Galveston travel guide

Galveston Tourism | Galveston Guide

You're Going to Love Galveston

Often called the "Playground of the South", Galveston, Texas, is one of America’s most popular coastal destinations. The island is small enough to explore on foot and, whatever your age, you’re certain to find dozens of things to capture your imagination.

Galveston is an important cruise port, and its impressive attractions include the Strand historic district and the famous Pleasure Pier. The island's sandy beaches are a magnet for sun-seekers while boat trips are available for sailing enthusiasts.

Theme parks like Schlitterbahn Galveston or Moody Gardens appeal to families while teens and twenties will love the happy hour lifestyle that has made Galveston a leading nightlife destination.

Whether you’re planning a summer trip with the family or a romantic break, Galveston's warm climate and welcoming atmosphere will put you in the vacation mood.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Galveston

1. It's a Top Nightlife Destination

45 minutes south of Houston, Galveston Island has been named the best place to live in Texas. It’s a fabulous holiday destination with more nightlife venues per capita than anywhere else in the state.

2. Excellent Cafes, Bars and Restaurants

Dining is a real treat on this island hotspot. From iconic eateries like the Sunflower Bakery & Café to fine gourmet restaurants, family-friendly cafes and relaxed beach-side bars where it’s happy hour all day – everyone is catered for in Galveston.

3. Moody Gardens

Explore a living replica of a tropical rainforest in the Rainforest Pyramid at the Galveston landmark, Moody Gardens. See stingrays and sharks in the Aquarium Pyramid or delve into the wonders of science in the Discovery Pyramid.

4. The Great Outdoors – Galveston Style

Galveston Island State Park is popular with outdoor enthusiasts who come to camp, hike, fish or swim. Take a tour of the island’s beaches and Galveston's important wetlands with a local guide. Mountain biking is also popular, and there are tracks to suit every level.

5. Iconic Attractions

Visit Galveston Pleasure Pier and ride on the Ferris Wheel or take a walk around the historic Moody Mansion, one of the city’s famous ‘Broadway Beauties’, and former home of one of the most powerful families in Texas.

What to do in Galveston

1. Texas Seaport Museum: A Maritime Marvel

Galveston rose to prominence in the late 19th century as one of America's greatest ports, shipping millions of bales of cotton around the world every year. Located on Harborside Drive near the Cruise Terminal, this museum is a wonderful testament to that golden age. The centerpiece is the Elissa, a beautiful tall ship from 1877 which still sails today, but that's not all there is. Many also come to the museum to check the archives of the "Ellis Island of the West" - a major point of entry for migrants to the USA.

2. Moody Gardens: An All-Round Amusement Paradise

Down in southwestern Galveston, Moody Gardens is one of the foremost amusement parks in Texas. See penguins and seals at the aquarium and tropical critters at the Rainforest Pyramid; watch 4K cinematic masterpieces in the MG 3D Theater; take a cruise on the Colonel Paddlewheel steamboat or grapple with the rope courses and zip lines. Add in science exhibits at the Discovery Museum and the slides and pools at Palm Beach, and Moody Gardens has something for all visitors to enjoy.

3. Port of Galveston: A Bundle of Great Waterside Attractions

Still the focal point of the city, although not as bustling as it once was, the Port of Galveston is mainly used today as a cruise ship port, but it's well worth a visit in its own right. Aside from the Seaport Museum, visitors can see the Railroad Museum - home to classic trains like the Santa Fe Warbonnets, while the Ocean Star Drilling Museum recounts the story of offshore drilling - another Texan mainstay. Once you've seen all that, Pier 21 is a cosmopolitan entertainment district by the harbor, with cinemas, restaurants, and embarkation points for thrilling jet boat tours.

4. Lone Star Flight Museum: A Fabulous Festival of Flight

Located in Ellington, not far to the north, the Lone Star Flight Museum is one of America's finest attractions for aviation enthusiasts. Completely new, having opened in 2017, it houses a marvelous collection of aircraft-like World War II-era B-25 bombers and B-17 Flying Fortresses, P-47 Thunderbolts, and 1960s helicopters like the Bell TAH-1P Cobra. But for the genuine Lone Star flight experience, you'll need to take to the skies. Packages are available for once-in-a-lifetime trips on the Flying Fortress and other iconic planes - a must for aviation lovers.

5. The Strand Historic District: A Slice of Victorian Elegance on the Texan Coast

Back in central Galveston, the Strand Historical District is a treasure trove of beautiful buildings. One of the areas of town that withstood the 1900 hurricane and flooding, the Strand is the town's festival center, hosting a raucous Mardi Gras and a festive Dickens event at Christmas. Take the historic trolley to must-see sights like the Grand 1894 Opera House, Mayfield Manor (which has a reputation for ghost sightings), and be sure to follow the ArtWalk as well, which passes through the many downtown galleries every Saturday night.

6. Space Center Houston: To Infinity and Beyond

Just minutes from NASA's Johnson Space Center, this exhibition hall brings visitors up close and personal with the history of space travel in America. Engage with first-hand documents, mind-boggling photographs, and extraterrestrial evidence - like moon rocks - that piece together the progress humans have made beyond our atmosphere. Most incredibly, stand in awe of the actual spacecraft on display that have explored the universe beyond our small planet, from Apollo 17 to Mercury 9.

;
;

1. Texas Seaport Museum: A Maritime Marvel

Galveston rose to prominence in the late 19th century as one of America's greatest ports, shipping millions of bales of cotton around the world every year. Located on Harborside Drive near the Cruise Terminal, this museum is a wonderful testament to that golden age. The centerpiece is the Elissa, a beautiful tall ship from 1877 which still sails today, but that's not all there is. Many also come to the museum to check the archives of the "Ellis Island of the West" - a major point of entry for migrants to the USA.

2. Moody Gardens: An All-Round Amusement Paradise

Down in southwestern Galveston, Moody Gardens is one of the foremost amusement parks in Texas. See penguins and seals at the aquarium and tropical critters at the Rainforest Pyramid; watch 4K cinematic masterpieces in the MG 3D Theater; take a cruise on the Colonel Paddlewheel steamboat or grapple with the rope courses and zip lines. Add in science exhibits at the Discovery Museum and the slides and pools at Palm Beach, and Moody Gardens has something for all visitors to enjoy.

3. Port of Galveston: A Bundle of Great Waterside Attractions

Still the focal point of the city, although not as bustling as it once was, the Port of Galveston is mainly used today as a cruise ship port, but it's well worth a visit in its own right. Aside from the Seaport Museum, visitors can see the Railroad Museum - home to classic trains like the Santa Fe Warbonnets, while the Ocean Star Drilling Museum recounts the story of offshore drilling - another Texan mainstay. Once you've seen all that, Pier 21 is a cosmopolitan entertainment district by the harbor, with cinemas, restaurants, and embarkation points for thrilling jet boat tours.

4. Lone Star Flight Museum: A Fabulous Festival of Flight

Located in Ellington, not far to the north, the Lone Star Flight Museum is one of America's finest attractions for aviation enthusiasts. Completely new, having opened in 2017, it houses a marvelous collection of aircraft-like World War II-era B-25 bombers and B-17 Flying Fortresses, P-47 Thunderbolts, and 1960s helicopters like the Bell TAH-1P Cobra. But for the genuine Lone Star flight experience, you'll need to take to the skies. Packages are available for once-in-a-lifetime trips on the Flying Fortress and other iconic planes - a must for aviation lovers.

5. The Strand Historic District: A Slice of Victorian Elegance on the Texan Coast

Back in central Galveston, the Strand Historical District is a treasure trove of beautiful buildings. One of the areas of town that withstood the 1900 hurricane and flooding, the Strand is the town's festival center, hosting a raucous Mardi Gras and a festive Dickens event at Christmas. Take the historic trolley to must-see sights like the Grand 1894 Opera House, Mayfield Manor (which has a reputation for ghost sightings), and be sure to follow the ArtWalk as well, which passes through the many downtown galleries every Saturday night.

6. Space Center Houston: To Infinity and Beyond

Just minutes from NASA's Johnson Space Center, this exhibition hall brings visitors up close and personal with the history of space travel in America. Engage with first-hand documents, mind-boggling photographs, and extraterrestrial evidence - like moon rocks - that piece together the progress humans have made beyond our atmosphere. Most incredibly, stand in awe of the actual spacecraft on display that have explored the universe beyond our small planet, from Apollo 17 to Mercury 9.

;
;

Where to Eat in Galveston

Be sure to pop into the Sunflower Bakery & Café while you’re enjoying a stay in Galveston. This local landmark serves simple but delicious dishes like salmon and eggs. Farley Girl’s Café is ideal for coffee and snacks on your way to the beach.

For more substantial meals, Olympia, the Grill at Pier 2, serves authentic Greek cuisine and seafood accompanied by live music and belly dancers. Try the Number 13 Prime Steakhouse and Seafood for special celebrations. An eclectic menu includes red snapper and the restaurant’s famous signature dish, jalapeno grits.

When to visit Galveston

Galveston in October
Estimated hotel price
C$ 126
1 night at 3-star hotel
Galveston in October
Estimated hotel price
C$ 126
1 night at 3-star hotel

Galveston basks in temperatures of around 90F for the duration of the summer season. Winters are mild, but temperatures of 40F to 50F are a little too cool for swimming and the beach. However, events like the Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens or Holiday Splash at Schlitterbahn are great reasons for a festive break. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit; go from March to May or between September and early November, and you’ll avoid the peak season crowds.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Galveston

Plane

If you’re lucky enough to own your own plane you can fly to Scholes International Airport (GLS); the only airport in Galveston that caters exclusively to chartered and private flights. Fly to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston from most US regions, and it's just a 45-minutes from the airport to Galveston on Interstate 45. Alternatively, choose flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and follow US 59 south to downtown Houston to connect with I-45 and Galveston.

Train

There is no direct train to Galveston, but you can take the Texas Eagle train to Longview or the Sunset Limited train to Houston. Amtrak provides a bus to Galveston from each of these stations.

Car

It’s easy to reach Galveston by car, and you can rent one easily when you arrive at the airport. Interstate 45 South is the best route to take from Houston to Galveston Island, where it becomes Broadway Street.

Bus

As there is no intercity bus service present, many people simply take the train to Houston or Longview to connect with the Amtrak bus service operated by Lone Star Coaches.

Airlines serving Galveston

Lufthansa
Good (1,367 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,465 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,906 reviews)
KLM
Good (290 reviews)
Air France
Good (293 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,073 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,656 reviews)
British Airways
Good (938 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (355 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (926 reviews)
Iberia
Good (661 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (634 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (661 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (195 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (367 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (74 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (303 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (201 reviews)
Finnair
Good (449 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Good (154 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Galveston

From basic guesthouses to luxury hotels and national chains, Galveston has accommodation to suit every budget. Try the Ramada or the Mariner Inn if you’re keeping an eye on expenses or opt for mid-range hotels like Best Western or Seascape for family vacations. Luxury options include Moody Gardens Resort and the Tremont Hotel, or you can try boutique hotels like Avenue O Bed & Breakfast.

Popular neighbourhoods in Galveston

Downtown – The heart and soul of Galveston, Downtown includes the Strand National Historic District. The district has a diverse arts and music scene and over 95 shops, restaurants and galleries.

East End – One of the city’s most upmarket neighborhoods. Notable buildings include the Jacob Sonnentheil House and the Joseph Robertson House.

San Jacinto – The area south of Broadway, San Jacinto has the longest Gulf frontage in the city. Includes the Beach Central tourist hub.

Where to stay in popular areas of Galveston

Most booked hotels in Galveston

Harbor House at Pier 21
Excellent (9, Excellent reviews)
C$ 212+
Best Western Plus Seawall Inn & Suites by The Beach
Excellent (8.5, Excellent reviews)
C$ 140+
Springhill Suites by Marriott Galveston
Excellent (8.2, Excellent reviews)
C$ 145+
Hilton Galveston Island Resort
Good (7.7, Good reviews)
C$ 192+
Holiday Inn Resort Galveston-On The Beach
Good (7.5, Good reviews)
C$ 207+
DoubleTree by Hilton Galveston Beach
Good (7.3, Good reviews)
C$ 206+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Galveston

Bus

Galveston was served by a trolley bus service until damage caused by Hurricane Ike closed the system in 2008. However, the city council has given the go-ahead for an extensive renovation and renewal project. From 2017, visitors will once again be able to ride the iconic Galveston trolley buses.

Taxi

Taxis from private services and the Yellow Cab Company of Galveston can be booked by phone or online.

Car

Driving is a great way to discover Galveston although busy streets like Seawall Blvd can be slow during summer. Be sure to take change as most on-street parking is metered.

The Cost of Living in Galveston

Galveston’s hottest shopping streets

You’ll find everything from home décor to antiques and art in Galveston. Visit historic Downtown for unique stores like Strand Brass which has been selling original products for over 30 years. Buy upmarket clothing from Couteux Couture or Tangerine Boutique or alternative clothing including Steampunk and Neo-Victorian styles from Synester on the Strand. Pick up water sports equipment at specialist stores like Southern Spears Surf Shop or shop for gifts and beachwear at Murdoch’s Bathhouse, a Galveston landmark since 1910.

Groceries and Other Necessities

Buy essentials from supermarkets and drugstores around the island. Popular outlets include Kroger’s, Bob’s Grocery, Arlan’s, Walmart and Sea Isle Supermarket. Stock up on fresh seafood at Island Seafood or pick up gourmet treats like fried shrimp and East Austin cider at Season’s Gourmet Food & Grocer.

Cheap meal
C$ 9.00
A pair of jeans
C$ 19.31
Single public transport ticket
C$ 1.29
Cappuccino
C$ 5.47