasure Pier
Wooden carousel at Galveston Island Pleasure Pier

Enjoy dining in Galveston

Galveston is one of the best places to visit for foodies.

Here you will find a variety of restaurants, eateries, cafes, bars, and even seafood shacks. 

Because of its location on the bay, Galveston is definitely most famous for its seafood.

But apart from the seafood, you can also try Tex-Mex, Cajun, Greek, Italian, American, and other cuisines in Galveston Island. 

Crab stuffed shrimp
Crab stuffed shrimp

One of the most popular restaurant in Galveston is ‘The Spot’.

It is famous for its live music, panoramic views, and excellent food.

Some of the other popular places to eat in Galveston include Gaido’s, Shrimp N Stuff, and Fish Tales. 

Millers is our favorite breakfast spot in Galveston Texas
Millers is our favorite breakfast spot in Galveston Texas

Take a stroll along the Galveston Seawall boulevard

One of our favorite things to do in Galveston, Texas is to walk along Seawall Blvd.

The six mile long seawall was constructed in response to the 1900 Galveston hurricane.

Today, it not only protects the island but also provides a beautiful seafront promenade where you can take a stroll. 

Rent a beach cart to explore the island
Rent a beach cart to explore the island

See an opera in Galveston

If you enjoy visiting historic opera houses, then you will love the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston.

This is the first Opera House in Texas and has hosted numerous celebrities.

It has been designated the official opera house of the Lone Star State.

It’s Romanesque Revival style of architecture is very stunning and the opera house is equally beautiful from the inside.

Seeing a spectacular performance here is a memorable experience. 

Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston Texas
Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston Texas

Visit the Galveston Historic Seaport Museum

The Texas Seaport Museum is one of the best museums for maritime enthusiasts as well as those looking for a cruise around the harbor.

The museum is most famous for the tall ship Elissa.

Built in 1877, this is one of the oldest sailing ships in existence.

Galveston Historic Seaport Museum is one of the best museums to visit in the city
Galveston Historic Seaport Museum is one of the best museums to visit in the city

Seeing the beautiful historic ship on a tour is an amazing experience.

You can walk the decks and see the beautiful restoration efforts.

Included is a movie narrating the story of the ship’s rescue from the scrap yard. 

Historic Tall Ship Elissa is amazing to see
Historic Tall Ship Elissa is amazing to see

The Texas Seaport Museum also features the Ship to Shore museum which narrates the stories of the earliest immigrants to Galveston.

See the trains at Galveston Railroad Museum

The Galveston Railroad Museum is one of our favorite rail museums in Texas.

It is also one of the largest in the country and a must for all railroad enthusiasts.

Visitors can see several different types of engines, antique train cars, a train station, and even model train displays.

You can also take a short train ride. 

Ship to Shore exhibition at the Seaport Museum of Galveston
Ship to Shore exhibition at the Seaport Museum of Galveston

Beat the sun at Schlitterbahn waterpark

Schlitterbahn Galveston Island is one of the favorite water park in Texas.

It is very popular in the summer where families love attractions such as the lazy river, water slides, water coaster, and wave pools.

Additionally, the park houses the world’s tallest water coaster too!

Schlitterbahn Galveston Island waterpark is perfect for kids of all ages and even has kiddie pools for toddlers. 

Take a harbor cruise at the Seaport Museum in Galveston Texas
Take a harbor cruise at the Seaport Museum in Galveston Texas

Enjoy playing at the Galveston Children’s Museum

If you’re tired of the cultural attractions and expensive theme parks, then consider visiting the Galveston Children’s Museum with the kids.

Here they can play to their heart’s content and enjoy the many themed exhibits.

This is also a great place to visit on a rainy day in Galveston. 

Spot sea turtle sculptures in downtown
Spot sea turtle sculptures in downtown

Enjoy camping at Galveston Island State Park

Outdoor lovers enjoy a visit to Galveston Island State Park.

Located on Galveston Island, the state park is the best place to experience the undeveloped side of Galveston.

Gooseneck barnacles on Galveston beach
Gooseneck barnacles on Galveston beach

Popular things to do in the state park include hiking trails, biking, swimming, kayaking, and fishing. 

You can also reserve a campsite and camp on the beach here.

In fact, this is one of our favorite places to camp on the beach near Houston.

Nature hiking trail in Galveston Island State Park, Texas
Nature hiking trail in Galveston Island State Park, Texas

Hike at East End Lagoon Nature Preserve

Outdoor lovers enjoy visiting East End Lagoon Nature Preserve in Galveston.

The preserve is excellent for birding, wildlife watching, hiking, kite flying, and fishing.

This part of Galveston islands feels very remote and quiet compared to the touristy downtown and beautiful beaches.

We especially love the sunset views at the nature park as well as watching the ships coming into Galveston Harbor. 

Access to the beach near East Beach
Access to the beach near East Beach

The Big Reef Nature Park, which is one of the best nature parks in Texas, is also located adjacent to the preserve.

Go fishing in Galveston Bay

Galveston’s location along the Gulf Coast obviously makes it a popular destination for fishing.

You can go surf fishing or hire a fishing charter to take you out on the gulf.

The Galveston fishing pier or 61st Street fishing pier and Seawolf Park on Pelican Island are excellent places to fish. 

Buy Texas souvenirs and beach decor while visiting Galveston Texas
Buy Texas souvenirs and beach decor while visiting Galveston Texas

Take a dolphin tour around Galveston Bay

Did you know that there are dolphins in Galveston Bay?

The most popular are the bottlenose dolphins; these can be seen year round in the waters. 

You can easily take a dolphin-watching cruise from Galveston Harbor.

Several dolphin tours depart from Pier 21.

Baywatch Dolphin Tours are a popular option for cruises on Galveston
Baywatch Dolphin Tours are a popular option for cruises on Galveston

Some of the most popular ones are Baywatch dolphin tour, Historic Harbor Tour and Dolphin Watch, and Galveston Water Adventures. 

Choose smaller boats and an eco-friendly tour that takes you closer to the dolphins.

It is an amazing experience to see the playful creatures jump and swim in the water.

Little ones especially love going on a dolphin cruise. 

You can easily spot dolphins on a cruise in Galveston
You can easily spot dolphins on a cruise in Galveston

Visit the Ocean Star Museum

The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum is a great place to learn about the oil and gas industry in Texas.

The museum is located on a retired oil rig in the Galveston Harbor and has over three floors of exhibits, historical artifacts, and memorabilia. 

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum in Galveston Texas
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum in Galveston Texas

Check out the Bryan Museum

The Bryan Museum houses the Bryan Collection which has a whole lot of artifacts and documents related to Galveston and Texas history.

You can learn more about the history of Texas including Native American inhabitants, cowboys, Spanish colonial era exhibits as well as see artwork by Texan artists, Spanish books, and more at the Bryan museum.

The Bryan museum building also has excellent architecture. 

See the beautiful buildings in Galveston on a guided tour of the city
See the beautiful buildings in Galveston on a guided tour of the city

Visit the Galveston Naval Museum

The Galveston Naval Museum is located on Pelican Island in Galveston.

Here you can see the submarine USS Cavalla which was commissioned during World War II and the USS Stewart, a destroyer escort. 

USS Cavalla and the Galveston Naval Museum
USS Cavalla and the Galveston Naval Museum

Visitors can visit both the ships on a self-guided tour. Going inside a real WWII warship and submarine is an amazing experience.

The Galveston Naval Museum is an excellent place to visit for naval and maritime enthusiasts. 

It also makes an exciting educational history lesson for the kids.

The attractions are located in SeaWolf Park which is also an excellent place for fishing. 

Learn about pirates at the Pier 21 Museum
Learn about pirates at the Pier 21 Museum

Take the Galveston duck tour

If you want to see Galveston Island without walking a lot, then consider the duck tours.

These tours are about an hour long and the guides to an excellent job of narrating the history of the island. 

The duck tours take you past most prominent attractions including the Victorian Mansions, seawall boulevard, historic downtown district and even go into the water.

They are great fun for kids. 

Old City Cemetery in Galveston can be seen on haunted tours of the city
Old City Cemetery in Galveston can be seen on haunted tours of the city

Things to do near Galveston

From the Lone Star Flight museum in League City to the lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston has lots of things to do nearby.

If you are in Galveston, TX for a longer trip, then check out some of these amazing area attractions near Galveston Bay. 

Take the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula

Galveston is the gateway to Bolivar Peninsula and the famous beach town of Crystal Beach.

Visitors can take the ferry ride from Galveston port and go camping on the peninsula.

Enjoy live music in Crystal Beach, explore the beaches, see Fort Travis, and see the Bolivar Point Lighthouse. 

You can also see dolphins on the Galveston Port Bolivar ferry.

The Bolivar Lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula across from Galveston Island
The Bolivar Lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula across from Galveston Island

Road trip the Bluewater Highway

The Blue Water Highway connects Galveston, TX to the seaside communities of Freeport and Surfside Beach.

Take a road trip along the Scenic Highway that curves along the Gulf Coast and enjoy the amazing views and seafood restaurants. 

Snowcones are a hit with kids
Snowcones are a hit with kids

Take an international cruise from Galveston Bay

Several international cruises depart from Galveston Bay.

You can book a tour to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula or the Caribbean or the Bahamas.

See the ancient Mayan ruins on Costa Maya or swim along with the dolphins in the Bahamas.

Go on a grand cruise from Galveston Island
Go on a grand cruise from Galveston Island

Best Time to Visit Galveston

The best time to visit Galveston, TX is spring or fall.

During both these seasons the weather is mild and delightful.

A cool breeze blows from the gulf and the intense heat of the summer is absent.

Watch out for seagulls
Watch out for seagulls

These are also the shoulder seasons, hence you will find reasonable rates and deals on hotels and accommodations. 

Summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day is the peak tourist season.

Crowds of tourists descend on the island driving up hotel rates.

The beaches are also super crowded but the water is excellent for a swim.

Buy souvenirs and more on Seawall Blvd shops
Buy souvenirs and more on Seawall Blvd shops

If you are going in the busy summer, we recommend looking at camping or booking your accommodations earlier to plan your trip on a budget.

Also, consider less popular beaches to visit on Galveston Island. 

Winter is typically the off season.

Christmas is a great time to visit Galveston, TX.

Christmas in Galveston is great fun
Christmas in Galveston is great fun

You can enjoy most of the activities on the island including the museums from November to February however the beaches are too cold during these months.

Also Schlitterbahn Waterpark is closed during this time of the year. 

Grand Galvez Galveston is a very romantic place to stay
Grand Galvez Galveston is a very romantic place to stay

Where to Stay near in Galveston

Being Texas’s most popular island beach getaway, Galveston, TX has a host of accommodation options.

You will find luxury booty hotels as well as chains, motels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, RV campgrounds, and tent campsites on the island. 

Hotel Galvez, located on Seawall blvd, is famous for its beautiful architecture and luxury amenities.

Also it is located close to the popular tourist attractions.

Doubletree is an excellent hotel on the beach in Galveston Texas
Doubletree is an excellent hotel on the beach in Galveston Texas

Hotel Tremont House is another option close to the exciting attractions of downtown.

With its so many fun things to do for kids, Galveston makes the ultimate family vacation in Texas.

We hope you liked our detailed post on Galveston attractions.

What is your favorite thing to do in Galveston, Texas?

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