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Where to go, What to see

Galveston Island offers everything in a resort destination – beautiful accommodations, entertainment, shopping and 32 miles of Gulf Coast beaches. Galveston’s festivals, special events and attractions are enjoyable for Islanders and tourists alike. One bit of advice – if you live here, don’t wait until you have out-of-town visitors to tour the Island’s many attractions.

Galveston’s temperate weather allows residents and visitors to enjoy the beautiful outdoors year-round, and there’s always a Gulf breeze. The Island offers wonderful Gulf beaches, golfing, fishing, volleyball and horseback riding. Beach and umbrella concessionaires provide their services in many areas of the beach, areas that are designated by the City Council as alcohol-free. Children and adults alike enjoy playing in the sand.

Galveston’s East Beach (also called R.A. Apffel Park) on the city’s far east end and next to the future site of the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve is where bird watchers can catch a glimpse of their favorite local species. This is the only beach park where alcohol is allowed.

Seawolf Park, located on Pelican Island via Seawolf Parkway (51st Street), was built on an immigration station site and offers a three-story pavilion with a view of Galveston Harbor, picnic sites, playground area and fishing pier. The U.S.S. Cavalla, a World War II submarine, the U.S.S. Stewart, a destroyer escort, and other military hardware are on display at Seawolf Park and open for tours. The Galveston Island State Park, bayside, is open for day visits with nature trails and locations for kayaking and canoeing, and open beachside for camping.

Discover how the offshore industry of the Gulf Coast operates by visiting the Ocean Star Oil Rig and Museum at Pier 19. Take a trip with Galveston Harbor Tours at Pier 21 to delight in the dolphin-watch tour and learn how the harbor operates.

Get into nature and the beauty of our world at Moody Gardens, a lush, tropical setting for a world-class educational and recreational complex. The 10-story glass Rainforest Pyramid houses thousands of exotic tropical plants, animals, birds, fish, turtles, waterfalls, caverns and more, representing the rainforests of Asia, Africa and the Americas. Moody Gardens features one of America’s largest aquariums, as well as the Discovery Pyramid’s traveling science exhibits and Ridefilm Theater. View exciting movies in the 4D Theater and the MG3D Theater on the largest screen in Texas, and dine in the Garden Restaurant overlooking sparkling Galveston Bay. Relax among the beautiful, soft white sands and cool freshwater lagoons, and experience a new lazy-river at Palm Beach where children can enjoy the Splash Pad and Interactive Water Features.

Docked at Moody Gardens, the Colonel, a 750-passenger replica of a 1800s paddle wheeler, offers a unique view of the gardens and an enjoyable cruise. Whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, the Moody Gardens Hotel offers spectacular views of the entire Island.

With its huge array of awesome aquatic adventures, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark can be your personal happy place! During the summer season, the park offers more than 33 amazing rides and attractions, including uphill water coasters, thrilling speed slides, kid’s water playgrounds, whitewater rapids, relaxing hot tubs, family raft rides and the Boogie Bahn surf ride. The heated indoor season, October through mid-April, features more than a dozen heated attractions in a tropical indoor oasis.

A Glimpse Into the Past

Galveston Island has several museums, historic homes and transportation museums open to the public for tours. One such attraction is Elissa, a 19th-century square-rigged iron barque that called twice on the bustling port city during its long sailing career. Purchased in the 1970s by Galveston Historical Foundation, the ship was restored to its former majesty and is open for tours at Pier 22.

The Texas Seaport Museum, home of the official tall ship of Texas, Elissa, features Galveston’s and the Texas Gulf Coast’s maritime history through exhibits and multimedia shows. Visitors can tour the 1877 iron barque and learn about the shrimping industry on Santa Maria. Others can search a computer database containing 130,000 entries for ancestors who may have immigrated to the U.S. through the Port of Galveston. Galveston Island was one of the major ports of entry for immigrants to the U.S. By 2013, the Galveston Historical Foundation will introduce a larger permanent exhibit on immigration at the museum.

Other operations of Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) include the Bishop’s Palace, built between 1888 and 1892 by Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife, Josephine, and noted by the American Institute of Architects as one of the most significant Victorian residential buildings in America; the 1859 Ashton Villa, home to the James M. Brown family; the 1838 Michel Menard House; the 1859 St. Joseph’s Church; Garten Verein; and the Great Storm Theater. Each year GHF sponsors a homes tour during the first two weekends of May featuring a new set of privately owned historic homes. Each year GHF includes a restorationin- progress house that illustrates how they preserve their buildings.

GHF’s other major event is held the first weekend of each December, the internationally acclaimed Dickens on The Strand. This festival showcases the Strand Mechanic National Historic Landmark District that encompasses one of the largest collections of cast-iron storefront buildings in the country. These buildings are listed on the 2009 11 Most Endangered List of the National Trust for Historic Preservation because of damage incurred from Hurricane Ike.

Ships, planes and trains – all have museums in their honor in Galveston. The Railroad Museum, at the entrance to the historic Strand District, houses 40 rail cars and locomotives. Strolling through the sleeper and restaurant cars, one gets a sense of what it was like to travel by rail in years past. The Lone Star Flight Museum is known as one of the premier aviation museums in the country. The museum contains a flying collection of award-winning aircraft primarily from the WWII era. Flights are now available in the museum’s B-17, B-25, T-6, Stearman and P-51 Mustang, allowing visitors to experience America’s airpower heritage.

During the summer months, relive the good ol’ days by visiting the Summer Band Concerts in the park located behind Ashton Villa every Tuesday evening.

Galveston Island’s Strand Mechanic National Historic Landmark District offers shops, restaurants and art galleries conveniently located within 36 square blocks.

In the late 1940s, Galveston’s Pleasure Pier became king as the largest of its kind in the country. America’s top dance bands routinely filled the mammoth Marine ballroom, while outside, in an open-air stadium, patrons watched movies under a starlit sky. Fishing facilities, a full carnival midway and an aquarium exceeded expectations. Galveston’s Pleasure Pier served as an iconic family destination through the ensuing decades, exponentially stimulating the island’s tourism, commerce and pride.

Landry’s has restored the 25th Street and Seawall Boulevard pier to its magnificent roots as a preeminent historic Pleasure Pier. Landry’s has unveiled the world-class amusement park for all ages, a grand destination venue reminiscent of the City Beautiful Movement’s style, purpose and effect.

Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused many trees to be uprooted and salty storm waters caused the demise of thousands of others. Sculpture artists have breathed second life into what was left of tree trunks. Most are visible from the street, so take a drive around and enjoy! They are located at:

823 25th St.1228 Sealy1620 Sealy
828 Ball902 Ball1302 Ball
1316 Ball1615 Ball1717 Ball
1028 Winnie1702 Winnie1820 Winnie
1428 Church1618 Church628 14th St.
1609 Postoffice

The new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier arrived in summer 2012, bringing a new standard of waterfront fun to the Gulf Coast. The $60 million destination boasts a theme park of family attractions, with 16 rides, games of chance and skill, entertainment, great food venues and retail shops.

The Texas-sized Pier, 120 feet wide and 1,130 feet long, thrusts boldly into the Gulf of Mexico from 25th Street at the famous Galveston seawall, welcoming guests 363 days a year for dining and 266 days for rides and games. Rides from thrilling to gentle line the long pier perimeter, creating an exciting sensation of being suspended above the water. All rides start 30 feet above the waves, many go much higher. Texas Star Flyer, the state’s highest swing ride, lifts guest 230 feet over the sea for an awesome view of the Gulf.

For more information about these and other Galveston attractions, begin your tour with a stop at the Galveston Chamber office at the corner of 23rd and Mechanic Street or the Galveston Island Visitors Center located at 2328 Broadway inside the Ashton Villa carriage house.

This is just a sampling of the many attractions Galveston has to offer its visitors. It would take weeks to see all of the fascinating sites in the Galveston-Houston area. Within a 30- mile drive from Galveston, on the way to bustling Houston, you will find the Space Center Houston entertainment and educational center at NASA, and the Gulf Greyhound Park, the busiest and one of the most attractive greyhound racing parks in the country.

In almost any month of the year, you can find a festival on Galveston Island. The first weekend of December brings Dickens on The Strand. A celebration of Charles Dickens’ Victorian- London during the Christmas season, the annual festival is filled with bagpipers, handbell choirs and a variety of entertainment, and features authentic British foods, crafts and costumes.

Mardi Gras! Galveston, a 12-day event proceeding the season of Lent, is celebrated with parades, masked balls, art exhibits, sporting events and live entertainment. Mardi Gras! Galveston, the largest midwinter festival in Texas, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Galveston Island each year.

Juneteenth, celebrating the freedom from slavery, takes place around June 19, the date the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Galveston in 1865, two years after it was enacted.

Late October and early November bring the Lone Star Biker Rally, attracting some 300,000 people – most on motorcycles. Events are held all over the city and nearby communities throughout the weekend, with numerous exhibits and vendors relating to motorcycle enthusiasts.

Festivals and unique events throughout the year celebrate Galveston’s diverse culture and history. Oktoberfest, normally held the last weekend in October, is a celebration of German heritage. Others honor Hispanic, African American and Greek heritage, plus many more.

Featherfest in April features the Island’s bird population, some unique to this area. Designed to heighten awareness of the importance of conservation and preservation of natural habitats and the environment, the event is special to Galveston as the Island hosts more than 300 species of birds as they travel through the area annually during spring and fall migration. (See our Recreation section beginning on Page 40 for birding locations.)

The Strand, Pier 21 and Postoffice Street area – also known as Gallery Row – are home to art galleries housed in brightly painted Victorian buildings. On a Saturday evening about every six weeks, the galleries host Artwalk, featuring changing artists’ works. Restaurants, bistros, boutiques and salons are also flourishing in the Postoffice Street area. Loft living brings vitality to this eclectic neighborhood around the clock.

Sports Anyone?

Sports fans are satisfied with the best college and professional sports in the nation right in their own backyard.

Locally, follow Galveston College Whitecaps baseball.

The Galveston Pirate Professional Soccer team competes in the NPSL, National Premier Soccer League, in the South Central Division. The team is led by Coach Brendan Keyes and the captain of the team is RJ McNair. To find out more about the team and view its schedule, visit www.PirateSoccerClub.com. You also can call (832) 748-1001 for ticket information.

For even more professional sports, one need drive only one hour to Houston, home of the pro basketball team, the Houston Rockets. Also take in Astros baseball, Dynamo soccer, Houston Texans football and Aeros hockey.

Major college sports teams in the area represent Rice University, University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

Amateur athletes in Galveston enjoy rugby, soccer, softball and Little League sports at the city’s many parks and ball fields.

An Evening Out

Arts and entertainment are as much a part of the Island’s history as its port and Victorian architecture. From theater, music and dance in historic and traditional settings, to reggae, rock, country and the oldies in the city’s nightspots, Galveston sparkles at night.

Your home for live entertainment, The Grand 1894 Opera House presents a year-round schedule of performances featuring stars of stage and screen, Broadway blockbusters, dance, music and comedy. The Grand is also available as a unique rental venue for private functions, meetings and corporate events and serves as the “Official Opera House of the State of Texas.”

The site of several world premiere theater productions, The Grand is a historic treasure of the Gulf Coast that has featured performances by a variety of artists, including Steve Martin, Willie Nelson, Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones, Wilson Phillips, The Beach Boys, Gladys Knight, Bernadette Peters and many others. Visit www.thegrand. com for information on the current performing arts season selections and for ticket purchases.

If it’s a just-released motion picture you would like to see, Premiere Cinema, a multi-screen theater, is conveniently located on Seawall Boulevard at 89th Street.

In the heart of the historical district, Island ETC operates in the former Strand Theatre. The elegant 200-seat theater is home to plays, musicals, concerts and film festivals year-round. Current hits, blues and rock keep The Strand and Postoffice streets hopping at night.

After dinner at one of the fine restaurants in the area, catch a few sets of live music and top off the evening with a waterfront stroll down the seawall. Drop in and enjoy a hot cup of coffee in one of the coffee shops, a deli sandwich in our many delis and bistros, or bagels and fine pastries offered at one of the many fine bakeries.

2013-14 Galveston Island Guide

Chamber Guide





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