Historic Galveston Island is home to a variety of popular attractions, from a huge water park and the Galveston Pleasure Pier with rides and midway to lavish historic Victorian-era buildings and tall ships. You'll encounter both modern wonders and scenic natural areas and beaches. Taken together, these attractions make Galveston Island one of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas.
The Galveston Pleasure Pier, which extends nearly 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, offers visitors enough activities to keep busy on your vacation. The Galveston Pleasure Pier features a number of great thrill rides, including the Iron Shark Rollercoaster, Pirate's Plunge water log ride, Sea Dragon swing ride, Texas Star Flyer (a 200-foot tall swing ride), a two-level carousel, bumper cars, and, of course, the iconic Ferris wheel, The Galaxy Wheel.
The Galveston Pleasure Pier also features a midway full of games and a number of unique souvenir shops, such as The Pelican's Bag, Lolli & Pop's Candy Shop, and the Bubba Gump Retail Store.
Visitors crossing the causeway to Galveston will surely see the pyramids rising on the western side of the island. Those pyramids are just part of magnificent Moody Gardens. With attractions that include several aquariums, an IMAX theatre, and even a rainforest, Moody Gardens is a must-see for Galveston visitors.
Popular Texas waterpark Schlitterbahn has added a third location—Schlitterbahn Galveston Island. Like the other Schlitterbahn parks, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island features plenty of unique and innovative rides. However, unlike any other waterpark in the world, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island is "convertible," offering outdoor fun in the summer and indoor water rides during the winter.
Developed as Galveston's commerce center in the late 1800s, The Strand has survived over 100 years to be reborn as an island shopping mecca. There are a variety of shops in the district's beautiful historic buildings, many of which survived the infamous 1900 Storm, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. Enjoy the restaurants serving up everything from seafood to Greek and Mexican fare and spend some time at the fascinating museums in the area.
Completed in 1895, the Moody Mansion is the epitome of Victorian architecture in turn of the century Galveston. The mansion, which was home to the powerful Moody family, survived the 1900 hurricane and now has been restored and is open for tours and lunch. Moody Mansion has been listed as one of the most famous houses in the nation by the Travel Channel.
Home to the 1877 tall ship Elissa, a national historic landmark, the Texas Seaport Museum tells the maritime history of Galveston, which was known as "The Ellis Island of the West" in the 1800s. The Texas Seaport Museum has the nation’s only computerized listing of immigrants to Galveston, Texas. The museum’s immigration exhibit tells the story of immigrants who arrived in the United States via ships docking in Galveston Harbor.
Unlike some tall ships of today the Elissa is not a replica, but a historic ship. She transported a variety of cargos to ports around the world and ended up as scrap in Greece, where she was rescued by ship preservationists. The story of her restoration is told at the Texas Seaport Museum. Elissa continues to sail annually during sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico.
Also based at the museum, is the Galveston Harbor tour boat, Seagull II offers harbor tours, has a soft drink bar, and offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
Completed in 1893, the Bishop's Palace, also known as Gresham's Castle, is a very ornate 19,082 square-feet Victorian-style house which survived the 1900 hurricane and is now part of Galveston's Historic Homes Tour. Architectural historians list the Bishop’s Palace as one of the most significant Victorian residences in the United States.
The house was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his family. Gresham, a Civil War veteran was an attorney and entrepreneur who founded the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad and also served in the Texas Legislature. The home is rumored to be haunted and one of the ghosts is Colonel Gresham.
Passenger trains were the mainstay of tourist traffic for Galveston until the 1960s. The Galveston Island Railroad Museum tells the story of the railroad's role in the early development of Galveston.
The large Railroad Museum houses one of the largest restored railroad collections in the southwest, and one of the five largest in the country. You'll see railroad memorabilia as well as locomotives and train cars.
Throughout the year, you can see beautifully restored trains and unique special events. Most Saturdays, the Museum offers rides aboard the "Harborside Express" train between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. boarding every 20 minutes.
The 2,000 acre Galveston Island State Park features beach and bay access, nature and hiking trails, a boat ramp, campsites with water and electricity, and more. The park has a nature center and you can join scheduled ranger-led hikes and talks to learn more about the natural environment of Galveston Island.
Not only did this historic opera house survive the 1900 hurricane, but it is also still flourishing and has even been designated the "The Official Opera House of Texas." Today, performances range from Willie Nelson to Red, White, & Tuna, to Fiddler on the Roof.
The Romanesque Revival style opera house is located in Galveston's Historic Downtown Cultural Arts District.
One of Galveston's most popular beaches, Stewart Beach is conveniently located at 6th and Seawall Blvd, just off Broadway. Stewart Beach is family-friendly and offers a variety of amenities that make it the perfect spot to take the family for a "day at the beach." The park has a picnic pavilion, concessions, restrooms, showers, beach chair, umbrella rentals, beach volleyball courts, and more.