New to the Island? If so, then first, get oriented with a trip to the Galveston Island Visitors Center. Operated by the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Center offers a wealth of brochures, free maps of the Island, and friendly guides ready to point you in the direction of whatever fun you have in mind ... and maybe even some fun you didn't know existed.
Other than the beach, the top destination for Galveston visitors is the 242-acre Moody Gardens . Part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden, Moody Gardens is a vacation all by itself. One of Galveston's most popular attractions is Moody Gardens, One Hope Boulevard. Upon entering Moody Gardens, you are instantly wowed by the lush and other worldly environment created by the Moody family. Amidst the profusion of tropical plants gleam three glass pyramids – pink, blue and white – housing a 10-story rainforest, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and an educational Discovery Museum. One exhibit quotes a Senegalese conservationist: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love.”
With 25 naturalists on staff, Moody Gardens lovingly conserves a vast wonderland for the knowledge-thirsty visitor. The complex includes an IMAX 3D, 4D Special FX theater and IMAX Ridefilm theaters; silky-smooth Palm Beach, with white sand and freshwater lagoons; the 19th century style Colonel Paddlewheeler, with onehour narrative cruises (a favorite with birders); the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; and a luxury hotel. Work or play, this tropical destination is ideal for families and groups alike. Water your imagination and travel the oceans of the world at the Aquarium Pyramid. Step into the Rainforest Pyramid with thousands of tropical plants, exotic fish and birds. Explore the mysteries of science at the Discovery Pyramid, and take a rocking and rolling ride through the universe at the Ridefilm Theater. Get in the middle of the action at the 4D Special FX Theater. See spectacular images leap from the screen of the six-story IMAX 3D Theater and visit beautiful Palm Beach (seasonal) and the newly expanded Moody Gardens Hotel.
Docked at MoodyGardens , the Colonel, a 750-passenger, 19th-century-style sternwheeler, offers a unique view of the Gardens and an enjoyable cruise. And business or pleasure, the Moody Gardens Hotel offers spectacular views of the entire Island .
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is one of the Hottest, Coolest Times in Texas! The park features uphill water coasters, water slides, kid’s playgrounds, whitewater rapids, wave pool, hot tubs, plus the Boogie Bahn surf ride. And the exclusive Transportainment river system makes Schlitterbahn Galveston Island the ultimate family destination. The summer season offers more than 32 family-friendly attractions. The coolest way to have the hottest winter vacation is to slide into Schlitterbahn’s Wasserfest.
With its huge array of awesome aquatic adventures, SchlitterbahnGalvestonIsland can be your personal happy place! During the summer season, the park offers amazing rides and attractions, including a large wave pool, uphill water coasters, thrilling speed slides, kid's water playgrounds, whitewater rapids, relaxing hot tubs, family raft rides, the Boogie Bahn surf ride and the exclusive Transportainment river system. Relax in steaming warm waters and enjoy summer fun all year long at Texas' first and only heated, indoor waterpark. (Both the air and water are always in the 80s!) The Wasserfest Heated Indoor Season, October through mid-April. The park offers a dozen heated attractions in a warm, tropical oasis featuring four enclosed tube slides, the Torrent Tidal Wave River, three speed slides, three water playgrounds and more.
The best way to connect to Galveston's past is by an excursion through one of its historic districts, or a tour of one of the historic homes that are open to the public. Stroll through the 36-square-block area of downtown Galveston, exploring the enticing shops on The Strand, the waterfront district, and the docks for the cruise lines), and the trendy Postoffice Arts District. Pick up one of Galveston Historical Foundation's excellent brochures.
Museum's abound, whether you fancy land, sea, or air - from the art deco Railroad Museum at the foot of The Strand, to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum on Pier 20, to the Lone Star Flight Museum (next to Moody Gardens), and the Texas Seaport Museum on Pier 21 featuring the Tall Ship Elissa round out the Island's collection.
Perhaps Galveston's greatest attraction in recent years has been the advent of cruising. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines have all found a home at the Port of Galveston in recent years. These premier cruise ships will take passengers to various stops in Mexico, the Caribbean and more. For information about departure dates, times and itineraries, visit GalvestonCruises.com.
Galveston Island Ferry, located on Hwy 87 (Ferry Road), continues to be one of Galveston's most popular attractions. Riders can park and ride the ferry or drive their vehicle aboard the ferry. Ferries run approximately every fifteen to twenty minutes and are free.
The Great Storm, a multimedia presentation at the Pier 21 Theater, gives visitors a glimpse of the devastating 1900 Storm through a multi-image documentary experience. The 27-minute story gives actual accounts from diaries and letters of survivors during and after the storm.
The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, located at Pier 19, gives visitors an opportunity to step aboard an offshore rig and experience how oil and gas is produced offshore. Videos, interactive displays and models take patrons to offshore locations all over the world.
Seawolf Park, Pelican Island via Seawolf Parkway (51st Street), was built on an immigration station site and offers a three-story pavilion with a view of Galveston harbor, picnic sites, a playground area and a lighted fishing pier. A World War II submarine (the USS Cavalla), a destroyer escort (the USS Stewart), and other military hardware are open for tours.
Of course, no visit to Galveston is complete without a savoring the Island's historic homes and museums, which give visitors a glimpse of an era featuring both wealth and prosperity, as well as disaster and change.
Galveston has shopping for most everyone's tastes, whether you like upscale, artsy, or beach trendy. With a city this historically minded and individual in its tastes, expect to find wonderful antique and curio stores; look for treasures both downtown and on Broadway.
With all this touring, lucky you, you've worked up an appetite. Dining is a Galveston highpoint. The specialty is fresh-cooked, fresh caught Gulf Coast cuisine - available both in traditional and nouvelle settings - but you'll find restaurants for every mood and palate, from upscale continental, to hip fusion, to authentic Tex-Mex, to down-home barbecue.