If you are on a budget, Galveston has a lot of free activities for everyone in the family.
Beachfront fireworks shows, art walks through historic downtown Galveston, outdoor concerts, and movies, and tours of the island’s beaches are just a few of the things going on during the summer and best of all, all of them are free. Here is a list of ten things to do that won’t cost you a signal dime.
The Bucket Brigade
In Galveston, digging in the sand isn’t just for building sand castles. Thanks to The Bucket Brigade program, sponsored by Artist Boat and the Galveston Park Board, the beach can be an exciting classroom where participants can learn about the important relationship between the coastal ecosystem and the people who visit it.
The Bucket Brigade tours are offered Wednesday-Sunday throughout the summer. The 45-minute tours are held at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm. Tours are offered at a variety of locations along Galveston beaches, including Stewart Beach and 61st Street. Those wishing to participate can sign up for a tour near the lifeguard stations, where you will see the Bucket Brigade Tours sign.
Sandcastle Building Lessons at Stewart Beach
This summer, Galveston is hosting a free, family-friendly event series to help beachgoers create spectacular sandcastles with tips from the pros. The events will take place every Saturday through August 18th. Each event will begin with an instructor building a sandcastle from 8-11am followed by lessons at 11am, 1pm and 3pm Equipment will be provided on a limited basis and participants are encouraged to bring their own sand buckets and shovels. Registration is not required. The lessons will take place on the sand near the Stewart Beach Pavilion. You should bring your own sand buckets and shovels.
Galveston Island Family Beach Challenge
Giant battleships, huge bean bags and limbo showdowns are coming to Stewart Beach for the return of the Galveston Family Beach Challenge. The challenge, which will take place 11am-5pm, will transform a portion of Stewart Beach into a giant obstacle course, allowing families to compete in life-size versions of classic games.
The course will include 14 stations for kids and adults with eight new stations this year, including a bean bag game, a life-size battleship game, limbo, volley balloon, “beam” bag, giant Connect Four, and more. There will be classic favorites like giant Jenga and dominoes, sack races, and sandcastle building.
The event is free and participants will have the chance to win the grand prize of a $500 gift card plus tickets to popular Galveston attractions. For rules and to register in advance, visit galvestonchallenge.com.
Family Beach Challenges take place on August 19th and September 16th.
Sunday Free Firework Shows
There are no two better words to go along with summer than free and fun. Occurring every Sunday during the summer, the Galveston Island Park Board will be putting on a magnificent firework display off the Seawall for visitors. This free event will be one you won’t want to miss! The fireworks start around 9pm every Sunday.
Dolphins & Wildlife Explored for Free on the Galveston Island Ferry
Galveston Ferry is docked at Hwy. 87 just east of Downtown Galveston. The ferries take people across to Bolivar and back daily. On these 15-minute ferry rides to Bolivar Peninsula, you can enjoy the wildlife, awesome views and ships, historic markers and more plus you can either walk on or drive on the ferry. And best of all, it’s free. Dolphins are guaranteed to be playing – watch behind the ferry or other boats in the bay for sightings.
Swim, Lay & People Watch on the Beach
Galveston island’s legendary Seawall Boulevard is always the hub of activity. Meandering for over 10 miles along the picturesque shoreline, this stretch is known as the “nation’s longest continuous sidewalk,” and is always filled with runners, bikers, sightseers, and people enjoying the beachfront areas in a variety of ways from swimming to laying out in the sun.
Bring a picnic lunch, your chairs, and umbrella and enjoy a lazy day seaside listening to the waves or picking up seashells. The famous Seawall beach is now even better than ever thanks to a $20 million makeover. The famous Seawall beach has been a hotspot for sun-soakers for a long time.
Parking along the Seawall is paid parking only and is enforced 10am-6pm daily. You can park a few blocks off the Seawall for free.
Galveston Waterfront on the Harbor
Pier 21 is a waterfront entertainment and dining area located on Galveston’s historic harbor in The Historic Strand Seaport Area. It offers a variety of attractions and restaurants, and plenty to see on foot as well as views of Galveston’s historic working harbor. Visitors often see cruise ships, harbor tours, shrimp boats, and tugboats hard at work as well as frequent dolphin and marine wildlife sightings.
Be sure to check out the shrimp boats adjacent to the Texas Seaport Museum at 2200 Harborside Drive, and marvel at the pelicans that roost there throughout the day and night.
Free Concerts and Movies
Music Nite on The Strand takes place on the second Saturday of each month through October, 6-9pm.
- August 11th: Dem Roots (reggae)
- September 8th: The Fab 5 (Beatles Tribute)
Grab your chairs, blankets and pillows, and head downtown Galveston for a free family-friendly movie under the stars. Held the first Saturday of each month through October, films begin at dusk at Saengerfest Park, located at the corner of 23rd and Strand streets.
- August 4th: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
- September 1st: “The Neverending Story” (1984)
Tour the Uniqueness of the Island for Free
S.I.T. on Local Art for Free – Take a Walk or Ride
It is always free to walk or ride your bike along the Seawall. At 10.3 miles long, the pavement atop the Galveston Seawall is said to be the longest continuous sidewalk in the United States. It is a great place to walk, jog, ride a bike and skateboard. And along the way, there are plenty of benches for people to take a break while counting the waves rolling in or watch the people pass by. These benches have been transformed into stories of the Galveston area, transforming 70 Seawall benches into educational works of art.
This unique project was an undertaking of Artist Boat where they enlisted area artists and schools to paint benches with scenic and educational topics pertaining to Galveston. These beautiful benches are educational works of art that depict the natural and cultural heritage of Galveston Island and the Gulf of Mexico. Locations, artists, and the sponsors behind the benches can be found at artistboat.org/project-sit.
Galveston Famous Tree Sculptures
On September 13th, 2008, Hurricane Ike covered most of the Island in a tidal surge. The damaging combination of powerful wind and waves immediately uprooted many trees, but ultimately the salty storm waters led to the demise of the thousands of others. Ike forced Galveston to say a sad goodbye to so much of its beautiful tree canopy. Months later sculpture artists breathed second life into something Mother Nature attempted to destroy. Whimsical sculptures have replaced the majestic oaks that once lined many neighborhood streets and shaded homes. Tucked into gardens and nestled in side yards the sculptures are there for the public to enjoy. Download the tree locations at galvestonislandguide.com/galveston-tree-sculptures or pick up a brochure from the Galveston Visitors Center.
Galveston has a very active art community and this is proven by nearly 40 galleries being located on the island. They cover all styles from classic to modern to abstract as well as artists who will custom paint something for you. A few notable galleries are:
Heard Gallery has recently moved to a new location on 25th St. in The Strand District. Owner/artist Ray Heard can often be found creating artworks in the gallery and has developed several styles of painting during 30-years of dedication to life as an artist. You can hire Ray to create paintings from canvas of just about any scene you would like such as beach scenes, local home scenes, pelicans, spoonbills, abstracts, sail boats, and well……almost anything.
Rene Wiley Gallery, located at 2128 Postoffice St., Downtown Galveston, has original paintings and wooden sculptures by James Phillips (the artist that created some of the tree sculptures). Rene’s distinctive style uses geometric patterns of light combines with her use of warm colors for the background, especially orange, which she overlays with cool colors. Her use of complementary colors and the thickness of her brush strokes create a very vibrant color palette.
ArtWalk will be held July 14th and August 25th. Download a brochure of participating galleries at galvestonartscenter.com. ArtWalk is not a street festival, it takes place in existing commercial galleries, non-profit arts spaces and what are called “other walls”—restaurants and retail stores. It is free to browse all the galleries.
Free Tours of Remarkable History
Download the free “Hotel Galvez” app and you can take a 25-minute history and 20-minute ghost narrated audio tour. Both tours are loaded with historic photos and are fun to use at Hotel Galvez or at your leisure off of the property. Also, if you are at the hotel, make sure to venture to the lower level to tour the Hall of History. It’s also free and very cool.
Also, you can browse the Downtown businesses on The Strand, do some window shopping and see the influence of our ancestors in this port community. Among those, some date back to the late 1800’s with history as long as your arm, many of which survived the 1900 Storm, regarded as the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
Rosenberg Library offers several galleries and historic areas. Each month, they present a Treasure of the Month which is a memorable historic representation of the island’s history. The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours 9am-9pm Monday-Thursday, and 9am-6pm Friday and Saturday. For more info call (409)763-8854 x. 125 or visit rosenberg-library-museum.org.
The wealth of eye-catching murals interspersed throughout the island embraces the lively whimsical art scene. Some of them are art deco, others are abstract and others border on the whimsical. But they all share the common quality: they expose Galveston’s vibrant art scene to the world and are free to see. A few are:
At the corner of 22nd and Postoffice St., the beautiful mural is an homage to Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” the surfboard-shaped leaves connect one end of the artwork to the other as it wraps around the corner of the ground floor of the old McCrory Building. The keen observer will note a small hashtag hidden among the artwork: #c2bk, an acronym for “Cool to Be Kind,” which is the calling card of the Galveston Kindness Project. The mural is iconic for photo opportunities.
Maceo Spice and Import Company at 2607 Market St. has a large colorful mural on the side of the building that was created by Daniel Anguilu with local students from the Bernardo de Galvez Academy.
Greetings From Galveston, Saengerfest Park, 23rd and The Strand, this colorful mural was completed by longtime Galveston artist Gabriel Prusmack, and commissioned by the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In Galveston, a mural boasting sea life in a mainly blue background is located at Strand and 24th St. The art piece includes typical marine life such as jellyfish, a seahorse, a shark, and a dolphin. To tie the whole piece together, artist Gabriel Prusmack inscribed “i (heart) galveston” in red, right in the middle.