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The 20 Best Things to Do in Galveston for First-Timers

Galveston is a city island that lies just off the Gulf Coast of Texas. As there are many activities and attractions to enjoy in this city, it is a popular destination for tourists. There are so many things to see and do at this location that you may have some difficulty deciding which you should do first during your vacation. Some careful planning is needed to ensure that you make the most of your time in this fantastic city. To help you plan your itinerary for your trip to this destination, the following are the 20 best things to do in Galveston for first-timers.

20. The Menard Home

Built in 1838, The Menard Home has been lovingly restored, says 10Best. It was once owned by the founders of Galveston and Houston. Tourists can visit this house to take a tour and learn about its long history. The house is filled with 19th-century antiques to admire.

19. Rosenburg Library

Rosenburg Library is the oldest continuously operating public library in Texas. The main building has been open since 1904, with the Moody Memorial Wing being a later addition to the building. This extension provided extra space for a children’s library and several galleries housing museum collections. There is now also a computer lab within the extension. There are some interesting collections that you should view if you visit Rosenburg library, including the Major Manuscript Collection, the Twentieth Century Collection, and the Galveston and Texas History Collection.

18. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

One of the most notable features of the Galveston coastline is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. It is at the pier where you can enjoy some traditional seaside fun and games, along with some thrilling rides. There are both adrenalin-inducing rides and some tamer options for young children. If you do not enjoy such amusements, you can simply take a stroll down the 1,130-foot pier. The original pier was destroyed by a hurricane in 1961, and it was not replaced with the current pier until 2012. There is a highly-rated restaurant on the pier, so you can grab a bite to eat during your visit to this landmark.

17. Moody Gardens and Aquarium Pyramid

There are lots of things to enjoy at Moody Gardens, says 10Best. There are two theaters, an expansive botanical garden, and several playgrounds. There is also a spa, a hotel, a golf course, and a convention center. The highlight of a visit for many people is the vast Pyramid Aquarium. This popular attraction is divided into sections to showcase marine life from the Great Barrier Reef, the Pacific, the Antarctic, the Coral Sea, and the Caribbean. Other people love the 13-story Rainforest Pyramid, which is filled with a vast array of flora and fauna. Those who are interested in science will also enjoy the Discovery Pyramid, which has more than 40 interactive exhibits. There are also several eateries at this attraction, including the Pelican Grille at the golf course’s clubhouse

16. Galveston Children’s Museum

If you are traveling with children, then one of the top attractions to visit is the Galveston Children’s Museum. The children’s museum is located within Moody Mansion, and it is filled with interactive exhibits that encourage learning through play. The activities include both arts and science subjects, so there is something to capture the imagination of every child. Children can enjoy everything from studying bugs under microscopes to building robots. The museum hosts special events for children throughout the year.


15. Dolphin Watching

Living in the waters surrounding the city are dolphins, and going dolphin watching is a popular activity for nature lovers. There are boat tours that you can take that are specifically for dolphin watching. The boat heads out to known dolphin hotspots, and the tour guide provides those on the tour with information about the dolphins and their natural habitat

14. Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park is something that lovers of the outdoors should not miss. The park consists of more than two thousand acres of beaches wetlands, dunes, ponds, and estuaries. It is a popular attraction for birdwatching, hiking, picnicking, paddling, mountain biking, and swimming. Some people also enjoy canoeing and kayaking. It is possible to stay overnight at Galveston State Park, either on one of the campsites or by hiring a cabin.

13. The Bryan Museum

One of the top museums to visit in Galveston is The Bryan Museum. In 1859, J.P. Bryan was just eight years old when he saved money he earned from delivering papers and mowing lawns to buy a .22 caliber Derringer. This was the first item in what became a collection of 70,000 pieces relating to the American West. His amazing collection is now the largest of its kind in the world and it is on display for the public to enjoy in a restored former orphanage. In addition to the Bryan collection, there are also multiple artifacts and pieces of art relating to the American West that span a period of history covering 12,000 years. A popular section of the museum is the Texas Masters Gallery, which displays artwork by Texan-born artists.

12. Hotel Galvez Spa

One of the top hotels to stay in for your visit is the Hotel Galvez Spa, says Vacation Idea. However, you do not need to be a hotel guest to enjoy some of the facilities at this hotel. The spa is open to the public if you book in advance. This is one of the best places to enjoy a pampering session and to relax while you are in this city. They offer a range of treatments that promote wellness and relaxation.

11. NOAA Fisheries Service Galveston Laboratory

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does wonderful work managing fishery species and conserving natural habitats. Many people who visit their laboratory do so because they want to learn about the organization's work conserving sea turtles and other marine species. There are tours taking place that are led by experienced volunteers who have extensive backgrounds in marine biology. Visitors can see the facilities, interact with the scientists, and check out the amazing technology.

10. Stewart Beach

Galveston is lined with beautiful beaches, but one of the best is Stewart Beach. Spending a day at the beach is a fantastic free activity for families who have a limited budget. You can take the kids to the beach to play in the sand and paddle in the shallow waters. You can also relax, people watch or enjoy a picnic. There is sometimes entertainment on the beach for holidaymakers to enjoy. The beach is also lined with cafes and shops, and there are several washroom facilities for visitors.

9. Moody Mansion Museum

The Moody Mansion was once the home of W.L. Moody Jr., who was one of the wealthiest men in America. It is now a museum that is filled with the personal effects of the Moody family, including their furniture and antiques. There are guided tours where you can learn more about the Moody family and their work in the area, which included the cotton industry, banking, insurance, ranching, and hospitality. The grounds around the museum are also noteworthy as they are meticulously maintained. The mansion and the grounds are used to host a variety of events throughout the year. You will find The Moody Mansion Museum along Hope Boulevard.

8. The Grand 1894 Opera House

Various performances are hosted at The Grand 1894 Opera House throughout the year. These include operas, musicals, ballets, and fun performances for children. If you want to catch a performance during your stay, you should check what is on before embarking on your trip and book tickets in advance. It is also worth a visit to admire the stunning architecture and the ornate interior of this building. This building, which is located on Post Office Street, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The theater was hit by Hurricane Ike in 2008, and a plaque on the exterior of the building marks the height of the water level during the hurricane.

7. Galveston Island Railroad Museum and Terminal

Somewhere that will appeal to children and adults alike is the Galveston Railroad Museum. There is a large collection of steam and diesel engines on display, along with some passenger trains, freight cars, cabooses, and related artifacts. Two of the highlights of a visit are the Santa Fe diesel train and the Texas Limited passenger train. There are regular train shows, and visitors have the chance to ride on some of the trains during these events. Therefore, you should try to plan your visit to coincide with one of the events. You will find this attraction at Santa Fe Place.

6. Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum

Galveston plats an important role in the gas and oil drilling industries, and it is home to many rigs and supply vessels. Planetware says that the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum gives a fascinating insight into the industry. It was built in 1969, and it is based on a real, working rig. There are many interactive displays to enjoy that help visitors to learn about exploration and extraction.

5. Bishop’s Palace

One of the most interesting historic landmarks in Galveston is Bishop’s Palace, which is in the Historic District. It was built in 1892, and it is a fine example of Victorian architecture. The structure boasts bronze dragons, colored stone, carved decorations, and rare wood. The inside is just as opulent. It is conserved one of the most important buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects.

4. Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark

Covering 26 acres, this waterpark offers lots of water-based fun for all the family. There are more than 30 attractions to enjoy at this waterpark, including the award-winning three-river system, three speed slides, three kids’ activity areas, a heated pool, four tube slides, a tidal wave river, and a secluded beach. Part of the attraction transforms to become an indoor attraction in the winter months so that the park can stay open all year round.

3. 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA and Texas Seaport Museum

ELISSA is one of the world’s oldest sailing hulls still in operation. It was first launched in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1877. It is now a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can explore the decks before heading to the associated Texas Seaport Museum to learn about the maritime history of the area. In the museum, you can learn how ELISSA was rescued from the scrapyard, and you will see a list of 133,000 migrants who passed through the Port of Galveston. You will find ELISSA and the Texas Seaport Museum on Harborside Drive.

2. Galveston Port Bolivar Ferry

A ferry has been used to get from Mainland Texas to Galveston Island since 1929. It was originally free and then a fee was applied. Now, it is back to being free. More than eight million travelers use the Galveston- Port Bolivar ferry each year. Riding on the ferry is a fun activity for all the family, as well as being a practical way of reaching mainland Texas. It is also a great way of admiring the skyline of Galveston City.

1. Seawall Urban Park

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Galveston is to visit the Seawall Urban Park. It boasts the longest continuous sidewalk in the United States as it runs alongside ten miles of the Galveston beaches. It is lined with shops, restaurants, attractions, and beachside entertainment. Both the walk and most of the entertainment are free, so this is something that you can enjoy even if you are on a budget. You can enjoy the sea views along the way.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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