Often called the "Playground of the South", Galveston, Texas, is one of America’s most popular coastal destinations. The island is small enough to explore on foot and, whatever your age, you’re certain to find dozens of things to capture your imagination.
Galveston is an important cruise port, and its impressive attractions include the Strand historic district and the famous Pleasure Pier. The island's sandy beaches are a magnet for sun-seekers while boat trips are available for sailing enthusiasts.
Theme parks like Schlitterbahn Galveston or Moody Gardens appeal to families while teens and twenties will love the happy hour lifestyle that has made Galveston a leading nightlife destination.
Whether you’re planning a summer trip with the family or a romantic break, Galveston's warm climate and welcoming atmosphere will put you in the vacation mood.
History and culture fan, beach lover or avid shopper; whatever your interests, there are lots of great reasons for a visit to Galveston.
45 minutes south of Houston, Galveston Island has been named the best place to live in Texas. It’s a fabulous holiday destination with more nightlife venues per capita than anywhere else in the state.
Dining is a real treat on this island hotspot. From iconic eateries like the Sunflower Bakery & Café to fine gourmet restaurants, family-friendly cafes and relaxed beach-side bars where it’s happy hour all day – everyone is catered for in Galveston.
Explore a living replica of a tropical rainforest in the Rainforest Pyramid at the Galveston landmark, Moody Gardens. See stingrays and sharks in the Aquarium Pyramid or delve into the wonders of science in the Discovery Pyramid.
Galveston Island State Park is popular with outdoor enthusiasts who come to camp, hike, fish or swim. Take a tour of the island’s beaches and Galveston's important wetlands with a local guide. Mountain biking is also popular, and there are tracks to suit every level.
Visit Galveston Pleasure Pier and ride on the Ferris Wheel or take a walk around the historic Moody Mansion, one of the city’s famous ‘Broadway Beauties’, and former home of one of the most powerful families in Texas.
Visit Galveston for sun, sea and sand, dining and entertainment, or shopping and fun attractions that really shouldn’t be missed.
One of the city’s newest attractions and one of its most eye-catching, the Pleasure Pier was built to resemble the original 1940s amusement park. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel above the Gulf of Mexico or try the thrilling Iron Shark roller coaster.
Climb aboard the Seagull II for a tour of the harbor. Local guides take you back in time with tales of Civil War skirmishes in Galveston Bay, and you may well encounter the playful dolphins who visit the bay regularly.
Spend the day at the Lone Star Flight Museum. You'll learn about the history of Galveston aviation and see one of the finest and rarest collections of restored wartime aircraft. The museum also offers plane rides that allow you to enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of Galveston Island.
Plan a family outing to Schlitterbahn Waterpark. This fun park has enough pools, slides, and flumes to keep the kids busy for the whole day. Surf the Boogie Bahn or try the amazing Bahnzai Pipeline – if you dare.
Galveston basks in temperatures of around 90F for the duration of the summer season. Winters are mild, but temperatures of 40F to 50F are a little too cool for swimming and the beach. However, events like the Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens or Holiday Splash at Schlitterbahn are great reasons for a festive break. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit; go from March to May or between September and early November, and you’ll avoid the peak season crowds.
If you’re lucky enough to own your own plane you can fly to Scholes International Airport (GLS); the only airport in Galveston that caters exclusively to chartered and private flights. Fly to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston from most US regions, and it's just a 45-minutes from the airport to Galveston on Interstate 45. Alternatively, choose flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and follow US 59 south to downtown Houston to connect with I-45 and Galveston.
There is no direct train to Galveston, but you can take the Texas Eagle train to Longview or the Sunset Limited train to Houston. Amtrak provides a bus to Galveston from each of these stations.
It’s easy to reach Galveston by car, and you can rent one easily when you arrive at the airport. Interstate 45 South is the best route to take from Houston to Galveston Island, where it becomes Broadway Street.
As there is no intercity bus service present, many people simply take the train to Houston or Longview to connect with the Amtrak bus service operated by Lone Star Coaches.
From basic guesthouses to luxury hotels and national chains, Galveston has accommodation to suit every budget. Try the Ramada or the Mariner Inn if you’re keeping an eye on expenses or opt for mid-range hotels like Best Western or Seascape for family vacations. Luxury options include Moody Gardens Resort and the Tremont Hotel, or you can try boutique hotels like Avenue O Bed & Breakfast.
Downtown – The heart and soul of Galveston, Downtown includes the Strand National Historic District. The district has a diverse arts and music scene and over 95 shops, restaurants and galleries.
East End – One of the city’s most upmarket neighborhoods. Notable buildings include the Jacob Sonnentheil House and the Joseph Robertson House.
San Jacinto – The area south of Broadway, San Jacinto has the longest Gulf frontage in the city. Includes the Beach Central tourist hub.
Galveston is easy to get around and you can walk to many of the most famous landmarks from Beach Central and Broadway.
Galveston was served by a trolley bus service until damage caused by Hurricane Ike closed the system in 2008. However, the city council has given the go-ahead for an extensive renovation and renewal project. From 2017, visitors will once again be able to ride the iconic Galveston trolley buses.
Taxis from private services and the Yellow Cab Company of Galveston can be booked by phone or online.
Driving is a great way to discover Galveston although busy streets like Seawall Blvd can be slow during summer. Be sure to take change as most on-street parking is metered.
Galveston is less expensive than many US coastal resorts and cheaper than neighboring Houston. Students and groups of friends will love the Happy Hour prices in local bars.
You’ll find everything from home décor to antiques and art in Galveston. Visit historic Downtown for unique stores like Strand Brass which has been selling original products for over 30 years. Buy upmarket clothing from Couteux Couture or Tangerine Boutique or alternative clothing including Steampunk and Neo-Victorian styles from Synester on the Strand. Pick up water sports equipment at specialist stores like Southern Spears Surf Shop or shop for gifts and beachwear at Murdoch’s Bathhouse, a Galveston landmark since 1910.
Buy essentials from supermarkets and drugstores around the island. Popular outlets include Kroger’s, Bob’s Grocery, Arlan’s, Walmart and Sea Isle Supermarket. Stock up on fresh seafood at Island Seafood or pick up gourmet treats like fried shrimp and East Austin cider at Season’s Gourmet Food & Grocer.
Be sure to pop into the Sunflower Bakery & Café while you’re enjoying a stay in Galveston. This local landmark serves simple but delicious dishes like salmon and eggs. Farley Girl’s Café is ideal for coffee and snacks on your way to the beach.
For more substantial meals, Olympia, the Grill at Pier 2, serves authentic Greek cuisine and seafood accompanied by live music and belly dancers. Try the Number 13 Prime Steakhouse and Seafood for special celebrations. An eclectic menu includes red snapper and the restaurant’s famous signature dish, jalapeno grits.