GALVESTON ISLAND

Situated 45 minutes south of Houston and surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Island is a mix of sun-drenched beaches and sophisticated culture. The island’s rich history is conveyed through a mix of museums, local lore and striking Victorian architecture. With 32 miles of Gulf Coast beaches, more than 100 eclectic shops and galleries, this island city offers an indulgence for every visitor.

HISTORY

This island city is named after Bernardo de Glvez, the Spanish Colonial governor who ordered the first survey of the Texas Gulf Coast in 1786. The surveyor, Jose de Evia, named Galveston Bay in honor of the governor and the island was later given the same name. Ironically, Bernardo de Glvez never visited the island.  

 
In 1817, Pirate Jean Lafitte made his home base in Galveston, having been expelled from his settlement in Louisiana. He laid claim to the lavishly furnished mansion that he named “Maison Rouge” and established the settlement of Campeche on the east end of the island. In 1822, one of his captains reportedly attacked an American merchant ship and Lafitte was forced out of Galveston by the Spanish. Prior to leaving, he held a party for his pirates with much wine and whisky and then proceeded to burn his settlement. Legend has it that he buried treasure on the island, but it is yet to be found.

BEACHES

Stewart Beach
The ultimate family beach, Stewart Beach is home to volleyball tournaments, various outdoor activities and features a pavilion with snack bar, gift shop, restrooms and showers.
 
 
East Beach/Apffel Park
East Beach is the largest of the beaches and the only beach park where alcohol is allowed. Big Reef Nature Park is adjacent to Apffel Park and is a favorite among nature enthusiasts. East Beach is the site for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Annual Sandcastle Competition in June.
 
 
Seawolf Park
Seawolf Park on Pelican Island is home to the World War II navel display featuring the USS Cavalla, a WWII submarine that serves as a memorial to the USS Seawolf which was lost during the war. Also on display is the USS Stewart Destroyer Escort, one of two surviving destroyer escorts in the United States. The park includes a lighted fishing pier and picnic sites. Seawolf Park is built on the site of a former Galveston immigration station, which was the second busiest port of entry in the country; Ellis Island being the largest. The display and park are still under renovation following Hurricane Ike.
 

THE STRAND DISTRICT

Galveston Island's Historic Downtown Strand District includes The Strand National Historic Landmark District, one of four locally protected historic landmark districts in Galveston, that offer an exciting blend of eclectic shops, antiques, art galleries, museums and a wide array of restaurants and cafes to satisfy any taste. Visitors will be impressed with its restored iron-front Victorian architecture and charming horse-drawn carriages passing in the downtown streets.
 
This former “Wall Street of the Southwest” is today’s social and shopping center for Galveston Island. The 36-block district also is home to a growing concentration of newly renovated downtown lofts, as urban professionals continue to be drawn to this vibrant shopping and entertainment district.

POSTOFFICE ARTS DISTRICT

Enticing galleries that feature assorted types of art from local to national and internationally known artists line the streets of the Post Office District. More than 25 historic buildings have been rejuvenated by the charming blend of galleries, antique shops and elegant eateries found in this district.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Grand 1894 Opera House, "The Official Opera House of the State of Texas," is restored to its original grandeur. The theater’s season includes various Broadway shows, a children’s series, and popular entertainers such as B.B. King, Chubby Checker, Steve Tyrell and many others who grace its stage to packed houses.   Etc. Theater, located across the street from The Tremont House in the former location of Strand Theatre produces a variety of shows during the year and is a testament to the lively local theater tradition of Galveston.   The varied galleries exhibit and sell a multitude of art. Oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, sculpture and even paper designs can be found in Galveston’s galleries.  

MUSEUMS

At the Lone Star Flight Museum at Scholes International Airport guests can explore an extensive collection of restored aircraft and aviation exhibits. The museum also offers rides in several warbirds for an additional cost.   Historic downtown Galveston is home to four museums focusing on the offshore oil industry, harbor history, railroad and county. Currently, two of four museums are open - the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum and 1877 Tall Ship Elissa docked at the Texas Seaport Museum. The Ocean Star at Pier 21 exhibits a working drilling rig and the Texas Seaport Museum, which is under renovation, is home to the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, the official Tall Ship of Texas. The art deco Railroad Museum – The Center for Transportation and Commerce features one of the largest railroad collections in the Southwest. The Galveston County Historical Museum, housed in the 1921 City National Bank Building, is temporarily closed due to damage from Hurricane Ike but tentatively planning to reopen in 2010. The museum exhibits include Thomas Edison’s early motion picture footage on the 1900 storm.  

HISTORIC HOMES

1838 Michel B. Menard Home
1605 33rd Street   Experience the charm of the Old South during guided tours of this Greek Revival house and its outstanding collection of 19th-century furnishings. Built in 1838 by Michel B. Menard, the home is the oldest remaining house on the island.
 
1859 Ashton Villa
2328 Broadway Built in 1858-59, Ashton Villa was the first of Galveston's Broadway "palaces." Highlighted as one of 12 National Trust Save America’s Treasures sites on HGTV’s “RESTORE AMERICA” in 2004-05, the mansion is filled with antiques and heirlooms of a prominent Victorian family. The Galveston Island Visitors Center, operated by the Convention & Visitors Bureau, is also located in the gift shop.
 
1888 Bishop’s Palace
1402 Broadway Bishop’s Palace was built for Galveston attorney Colonel Walter Gresham and designed by Nicholas Clayton. It was later purchased for Bishop Christopher Byrne in 1923 by the Galveston-Houston Diocese. This castle is cited by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 100 most important buildings in America. The tour was recently revamped to focus on the home’s detailed architectural features.
1861 Custom House
502 20th Street
Built in just 114 days and surviving the 1885 Galveston Fire, the Custom House is a Greek Revival public building, occupied by the Confederate Army during the Civil War, became a Federal Courthouse in 1917 and now serves as headquarters of the Galveston Historical Foundation. 1895 Moody
 
Mansion & Museum
2618 Broadway
Moody Mansion was designed by William H. Tyndall and is limestone and brick home featuring rare handcarved wood, stained glass, coffered ceilings and Moody family heirlooms. Mary Moody Northen held a keen interest in historical preservation inspiring her to have the family’s mansion restored to a museum. The museum now includes an automobile exhibit of the family’s car collection in a newly added garage.  

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS

Moody Gardens
One of Galveston Island’s most popular attractions is Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens features a ten-story Rainforest Pyramid, an IMAX 3D Theater, white sand Palm Beach, Aquarium Pyramid and Discovery Pyramid. The Aquarium is one of the largest in the world.
 
Schlitterbahn Waterpark Schlitterbahn Waterpark offers more than 32 rides and attractions, including a large wave pool, uphill water coasters, speed slides, kids’ water playgrounds, whitewater rapids, relaxing hot tubs, family raft rides, the Boogie Bahn surf rideand the exclusive Transportainment river system.
 
During the heated indoor season, mid-February through mid-April and late-September through Dec. 31, relax in steaming warm waters and enjoy summer fun all year long. Voted America’s #1 Waterpark, the heated indoor area features more than a dozen heated attractions in a tropical, heated indoor oasis.  

PREMIUM FISHING

Fishing

More than 20 types of fish are caught in local waters during any given season. Numerous private boats are available for charter for day trips, and Pier 19 is home to “party boats” that take anglers out for the day in large groups. Several privately operated fishing piers also offer space for a small fee.
 
Beachfront/Pier/Surf Fishing
Anglers fish free of charge in Galveston off the rock groins or breakwaters along the Seawall.
 
Bay Fishing
Inshore or bay fishing is year-round.
Offshore Fishing
Midsummer through the fall, anglers fishing a few miles offshore can look forward to Black Tip Shark and Tarpon.  

BIRDING

One of the top locations for birding in the United States, water and shore birds are observed throughout the year. Rare species are spotted during fall and spring migration. The Galveston Bay Estuary is the largest and most productive on the Texas coast. Galveston is a short drive to High Island’s Audubon preserve Boy Scout Woods, a favorite spring destination for migratory songbirds.    

GULF COAST DINING

From authentic Tex-Mex and Cajun creations, to Texas-sized steaks and the freshest selection of seafood on the Gulf, Galveston Island dishes it all out with genuine southern hospitality. Galveston is home to vast number of locally owned and operated restaurants to satisfy any palate.    

NIGHTLIFE

Galveston Island provides live entertainment nightly with choices of toe-tapping jazz, the soft keys of the piano, or lively rock at downtown clubs, restaurants and outdoor venues.
 
Saengerfest Park, 23rd & Strand, is the site for Movie Nite on The Strand and Music Nite on The Strand. Free outdoor movies are scheduled on the first Saturday of the month from March through November and bands are scheduled on the third Saturday from March through September. For more information on events, attractions and dining, visit http://www.galveston.com/ or call 800-GAL-ISLE.