Published on December 1, 2021
Lots of people visit Galveston, Texas to embark on a cruise; but if you're just stopping in, you're missing out. Galveston has its own world to offer, whether you're a culture-seeker, beach bum or a foodie extraordinaire. You'll want to take some time in this famously sunny city to explore its arts and cultural scene, sandy shoreline and unique gastronomy. Head out on a Galveston tour to discover the port of Houston, or seek out some interstellar intrigue at the Space Center. Galveston is as much a destination as anywhere you'll visit, so start your vacation right here!
Galveston is home to some of Texas' liveliest beaches. However, taking a dip in the Gulf of Mexico isn't the only way to get a thrill. The aptly named Galveston Island Pleasure Pier is home to both an amusement park and a water park. If you're seeking adventures of the drier sort, ride the Moody Gardens Zip Line, which flies more than 60 feet above the beach and provides great views of the Gardens' iconic "Pyramids," or you can put on your swimsuit and make a trip to Schlitterbahn Texas. You're sure to have fun there, whether you beat the heat at Shipwreck Harbor's wave pool or order a refreshing cocktail from the on-site swim-up bar.
If you're craving some arts and culture, visit historical homes such as Bishop's Palace and Moody Mansion, Victorian-style edifices that withstood the massive cyclone of 1900. If you're seeking some shade from Galveston's famous sunshine, dig into the city's museum scene. Appreciate paintings, sculpture and photography at the captivating Galveston Arts Center, or learn about the area's exciting past at Galveston Railroad Museum or Lone Star Flight Museum, where two dozen aircraft (most of them still flyable!) are on display.
Once you're ready to head back outside, you can catch some sun and take a swim at Stewart Beach and Poretto Beach, both of which are almost always dotted with colorful umbrellas. The main Galveston Beach features the longest expanses of sand on the entire island and is probably the liveliest spot to hit the surf, while the dog-friendly Sunny Beach is the perfect destination if you want to make a new four-legged friend or are just missing yours at home.
That's not to say that beaches in Galveston are just for swimming or sunbathing — far from it. If you visit Bolivar Flats, for example, you should make sure to take your binoculars so that you can take part in some of the Texas Gulf Coast's best bird-watching. Near the far northeastern end of the island, you can also book horse and pony rides, which allow you to take in the beautiful beach scenery from an exciting and unique perspective. Head to Galveston Seawall, which was built in 1900 to protect the city from hurricanes' storm surge, to see amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico without getting wet.
Much like the surrounding Houston area, Galveston is also a destination for the taste buds. Dig into local food at the legendary Fisherman's Wharf, where you can pair fresh-caught seafood and craft cocktails with unbeatable views of the beach. Mama Teresa's Flying Pizza is another local institution, and its menu offerings go beyond just pizza (though the pizza is some of the best on the Gulf), with creamy pasta and sumptuous po' boy sandwiches on offer. BLVD Seafood presents a bright and modern take on seafood, ranging from refreshing ceviches to mouthwatering grilled fish, washed down with some of the best mixed drinks on Galveston Beach.
Restaurants in Galveston run the entire gamut of international cuisine as well — Salsas Mexican Restaurant serves up Tex-Mex favorites from fajitas to flautas and offers a long list of margaritas and other tequila-based cocktails that will have you saying "salud" to Galveston. As its name suggests, Cajun Greek's menu is filled both with classic Louisiana favorites like spicy jambalaya pasta as well as tender lamb gyro wraps that taste like they could be from Greece. If you're in the mood for Italian, choose Riondo's Ristorante, where you can enjoy your tagliatelle or gnocchi with hand-chosen Italian wines and spirits.
Craving a beer? Galveston is home to several breweries where you can pop in for a flight of microbrews or stay longer and learn more about the history and offerings of each. Devil and the Deep Brewery specializes in Belgian-style white beers, and you can pair these with classic bar snacks and food like burgers, salads and more. Innovative Galveston Island Brewery has an eclectic array of beers on their menu, from stouts all the way up to lighter ales and lagers, while Beerfoot Brewery is as beloved for its own variety of beers as it is for great service and relaxed, beachside vibes. You should note that while the historical Falstaff Brewery is no longer open for business, you can admire the beautiful building facade from the outside.
If you're more in the mood for wine or liquor, Galveston's variety of bars won't disappoint. The Island Pour House is a wine bistro where you can sample flights of reds, whites or rosés on their own or pair still and sparkling wines from around the world with delicious, simple meals designed to complement them. For cocktails, head to the tropical Tiki Bar, where a pina colada or mai tai is the only thing better than a colorful Galveston sunset, or choose Float Pool and Patio Bar. As its name suggests, you can stay dry and enjoy a full bar's worth of drinks served on a picturesque patio or don your swimsuit and swim up to the other side of the bar. Don't forget to ask for a floating drink holder!
If you prefer a more structured exploration of Galveston's gems, consider taking a tour. Taste of the Strand allows you to take an even more in-depth look at the world-class culinary scene you've read about, with small plates and pints to enjoy as your expert guide gives you insights. Historical Galveston Ghost Tours introduces you to an eerier aspect of the city's historical architecture: the former residents who may not have actually left. Another option is to book with Segcity Segway Tours, a relaxing option that allows you to take in Galveston attractions from the comfort of a Segway.
Unsurprisingly, Galveston also offers a selection of boat tours so you can discover the beaches and coastline of the Texas Gulf Coast while a fresh sea breeze blows through your hair. Galveston Duck Tours' name refers to the boat your terrestrial vehicle transforms into halfway through the tour, while BayWatch Dolphin Tours takes you out to try to find some of the beautiful and intelligent creatures. On a good day you can spot literally dozens of dolphins as well as a variety of other marine life. Looking to cast your rod? You'll want to visit Get Hooked Fishing Charters, whose craft can take you out to the best spots to fish on the open ocean and can rent you all the equipment you need as well.
Now that you've gotten to know the best ways to discover Galveston on land, let's dig deeper into the variety of cruises from Galveston, Texas you can take. Several exciting ships depart Galveston every week, including Allure of the Seas, the biggest, boldest ship ever to sail from the Lone Star State features adventures of all sizes, like ziplining, rock climbing and the FlowRider®. Or you can choose Adventure of the Seas, which offers guests short getaways to picturesque Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel onboard a ship maxed out in plenty ways to play.
You can also sail to a variety of destinations from Galveston, with trip lengths that range from four-day cruises from Galveston up to a week and more. If you set sail for a week, you can stick to close destinations like Cancun and Cozumel, whose sugar-white sands and azure waters are some of the purest and most beautiful you'll find anywhere. You can also head as far east as the Bahamas, where you'll not only have the chance explore tourist-favorite spots like Paradise Island and Nassau but can also spend a night or two on Royal Caribbean's very own private island. No matter which ship and options you choose, however, Galveston will be where the fun and excitement begin.