Best Things To Do in Galveston
Soaking up the sun on shorelines like Stewart Beach or taking the free ferry over to Port Bolivar are some of the best ways to take advantage of Galveston's seaside locale. On rainy days, step back in time to the Victorian era along The Strand to window-shop or tour historic properties, such as Bishop's Palace. Throwing up your hands on an amusement park ride at Pleasure Pier is another popular thing to do in Galveston.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in GalvestonBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Stewart Beach is one of the most popular strips of sand in Galveston, and with its host of beachside amenities, it's no wonder. There are lifeguards, restrooms, showers, concession stands, chair and umbrella rentals – and even a playground for kids. Recent visitors appreciated this beach's large parking lot and loads of amenities, as well as the beach's proximity to Pleasure Pier.
Stewart Beach sits where Broadway Avenue and the Seawall intersect. From March through May and during September and October, parking costs $10 between Monday and Friday and $12 on the weekends. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, parking costs $12 between Monday and Friday and $15 on the weekends. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the beach welcomes visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends. From March to May and September to October, beach bums are welcome to visit between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. Keep in mind that this family-friendly beach prohibits alcohol. For more information, visit Galveston's convention and tourism website.
- #2View all PhotosfreeThe Strand#2 in GalvestonFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Strand is a five-block, National Historic Landmark District featuring shops, galleries, bars and restaurants housed in 19th-century buildings in downtown Galveston. As you walk along its strip, you'll get an idea of what Galveston was like back in its heyday. Look for placards highlighting the district's historical must-sees, such as the Grand 1894 Opera House, which is still an operating theater.
Visitors to The Strand remarked on the architecture of the buildings, and some of the cute shops and restaurants, not to mention the vendors that sell beer and ice cream, which you can enjoy on the sidewalks. However, some recent travelers said you had to weed through a bunch of ho-hum souvenir shops to find the real gems.
- #3View all Photos#3 in GalvestonCastles/Palaces, Tours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, Tours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Bishop's Palace – also known as Gresham's Castle – was commissioned by Colonel Walter Gresham, an attorney and entrepreneur, and designed by one of Galveston's famous architects, Nicholas Clayton, at the turn of the 19th century. In 1923, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston bought the building, using it as a bishop's residence until 1963 (hence the name, Bishop's Palace). The Victorian home – a National Historic Landmark – is now open to the public for tours and is filled with architectural treasures, such as an all-silver fireplace, bronze dragons and stained-glass windows.
Recent visitors described the house as "fascinating" and "grand" and were especially complimentary of the attraction's gift shop, which is housed within several rooms of the palace's basement. Most said a visit here is worth every penny of the $12 admission price. However, some cautioned that children may not find this attraction interesting.
- #4View all Photos#4 in GalvestonParks and Gardens, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
For a dose of natural beauty, visitors should make some time for Galveston Island State Park. Located about 15-some miles down the coast from The Strand, the park offers plenty of outdoorsy activities, such as swimming, fishing, hiking and bird-watching, among others. Plus, its campsites are also an affordable way to spend the night.
Along with the peaceful beach environment at Galveston Island State Park, visitors also appreciated the shower and restroom facilities.
- #5View all Photos#5 in GalvestonFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
To travel from Galveston Island to the Port Bolivar peninsula – or to simply see the sights along the way, which is what most visitors seem to do – the ferry is the way to go. One of the greatest things about the ferry, which is operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, is that it's free.
Recent visitors said the less than 30-minute trip is a great activity, as well as mode of transportation, since along the way you might spot dolphins in the water and sea gulls in the sky. Others say that the ferry is prone to long waits in the summer, but they recommend persevering even still.
- #6View all Photos#6 in GalvestonHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Moody Mansion is a 28,000-square-foot estate, which was home to the Moody family, one of the Lone Star State's most eminent entrepreneurs. Visitors can tour 20 rooms across the four-floor home, which are filled with the furniture and curios collected by the family over their 86 years of living there.
Recent visitors said they learned a lot about one of Texas' most influential families, as well as the architecture of the time, through the audio tours of the mansion. However, others wished that the whole home was on view, not just the first and second floors.
- #7View all Photos#7 in GalvestonAmusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Moody Gardens is a 242-acre theme park, complete with nine attractions and a hotel and convention center. The complex also houses a wave pool, a beach and a lazy river, which is open seasonally. The gardens also contain a zip line and ropes course, an aquarium, a rainforest zoo and more.
Visitors say that although admission to Moody Gardens is expensive, it makes for a fun day. The attractions is especially fun to visit during the holidays, when the park twinkles with lights and ice sculptures, according to recent travelers.
- #8View all Photos#8 in GalvestonAmusement Parks, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement Parks, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Pleasure Pier is a wharf that juts out from the Texas Gulf Coast. Here you'll find amusement park rides, shops and eateries. Pleasure Pier is also a study in resilience: It was originally built in the 1940s, but in 1961 Hurricane Carla completely destroyed it; later in 2008, Hurricane Ike severely damaged it too, and just recently in 2017 Hurricane Harvey battered it with wind and waves. Still, it's up and running once again.
Recent visitors said visiting Pleasure Pier is a great activity for the whole family, though they also caution that the rides and businesses along the boardwalk are overpriced. If you're not interested in the rides or games, reviewers still recommend Pleasure Pier for its people-watching and Gulf Coast views. Plus, you'll find plenty of places to sit along the boardwalk.
Explore More of Galveston
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.