GALVESTON, Texas — This island in the Gulf of Mexico has been host to pirate and pioneer alike, and has withstood Mother Nature’s awesome attempts at returning the surfaced sandbar to the sea floor, and let legends lie. The city of Galveston, Texas is part haunted house and tourist hide-away.
The possession of Galveston as the jewel of the Gulf has continually evolved since its original Native American inhabitants, to a short lived colonized life in Spanish hands, just shy of two hundred years ago, and passed into Mexican ownership and established as a port-town, which lead, eventually, to serving the Texas Navy and earning her honorary Miss Texas banner as the Republic’s capital. This constant changing of the guard lends the island and city of Galveston to have a European swagger, as well as a pleasant nostalgia and continues its tradition as a vacation destination for many since the late 1800s. What makes Galveston a must-see destination now, however, is the chance that this old gal may not survive another hurricane.
The famous Strand and bayou-breezy atmosphere of the shops and wide Victorian streets make Galveston an ideal weekend get-away. Fly into Houston, and drive down the causeway an hour for a quiet, seemingly secluded weekend. However, every weekend the lazy coastal town erupts in the late spring and summer in festivals, concerts, and historical tours — Texans and tourist alike flock to soak in the sun and surf. Many camp on the beaches, but there are plenty of historic dive-motels and chain hotels to house the not-so-hippy.
The Strand offers a Victorian styled shopping gallery, along what was once a main thoroughfare, and often the giant cruise ships are docked in the background, waiting to take aboard its next wash of adventurers, dwarfing the port around them. Galveston has a high number of historical buildings on the National register, and you can find many tours to take a step back into coastal Texas as a new frontier.
Being so near Mexico there is a variety of homespun taco-huts to satisfy the Tex-Mex and cold cerveza you’re craving, and the Strand has a few excellent ice cream and candy shops. There is a variety of well-known chain restaurants; Landry’s Seafood calls the area home, with the shrimp-rich waters of the Gulf, and they have built up enclaves of themed restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf-image, like the more well-known Joe’s Crabshack.
After stuffing your face, waddle out onto a spot on Galveston’s 32 miles of beach. The shallow waters surrounding the island make an ideal location for swimming, surfing, kite surfing, and fishing. The waters warm up the most in the fall, so if you are in the mood for a swim or if the weather isn’t cooperating, visit the local water park, one of the world’s best,Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is a 26-acre oasis featuring the world’s first indoor/outdoor 70,000 square-foot heated-convertible park.
On the Texas-side of the island is Moody Gardens, which you will have noticed on the drive in, as three gleaming-glass pyramids. Each pyramid is a different approach to science–the Discovery, Aquarium and Rainforest environments allow interaction at its best. The complex also has a Golf Resort, Hotel and Spa, and 3-D IMAX theater.
Galveston Island is small in size, but has a huge personality to make up for it. History buffs and beach blanket bunnies will feel at home while under the warm glow of the Texas sunshine.