Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- The Strand
- 1877 Tall Ship Elissa and the Texas Seaport Museum
- Galveston Railroad Museum
- Moody Gardens
- Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark
- Bishop’s Palace
- Moody Mansion
- The Grand 1894 Opera House
- The Bryan Museum
- Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
- Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum
- Seawolf Park
- Galveston Island Trolley
If a Caribbean cruise is on the to do list, Galveston offers several lines and it’s driveable from Houston. While in town, spend some time exploring and sampling some seafood. This Texan coastal city offers historic Victorian streets for shopping and sandy beaches for sun bathing. Here’s the top things to do in Galveston before a cruise or on a weekend getaway from a Houston native.
Disclosure: TravelingMom posts may contain affiliate links.
Whether you’re cruising out of Galveston or simply looking for things to do in Galveston for a weekend getaway, here are some tips to get you started on exploring and experiencing Galveston Texas.
Who Sails Out of Galveston
With close to 300 sailings from the Port of Galveston in 2020, cruises leave most days of the week. Experience 4-night, 5-night, 6-night and 7-night Western Caribbean cruises with ports-of-call including Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica.
Galveston sailings are not just limited to the Western Caribbean, find cruises to the Eastern Caribbean like the Bahamas.
Royal Caribbean Cruises sails 4-night, 5-night, 6-night and 7-night cruises in the Western Caribbean. Find the Adventure of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas sailing out of Galveston.
Carnival Cruise Line sails out of Galveston with 4-night, 5-night, 6-night and 7-night Western Caribbean cruises. It also sails 7-night, 8-night, 9-night and 14-night eastern Caribbean. Then it also sails partial Panama cruise itineraries out of Galveston.
Carnival Cruise sails the Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze.
Disney Cruise Line sails the Wonder out of Galveston during November and December 2020 continuing into January 2021. The popular Very Merrytime Cruises feature holiday decorations and activities, along with your favorite Disney characters.
Experience magical 4-night cruises to Cozumel to 7-night cruises Bahamas cruises or 7-night western Caribbean cruises with ports-of-call in George Town, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
More about the Port of Galveston
With two cruise terminals and four piers, the Port of Galveston offers a convenient departure point.
At Terminal One find Pier 23 and Pier 26. Carnival Cruises usually depart out of Terminal One.
At Terminal Two find Pier 27 and Pier 28. Royal Caribbean Cruises usually depart out of Terminal Two.
Make it easy and reserve your parking ahead of time. The Port of Galveston’s website even gives a $5 discount for reserving ahead of time.
For a 7-night cruise, expect to pay close to $100 for a standard size vehicle, more for over-sized vehicles.
Things to Do in Galveston Before a Cruise or Weekend Getaway
Now that you’re in this Texas coastal city, don’t miss all the things to do in Galveston before a cruise or weekend getaway,
Walk the brick-paved streets of the National Historic Landmark District, The Strand. Back in the mid-1800s Galveston boomed as a port and financial center for Texas and the Gulf Coast. First came wooden buildings though those didn’t withstand the hurricanes. So brick or stone buildings replaced the wood ones. And the oldest buildings in the Strand Historic District dated back to 1855 and 1858.
If you have some extra time before your cruise then explore the historic Strand in Galveston. The cruise ship terminal is about a quarter-mile from the Galveston Strand and it’s walkable.
Find boutique shopping like Hendley Market at 2010 Strand St. for vintage and funky finds. Or browse the art galleries in the area.
Or grab a po’ boy sandwich at Old Strand Emporium, at 2016 Strand St. Follow up with some fudge La King’s Confectionary at 2323 Strand St.
Walk to the Saengerfest Park for the Welcome to Galveston mural and the giant chess pieces. And look for the painted turtles, decorated by local artists. Each turtle is to raise awareness for Texas own, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. And after Hurricane Ike damaged trees sculptors shaped the trunks into tree sculptures.
For signature cocktails, take in the sunset at the Rooftop Bar at the Tremont House. The historic hotel is located in the 1879 Leon and H. Blum building at 2300 Mechanic St.
1877 Tall Ship Elissa and the Texas Seaport Museum
The Elissa launched in 1877 from Aberdeen, Scotland, where she was built. Then the next 100 years she sailed around Europe.
Eventually landing in Greece the Galveston Historical Foundation rescued Elissa. First the iron hull had to be repaired for a tow across the Mediterranean Sea to Gibraltar. More repairs before she could withstand the tow across the Atlantic.
Elissa is one of the oldest sailing ships today. As a three-masted barque she sails with 19 sails.
Located at 2200 Harborside Dr. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8 and youth from 6 to 18 are $6, kids 5 and under are free.
Note: The Texas Seaport Museum is undergoing a renovation and will reopen during the Summer of 2020. The Elissa is moored at Pier 21.
Galveston Railroad Museum
Walk-through a recreation of the 1932 Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Depot, complete with plaster passenger statues. Then explore the rail cars, like a pullman (sleeping) car, dining car, and a post office car.
Take a look at the Santa Fe warbonnet engines, painted to look like the Texas Chief that operated from Galveston to Chicago. Also, explore the rest of the locomotives and freight cars at the Galveston Railroad Museum.
Take in the details of the HO gauge and O gauge model train displays. (Closed for renovation through Spring 2020). And the train china display showcases dining on rails. (Also closed for renovation until Spring 2020).
Saturdays only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.—Take the Harborside Express train ride that travels one mile in an open-air caboose. Rides last for 15 minutes and tickets are $5 for 3 and up.
Located at 2602 Santa Fe Place. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (13 and up) is $10 and kids from 3 to 12 are $5, and babies two and under are free.
As an educational facility with a focus on conservation, the centerpiece of Moody Gardens is its pyramids. With three glass pyramids to explore, each offers a focus.
The aquarium pyramid is the largest aquarium in Texas and the largest of the pyramids. Find displays like the Gulf of Mexico rigging display, a jellyfish gallery, a penguin exhibit along with a Caribbean shipwreck. Find animal encounters inside the aquarium along with touch tanks.
The rainforest pyramid is 10-stories high and houses 1,000 plants and animals, like a giant Amazon river otter along with Saki monkeys. Many of the animals are free-roaming. Find animal encounters inside the rainforest pyramid.
The Discovery pyramid focuses on science exhibits. Also, find a 3D and 4D theater along with a ropes course and zip line.
Colonel paddlewheel boat takes an hour-long cruise. And the Palm Beach area offers white sand along with a lazy river, wave pool, tower slides and splash pad.
Moody Gardens offers a convention center, on-site hotel and golf course.
Located at 1 Hope Blvd. Open every day with seasonal hours. Several different tickets available, like 1 and 2-day value passes to tickets to individual attractions.
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark
With 26 acres, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island includes three distinct areas with 33 attractions. Home to the world’s tallest water coaster, MASSIV, Wasserfest is an indoor waterpark with a convertible roof to extend the waterpark season.
Also find the Blastenhoff and the Surfenburg areas with raft rides, water coasters, wave pools, river rides along with heated pools and kids areas.
Located at 2026 Lockhead St. Open daily for school breaks, Spring Break (mid-March) and Summer, mid-May until mid-August. Weekends only March through May and September to December. Admission varies.
Located in the East End Historic District, this 19,000 square-foot Victorian-style house withstood the devastating 1900 Hurricane. A towering home, it’s made of stone and features four floors and elaborate interiors.
Originally named the Gresham’s Castle after the owners, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston bought the church to be used as the Bishop’s residence.
Located at 1402 Broadway Avenue J and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and 6 p.m. on Saturdays) every day except major holidays. Adult admission is $14 and youth from 6 to 18 are $9 and kids 5 and under are free.
Originally built in 1893, it’s also part of the East End Historic District and called the Willis Moody Mansion. The Moody family bought the house in 1900, shortly after the 1900 hurricane. It’s built in the Romanesque style and features 31 rooms.
Located at 2618 Broadway Avenue J and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m every day except major holidays. Adult admission is $15 and youth from 6 to 17 are $7 and kids 5 and under are free.
The Grand 1894 Opera House
It’s a Romanesque Revival style Opera House. Now a nonprofit performing arts theater hosting a variety of state, national and international performances.
Located at 2020 Post Oak St. Admission to individual performances varies.
The Bryan Museum
Learn about the history of Galveston and the entire state of Texas in the former Galveston Orphan’s Home. Built in 1895, it opened as The Bryan Museum in 2015.
It houses the world’s largest collection of historical and artwork about Texas and the American West.
Located at 1315 21st. St. open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays and major holidays). Adult admission is $14, students are $10, kids from 6 to 12 are $5 and kids 5 and under are free.
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
Like Santa Monica and Coney Island, Galveston offers family-friendly pier amusement park. Back in the 1940s, Pleasure Pier opened then Hurricane Carla destroyed it in 1961. Replaced by the Flagship Hotel in the 1960s, Hurricane Ike destroyed it in 2008.
In 2012, a re-imagined Pleasure Pier opened with 16 rides, midway games along with shopping and dining.
Located at 2501 Seawall Blvd. Following the tourist season, check its website for operating days and hours, especially during the winter.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum
Learn about the offshore oil and gas industry on a retired jack-up drilling rig. With three levels explore the facility that includes a movie.
Located at 2002 Wharf Rd. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $10 and youth from 7 to 18 are $6 and kids 6 and under are free.
Home to a popular fishing pier and the Galveston Naval Museum, tour the WWII submarine, USS Cavalla, and the destroyer escort, USS Stewart. Seawolf Park is on Pelican Island.
Located at 100 Seawolf Park Blvd. Parking is $6 a car. Galveston Naval Museum adult admission is $10, kids 5 to 11 are $5 and 4 and under are free. Fishing is additional.
Galveston Island Trolley
Parking can be challenging on busy summer weekends in Galveston, so take the trolley instead. It’s $1 for adults and kids ride for free with accompanying adults.
Find two routes both are cash only and exact change required.
Seawall Loop—from Moody Gardens to Stewart Beach along the Seawall.
Downtown Loop—from 23rd Street and the Strand to the Seawall.
Beaches of Galveston
One of the best beaches in Texas, Stewart Beach offers restrooms, showers, volleyball courts, concession stand, rental chairs and umbrellas, and a playground. And it’s the closest beach to downtown Galveston.
Parking is $12 during the week, Monday to Thursday and $15 for the weekends. Located at 201 Seawall Blvd.
After the devastation of the Hurricane of 1900, Galveston decided to build a seawall. Now extending 10 miles, it protects the island from storm surges.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and find murals along the seawall.
Galveston Island State Park
For quieter beaches, Galveston Island State Park offers birding along with beach camping. And it’s a popular place to fish that doesn’t require a fishing license.
Located at 14901 FM 3005 on the west end of the island. Adult admission (13+) $5 and kids 12 and under are free.
Where to Eat in Galveston
Find your shrimp dressy or your fish casual.
- The Spot offers multi-level views of the Gulf of Mexico. Find live entertainment along with seafood and burgers. Located at 3204 Seawall Blvd.
- Star Drug Store serves up soda fountain classics and breakfast. Located at 510 23rd St.
- Gypsi Joynt is a bohemian style eatery with beads and string lights hanging from the ceiling. Located at 2711 Market St.
- Shrimp N Stuff frying up fish since 1976, it’s a local hang-out off the Seawall. Located at 3901 Avenue O.
- Miller’s Seawall Grill cooks up seafood along with a popular breakfast. Located at 1824 Seawall Blvd.
- Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant is probably the most popular restaurant on Galveston Island. Opening in 1911, it’s got a varied menu though don’t wander in a wet bathing suit and sandy feet. Located at 3828 Seawall Blvd.
Where to Stay in Galveston, Texas
For a special couple’s getaway, the Hotel Galvez and Spa offers a luxurious historic property with views. It’s a AAA four-diamond property and features a tropically landscaped pool with a swim-up bar. The weekend brunch is tops in the Houston area. And enjoy the elegant public rooms. Or join the ghost tour. Located at 2024 Seawall Blvd.
Lounge at The Cove, a tropical pool with poolside bar and cabanas, this resort is across from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also a AAA four-diamond property on 32 acres. Located at 5222 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston Island hosts two popular seasonal events.
As the third-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, expect big crowds for two weekends in February. Find parades, balls, and concerts.
Dickens on the Strand
For the first weekend in December, Galveston Historical Foundation celebrates the holiday season along with Charles Dickens. Find parades, carolers, along with holiday food and crafts.