Galveston is a Texas city overflowing with family-friendly attractions. Top things to do in Galveston with kids include visiting Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, and Schlitterbahn Waterpark. On the other hand, things to do in Galveston this weekend for couples include a sunset cruise with Galveston Water Adventures and seeing a show at the Grand 1894 Opera House.
As for things to do in Galveston alone, walk along the Seawall, or treat yourself at Hotel Galvez Spa. One of the most unique things to do in Galveston is a self-guided tree sculpture tour! When searching for places to eat in Galveston, head to the historic downtown district. After all, one of the top things to do on The Strand is to eat! Keep reading for the best things to do in Galveston County and the city of Galveston.
1. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
No one does fun and entertainment like Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Firstly, it’s one of the only places in the world with thrill rides over the water. Reach up to 52 miles an hour on the Iron Shark roller coaster, or relax and take in the sunset from the 100-ft tall Galaxy Wheel. Pleasure Pier also features family-friendly midway games, live music concerts at Stage 25, an array of dining options, retail shops, and special events throughout the year.
2. Moody Gardens
Another place to visit with the family, Moody Gardens is home to too many attractions. There’s the Reef Rescue Virtual Reality Experience, the Rainforest Pyramid, the MG 3D Theater, the interactive Discovery Museum, the Ropes Course and Zipline, the seasonal Palm Beach, and the Aquarium Pyramid, which features a 1.5-million gallon aquarium. Kids will have so much fun, they won’t even notice the attractions’ educational value. Moody Gardens is also home to a hotel and a world-class golf course.
3. Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston
Cool off this summer at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Featuring 33 fun water-based attractions in both indoor and seasonal outdoor areas, its claims to fame are MASSIV, the world’s tallest uphill water coaster, and Transportainment, which combines three rivers for one endless lazy river experience. Other adventures waiting for you at Schlitterbahn include The Soaring Eagle Zip Line, a 70,000 square-foot indoor waterpark, multiple “beaches”, the Boogie Bahn surf simulator, Whitewater River, and the Wave Lagoon.
4. Galveston Island State Park
Located on the island’s West End, Galveston Island State Park is a tranquil oasis where visitors can explore both the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay. Top things to do in the park include swimming at award-winning beaches, waterfront camping, fishing, kayaking on the designated paddling trails (there’s a launch area located on Galveston Bay), and bird watching. With four miles of trails through bayside salt marsh and prairie landscape, hiking and biking are other options too.
5. 1892 Bishop’s Palace
The focal point of the city’s East End Historic District, 1892 Bishop’s Palace is an opulent 19,000 square-foot Victorian mansion. Often called Gresham’s Castle, the National Historic Landmark is one of the country’s most significant Victorian buildings. Its defining features include colored stone exterior, intricately carved interior details, stained glass windows, luxury antique furnishings, and even impressive fireplaces (one is lined in pure silver). Self-guided tours of Bishop’s Palace are available, which allow visitors to see the basement and first and second floors.
6. 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA at the Texas Seaport Museum
Launched in 1877, ELISSA is a three-masted tall ship and one of only three similar ships around the world still actively sailing. The local Historical Foundation actually rescued ELISSA from a scrapyard in Greece in the 1970s and then transformed the historic vessel into the floating museum you see today. The Official Tall Ship of Texas, ELISSA is located at the Texas Seaport Museum. Visitors are welcome to come aboard to learn more about the area’s maritime history.
7. Moody Mansion
Established in 1895, the Moody Mansion (also known as the Willis-Moody Mansion) is a 31-room and 28,000 square-foot Romanesque mansion. A powerful Texas family, from this home the Moody family founded one of the country’s greatest financial empires. Visitors have access to two different audio tours and 20 rooms, which are furnished with the family’s original pieces – ranging in style from French Rococo to Classical Revival. There are also interesting exhibits like Building a Broadway Beauty and Fashion Follows Function.
8. Galveston Seawall
The Galveston Seawall was built following the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 – the country’s most devastating natural disaster. Its aim was to protect the city from future devastating hurricane damage. Beginning at East Beach, from 1904 to 1963, the Seawall grew from 3.3 miles to over 10 miles. Today, its sidewalk nearly runs the length of Seawall Boulevard, making it the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. With many restaurants, beaches, and souvenirs stores along the way, it’s one of the city’s top recreational destinations.
9. The Strand
Located downtown, The Strand is a five-block historic district that was once known as the Wall Street of the Southwest. It’s filled with Victorian-era buildings that are now home to restaurants, antique shops, museums, souvenir stores, and locally-owned boutiques. The district is both a major tourist attraction and the city’s number one shopping and entertainment destination. The Strand also hosts popular annual festivals like Galveston Mardi Gras and the Dickens on the Strand Christmas celebration.
10. Stewart Beach
If you’re looking for things to do in Galveston this summer, head to Stewart Beach. Named the region’s most family-friendly beach, it’s located where historic Broadway Avenue meets the aforementioned Seawall. Stewart Beach has all the right amenities for the perfect beach day, including lifeguards on duty, a pavilion, concessions, bathroom facilities, chair and umbrella rentals, a children’s playground, and beach volleyball courts. So what are you waiting for? Do as the locals do and spend a summer’s day at Stewart Beach.
11. Galveston Naval Museum
Located on the waterfront at Seawolf Park, Galveston Naval Museum is an education center where you can immerse yourself in America’s naval heritage and innovation. Explore historic World War II vessels on either a guided or self-guided tour. Firstly, you can step aboard the USS Cavalla, a submarine that sank a Japanese aircraft carrier that attacked Pearl Harbor. The Naval Museum’s other major attraction is the USS Stewart, which is the country’s only remaining Edsall-Class Destroyer Escort.
12. The Grand 1894 Opera House
The state’s Official Opera House, the Romanesque Revival-style Grand 1894 Opera House is now a non-profit performing arts venue. With seating for just over 1000 people, the grand theater has been beautifully restored and features blue velvet seats, along with balconies and intricate Romanesque details. The Grand 1894 Opera House hosts events like music concerts, theatrical performances, holiday-themed specials, and touring Broadway productions. Legendary musicians like Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, and The Beach Boys have graced its stage over the years.
13. Seawolf Park
As mentioned, you’ll find the Naval Museum at Seawolf Park. Located on a former immigration station site on Pelican Island, the park is a memorial to USS Seawolf, a US Navy submarine that the US Navy mistakenly sank in World War II. Besides the museum and its historic WWII vessels, Seawolf Park is also home to one of the city’s most popular fishing piers, picnic facilities, and a children’s playground. From the fishing pier’s northwest corner, you can even see the remains of WWII tanker SS Selma.
14. East End Lagoon Nature Preserve
Located on the island’s eastern end, the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve protects nearly 700 acres. The East End Lagoon itself is a narrow body of water surrounded by different habitats. Some of the natural habitats you’ll find in East End Lagoon Nature Preserve include wetlands, grasslands, sand dunes, intertidal marshes, and seagrass beds. A slew of water birds also calls the preserve home. There’s a nature trail for visitors and kayakers are welcome to paddle across the East End Lagoon.
15. Historic Downtown Galveston
The city’s historic downtown area is divided into four sections. Firstly, there’s The Strand. Mentioned previously, it’s defined by its Victorian buildings and is a popular dining and shopping destination. Next is West Market, which is home to several unique bars. Head here for a fun night out at establishments like Daiquiri Time Out and Gypsy Joynt. Pier 21 is another entertainment district that’s overflowing with attractions, museums, and restaurants. Finally, Postoffice Street is lined with a selection of art galleries, antique stores, and the aforementioned Grand 1894 Opera House.
16. Hotel Galvez Spa
If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Galveston, head to Hotel Galvez Spa for a pampering session. The spa’s amenities include eucalyptus steam rooms, a hydrotherapy room, a meditation garden, a Swiss shower, and a retail boutique. Hotel Galvez Spa has a selection of massages available, as well as facials and hair and makeup services. As for body treatments, you will feel rejuvenated after a detoxifying clay wrap, a coconut kukui healing wrap, or a Vichy cleanse.
17. Baywatch Dolphin Tours
A family-owned and operated company, Baywatch Dolphin Tours operates out of Pier 21 in the city’s historic downtown district. They specialize in affordable dolphin cruises, which happen every hour on the hour between 10 am and 5 pm every day. Operating year-round, Baywatch Dolphin Tours’ boat has covered outside seating and a heated interior, as well as jet drive, which equals no propellers. This means they can safely get up close to dolphins in their natural habitat.
18. Tree Sculpture Tour
Hurricane Ike uprooted many trees when it tore through the city in 2008. Consequently, artists decided to place over 20 carved wooden sculptures where majestic oak trees once stood. Located across the city’s once tree-lined neighborhood streets and tucked into gardens, there are lots of animal and marine-inspired sculptures waiting for you. To see the tree sculptures, you can follow this map for a self-guided tour. Alternatively, have some fun and hop on a segway tour with SegCity.
19. Galveston Water Adventures
One of the most adventurous things to do in Galveston is a jet boat thrill ride with Galveston Water Adventures. The adrenaline-pumping ride includes right-angle turns, high speeds, and 360° spins. The local company also offers a two-hour sunset cruise on Cruise-N-Time, their open-air boat. Guests are encouraged to bring snacks and drink onboard, to enjoy as they take in the stunning sunset. The final adventure available is a one-hour dolphin cruise of the city’s harbor area, where you can spot dolphins as well as other birds and marine life.