Many people ask, “what is there to do in Galveston, TX besides going to the beach?”. When you think of Galveston, the beach is what you think of. During the cold months or rainy times of year, a trip to Galveston doesn’t always sound appealing to some people…… but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Sit down, buckle up and let’s take a little Texas style road trip to Galveston, TX.
There’s two things I love in life: One is a gorgeous view and the other is learning about history. Maybe it’s because I was born on Texas Independence Day or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in an area where the tall pine trees blocked you from seeing anything past their boring brown trunks. Who knows. One thing that I do know is that when you combine the two things together, I’m in my happy place. Galveston is the embodiment of my happy place.
I knew we were going to have a great weekend when Texas Travel Talk in partnership with Galveston Convention and Visitors Bureau invited us to come to a sponsored weekend to experience the new homeschool curriculum they’re developing. What I did not expect was a trip that was so great that I am actively trying to schedule another trip to the island or that my child’s Sunday School teacher would contact me to to tell me that they’re planning a trip to Galveston because my daughter talked nonstop about it at church this week. Yes, it was THAT fun.
If I asked you right now to list some of the things you can do in Galveston, what would you say? I would guess your list has some holes, let me fill those in for you.
I loved this museum. It’s a former orphanage that has since been turned into a Texas history museum. It’s full of funky old delights such as an assassin’s violin case from the civil war. One side of this old violin case holds a sawed off shot gun while the other side holds a silver violin, which is full of gun powder.
There’s walls with saddles and spurs, documents ranging from more present day to hundreds of years ago, old china, an art gallery and you can even find Andy Warhol paintings from his cowboys and Indians series. Best of all? In the basement there’s a hidden kids area with a play ship that I had to wrestle my kids out of. The ship has a little game on it. If you get a question about the history of Galveston right, it shoots a pretend cannon ball, smoke and all.
Before I left this museum I told our tour guide that I was coming back and I meant it. If nothing else I need to go spend a hour cuddling with Chalk, the museum’s dog and mascot or exploring the old glass conservatory on the beautiful grounds.
The Tall Ship Elissa was my kid’s favorite part of our trip. Not only is the ship amazing just to look at and try to figure out how they knew what rope to pull to control what part of the sails or rigging, it’s fully restored and operational.
At first we climbed onto the deck of the ship and were amazed by the detail and fun pieces that were on the deck but then we found out that you can go down inside the ship and explore. I thought I would never be able to get my kids out of the ship. I had to gather them all up and say we’re leaving at least three times. You will learn so much about the history of the ship simply by placing your feet in the spots where people worked hundreds of years ago.
Once we were able to get away from the ship we went into the Texas Sea Port Museum which talks mainly about immigration into Galveston during the turn of the century. Galveston was the 2nd largest port of entry for immigrants during that time. As a granddaughter of an immigrant that came over on a ship from Poland, it was fascinating.
Tip: Plan a visit to this location around a mealtime and eat at Fisherman’s Wharf. You can see the Tall Ship Elissa from the dining room or watch the huge barges drift by, pulled by tug boats and the best part is that Fisherman’s Wharf will validate your parking ticket.
Here’s the deal – I am obsessed with books but when I saw Rosenberg Library on our itinerary I thought to myself that I could just go to the library at home, well once it’s rebuilt from the Harvey flooding, but I didn’t see the big deal. I was wrong. The Rosenberg Library is a must stop location in Galveston. Not only does it have a great kid’s area if your kids just need a break to read and play, the history of the library is wonderful and they are committed to teaching others about the history of the Texas Gulf Coast.
We entered into the more modern of the library and then stepped through an wide door frame and were instantly transported back to the turn of the century. In the older part of the library pine floors and marble accents showcase the dark wrought iron decorations. You just have to see it. If you go upstairs, there’s areas where they showcase items from the world wars and the shipping industry history of Galveston and the port of Houston. There’s also a room that showcases old and rare books including one printed on sheepskin, one from the 1400’s and some with edge paintings that are only seen when you open the book.
At the very back of the library on the highest floor, there’s a glass room that you can enter if you agree to sign in and store your belongings in a locker. This is the artifacts room. Very few libraries in the country have a room such as this. We learned that a library has books and items that are easily reprintable but an archive has original documents and prints. In other words, the map of texas from the 1800’s, pictures from when they raised Galveston Island by 14 feets and letter from an 8 year old after the hurricane of 1900 that they showed us were original and something we’re not likely to ever see again.
If you want to truly experience the Rosenberg Library, here’s my advice to you. Ask questions. Let the librarians and curators there show you the hidden history, such as the detailed carvings from children’s stories on the end of benches in the historical part of the library.
One of my favorite places on Galveston has been the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids at Moody Gardens and have been for many years. However lately they’ve both undergone major renovations that bump them up even higher in my opinion.
The Rainforest Pyramid is an experience that I think everyone needs to go through on at least one trip to Galveston. When you enter the pyramid you get to see the bottom of a rainforest floor including fish, parrots, and a huge anaconda and tropical plants galore. But the true gem is the staircase that leads you up into the treetops where butterflies and birds hang out, ready to greet you.
If you’re more of a fish and ocean person that you need to visit the Aquarium Pyramid. The new tanks there are so big and the way they are laid out makes you feel like you are standing in the middle of the ocean, watching the wildlife play around you.
My daughter loved the penguins and it turns out, they loved her back. It’s so interesting to watch the penguins play and hear the keepers as they talk about what they eat or where the different kinds of penguins live.
Within the aquarium there’s also a jellyfish touch tank. Yes! You can touch jellyfish! You can also touch stingrays and starfish before walking into a tunnel where sharks swim over the top of you.
Moody Gardens is a great place. Not only do they have the pyramids but there’s a ropes course, paddlewheel, restaurants, walking paths, an amazing pool, outdoors chess and checkers and they always have fun activities going on. Ask in the Moody Gardens Hotel Lobby when you check in to see if there’s any events for kids or adults going on that night.
Tip: to save money at Moody Gardens, check out their packaged deals. Parking is free and they have a few picnic tables available if you want to pack a lunch.
Other Things to Do In Galveston:
- Watch a show at The Grand 1894 Opera House. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with it and feel like you’re walking back in time.
- Check out the Galveston Railroad Museum. My parents took me here when I was a kid and I still remember it.
- LA Kings Confectionary and Saengerfest Park – LA Kings Confectionary is stepping back in time to an old fashioned candy store. The taffy is made in store and you can watch pulling demonstrations throughout the day. Stop in and fill a bag of candy and then wander across the street to Saengerfest Park to play on the large chess board or to see if any bands are playing.
- Tour some of the old mansions such as Moody Mansion or Bishop’s Palace.
- Check out the Galveston Tree Sculptures (Map) – Hurricane Ike knocked down many old trees but rather than just cut them down and get rid of the stumps, residents hired carvers to turn the trees into works of art. You can drive through the historic east end, trying to find the tree carvings, while checking out the amazing houses. My favorite tree carving is the great dane with his paw on the fence.
- Catch the sunsets. The sunsets over the beach are amazing. Plenty of beach front restaurants offer the perfect view or you can grab some snacks and wander down the sea wall. It’s a way to catch the sunset and enjoy the beach without getting shoes full of sand.
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Want a hint on a few things to do in the Houston area before you head down to Galveston? Check out these posts on Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens or Levy Park.