Galveston’s historic downtown and beautiful beaches make it a popular tourist destination and a great choice for Texans. It is less than an hour away from Houston.
Galveston, Texas was the most wealthy and populated town in Texas for much of the 19th Century. It was also the capital of Texas for a short time. You can still see the splendor of that period in the beautiful mansions and historic buildings. The Strand district is located in the heart of downtown and houses many original facades. It now hosts restaurants, cafes galleries, galleries, shops, and other businesses.
Galveston is a popular destination for tourists, especially in summer. However, there are many other things you can do. From sightseeing to bird-watching to fishing to enjoying great dining to exploring museums. See our top Galveston attractions list for more ideas.
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Turquoise water lapping at the seemingly endless stretch soft sand fronting the ocean. This attracts crowds of people from spring to fall. The Seawall extends more than 10 miles along the shoreline, giving you plenty of space to explore your own sand area and to enjoy the calm and shallow waters. There are several washrooms along the shoreline, as well as shops, restaurants, and hotels. Pleasure Pier is the center of all the action.
Stewart Beach is one of the most visited beaches on the island’s east coast. This beach is family-friendly and has restrooms, umbrella and chair rentals, concessions, a playground for children, and a lifeguard. You can also go hiking along the boardwalks or kayaking through the bayou. Bird-watching is possible on either the bay side or the ocean side of Galveston Island State Park.
The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is 1,130 feet (340m) high and overlooks the Gulf of Mexico waters. It was opened on May 25, 2012 
The new pier complex was built where the Pleasure Pier used to be from 1943 to 1961 when it was destroyed in Hurricane Carla. The new pier complex is located where the original Pleasure Pier was from 1943 to 1961. It was destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 2008.
This 1,130-foot-long, 1,130-foot-long Pier was opened in 2012. It was built on the spot of its predecessor which was destroyed in 1961 by a hurricane. This is a great place to visit Galveston with children. The Pleasure Pier is accessible daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day and weekends during winter.
Official Site: www.pleasurepier.com
The Strand Historic District
The Strand Historic District, also known as the Strand in Galveston, is a National Historic Landmark District that consists mainly of Victorian-era structures. Many of these buildings survived the Great Storm of 2000. It is now home to many restaurants, cafes and galleries.
This district extends all the way to Galveston’s bustling wharf, where you will find many of Galveston’s most popular tourist attractions. You’ll also find Pier 19 with its Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rigs and Museum, as well as the Texas Seaport Museum and other places to eat that overlook the water. You can also see the Great Storm at Pier 21 Theater. This film is about the 1900 Hurricane that devastated Galveston.
The Strand also has a diverse mix of retail and dining. There are old-fashioned candy shops like LA King’s Confectionery where you can see taffy-making demonstrations. There are also more expensive restaurants like the Rudy and Paco next to The Grand 1894 Opera House or the more modern Vargas Cut and Catch just across the s1892 Bishop’s Palace
Bishop’s Palace | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
The Bishop’s Palace was built as a private residence. It is also known as Gresham’s Castle. After seven years of construction, it was finished in 1893. Its castle-like exterior is highlighted by its turrets, towers, sculpted granite and limestone, as well as sandstone.
The interior features elaborate carved woodwork, high ceilings and stained glass windows. There are also fireplaces and fine furnishings. The home is now a National Historic Landmark, museum, and it’s open to tours. A Saturday morning specialized tour is available for those who want to see the home in greater detail.
Address: 1402 Broadway Street in Galveston (Texas)
Official site: www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/bishops-palace
Moody Gardens and Aquarium Pyramid
Moody Gardens has many activities for all ages. You can spend the whole day here, or just one attraction and take your time. The three glass pyramids are the most prominent features.
Many people visit the Aquarium pyramid as their main attraction. The aquarium is a huge showcase of marine life from the Caribbean, the Antarctic, Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and the Coral Sea. The aquarium features a touch tank, an underwater tunnel, giant river otters, and penguins. Both are part of the animal encounter program.
The Rainforest pyramid houses flora from the tropics. It includes sloths, monkeys, birds and fish. You can walk along the canopy-level boardwalk through the rainforest. The Discovery Pyramid, which is appropriately named, focuses on science and features a variety of displays.
After that, visit Palm Beach Waterpark, which offers white sands and freshwater lagoons as well as slides, slides, lazy rivers, and a replica paddlesteamer. You can also check out the intricate seasonal displays.
Moody Gardens boasts the largest movie screen in Texas. These impressive screens feature the most recent projection technology. They are a great place to view MG 3D and 4D Special FX. To see the latest Moody Garden content, visit their website.
Address: 1 Hope Blvd. Galveston Texas
Official site: www.moodygardens.com
Schlitterbahn, an American brand of waterparks and resorts that are owned by Cedar Fair. It was previously a company family-owned-and-operated by the Henry family that was based in New Braunfels, Texas. Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort was its first location.
The outdoor Schlitterbahn water parks are open seasonally, usually from mid-April through mid-September. While its indoor parks are open year round, two parks are located in Texas.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum
Many rigs and supply ships call the Port of Galveston home. This is in recognition of Galveston’s vital role in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry. The Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig and Museum provides fascinating insights into the energy industry.
The museum is based on the Ocean Star oil rig, which was built in 1969. It features many outstanding exhibits. Highlights include a visit the pipe deck where the more powerful equipment required to drill the rig’s 200 wells, as well as interactive displays that show the entire process from exploration through extraction.
Address: 2002 Wharf Rd, Galveston Texas
Official site: www.oceanstaroec.com
Texas Seaport Museum and Elissa
The Texas Seaport Museum houses the tallship Elissa. This vessel was built in 1877, and is considered to be one of the most well-restored historical vessels in America. The museum on the shore tells the fascinating story of this beautiful old ship, including how she was saved from the scrapyard. Highlights include a look into the history of Port of Galveston and the names of more than 133,000 migrants that passed through.
You can also visit nearby Seawolf Park to view a WWII-era US Navy sub and the USS Stewart a destroyer of the same period.
Address: 2200 Harborside Drive Galveston, Texas
Official site: https://www.galvestonhistory.org/sites/1877-tall-ship-elissa-at-the-galveston-historic-seaport
This museum is housed in an impressive historic building that was once the Galveston Orphans Home. It houses a wide range of art and artifacts from America’s West. The collection spans more than 12,000 year. The permanent collection covers everything from Native American history to Texas Independence and the Spanish Colonial Era.
Texas Masters Gallery features the work of Texas-born and Texas-based artists as well as the works of those who have traveled through the region to capture it on canvas. You’ll find many works from different artists around the museum, including Andy Warhol.
The displays of the pieces on iPads help to explain their significance. However, a guided tour is the best way to learn more about the history and appreciate the collection. You may be able to see Mr. J.P. Bryan who founded the Bryan Museum in 2015.
Address: 1315 21st Street Galveston, Texas
Official site: www.thebryanmuseum.org
This 28,000-square foot home was built in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Victorian Moody Mansion’s interior features stained glass, custom-carved woodwork and decorative tiles. There is also fine stencil work throughout. Its unique architecture and red bricks along with the many antiques, photos and artwork make this home stand out.
You can also take guided tours of the 20 rooms. There are many special programs and events hosted here. The grounds are also worth a visit, which feature tropical plants and a garage containing vintage Cadillacs.
Address: 1 Hope Blvd. Galveston Texas
Official site: www.moodymansion.org
Grand Opera House 1894
The Grand 1894 Opera House is another fine structure in Galveston. It’s a beautifully restored Victorian theater that has survived multiple hurricanes. You can still find a variety of musical and theatrical performances as well as a range of shows for children of all ages. Since 1993, the Grand 1894 Opera House is the official opera house of Texas.
There are three levels of seating in the main auditorium. Smaller side balconies can be found closer to the stage. You can view interesting displays at the Postoffice Street windows if you’re unable to enter.
A plaque is located inside the main entrance and shows the location of the high water mark caused by hurricane Ike. It was installed in 2008.
Address: 2020 Post Office Street in Galveston (Texas)
Official site: www.thegrand.com
Galveston Island State Park
Galveston Island State Park is a great place to go for bird-watching and SUPing, fishing, or just to enjoy a beautiful natural environment on the coast. Galveston lies along the Central Flyway making it a popular spot to bird. You can also see resident and migrating birds.
The beach on the ocean side is the most popular. There are many trails and observation platforms on the bay side. You will find a variety of trails and observation platforms on the bay side. The park also offers family activities on an ongoing basis. Make sure you check out the calendar for information about what to do while you’re there.
The park’s beachside from FM3005 will remain closed until 2022 so that significant renovations can be done to its facilities. The park’s north side, which is located at FM3005, remains accessible.
Official site: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island
Galveston Railroad Museum
The Galveston Railroad Museum is a fun attraction that appeals to both young and old. It has six permanent exhibits which showcase a large collection steam and diesel engines, passenger, freight, and cabooses as well as related artifacts. Highlights include the iconic Texas Limited passenger railroad and the remarkable Santa Fe Diesel, as well as a large scale HO model train layout.
The museum’s focus is not just on train equipment. The People’s Gallery will take you back in time to 1932, when trains were still being used by people wearing fancy caps and dresses. The entire waiting area has been meticulously recreated, down to the last detail. There are even newsstands!
Try to schedule your visit so that you are able to attend one of the regular train shows. This will give you the chance to ride these historic trains.
Address: 2602 Santa Fe Place in Galveston, Texas
Official site: www.galvestonrrmuseum.org