Uncommonly Coastal

Galveston TX Is FULL of Hidden Gems: Here Are 50 of The Best!

At first glance, Galveston may not dazzle you with its pristine appearance. The beaches might not boast the powdery sands of the Caribbean, and, yes, as Charles Barkley recently stated, the water might not win any awards for its clarity. But don’t let those initial impressions fool you. There’s so much more to Galveston, TX than meets the eye. It’s a place where hidden gems are all around, just waiting to be uncovered by those willing to scratch beneath the surface.

We recently travelled to Galveston.  As Houstonians, we’ve been often and usually take the 90 min journey for day trips. This time, we wanted to stay for a while, explore the island, and really discover for ourselves the charm and beauty that make Galveston unique. Thankfully, we were not disappointed at all.

Quick History

Galveston has a rich tapestry of history woven into its coastal charm. Founded in the early 19th century, the city has weathered its fair share of storms—both figuratively and literally. However, adversity struck hard in 1900 when a devastating hurricane ravaged the island, leaving a trail of destruction and loss. In fact, it was the deadliest natural disaster in all of American history with thousands of lives destroyed. Yet, Galveston’s resilience shone through as it rebuilt, emerging into a destination which blends its historical roots with contemporary appeal.

Current Day

Today, as a port city, Galveston wears its maritime heritage proudly. Cruises depart from here, taking travelers away to islands in the Caribbean. Many visitors only know Galveston as a cruise destination – or a place to visit before or after their vacation elsewhere.  But Galveston is certainly worth a longer stay – and has SO much to offer!

Galveston Ship

Galveston TX – Hidden Gems

Just to get you started, we’ve listed our 50 top favorites below.

1. Segway Tours 

SegCity Galveston offers a variety of options including its Magical History Tour, the Haunted Legends Tour, a fabulous Sunset Tour, and more.

2. See the Turtles About Town  

Turtles About Town is a project by Turtle Island Restoration Network and Clay Cup Studios, which showcases local conservation efforts for sea turtles.  If you look closely, you can find 61 different sea turtle statues scattered around Galveston Island, each crafted by local artists and sponsored by businesses and organizations. 

3. Take a Historic Home Tour

The Galveston Historic Homes Tour by Galveston Historical Foundation offers a look into the city’s architectural past with private home tours. 

4. Learn to Paddle Board

SUP Gulf Coast offers paddle board rentals and lessons right next to Pleasure Pier.  

5. Stretch with Yoga On the Beach 

Join in every Saturday morning at sunrise for Yoga on the Beach.  Additional classes are offered by Yoga Haven.

6. Shop on the Strand

Fall in love with the Strand’s Historic District.  With charming shops and quirky boutiques, The Strand is a shopper’s paradise. Some of our favorite shops were The Patch Co, Tina’s on the Strand and Belle Lees Boutique. You could spend an entire day shopping!

7. Play Mini Golf at Magic Carpet

Located right on Seawall Blvd., Magic Carpet Golf is loaded with quirky fun for the entire family.  Batting cages offered, too!  

8. Take a Photo with Paco at Rudy & Paco

This is an amazing restaurant with incredible food and a friendly and welcoming owner, Paco.  Celebrity photos line the wall of Rudy & Paco and he will be happy to take one with you, too.

9. Take Surfing Lessons 

Good Vibes Surf School has the top surfing instructors in the area. They specialize in beginners, so everyone, at all ages, can learn.

10. Tour the Bishop’s Palace 

The stunning Bishop’s Palace was built in 1892 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural historians list the Bishop’s Palace as one of the most significant Victorian residences in the country. Don’t miss the basement which has a wonderful gift shop. 

 11.  Enjoy the fun at Pleasure Pier

Pleasure Pier is located on the seawall and features a giant Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and other amusement park rides.  This is the iconic photo of Galveston and everyone knows the location. Restaurants and shopping are also available on the Pier.

12. Have “Peel-n-eat” Shrimp at Bubba Gump

The “peel-n-eat’ shrimp steamed in beer is a staple at Bubba Gump. However, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Shrimp Po’ Boy or the Shrimper’s Heaven either.  It’s good all the way around. 

13. Take a self-guided tour of Unique Tree Sculptures 

When trees fell around the city after Hurricane Ike, sculptor James Phillips created beauty from the stumps.  Walk, bike, or drive to see the entire collection in many residents’ yards. The list of the sculptures can be found here to start your hunt. 

14. Take a Spooky Ghost Tour

Dash Beardsley Ghost Tours gets the vote of the locals (Wed-Sun) in this walking tour. Gain knowledge of historic Galveston and its mysterious past in a captivating and engaging way.

15. Take a Private Carriage Tour of Galveston

Private Carriage Tours allow a view from a different angle – and the guides are amazing! 

16. Join a Dolphin Sightseeing Tour

Dolphins are EVERYWHERE around Galveston and this covered boat excursion is a GREAT way to view them.  

17. Learn about Oil & Gas at the Ocean Star Museum

This is a great opportunity to learn about offshore drilling and the inner workings of the industry. The Ocean Star Museum is actually a real jack-up drilling rig open to the public.  This was truly a fascinating visit!

18. Walk the Seawall 

Galveston’s seawall is the longest continuous seawall in the USA.  It’s more than 10 miles long and up to 17 feet high – and contains the world’s longest mural.

19. Play a game of Life-Sized Chess

Saengerfest Park is located near the Strand and has a life-sized chess set – ready for play.  The unique park also has a London-style phone booth and a stage used for movie nights. Catch live music during the summer months.  

20. Ride a Slingshot!

Galveston Slingshot Rentals offer the ride of your life. Try out the 3-wheeled low vehicles that combine a car and a motorcycle – and they go FAST!

21. Go Fishing on Galveston’s 61st Street Fishing Pier

Galveston’s 61st Street Fishing Pier is an ideal location for fishermen and non-fishermen alike. They have a small gift shop with a friendly staff, and they also sell or rent whatever fishing equipment you might need.  

22.  See a live show at the Grand 1894 Opera House

The Grand Opera House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. They have wonderful shows, children’s theatre, and camps in the summer. We’ve actually driven from north of Houston just to see a show in this theatre! 

23. Visit Saltwater Grill for their Italian Cream Cake

Oh my goodness!! We had the Italian Cream Cake at Saltwater Grill, and it was totally fabulous.  Full disclosure…It was so good, we stopped by the very next night and had another serving to-go. 🙂 Yum! 

24. Attend a Mardi Gras Parade 

This two-week celebration during Mardi Gras season offers lots of live entertainment and a variety of parades for the whole family.

25. Take a Private Mob History Tour

Discover Galveston’s thrilling history on a private Mob History Tour. Cruise the city in a 1908 Model-T replica while your guide shares juicy tales of speakeasies, casinos, mobsters, and a historic hurricane. SO fun! 

26.  Tour Moody Gardens 

Moody Gardens offers so much: The Aquarium, rainforest, spa, hotel, golf, paddle boat excursions, and more.  

27. Buy a souvenir at the Historic Murdochs

Murdochs is right on the beach and has a wonderful selection of coastal apparel and accessories.  You can also order a drink and enjoy a beautiful Gulf view from the rocking chairs on the back patio.    

28.  Take a Jet Boat Thrill Ride!

Experience the excitement of a fast paced ride including spins and tricks with a small group. Be prepared – you will definitely get wet! 🙂  

29. Have an Elevated Cocktail at the Rooftop Bar in the Tremont House

The views, the service, and the beautifully renovated atmosphere of the historic Tremont House makes this a must-do item on the list. 

30. Take the Free Port Bolivar Ferry

The free Bolivar Ferry travels between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It’s a relaxing and scenic way to see the area from the water. 

31. Dive into the Flower Gardens Coral Reefs

Texas Scuba Adventures does it all: Classes, equipment, camps, charters, travel, and day trips to see the local Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary.

32. Visit Greta, the Great White Shark for a Photo

Greta, located on The Strand, is actually created from marine debris.  It is part of a traveling art exhibit highlighting items washed up from the shore. There are 4 other similar “recycled” exhibits around town as well.

33. Visit the Historic Seaport with Tall Ship Elissa

Elissa was built in 1877 and now is a floating museum. It is a wonderful glimpse into Galveston’s maritime history. You can also tour The Texas Seaport Museum as well as the Elissa

34.  Schlitterbahn Water Park

Schlitterbahn is certainly wet and wild with 3 separate areas and heart-stopping rides.  The Screaming Serpent and the Rohr! are our top recommendations. 

35. Take a Rail Trolley around the Island

The Galveston Trolley is a great way to see the area for only $1 a ride (kids are free). There are 4 trolleys using 2 different routes – running every 30 minutes during the summer.  

36. Experience Dickens on The Strand 

Held the first weekend of December, Dickens on The Strand  brings 19th-century Victorian London to Galveston. Costumed vendors, parades, special events, and more make this an annual event worth seeing. Also, if you dress up in Victorian apparel, you will get discounted tickets.   🙂

37. Visit the Historical Museum

The Galveston County Historical Museum is often overlooked within the Courthouse.  The museum is free (MW&F) and part of the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s Passport Program. It is well worth a visit. 

38. Spot a Ghost in the Galveston Cemetery

You will learn lots of bone-chilling info when you walk with a guide on Galveston’s Old City Cemetery Tour

39.  Enjoy Brunch or Lunch at Sugar & Rye

This small, trendy little brunch and lunch spot delivers a taste of the coast along with many other unique dishes.  We had a flatbread called the “First Date” which was absolutely incredible. Pastas, salads, and sandwiches were ALL tasty.  I would be at this place every day if I could.  

Galveston Juneteenth

40. Explore Galveston’s Black History

Galveston’s Juneteenth and Beyond Small-Group Cultural Tour offers a guide who will highlight the culturally rich sites and share stories with you. Did you know that Juneteenth began in Galveston? 

41. Visit a Brewery for the Official Beer of Galveston 

Galveston Island Brewing is the home of Tiki Wheat  brewed locally. They have a selection of other home-brews in addition.  Free tours on Saturdays at 1:00 or plan a tour on other days here

42. Take a Ride with the Artist Boat 

Artist Boat is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote awareness and preservation of coastal areas through the arts. Take a kayak with them on an educational journey. 

43. Ride the Caboose in the Galveston Railroad Museum

The exceptional Galveston Railroad Museum is located in a former Santa Fe Railroad station – and VERY well done. It is fabulous for all ages – and the museum offers rides in the caboose on weekends.

44. Engage in Bird-Watching at Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park is known for sightings of over 300 different species of birds. In addition, camping, hiking trails, and fishing are available There is a lodge, a nice beach, and of course, picnic tables. 

45.  Hit some Balls at Tin Cup’s Caddy Shack

Combo bar and driving range, Tin Cup’s Caddy Shack, is a fun place to enjoy time with friends and family. This casual spot is relaxed with great sunset views on the large deck. Open afternoons & evenings. 

46.  Learn about Saltwater Fly Fishing 

Take Fly Fishing classes at Galveston Fishing Company. They also have equipment and guided trips. Another great outfit is Galveston on the Fly. They provide guides, skiffs, and equipment as needed.

47. Have a Drink at the Milk Bar

Pastries, coffee, and all types of milks, milkshakes, and ice cream are available at the Milk Bar.  You can take a photo with Daisy the cow, too! 

48. Explore the Wild West at The Bryan Museum

World class exhibits are featured at The Bryan Museum.  Educational and literacy programs highlight the history of Texas and bring the American West to life.  There are some amazing exhibits of firearms, rare documents, and native artifacts. It is well worth a visit! 

49. Relax with a Stunning Sunset

Sunsets over the water are always beautiful – but Galveston has some special ones if you time it just right.  

50. Take a Long Walk on the Beach

Peaceful. Serene. Galveston has 32 miles of sandy beach just waiting for you.

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So, the next time you find yourself in Galveston, don’t let those initial impressions deceive you. Look beyond the surface, and you’ll discover a wonderful and eclectic destination just waiting to be explored. Galveston is full of surprises, and we found its hidden treasures and warm hospitality to be truly delightful!   

9 Responses

  1. I haven’t been to Galveston in a while & your post has me wanting to go back. I loved Moody Gardens and Bubba Gump’s. There was a unique little beachside restaurant called ‘The Fish House’ that we loved too.

  2. This list is massive! There is so much to do Galveston. I remember learning that its the birth place of Juneteenth and its good to know there are so many sites and things to do there.

  3. Oh wow, I’ve been going to Galveston for years, and I really thought I’d done all there was to do. I’m definitely mistaken! This list makes me want to grab my swimsuit and towel, pack up the car, and head down to explore more of the island!

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