25 Best Amazing Things to Do in Galveston TX [Bucket List]

Melanie Haiken

Find out the top things to do in Galveston, TX whether it is a quick day or 2 before your cruise leaves port or more time spent on an extended week-long getaway. This Ultimate Guide To Everything You Need to See & Do in Galveston will ensure that you maximize your time relaxing on the island!

Not to mention that most people think of Galveston, TX as nothing more than a cruise departure spot. From the lush indoor rainforest at Moody Gardens Galveston to thrilling amusement rides at Galveston Pleasure Pier, there’s something for every type of family member on this island.

Even if you are sailing from Galveston, this guide offers up plenty to do on the island before your cruise.

Before our visit, I had one small box in my mind for Galveston, Texas – that of the cruise terminal. We had been going there for years when I started high school, and it was not until we actually came to visit that Galveston is a quaint island resort with all its quirks. I had never even heard of Galveston despite having spent almost all my 40+ years here on the East Coast, and mostly in Texas (my husband is a true-blue Texan who knew little more than that it was “just some port town”).

List of Things to Do in Galveston TX

1. Moody Gardens Galveston

Galveston’s Moody Gardens offers a sort of all-in-one entertainment experience, combining interactive exhibits (with some that could be called museums and attractions themselves) across its sprawling campus. This place goes far beyond your traditional gardening spot!

  • Enjoy the diverse marine life in an aquarium pyramid
  • A glasshouse covering a whole range of indoor rainforest
  • Two theatres – MG 3D theatre and a 4D Special FX Theatre
  • Zip lines and a paddleboat, among other recreational activities
  • Discovery Pyramid with Themed Exhibits
  • Top features during the summer, things hot up with a water park and ice village
  • Interactive animal encounters

So if you decide to spend all day visiting Moody Gardens with a Moody Garden Day Pass or target specifics such as the captivating Rainforest Pyramid replete with butterfly and tropical bird observations, there will be plenty of fun in store for visitors young at hear. It strikes the perfect tone with a kid-friendly set-up that is just as appealing to adults.

Anyone intending to visit… make it to Moody Gardens in Galveston, where the taught and entertained converge for an enriching experience.

2. Inside Schlitterbahn Gavelston

Situated just southwest of Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn Galveston is the biggest water park by area. When we drove through in January, the park was closed for winter so sadly I did not get to see it on this visit.

The long-ago home to the tallest water coaster in the world (since relocated to Six Flags), Schlitterbahn Galveston remains a favorite for its collection of slides and attractions. It still remains one of the top water parks in the country, even after its sister park closed down in Kansas City.

Lazy rivers, a wave pool, and water slides for the whole family are par for the course at Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark. This attraction is a memorable and fun experience for water park enthusiasts!

3. Visiting The Galveston Pleasure Pier

Galveston Pleasure Pier offers a straight shoot experience, embodying an icon of the boardwalk scene you find in most beach towns with enough to keep anyone happy during your visit.

Guarded by Seawall Blvd, this pier opens up to the Gulf Coast with a view of some kind from each side. With more than 15 rides and attractions, midway games, and a selection of new food outlets with the characteristics of theme park quick-serve restaurants, it is destined to provide family-friendly entertainment for hours on end.

For the amount of fun you’ll be having, get an all-day ride pass (or a family package to save some cash). After you get the rush of rides such as Iron Shark, for which rollercoaster will make you repeat?

Galveston Island Pleasure Pier The historic Galveston Island Pleasure Pier offers a taste of theme park excitement for those in search of amusement rides on the island.

And of course, as tempting as a funnel cake maybe – maybe hold off until after the gut-wrenching roller coaster!

4. A Trip to The Strand in Galveston

One of the highlights of Galveston for me is exploring The Strand, its historic downtown area.

The Strand: do not confine yourself to the main street as this district is full of attractions from end to end.

Located just a stone’s throw from the Galveston cruise ship terminal, enjoy several hours perusing this charming historic district before you set sail.

The Strand Galveston is filled with quaint boutique shops, museum-like historic homes being turned into delightful eateries, and lively entertainment joints that will let you people-watch all day.

When we went, we parked near the old Galveston courthouse and stretch of The Strand over a few days. From unique shops to local dining, there is something for visitors of all ages.

Give yourself the gift of time to experience one-of-a-kind sites when you see salt water taffy being hand-pulled at La King’s Confectionary, discover inimitable mural wall art or buy a special souvenir from Hendley Market, and check out tree sculptures created by local talent using wood sourced after Hurricane Ike blasted away nature in 2008.

One of our favorite parts was experiencing Galveston on foot and zig-zagging-nearly 10 miles worth of self-guided tree sculpture tour.

5. Exploring Galveston Beach

If you are embarking on a cruise, Galveston Beach does not hint of the breathtaking beaches we have visited ( I am partial to my stay on Anna Maria Island off Florida’s Gulf Coast). Few things to do around the town though, I would rather skip the beach and try the above instead.

That said, even if you are in Galveston for a number of weeks or more like some residents, it is worth a full-day trip to enjoy the beach and have your toes squished by sand.

We also hear good things about Stewart Beach, Galveston’s premier family beach park – though we didn’t venture over to that part of town.

6. Time out at Grand Galvez & Health Spa

The massage at Grand Galvez & Spa remains one of the best I have ever experienced, which is saying a lot after so many massages throughout all my travels.

Take at least 2 hours out to visit this facility provided you can and their timings are convenient, just a spa session will uplift your wellness.

Though service and treatments are likely to be much pricier than those you would find at your local strip mall spa, the luxurious extras – try sipping one of the exquisite beverages (I hear they’re divine) or using their Relaxation Lounge free with any treatment purchase – make it a worthwhile splurge. And I have finally concluded – in purely my opinion, a little pampering is the best way to spend… ALL day!

7. Exploring Galveston by Car

Galveston Island, despite its compact size, offers an ideal setting for a day of exploration by car.

We hopped in the car like we were on a treasure hunt to take photos of cute little beachfront homes in pastel colors raised up on poles, We hunted for colorful signs along Seawall and explored the island’s past treasures.

While some you may find from online searches, there are hidden gems all around in Galveston!

8. Galveston Top Dining Experiences

The dining landscape in Galveston has a distinctly Texas-local flavor and the food here is just that – unpretentious, down-to-earth, with flavors born straight from farm to table. Though we tried, and found no great Thai takeout selections close by Throughout the course of our meals there, we never had a bad dining experience. Everything was consistently great!

As high-quality, fresh ingredients are a priority in Galveston restaurants so prices may be slightly higher compared to other areas, but the dining experience here is worth it!

Now to your cooking experience, Galveston has a lot of little culinary gems located around the city and this is my top pick gourmet guide for you;

  • Number 13
  • Home Cut Donuts
  • Sunflower Bakery
  • San Luis Resort (Grotto or Blake’s Bistro)
  • The Gumbo Diner
  • The Spot Galveston
  • BLVD Seafood
  • Mario’s Seawall Italian

Where to Stay in Galveston

The same area is home to a variety of hotels, but when it comes to an all-inclusive stay head straight for San Luis Resort. The anything you could ever want in and around the property — restaurants, multiple hotels, a spa, and an amazing resort pool with waterslides (and even gelato on site). You will not have to depart until the time comes for your cruise or flight.

Indulge even further by booking a private villa at San Luis Resort for your accommodations, which feature plenty of luxurious amenities – such as an outdoor jacuzzi and personal butler service.

Staying in your own villa at San Luis Resort is definitely a splurge but will start off the vacation in the most peaceful and relaxing way possible.

9. Riding the Free Galveston Ferry

Ride the Galveston Island Ferry-Free service between Galveston and Port Bolivar Not only is the Gulf view scenic from this ferry, but it offers regular chances to see dolphins swimming near the boat’s surroundings.

The Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry charges no fare, and visitors may bring along their vehicles. But – and this is a significant but- we were also told not for the first time that those parking times are too lengthy before sitting through how to properly drive your car. So, if you can, leave it at home.

10. Galveston Cruise Port

And then of course there is the fact that Galveston is still a commercial port, which makes it one of only two gulf ports in Texas and one of way too on any frontiers. So, it is really worthy of being on this list of places to visit at Galveston. Whether you choose a Disney Cruise or another cruise line, sailing from Galveston is the way to go.

11. Cruising Tip

Haven’t done the rounds from Galveston myself, so I can only pass on a booking tip learned when slumming it in our quad shivved. Especially if you are cruising in the winter, I would recommend always flying into Galveston a day early and giving yourself some buffer time. It was a good thing, too since on two of our first three days in Galveston fog held up cruise ships’ sailing (and arrival). Scores of travelers found themselves stranded in Galveston, waiting for the fog to lift.

Plan to Arrive and Depart Early Because of the Weather Winter storms along your driven route before you board or return home after abandonment could wreak havoc on thousands of sets and all vacation plans. This buffer guarantees that if you do miss a flight or your travel dates run into other, future plans it will not interfere with the second trip. Thankfully, Galveston is a mecca of other things to do while waiting for the skies to clear and your ship to come in.

More Activities in Galveston

Although I have not done these things myself, that is what people say to do for a good time in Galveston!

  • Galveston Railroad Museum – Get hands-on with the famously rich train history of Texas at this engaging museum.
  • Bryan Museum – Texas History buffs will love this, but it might not be as fun for the kids.
  • Moody Mansion (A must-visit for lovers of historic buildings, as well as Bishop’s Palace)
  • Galveston Island State Park – the best for watersporters who can enjoy Big Reef Nature Park (great mainly for bird-watching nature lovers).
  • Seawolf Park: Low-cost picnic and children’s playground.
  • Texas Seaport Museum: Explore the maritime history of Galveston, including the tall ship Elissa (better for adults and teens)
  • Lone Star Flight Museum: #planefun summer activities for families.
  • Seawall Urban Park: Well-known beach area in close proximity to the Pleasure Pier.
  • Galveston Naval Museum: From seeing a naval submarine and ships like the USS Stewart
  • CL Museum for Kids Galveston: Great Indoor Attraction on Rainy Days but you may want to consider Moody Gardens instead if this is your only stop.
  • Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center: Go inside a decommissioned offshore drilling rig with hands-on displays.
  • Baywatch Dolphin Tours: If you unite in marine life, as it happened to us also in Daytona Beach
  • Grand 1894 Opera House live, grand music in an opera house that dates back to the original day and a half.

What is the best airport for Galveston TX?

The closest airport to Galveston is Houston Hobby International (HOU), is about 40-50 minutes away depending on traffic. Another possibility is George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, slightly even further north and 75 minutes from Galveston. Even if the airports near you fly to George Bush International rather than Houston Hobby, it’s not an outrageous trek.

Ideal Time to Visit Galveston

Wondering when to plan your Galveston vacation?

Late fall-October or November, and early spring-March to April are perfect dates. These months provide beautiful weather without the unbearable Texas summer heat. Winter months are more economical, but it might be too cold to enjoy beach days.

Where to Stay in Galveston

San Luis Resort – for a lasting experience Perched on the water, its pretty rooms and wonderful amenities are a hit for those looking to relax by the beach.

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