The bright, shining Texas summer sun rises over the rolling waves of an inviting beach. Squawking seagulls fill the air with their calls while a warm and welcoming sea breeze washes over you. Sensations like these are what we spend fall, winter, and spring dreaming about.
With its seemingly endless shoreline, Galveston Island is the perfect destination to make this fantasy a reality. Yet there’s far more to the island than sand and sun; its museums, murals, historic architecture, and wealth of experiences make it stand apart from most other coastal cities. Read on to discover how you can have your best summer ever in Galveston.
Admire the New Absolute Equality Mural
Galveston Island has always been a place of great importance, yet no singular event matches what occurred here on June 19, 1865. On this day, Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the official end of slavery in the United States, and it happened right here in Galveston. Today, this event is known as Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated around the world.
Experience this history for yourself as you take in the stunning Absolute Equality Mural. Created by Houston artist Reginald Adams, the 5,000-square-foot art installation overlooks Granger’s headquarters in the Strand Historic District. Much more than a traditional mural, Absolute Equality is an interactive work of storytelling. Put your phone into camera mode and hold it up to each of the four portals and a video will play that showcases a certain part of the island’s past.
Take it all in, then follow the African American History Tour for a deeper dive into the past. The tour includes spots like the Reedy Chapel AME Church, where early Juneteenth celebrations were held, and Old Central High School, Texas’ first African American high school. Learn More HERE.
These days, kolaches and Octoberfest celebrations seem as authentically Texan as barbecue and country music. Yet none of this would’ve happened without the wave of Czech, German, and Italian immigrants that arrived in Galveston in the late 1800s and early 1900s, forever changing the state’s culture in ways that still resonate today.
In fact, Galveston became such a hub of immigration that it was once known as the Ellis Island of the West. Now, for the first time ever, you can walk a mile in the shoes of these Texas newcomers as you explore the Texas Seaport Museum’s Ship to Shore Exhibit (coming in August 2021).
Texas Seaport Museum’s Ship To Shore Exhibit (coming August 2021)
Your journey starts in the Ship portion of the exhibit when you’re given a card that has the name of one of more than 20 real people whose story you will follow throughout. Then you’ll experience what life was like for those traveling across the Atlantic Ocean at the time, from what they ate to how they kept themselves entertained. The exhibit continues once you arrive, as you make your way through quarantine and customs before stepping foot into Galveston. This section highlights what was happening in Galveston at the time, as well as where the many immigrants went upon arrival. You’ll also learn where your assigned person ended up as well.
At the end of your trip, you can leave a message in a bottle for future visitors and you can look through the ship manifests for any relatives of yours. Once you’re done, climb aboard the Elissa, the official tall ship of Texas. Built in Scotland in 1877, the Elissa actually made at least two visits to Galveston in the late 1800s amid its many expeditions around the world. Now a permanent resident of the Texas Seaport Museum, its presence mirrors the journeys of those who ultimately made Texas their home after arriving from Europe so long ago.
Learn How to Build a Sandcastle Like a Pro
Towering walls, stately columns, and arched walkways, all right on the beach. No, we aren’t talking about an eccentric seaside home, but rather an awe-inspiring sandcastle that you can learn how to build. All you need to do is book a private sandcastle-building lesson with Sandy Feet Sand Castle Services. Learn the methods that the pros use to construct their breathtaking structures and incorporate them into your future projects. While you won’t be a pro after one lesson, you’ll certainly be well on your way to constructing your very own magnificent sandcastles.
Whether you’re an enthusiast or you just want to see something amazing, make sure you’re here for the AIA Sandcastle Competition (Aug. 21, 2021). Some of the best sculptors in the business converge on the island for what is one of the world’s largest sandcastle building contests, and you can see their creations all along East Beach. Learn More
Soak Up the Sun on Galveston Island’s Beaches
Soft sands, gentle sea breezes, and the rolling waves of the Gulf of Mexico. When you’re ready for a day at the beach, Galveston Island is the place to be. The island has multiple beaches along 32 miles of shoreline, giving you plenty of space to soak up the sun your way.
For a lively day at the beach, East Beach is your spot. This stretch of sand frequently hosts events and concerts throughout the summer, and there are even concessions and a playground.
Meanwhile, Stewart Beach is the more family-friendly alternative. Here you’ll find inviting tides, beach volleyball courts, concessions, restrooms, showers, and even chair and umbrella rentals, as well as lifeguards.
Explore the Famous Seawall Boulevard
Restaurants, shops, and more, all within easy view of the Gulf’s crashing waves. There’s iconic, and then there’s Galveston’s Seawall Boulevard. Stretching for more than 10 miles, the Seawall is a bustling hub for beachgoers throughout the summer.
Although you could easily see it by car, you’d miss out on a lot of the fun. The best way to take it all in is by renting a golf cart, bicycle, surrey, Crab scooter, or any of these options from one of the many vendors along the boulevard.
While you’re out and about, follow the Seawall Interpretive Trail. The pathway consists of 70 concrete benches covered in hand-painted mosaics that showcase the ecology, economy, and history of the Texas coast.
If you’re looking for a delicious meal overlooking the beach, these restaurants are ready to serve you and your families outside in an open-air setting.
Enjoy Memorable Family-Friendly Adventures
Stroll through a tropical rainforest, step onto a retired oil rig, and get your thrills on heart-pounding rides perched on a historic pier. Galveston is full of beachside charm, but it’s also full of exciting things to see and do for kids of all ages.
Start at the towering glass pyramids of Moody Gardens, each of which holds its own awe-inspiring world of wonder. Watch as saki monkeys and cotton-top tamarins leap between branches as tropical birds fly overhead in the Rainforest Pyramid. Then explore the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Pacific, and the Caribbean in the Aquarium Pyramid.
Both pyramids have more than enough on their own, but there’s more. The Discovery Museum features an array of exhibits ideal for youngsters, while the 3D and 4D theaters screen immersive educational films along with Hollywood flicks. Throughout the summer, you can also take on a five-tier ropes course (complete with a zip line) or go for a splash in Palm Beach, home to a lazy river, wave pool, slides, and more.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum
The oil and gas industry is a big deal on the Texas Gulf Coast, and your youngsters can learn all about it at this retired oil rig museum. Set on a former jack-up drilling rig, the multi-tiered museum’s exhibits offer the ins and outs of offshore drilling and production, and its two exterior areas let you feel like you’re an on-site worker.
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
The Pleasure Pier opened in May of 2012 to crowds of excited Galvestonians and tourists alike. This multi-million dollar family destination brings the glory of Galveston’s famous history into the present with fun for young and old. Focused on waterfront fun and entertainment like no other Gulf Coast destination, the Pleasure Pier features family‐oriented attractions including 16 rides, midway games, retail shops and a wide selection of food venues, including Texas’ first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Experience the epic story of Texas and the American West! The Bryan Museum is located in the 1895 Galveston Orphans Home, and houses one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts, documents, and artwork relating to Texas and the American West. The collection spans more than 12,000 years, with pieces ranging from ancient Native American cultural artifacts to twenty-first-century objects. The adventure of history comes alive at The Bryan Museum.
Explore locomotive history with one of the largest restored railroad collections in the United States. The Railroad Museum has 40 pieces of rolling stock, the largest collection of dining car china in the Southwest and two incredible model railroad layouts. The museum also owns a mile of track and runs weekly caboose rides!
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is OPEN again after closing last year due to the pandemic. The reopening coincides with cosmetic updates at the park, which will be sporting brighter colors on its family slides, Wolfpack, and Thunder Tub attractions. Additionally, the park’s Pointe Pizza restaurant has been remodeled and will feature a new menu.
Experience Gulf Coast Fishing at Its Finest
Beyond its sunbaked beaches, the Gulf Coast is known for its world-class, year-round fishing. That’s especially true on Galveston Island in the summer when the angling here is the most diverse of any other time of the year.
Fishing Piers & Rock Groins
Stop by one of the two piers along the Seawall and you can buy bait and rent the gear you’ll need, then drop your line into the shallower water for your chance at hooking a redfish or speckled trout. You can also fish from any of the rock groins along the Seawall or the south jetty at East Beach.
Offshore Fishing Charter
Looking to catch something you can brag about to your friends? Book an offshore fishing charter for an all-day excursion to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here you can try your luck at snagging amberjack, red snapper, kingfish, mahi-mahi, or even tuna. Whether fishing is casual fun or an essential part of any time on the coast, you’ll make unforgettable memories on Galveston Island.