Explore more than 75 of our picks—including parks, fishing spots, museums, family attractions, breweries and shopping—for the best things to do in and around Galveston.
An hour south of Houston lies the coastal capital of the region, Galveston, with its many beachfront attractions, palm tree-lined parks, and far-reaching fishing piers.
But Galveston is more than a summer destination, where you’ll also find a deep history preserved in its historic structures and neighborhoods, as well as local businesses that are serving up award-winning brews, fresh Gulf seafood, and vintage finds for your next antiquing trip.
We’ve gathered many of the wonderful year-round things to do in and around Galveston for families, couples, solo travelers and anyone looking for great ways to spend a daytrip (or longer) from Houston.
Things to Do in Galveston
Things to Do Outdoors in Galveston
- Birding around the Island – For avid and budding birders alike, Galveston is a prime locale for seasonal flocks of coastal birds, migratory species, and bird sanctuaries for you to spot a wide array of winged friends. Some great places to start include 7 1/2 Mile Road for warblers and roseate spoonbills; Apffel Park Road to see red-tailed hawks, osprey and tricolored Heron; Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary for gulls, terns and shorebirds; the six acres of Dos Vacas Muertas Bird Sanctuary for migratory birds; Kempner Park for glimpses of American robins and white-winged doves; and Piers 19 & 20 for flocks of pelicans that await fish and shrimp treats from nearby boaters.
- Coastal Heritage Preserve – This 690-acre conservation area managed by Artist Boat offers visitors a chance to take to observation platforms at the Edward and Helen Oppenheimer Bird Observatory for excellent birding opportunities, as well as take in the native wildlife and plants that fill the preserved natural habitat. Artist Boat also leads guests on guided paddling tours of the area, helping to build an educational understanding of the local ecosystem. Click here for more information.
- East End Lagoon Nature Preserve – Stretching across 685 acres, this nature preserve offers excellent birding opportunities along the shores of East End Lagoon, including those of open water, shore and wet coastal prairie. A nature trail also extends into the Lagoon area, with plans to expand it further to provide an ADA-accessible experience, and the Lagoon is a popular spot for fishing and kayaking. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Island State Park – Though the beach side of the park is closed until 2022, the bay side provides plenty to do with fishing, picnic, birding, hiking, biking, paddling, camping activities and more. Operated by Texas Parks & Wildlife, this natural environment is a boon to those who want a closer look at Texas’ rich coastal ecology. Click here for more information.
- Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve – This wooded preserve is home to many migrant songbirds, as well as alligators, snakes and more just off the boardwalk trails. Click here for more information.
- San Luis Pass – From Galveston, take the San Luis Pass Beach Access just before the Bluewater Highway bridge to find popular birding and fishing spots. Along with countless waterbirds packed onto the sandbar, you’ll also be able to spot migratory species throughout the year. Click here for more information.
- Texas A&M Wetlands – This portion of the Texas A&M Pelican Island Campus has been dedicated to the study of coastal wetlands, encompassing various habitats and serving as home to many wading birds, shorebirds and neotropical migrants. Click here for more information.
Beaches in Galveston
- Beach Pocket Park 1 – On the west end of Galveston Island, this pocket park near 7 1/2 Mile Road offers on-beach access so you can pull your vehicle onto the sand for your beachside day of relaxation. Entry fees are charged from Mid-March through Labor Day and vary per day. Click here for more information.
- Beach Pocket Park 2 – Just slightly further down the road from Beach Pocket Park 1, this spot provides paved parking, indoor restrooms and showers, umbrella and chair rentals, and sun deck eats at the Tipsy Turtle Bar & Grill. Admission is free, though vehicle access is not allowed on the beach. Click here for more information.
- East Beach – Follow the seawall to the far east end of Galveston Island to find this popular party spot with plentiful amenities. The beach park is home to a pavilion, boardwalk and entertainment stage, restrooms, showers, chair and umbrella rentals, a playground, concessions and more. What attracts many is that, unlike most of Galveston’s public beaches, alcohol is permitted. Hours and admission rates vary throughout the year. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Seawall Urban Park – For more than ten miles, this seawall barrier stretches the coast of Galveston, offering easy walk, bike and run access to many of the beachfront shops and restaurants along the way. Throughout the length of the seawall, visitors will also find access points to the coastline and beaches. Parking rates along Seawall Boulevard varies, including some free parking zones. Click here for more information.
- Stewart Beach – This family beach park is located just off Seawall Boulevard, providing plenty of amenities like covered pavilions, concessions, restrooms, showers, a playground, beach volleyball and more. Alcohol is not permitted at Stewart Beach. Hours and access fees vary throughout the year. Click here for more information.
On-the-Water Activities in Galveston
- Artist Boat Kayak Adventures – Out of Galveston Bay, this guided tour service takes participants on paddling adventures through some of the area’s most beautiful coastal areas, including East End Lagoon Nature Preserve, Christmas Bay, Armand Bayou Nature Center, Cypress Swamp and Coastal Heritage Preserve. Click here for more information.
- Baywatch Dolphin Tours – Out of Pier 21 in Galveston, this family-owned guide service takes visitors out on the water for a 45-minute tour of the harbor and an opportunity to spot dolphins in their natural habitat. Click here for more information.
- Bucket Brigade – These free, public tours take visitors on a 45-minute stroll down Stewart Beach in Galveston, with hands-on activities that explore the beach’s water, debris, Sargassum landings and other ecological findings. Click here for more information.
- Captain Hal Newsom’s Airboat Tours – Take a seat on the Gator Getter, a 450 horsepower airboat that takes visitors on a tour of the nearby waters while they take in the sights of coastal wildlife like marsh birds, stingrays, fish, sharks and alligator gars. Click here for more information.
- Colonel Paddlewheel Boat – Head out on an 1800s paddlewheel replica, touring through the Galveston Bay area while enjoying dining service, dancing, or the relaxation that comes with a midday cruise. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Duck Tours – For a unique tour through Galveston, hop aboard a Duck Tour which will drive you through blocks of Seawall Boulevard before entering the water at Offats Bayou, and then back out again to check out some of the historic properties in the area. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Harbor Tours – Hop aboard the Seagull II for an on-the-water tour of Galveston Harbor. Take in the natural wildlife of the area, seek out playful dolphins in the harbor, or take in a beautiful sunset cruise. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Water Adventures – Take to the waves for a range of cruise events from this popular local service. Check out beautiful sunsets or go looking for dolphins, or, take a seat for an adrenaline-filled jet boat thrill ride near Galveston Harbor. Click here for more information.
- Ohana Surf & Skate – This one-stop shop for all things surf and skate in Galveston also holds clinics with certified teachers, helping kids ages 6 to 17 learn the fundamentals of surfing and injury prevention. Click here for more information.
- Sandy Feet Sand Castle Services – Led by professional sand castle sculptors, this service will meet you at the Galveston beach of your choice and show you how to make stunning sand sculptures. In the summer months, you can catch them teaching free lessons at Stewart Beach. Click here for more information.
Fishing Spots in Galveston
- 61st Street Fishing Pier – A longtime prime spot in Galveston to drop a line, the popular 24-hour pier also features a bait and tackle shop, viewing deck, light bites and drinks. License is required. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Fishing Pier – Hop on the decks of this boardwalk to fish for puffer, tarpon and more at this Galveston pier that has serviced fishers for nearly fifty years. A bait and tackle shop on-site can stock you up, while you can also take a break and unwind with delicious food and drinks at Jimmy’s Place. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Island State Park – This sprawling complex that stretches from the beach into the bay features plenty to do, including fishing for spotted seatrout, sandtrout, redfish, croaker, flounder and more. On-site facilities also include a fish-cleaning shelter for visitors’ convenience. No license is required when fishing from shore. Click here for more information.
- Seawolf Park – The one-time immigration center of the region now features two naval vessels available for touring as well as one of the island’s most popular fishing piers, located on the east end of Pelican Island. Click here for more information.
- Fishing Guide Services – Hitting the piers in Galveston is a great way to unwind, though getting deeper into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico will yield some of the larger fish in the sea. Guide services are a great way to find transport to these waters with area experts that know where different types of fish can be found. Plus, if you do not have a fishing license, then you’ll be covered by the guide’s license while on the waters. Fishing guide services in Galveston include Galveston Sea Ventures, Angler Charters, Aqua Safari Charters, Circle H Outfitters & Charters, Fishing Galveston TX, Frazier’s Guide Services, Galveston Fishing Charter Company, Galveston Fishing Guides, Get Hooked Charters, In The Zone Fishing Charters, Kapt. Keepers Charters, Out Cast Charters, Rod Bending Charters, Texas Saltwater Adventures, Wave Dance Charters
Playgrounds & Parks in Galveston
- Bucket Brigade – Head down to the family-friendly Stewart Beach and take in a free, 45 minute tour along the coastline, uncovering the creatures and features that make Galveston so unique. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Seawall Urban Park – For more than ten miles, the seawall acts as a protective barrier against rising tides but also offers visitors a chance to enjoy a great variety of beachfront activities, including fishing and swimming, as well as taking in the colorful Seawall Interpretive Trail or ducking into the seawall’s many shops and attractions. Click here for more information.
- Schlitterbahn Galveston – Open year-round, this popular family destination offers dozens of rides and attractions, thrilling slides, water playgrounds, and more, as well as heated indoor areas through the colder months of the year. Click here for more information.
- Seawolf Park – Located on Galveston’s Pelican Island, this public park features one of the Island’s most popular fishing piers, as well as picnic sites and playgrounds. Also on the grounds, a World War II submarine, the USS Cavalla, and a destroyer escort, the USS Stewart, can be seen and toured. Click here for more information.
- Tree Sculptures in Galveston – Dozens of beautiful, ornate tree sculptures, carved from the remains of damaged trees after Hurricane Ike, dot the Island, offering a chance for a self-guided tour that will take you through Galveston’s many neighborhoods and some public parks, as well. Click here for more information.
Family Attractions & Amusements in Galveston
- Galveston Children’s Museum – When on the Island, this Children’s Museum is a great place to let the little ones’ imaginations run wild. Kiddos can role play in the Kids’ Clinic and Our Town exhibits, tinker and build, flex their artistic muscles, or stage an impromptu puppet show. A special exhibit space also gives the youngest explorers room to play in a scaled-to-size environment. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Go Karts & Fun Center – Take a lap around this Go Kart track located just off Seawall Boulevard, then explore what else is on offer, from arcades and bumper cars to axe throwing and virtual reality, at this Island family fun center. Click here for more information.
- Haunted Mayfield Manor – Great for ages 11 and older, this year-round spooky haunted house attraction invites visitors to step into the Mayfield Manor and explore the strange story of Dr. Mayfield, a turn-of-the-20th-century doctor engaged in mental illness experiments on unknowing patients. Click here for more information.
- Moody Gardens – One of Galveston’s crown jewels, this trio of glimmering pyramids house educational experiences that immerse visitors in the world of nature. A 10-story Rainforest pyramid features more than 2,000 exotic plants and animals, including saki monkeys, sloths, birds and more, while the Aquarium pyramid takes a deep dive into the ocean with up-close experiences with marine species from around the world. In addition to these, traveling exhibits are hosted in the Discovery pyramid, visitors can get their feet wet at the outdoor Palm Beach water park, or take in stunning productions in their multiple theaters. Click here for more information.
- Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum – This decommissioned offshore drilling rig is now a museum that helps visitors explore the oil and gas industry through film presentations, interactive displays, informational exhibits and more. Click here for more information.
- Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast – Learn about the legends and myths of swashbucklers that once roamed the waters off the Galveston coast with costumed characters, informational exhibits and more. Click here for more information.
- Pleasure Pier – This packed pier stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, brimming with restaurants, thrill rides, games, and retail shops in a carnival-like boardwalk atmosphere. Click here for more information.
- Shark Attack & Mysterious Underworld 5D Theater Rides – While part of the Pleasure Pier experience, this 5D theater sits across Seawall Boulevard and offers guests a chance to check out immersive, exhilarating theater ride adventures that bring visitors up close to a prehistoric Megalodon shark or deep in the depths of a dark mine. Click here for more information.
Historic Buildings & Museums in Galveston
- The Bryan Museum – Housing scores of artifacts, artwork and more, this museum invites visitors to explore the history of Texas and the American West on the beautiful grounds of the former Galveston Orphans Home. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Naval Museum – Head over to Seawolf Park on the east side of the Island and check out the colossal vessels parked at the Galveston Naval Museum; the USS Cavalla, a World War II submarine, and the USS Stewart, the only Edsall-class destroyer escort preserved in the United States. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Railroad Museum – Hop aboard for a journey through the history of this vital mode of transportation, complete with locomotives, passenger cars to explore, model trains, and the People’s Gallery, which features more than thirty plaster statues that help convey the role of railroading in Galveston. Swing by on Saturdays and kiddos can hop aboard the Harborside Express for a fifteen minute train ride west and back. Click here for more information.
- Grand 1894 Opera House – A former Vaudeville stage, movie theater and now beloved opera house, The Grand keeps a packed schedule of live entertainment, including dance, drama, Broadway and renown musicians. The red stone, brick and terra cotta building has stood the test of time—even through the historic 1900 storm—and is available for free tours. Click here for more information.
- Historic Homes in Galveston – The Island is host to many historic properties that dot Galveston and are available for touring, including the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a beautifully ornate mix of stone and steel in Victorian fashion that rises above Broadway and Galveston’s East End Historic District; the Moody Mansion, which dates back to 1895, and showcases how one of the most powerful families in Texas live in opulent fashion at the turn of the century; and the 1838 Michel B. Menard House, which is the oldest home on Galveston Island and sends visitors on a tour of the first half of the 19th century with period furniture and furnishings.
- Historic Strand District – The historic heart of the Island, this district is bustling with shops, restaurants and more, housed within buildings that have stood here for more than a century in their exquisite architecture. From here, the central location makes for a quick stroll over to the museums, boat tours and more along the harbor side. Click here for more information.
- Rosenberg Library | FREE – Established in 1904, the ornate brick building on Sealy Avenue is the oldest public library in continuous operation in Texas, offering a slate of weekly programs, free wi-fi and a collection of historic manuscripts, maps, artifacts and other documents that can be found in the Galveston and Texas History Center. Click here for more information.
- Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa – Near Pier 21 on the harbor side of Galveston, the Texas Seaport Museum brings visitors into the rich history of the Island and its important role in immigration, as well as merchant routes. The 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, docked outside, is one of only three ships of her kind in the world to still actively sail and visitors can take to the decks for a self-guided tour throughout the ship. Click here for more information.
Golf & Mini-Golf in Galveston
- Magic Carpet Golf | Mini-Golf – A Galveston Island mainstay for several decades, this family mini-golf experience offers scenic views along Seawall Boulevard that look into the Gulf of Mexico. Two 18-hole courses are on offer at affordable prices, making this an enjoyable outing suitable for all ages. Rates are $10 for 18 holes. Click here for more information.
- Moody Gardens Golf Course – Lined with towering palm trees, this public course provides a unique seaside tropical feel and features Paspalum turf across its 18 holes, meandering through native areas and the natural wetlands of Sydnor Bayou. Rates are subject to change and range from $48 to $64 on weekdays; $48 to $87 on Fridays and weekends. Click here for more information.
- Pirates Treasure Adventure Park | Mini-Golf – Located in the Jamaica Beach RV Resort, this 18-hole mini-golf course is open to the public, offering a fun-filled, enjoyable game among pirate decor, easily ‘Grammable photo ops, and more. Rates are $10 per adult; $7 per child. Cash-only. Click here for more information.
- Tin Cup’s Caddy Shack – If you’re looking for a place to unwind while you work on your drives, this Island getaway is a full-service bar and driving range, with a putting green and horseshoe pits to boot. Click here for more information.
Breweries & Distilleries in Galveston
- Devil and the Deep Brewery – Located along the historic Post Office Street in Downtown Galveston, this recent addition to the Island’s brewery scene features indoor and outdoor seating at their taproom, community events and live music, and a selection of brews on tap and available to take home. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Island Brewing – On the west side of the Island, you’ll find this brewery serving up their flagship Tiki Wheat, award-winning Blue Bridge Hoppy Amber, and a variety of limited and special one-offs at their taproom. Outside, guests can grab a seat in their sprawling outdoor seating area, or, grab a six-pack to go and hit any of the nearby beaches for a little R&R by the waves. Click here for more information.
- Texas Tail Distillery – Right across from the seawall, this Island distillery offers three signature drinks; Texas Tail Vodka, Coastline Whiskey and Southern Marsh Moonshine. Pull up to the bar and enjoy a cocktail featuring their on-site distilled spirits, or swing by for a tour on Fridays (by reservation) or Saturdays (12:30pm and 1:30pm). Click here for more information.
Dining & Restaurants in Galveston
- Gaido’s | Seafood – This seafood spot along Seawall Boulevard has been a Galveston staple for more than a century, offering fresh catches via local fisherman and from around the globe. Dine on their signature crab stuffed shrimp, oysters on the half shell, the pecan encrusted mahi mahi and much more. Click here for more information.
- Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar | Cajun, Seafood – Stir up your dinner routine with the steam kettle cooking at Little Daddy’s, which offers savory tastes in its crawfish etoufee, zesty Po-Boys, and fried seafood platters. Click here for more information.
- Nick’s Kitchen and Beach Bar | Seafood – Get your fill and then some at this Seawall greasy spoon that features fried seafood, fresh catches, and burger offerings like the “Cardiac Arrest”; an 8-ounce patty topped with bacon, fried onion strings, cheddar cheese, ranch and BBQ sauce. Click here for more information.
- Rudy & Paco Restaurant & Bar | Central & South American – Dive into flavors from south of the border to the southern hemisphere with this upscale dining experience in downtown which offers dishes typical of Costa Rica, Argentina and other Latin American countries. Click here for more information.
- More Downtown Galveston Dining – Just blocks from the Gulf Coast waves, Galveston’s downtown district is a lively collection of restaurants, shops and other attractions, including along the Historic Strand District. Click here to check out some of the most delectable dining on the Island.
Shopping in Galveston
- Downtown Shopping & The Historic Strand District – Across 36 blocks of downtown, many of which are packed with Victorian-style buildings from more than a century ago, visitors to Galveston Island can find plenty to fill an afternoon with more than 100 unique shops, restaurants, art galleries and more. Dive into the world of antiques at Hendley Market on Strand or Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor on Mechanic Street; get into gifts and home decor along the Strand at Gracie’s, Conversation Pieces, and Mercantile on The Strand; check out specialty boutiques The Old Galveston Trading Co. and ha.ba’s on Postoffice Street; satisfy your sweet tooth at the legendary La King’s Confectionary; or try something new at the esoteric world of The Witchery on Postoffice Street, which offers goods and resources to help people in their search for self-discovery, self-empowerment and spiritual enlightenment.
- Shopping along Seawall – Before you head to the waves, you’ll find many shops stretched along the Seawall, offering last-minute goods to make the most of your time on the beach. Grab a rental at Island Bicycle Company or Galveston Paddleboard Center; gear up and take a quick lesson from Ohana Surf & Skate or Southern Spears Surf Shop; swing by The San Luis Resort for luxury apparel and designer goods at Style & Trend and Aqua; or unwind at one of the oldest businesses on the Island, Murdoch’s, which offers a wide array of gifts, souvenirs and beach supplies.
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