“Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing.” In 1968, the “national anthem” of Galveston Island turned America’s tourism eye toward a relatively undiscovered part of the country that Texans had known about for years. The result? Galveston Island sets record highs year after year in tourism growth, with its estimated number of annual visitors edging 7 million. And it’s no wonder. Both on and off the island there are a plethora of activities for staying as active as a vacationer wants. Or they can do little more than arm curl Corona to the rhythm of the waves.
Besides the beautiful beaches Galveston Island is well-known for, here’s some of what else is going on.
Take your pick. To highlight a few, let’s begin with Haunted Mayfield Manor. Located in the island’s historic shopping district, the manor consists of 12 rooms full of blood-curdling terror. Guests of the manor receive a gruesome history lesson of the dastardly deeds that allegedly took place in each of the rooms, and it is said the lost spirits of the deceased can be felt. Paranormal investigations are conducted on occasion. The manor’s sister company, Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast is a pirate school for the entire family, complete with a scavenger hunt and face paintings.
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is fun for everyone with blazing fast water rides like the Water Blaster, an uphill water coaster, or the Soaring Eagle Zipline for an eagle’s eye view of the park. A much tamer area is also provided where little tikes can safely have their fun.
For getting back to nature, 2000-acres of protected wildlife awaits visitors at Galveston Island State Park. Campsites with full hookups are available and the park is full of walking and biking trails. There’s an area dedicated to surf fishing for redfish and flounder, and naturalists will enjoy the abundance of armadillo, raccoons, and tidal birds.
The Pleasure Pier is a must. It’s a boardwalk with 16 rides, concessions, shops, restaurants, and plenty of shady seating. The Texas Star Flyer is a 200-foot swing set over the water and the double carousel puts riders on top of the world.
No one need look very far to find a suitable drinking establishment. From flip-flops at Captain Jacks Beach Bar to dressing to the nine at the trendy 21, it’s all on the island. Yaga’s gives visitors a taste of the Caribbean with live reggae bands while O’Malley’s Stage Door has been serving over 100 types of beer for the past 12 years.
After a long day in the sun pool bars such as H20 and Float have swim-up bars. From a mechanical bull to karaoke to a bar with its own driving range, Galveston Island has it all, and then some.
Nobody visiting Galveston Island needs worry about going hungry. As one would imagine, seafood is prominent with 38 restaurants cooking up the catches of the day. Because of Texas’s proximity to Mexico, there are 76 Mexican restaurants offering only the most authentic food a person can find. If only American food will do, not to worry, 174 restaurants will serve you what you’re hungry for.
Fine dining is available at Shearn’s Seafood and Prime, Gaido’s, and Rudy & Paco Restaurant & Bar. For a local flare try Black Pearl Restaurant and Grille, or Mosquito Cafe. Of course, every type of pizza is available from local privately owned restaurants to major chains like Pizza Hut.
For the more budget minded the island has some pretty tasty eats for cheap. Shrimp and Stuff Restaurant and Bronco Burritos are all the rage. ShyKatZ is a freshly made burger joint with the best fries found anywhere.
Where to Rest Your Head
Where to stay on the island is a matter of personal taste and budget. A vacationer could spend as much as they choose at places like Hilton Galveston Island Resort or they could be thrifty and still have a comfortable stay at Beachcomber Inn or one of the many other mom and pop hotels. A few days at the beach can’t be too bad either way.
There are literally thousands of private vacation rentals ranging from large extravagant homes to small beach bungalows and many of them are surprisingly affordable. If a square hotel room just won’t do, there are options galore.
Shop Till ya’ Drop
Every tourist area offers plenty of ways for a vacationer to spend their money and Galveston Island is certainly no exception. Of course, there are the typical beach shops like Lafitte’s Beat with their “I Heart Galveston” t-shirts and seashell wind chimes, but there are also designer boutiques, specialty shops, big-box stores, and even antiques and collectibles at places like Hendley Market or The Emporium at Eibands.
A trip to the Historic District will uncover hundreds of small specialty shops hawking every type of ware imaginable, many being one-of-a-kind.
This diamond in the sun called Galveston Island is the pride and joy of the Lone Star State. If you have not as yet graced its white sands with your presence, you’re missing out on a great vacation spot.