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Your Family Travel Guide to Galveston

there's a little something for everyone on this island

Living in North Texas, we are blessed with a beautiful part of the state. We are also slightly cursed in that we’re completely landlocked, with no beach in sight. If you’re like us and looking for a getaway (sans airplane) where there is a beach, look no further than Galveston.

From Dallas, Galveston is close to a four-and-a-half-hour drive; from Fort Worth, it’s closer to a five-hour drive. Not too bad!

And there’s so much to do on the island even if you’re not a huge fan of its beach. Here are our recommendations.

Editor’s Note: Due to COVID, be sure to check each location’s hours and safety protocols prior to visiting as those aspects are subject to change.

WHERE TO STAY

Galveston offers a plethora of great places to stay, from hotels and condos to vacation house rentals, bed and breakfasts—even RV parks or camping options.

A few of the hotels that have solid reviews include The San Luis ($$$), Hotel Galvez ($$$), the Hilton Galveston ($$), and Courtyard Galveston ($$). All of these hotels are located on Seawall Boulevard, so gulf-view rooms are available.

If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast, remember that these will probably not have any kind of gulf view as many of them are closer to the downtown area. Some that have solid reviews include Carr Mansion ($$$), Coppersmith Inn B&B ($$), Avenue O ($$) and Lost Bayou Guesthouse B&B ($$). As these locations are fairly small with limited rooms, we highly recommend you book these well in advance. Also, these may better options for a couple’s trip, rather than family trip.

For vacation rentals and condos, we suggest finding something on VRBO. Vacation rentals might also be the best option if you’re traveling with multiple kiddos, so you have plenty of space. There are tons of options with affordable prices for a family of four (or more) all up and down the island.

WHAT TO DO

Of course, there must be some time spent on the beach. Even if it’s not the whitest sand or clearest water, it’s still a beach! You and the family could easily spend the better part of your day here. Stewart Beach on the East End and Palisade Palms tend to be well-regarded beach spots. Stewart Beach is known as a great family spot; it has nearby restrooms and umbrella and chair rentals.

Make your way to Moody Gardens if you’re beached out. The giant glass pyramids are home to sharks, monkeys, birds and much more. You can also get your fill of nature over at the Galveston Island State Park. It’s a great spot for birdwatching. You can hike and fish in the park as well.

Need some watery fun that isn’t at the beach? Galveston is home to Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The park has slides, wave rivers, water coasters and more. Oh, and it’s massive—26 acres to be exact—so this spot would be ideal for spending almost an entire day to explore.

Want to walk around and window shop? You’re in the right place. You could spend hours walking around The Strand, Galveston’s historic downtown shopping street. There are boatloads of boutiques, gift shops and restaurants, all nestled in incredibly charming Victorian-era buildings. It’s also right by Pier 21—home to harbor tours including a dolphin watch or a tour of the 1877 tall ship Elissa. Pier 21 has a few fun dining options too. (But we’ll get to that in a minute.)

And don’t forget to check out Seawall Boulevard or 61st Street Corridor for more shopping options.

If your family has a few history buffs, this is the spot to pack in some museums. Galveston has a ton of museums. There’s the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the Galveston Naval Museum and the Children’s Museum, to name a few. And since you won’t be far from Houston, you could make the drive over to the Space Center for some NASA fun.

There’s a little something for everyone, that’s for sure.

WHERE TO EAT

Honestly, finding some great restaurants to chow down is one of the best parts of vacation. You get to try out places that you don’t have back home!

As we hinted previously, Pier 21 is home to two fun dining spots: Fisherman’s Wharf and Willie G’s. Fisherman’s Wharf is a must; the place is huge, casual and has everything from bacon-wrapped, jalapeño jack cheese shrimp to pasta and steak. There are also great views of the bay here.

If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, head over to MOD Coffeehouse in the downtown area. Want a break from fried or rich foods? Lolo Kai Smoothies & Wraps has some tasty, healthy options. For breakfast, be sure to check out either Miller’s Seawall Grill or The Sunflower Bakery & Café; both are known for excellent breakfast foods.

Looking for more outdoor, casual dining? Try Mosquito Café for a quick bite downtown or Taquilo’s Tex-Mex Cantina. Interested in actual on-the-gulf dining? Look no further than Jimmy’s on the Pier. It’s a fun place to spend time with the kids. You can fish or walk along the pier or browse the downstairs gift shop before (or after) you dive into one of the best po boys you’ll ever have. And that view! (Chef’s kiss.)

Finally, you can’t go to Galveston without sitting down at Gaido’s. It’s a bit on the pricier side, but with over 3,000 postive reviews on Google, you can’t miss it. This would be the ideal spot to go sans kiddos for a nice date night with some delicious seafood.

Are you making a trip to Galveston soon? What are you most excited to check out? Tell us at editorial@dfwchild.com.

Image courtesy of iStock.