Note: When I first published this blog in March 2012 we had eight attractions in historic downtown Galveston. Believe it or not - we are now up to ten attractions. The newest additions are Jet Boat Thrill Rides at Pier 21 and Buster's Old Time Photos.
You don’t have to go far to find a tour, unique museum or another interesting site while in historic downtown Galveston - plus you might learn something, too.
If you are exploring Galveston’s historic harbor and have an interest in the oil industry, stop by the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum
at Pier 19. The museum offers a unique opportunity to tour an actual jack-up drilling oil rig and learn about the oil industry. The Ocean Star was built in 1969 in Beaumont and drilled 200 wells in its working life along the Gulf Coast. Now it’s an operating museum with exhibits, models, and equipment interpreting the offshore industry and giving a glimpse of life offshore. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
At Pier 21, you’ll find that you have two options for touring Galveston’s historic port. Baywatch Tours
is docked at Pier 21 and departs on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Harbor Tours
aboard the Seagull II is operated by the Galveston Historical Foundation and is affiliated with the Texas Seaport Museum. Currently, the Seagull II is at Pier 21 and tours depart at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. During these tours there is always a good chance that you will snap a picture or video of a dolphin or dolphins.
Nearby you will find the Texas Seaport Museum
and 1877 Tall Ship Elissa
. This museum and restored ship will give you some insight into the history of Galveston as a working port. The Elissa, which is temporarily docked at Pier 21, has nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area. It is one of three authentic restored ships in the United States that still sails. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. A combination ticket is available for the Museum, Elissa
and Harbor Tour.
NEW - Jet Boat Thrill Rides began operating right before Memorial Weekend. This new and exciting excursion gives riders a chance to experience the “Hamilton Spin,” a maneuver that rotates the boat 360° on its axis while throwing a wall of water into the air. You can also experience the thrill of sharp right angle turns and accelerated speeds. I haven't tried it yet but it looks like tons of fun.
Pier 21 Theater now offers three films for visitors – The Great Storm, The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte
and Galveston – Gateway on the Gulf. The Great Storm,
which is shown on the hour, is
a 27-minute documentary that tells the incredible story of the deadliest natural disaster in United States history through personal letters, photos and articles. The 18-minute Pirate Island,
which airs on the half hour, chronicles the adventures of the infamous Jean Laffite who called Galveston home for three years. Both films were directed by C. Grant Mitchell. Pier 21 Theater just added Galveston – Gateway on the Gulf,
a PBS documentary on immigration to its schedule. This 56-minute documentary gives a history of Galveston as a port of entry for more than 133,000 immigrants and is shown at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Near Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand, you will find Galveston’s newest attractions – Haunted Mayfield Manor
and Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast
. The year-round Haunted Mayfield Manor is themed around the fictional character Dr. Mayfield and the 1900 Storm. Pirates! is a family friendly attraction that addresses the fact and fiction of pirates and the infamous Jean Lafitte. For example, did you know that Blackbeard would scare off his opponents with crazy behavior, like taking pieces of rope and adding gun powder then lighting it like a fuse, all under his hat?
Just a couple of blocks away, you will find the Galveston Railroad Museum
which was heavily damaged during Hurricane Ike. The good news is that much has been restored including the Union Station waiting room which is home to the museum’s “ghosts of travelers past” located on the first floor of Shearn Moody Plaza. Currently, four passenger cars are open for tours and guests can also explore several locomotives and cabooses. New locomotives and model displays will be in place this summer. The new F7 Santa Fe Super Chief Locomotive will be named for George P. Mitchell and the late Cynthia Mitchell in honor of their original donation of the Texas Limited in 1996. On Saturdays, you can ride in the cab of a locomotive or in a Missouri Pacific caboose. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
NEW: Buster's Old Time Photos which operates two locations in Branson, MO, is now open in historic downtown Galveston. This awarding-wining photo studio opened just in time for Memorial Weekend in Old Galveston Square, 2217 Strand. Visitors of all ages can dress in authentic costumes and be professionally photographed with corresponding themed backdrops. You can choose from the Roaring 20s, southern belle, Victorian, western and pirate themes. The studio is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. By the way, they often do cross promotions with Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast. Ask about specials.
Downtown Galveston is a great spot for shopping, dining and seeing the sites.
Quick Reference List of Downtown Attractions
- Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig Museum, Pier 19, 409-766-7827
- BayWatch Dolphin Tours, Pier 21, 832-859-4557
- Jet Boat Thrill Rides, Pier 21, 409-276-6116
- Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, Pier 21, 409-763-1877
- Harbor Tours, Pier 21, 409-763-1877
- Pier 21 Theater, Pier 21, 409-763-8808
- Haunted Mayfield Manor, 2309 Harborside (Entrance off Saengerfest Park, 23rd & Strand), 409-762-6677
- Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, 2309 Harborside (Entrance off Saengerfest Park, 23rd & Strand), 409-762-6677
- Buster's Old Time Photos (Old Galveston Square), 2217 Strand, 409-497-2521
- Galveston Railroad Museum, 2602 Santa Fe Place, 409-765-5700
About Mitchell Historic Properties
Mitchell Historic Properties (MHP) oversees Galveston properties owned by developer, philanthropist and preservationist George Mitchell and the Mitchell family, including its commercial and residential properties located downtown as well as three hotels – Hotel Galvez & Spa, The Tremont House and Harbor House Hotel and Marina. MHP owns and preserves approximately one-fourth of the buildings in The Historic Strand Seaport Area. The Mitchell’s ongoing preservation of Galveston’s historic downtown helped spark the resurrection of The Strand National Historic Landmark District as a tourist destination. For leasing information, visit www.MitchellHistoricProperties.com
or call (409) 763-5806.