Child at beach with birds at sunset

Don’t forget your swimsuit! (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Discover Historic Galveston, Texas, by Day and Night

Originally established in the early 19th century as a port town, Galveston, Texas, was once one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. That changed after the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history. But the Texas city was rebuilt, and in the new century, its major industry shifted from shipping to tourism.

While it originally had a reputation for more nefarious activities — gambling and drinking among them — Galveston is now a fun-for-all beach town offering seaside dining and pristine natural areas.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore Historic Galveston

Start your trip in downtown Galveston, the busy Victorian-era town center. At Pier 21, a theater shows a film about the history of Galveston and the 1900 hurricane, and there’s also a show on the half-hour about Galveston’s most famous pirate-in-residence, Jean Lafitte.

Museums abound on this end of Galveston. For lovers of the sea, there’s the Texas Seaport Museum, with the 1877 tall ship Elissa, as well as the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum & Education Center, located on a retired rig now moored in the harbor. Transportation enthusiasts should visit the Galveston Railroad Museum, and for Texas history, check out the Bryan Museum.

After a morning of museum hopping, break for brunch or lunch at Mosquito Café (try one of the seafood Benedicts) or Sunflower Bakery & Café (try anything you can spread their strawberry butter on) in the East End, known for its historic Victorian and early-20th-century homes.

Stroll the area and take in the architecture from the street, or get a closer look via a visit to one of the house museums here: We recommend the Bishop’s Palace from 1892 or Moody Mansion from 1895.

If you’re museumed-out, turn your attention to shopping downtown — the Strand is the main thoroughfare, and it is lined with boutiques and galleries. Don’t miss the old-school candy shop La King’s Confectionery.

Seafood pasta and red wine
There are great eats around every corner. (Photo: Getty Images)

Downtown is the place to be for dinner, and we suggest you make it an early one so that you can catch an evening show at the Grand 1894 Opera House, which puts on everything from big-name rock and blues concerts to children’s theater.

Try the Black Pearl Oyster Bar, a local favorite for the eponymous bivalve or go upscale at Rudy & Paco for steaks and seafood. After dinner and a show, give Galveston’s nightlife a go — try cocktails at Daiquiri Time Out, beers at the Proletariat Gallery & Public House or karaoke at Sound Bar.

Saturday: Take In the Parks and Pier

Today is all about good old-fashioned fun at Galveston’s top attractions — all of which are family-friendly, but still have plenty of appeal for adults, too. Start with a walk along the Seawall, the 10-mile-long, 17-foot-tall protective barrier built after the 1900 hurricane, which is now dotted with eateries.

For breakfast, stop at Miller’s Seawall Grill for enormous portions and, for lunch, the Gumbo Diner for Creole cuisine.

Afterward, get ready for an action-packed afternoon at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, a great way to cool off with its twisty, elevated slides, wave pools and lazy river. There’s also a public links-style golf course nearby, called Moody Gardens.

Aerial photo of Galveston City and shoreline
Get ready for some serious seaside fun. (Photo: Getty Images)

Just in time for sunset, head back toward the East End to visit Galveston’s famous pier. Thrill-seekers can get their adrenaline pumping on amusement park rides, while others can take in the retro boardwalk atmosphere. If you don’t fill yourself up with funnel cakes and pizza, head back to the Seawall for dinner.

Check out Tito’s Chow Down Food Truck for a quick meal or BLVD Seafood for something more elevated. Then it’s time to hit the Seawall bars, from Float Pool & Patio Bar, which hosts DJ sets, to the laid-back Tiki Bar, known for its piña coladas.

Sunday: Find Your Beach in the West End

Meadowlark perching on wood and chirping
Keep an eye out for the local wildlife. (Photo: Getty Images)

Finally, it’s time to experience Galveston’s great beaches and nature preserves. The West End of the island stretches for miles, and it’s far less built up than downtown and the East End, making this area ideal for a more low-key day after two busy ones. Perk up with coffee and baked goods at Je Mocha Bean in Jamaica Village (and come back for wine in the evening).

Then visit the Coastal Heritage Preserve, where you can take a four-hour guided kayaking tour of the wetlands that includes an on-water painting class, or spend the morning bird-watching at the Edward & Helen Oppenheimer Bird Observatory.

While the kayak tour includes lunch, bird-watching does not, so head to Hummel’s General Store & Deli for sandwiches.

In the afternoon, take your pick from any number of public beaches. Try Galveston Island State Park, where you can hike or bike 4 miles of trails, fish on both the bay and the Gulf side, and relax on the beach and take a dip in the sea.

For dinner, Nate’s Seafood & Steaks is a must-visit for their expansive menu and wine list. The shrimp po’boy and chicken-fried steak are local favorites — and make sure to request a side of their creamy gravy.