Are you planning for a road trip soon? Then, visiting Galveston should be on top of your list! Galveston, on the Gulf of Mexico in southeastern Texas, has something for everyone. Whether you enjoy historic sites, outdoor adventures, or thrilling rides, Galveston offers a perfect blend of seaside charm and modern entertainment. In this blog post, we will explore incredibly fun things to do in Galveston, plus give some lodging and camping suggestions.
Historic Pleasure Pier
One of the most popular tourist spots in Galveston Island is the Historic Pleasure Pier, a fantastic amusement park built on a pier stretching 1,130 feet long on the Gulf of Mexico. It features thrilling rides such as the Iron Shark roller coaster, high-thrill thrill rides, and family-friendly activities like the Ferris wheel.
In addition, the historic Pleasure Pier has various arcade games and delicious food options that are sure to satisfy everyone’s cravings.
Overall, I just liked the aesthetic look of this park—seemingly perfect for pictures.
The Historic Strand District
If you are into historical sites or enjoy roaming a good “downtown”, then you cannot miss The Strand Historic District. This area is chock full of local businesses, boutiques, and restaurants, with more than 70 buildings and structures dating back to the 19th-century.
You’ll also find some museums and art galleries, plus the murals and art installments are just plain fun, including the Greetings from Galveston one. Ghost tours are also popular in The Strand District. Several tour groups walk visitors through the district narrating the ghosts and spirits that often manifest.
I took a break from shopping to enjoy a thick chocolate shake from Hey Mikey Ice Cream parlor.
Need ideas for more Texas travel? We absolutely LOVE Irving!
My favorite thing and easily one of the best things to do in Galveston, hands down, is to visit Moody Gardens. This three-in-one attractions, all glass pyramids, offers a full-days worth of fun and entertainment…maybe more. I confess, I’d never heard of Moody Gardens until Googling what to do in Galveston, and was thrilled I didn’t miss it.
The three themed pyramids include an aquarium, botanical garden, and rainforest attraction. Additional activities at the Moody Gardens property include a zip line, ropes course, and a paddlewheel boat.
Tickets are sold individually for each attraction, or as a one day value pass. If you are going to be spending the day there, I recommend splurging for the value pass. Rates are based on day of the week and time of year, but mostly between $70-$75 for adults, $55-$65 for kids. In the winter, they are around 25% more.
Value pass includes: Admission to all three pyramids (the main attractions), Dinos Alive, Ropes Course (no zip line), Colonel Paddlewheel Boat (sailing selected times only), and a show in each theater (MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, and 20,000 Leagues Interactive Adventure).
Do not miss items at the aquarium include jellyfish and penguins exhibit. At the Rainforest, seeing the Saki monkeys run around loose in the same space as visitors, is mind-blowing. I loved every minute of it!
Historic Mansion Tours
A unique thing to do in Galveston is to tour a historic mansion. The island has a rich history and was once home to many wealthy families attracted by the seaport industry. Tours are available at several grand mansions, including Bishop’s Palace and the 28,000 square-foot, four-story Moody Mansion.
Self-guided tours of Bishop’s Palace are $15 for adults, and available daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Guided, all-access tours of Moody Mansion are $35 and run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through Labor Day.
Explore these impressive mansions, which are today listed as historical landmarks or museums. You will marvel over the opulence design, and decoration, and even the secret tunnels that the wealthy used to use. The architecture alone is stunning, and a. great juxtaposition in an area with old, big and beautiful, plus new, and not so spruced up.
Please note: The Galveston Children’s Museum on the first floor of the Moody Mansion. It does require a separate admission ticket.
Galveston Beaches and Seawall
Galveston is known for its stunning beaches, making it a perfect destination for those looking to soak up the sun and surf. The island comprises 32 miles of beaches featuring various beachfront attractions, such as Stewart and East Beaches that offer beach rentals and games for families.
A haunting, yet lovely statue you can’t miss is the 1900 Great Storm Statue, dedicated to withstanding the devastating flood of the same year that killed around 6,000 people. Artist David Moore created the bronze work of art in 2000. It is worth mentioning that the statue also withstood the last hurricane in 2008.
The Seawall is a 17-foot-tall, you guessed it, seawall that stretches for more than ten miles. It affords visitors an excellent view of the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you will also find a nice selection of shops and eateries, plus a fishing pier and bike rentals.
Another delightful spot for families coming to Galveston is Schlitterbahn, a phenomenal waterpark on the west end of Galveston Island. The park features various water attractions, such as water slides, lazy rivers, wave pools, and a beach.
Schlitterbahn is famousfor having one of the world’s longest water coasters. The park also includes several dining options for a full-day experience!
Cruise Ship Port
Galveston is one of the busiest ports in Texas due to its tendency to host a variety of cruise ships. With over 200 cruises throughout the year, cruising is obviously one of the most fun things to do in Galveston. Visitors come from around the world to take the cruises, and have some fun before and after the cruise.
Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess have home ports in Galveston. Until this visit, the only time I’d even heard of Galveston was in conversation about going on a cruise.
Parking rates are based on availability, but currently runs around $16-$19 per day. It is also super convenient!
Galveston Island State Park
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Galveston Island State Park is going to turn your head. Found near the west end of the island, Galveston Island State Park protects 2,000 acres of upper Gulf Coast barrier island ecosystem, and features over four miles of hiking trails, geocaching, primo bird-watching (over 300 species), kayaking, or nature-filled tours.
The landscapes you can experience here include lagoons, beaches, salt marshes, prairies, and wetlands.
Entrance fees are $5 per adult and free to children 12 and under. You may also get a chance to see endangered species and wildlife that reside on the island, including armadillos and raccoons. Ranger programs include art classes, star parties, and paddling expeditions.
Galveston Hotel and RV Campground Suggestions
You’ll find a wide variety of lodging choices in Galveston. Grand Galvez is the luxury hotel, but I’ve also stayed in an under $100 a night chain motel, which offered a great location. We RV’d in Galveston for several weeks, and liked it so much we extended our stay and brought our children down to experience the colorful deluxe cabins.
For a luxurious stay, the historic Grand Galvez Hotel is a must. This beachfront hotel has been a Galveston icon since 1911 and has hosted everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Buffett.
The elegant rooms and suites are decorated in a coastal chic style, and the hotel offers amenities like a pool, spa, and restaurant. Grand Galvez’s location can’t be beat – it’s just steps away from the beach and near many of Galveston’s top attractions.
Galveston Island KOA
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Galveston Island KOA campground is an ideal choice. This family-friendly campground, on the island’s west end, offers primo RV sites, deluxe cabins, and tent camping.
There are plenty of amenities to keep you entertained, including a stellar heated swimming pool, hot tub, playground, and bike rentals. They even have a lazy river, which families love! Plus, the location is just a short drive from the beach and other attractions.
My Fondest Galveston Memory: A Special Pop-Up Event
During my January 2022 trip, I got to celebrate my birthday in style with two star-studded performers (Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee), plus a host of Urban Cowboy cast members. The charity event celebrated Gilley’s 50th anniversary and gave nod to the iconic 1980’s Urban Cowboy movie’s 42nd birthday.
The unique experience had “bull riding”, music and dancing, a Dolly Parton and Urban Cowboy cast look-alike contest, a movie-themed menu, and chance to meet the artists. It was absolutely one of the best nights of my life, being the #1 Urban Cowboy fan and all. It was also one of Mickey Gilley’s last performances before his death. RIP Mickey.
Galveston Packs a Powerful Punch
Galveston Island, Texas, is the perfect destination for traveling families and road trippers. There is a mixture of sights and attractions unlike anywhere else in Texas.
Whether you want to visit a historic district and mega mansions, or enjoy the 32 miles of beaches, world-class water park, or adventurous Moody Gardens, there is always something to do.
So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to explore all that Galveston, Texas, can offer you.