From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
“Galveston, oh Galveston — I still hear your sea winds blowing…”
Anyone who’s spent any time at all in this seaside Texas gem will understand what so inspired Glen Campbell, not to mention the host of other lucky people who have called this place home (even if only for a short while). From beautiful sandy seasides to fine dining and attractions, there’s an incredible diversity of things to see, do, experience and explore in Galveston. Read on to learn our best suggestions.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Unsurprisingly for a town whose primary calling card is its beautiful seaside locale, Galveston is surrounded with untouched natural landscapes whose beauty calls visitors from far and wide. Here are some of the best state parks and national wildlife refuges and preserves to check out while you’re in Galveston, TX.
Covering a swath of 34,000 acres, the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is home to a wide range of native Texas wildlife, from fearsome alligators to graceful sea birds to butterflies, dragon and damselflies. Visitors will also have the chance to encounter small land mammals like raccoons, coyotes, mice, rabbits, and even bobcats — so be sure to keep your eyes peeled while you wander around!
With more than 44,000 acres and part of the larger Texas Mid-Coast Refuge Complex, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is lucky to attract such a diverse population of local animals, including more than 400 species of birds, 95 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 130 species of butterflies and dragonflies. The colorful wildflowers and flowing coastal prairie lands that draw them will bring a smile to the face of two-legged visitors, as well, who can enjoy the landscape either on foot or from the comfort of their vehicle.
A big part of the reason locals from Houston and beyond make the pilgrimage to Galveston is Galveston Island State Park, which encompasses more than 2,000 acres of the barrier island and showcases the unique landscapes that make this part of the state so interesting. With both gulf and bayside views as well as sandy beaches, hiking trails, dockage, boat ramps, camping and so much more, this is the perfect place to enjoy an outdoorsy weekend if you’re in the greater Galveston area.
You don’t have to get far from the bustling urban center of Galveston to enjoy some incredible natural landscapes on foot. Here are some of the best hiking trails to be found in an around Galveston.
An easy adventure tucked into Galveston Island State Park, the Galveston Island State Park Trail is a great way to get familiar with this preserved green space at your own pace and leisure. Measuring a little less than three miles all told, this trail is just about flat and winds by waterfronts and marshes, including some wooden boardwalks as well as dirt paths. Dogs are allowed, but please keep your pooch leashed at all times!
Another option inside Galveston Island State Park is the Clapper Rail Trail and Caracara Trail Loop, which runs just a mile in length and sees almost no elevation gain. (This is southeast Texas we’re talking about, after all.) Known for its wildlife spotting opportunities, this trail is a popular one amongst birders, hikers, and trail runners, and is lined with wildflowers, as well.
Another option building off the same network of trails is the Clapper Rail Trail to Egret Loop to Heron’s Walk Trail, which strings together some of the most scenic options in the park. Running a leisurely two-and-a-half miles altogether, this hike is great for adventurers who are ready for something a little longer and who are eager to get an up close and personal view of this fascinating landscape.
At less than a half a mile, Duck Lake Trail is the perfect spot for beginner hikers and those looking to get outside in a quick and easy way — but make no mistake about it, the beautiful wide-open skies and the vibrant lushness of the surrounding foliage make this a worthy way to get some fresh air and exercise! This trail is another great place to spot local bird life, so be sure to scan the skies as you wander.
Yet another option inside the vast and varied Galveston Island State Park, Prairie Trail to Freshwater Pond Loop Trail is a hike of a little better than two miles which, as its name suggests, includes waterside views of a freshwater pond. Accessible year-round, this one’s perfect for nature lovers as well as hikers looking to find a workout: there’s more than enough room for everyone!
One thing’s for sure: there’s plenty of adventure to be had in Galveston. And if you want to keep energized for all that excitement, you’re going to need to eat! Here are some of the very best restaurants in Galveston, no matter what you’re hankering for.
If you don’t enjoy some caught-that-day fresh seafood, can you even say you’ve been to the seaside in Galveston? Offering elegant, yet satisfying fare in a beautiful dining room overlooking the Gulf, Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant is an absolute must-do for anyone in town — and do be sure to save some room for its signature dessert, pecan pie (which, yes, is the official state dessert of Texas!).
A local institution tucked into a historic building and well-known throughout the community, Smooth Tony’s is named not just for the slickness of its proprietor, but for the deliciously creamy way its signature smoothies go down. But don’t worry! There’s plenty of other goodness on the menu, from fish tacos and burgers to wraps and other healthy choices, making this a go-to for the plant-based crowd in search of vegetarian and vegan eats in town.
Known as Galveston’s favorite spot for pasta, pizza and more, Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant offers delicious eats coupled with a one-of-a-kind view that will make this sure to be a meal to remember. From hearty dinner dishes like toasted ravioli to long, lazy Sunday brunches, this spot is more than just a place to eat: it’s a place to gather.
Another option on the seawall for those as hungry for a view as they are for dinner, Salsas Mexican Restaurant is renowned in Galveston for serving up the freshest, most delicious south-of-the-border eats. With a lengthy menu replete with satisfying options and a full bar serving up handcrafted cocktails to wash it all down with, you can’t go wrong at Salsas!
Looking for the best Asian restaurant in Galveston? Tongs Happy Buddha might just take the cake — serving up a delicious and varied menu of Chinese favorites ranging from egg foo young to beef with broccoli and a range of vegetarian delights, this is the perfect stop for lunch or dinner.
Exploring the great outdoors and enjoying some fine cuisine are just the start when it comes to things to do in Galveston. Here are some more options to add to your itinerary, no matter who you’re with or what you’re into.
Galveston is an incredible place to raise a family — or even just to bring a family on vacation. Here are some of the coolest things you won’t want to miss if you’ve got your kids in tow.
The white-hot rays of Texas make an experience like Schlitterbahn Waterpark even more alluring — and who can say no to bright, shining swimming pools, thrilling slides and rides, and a variety of delicious on-site dining and intriguing on-site shopping options? From floating a lazy river to zipping down high-speed, thrilling attractions, this is a great place to cool off on a hot Texas afternoon with the whole family. Just be sure to bring lots of sunscreen!
Galveston’s skyline is home to a unique and iconic sight: three gleaming pyramids that might seem slightly out of place, but completely intriguing. Those pyramids are home to Moody Gardens, which is so much more than a botanical garden, as its name suggests. Wander through a living rainforest or take a trip under the sea in the aquarium pyramid, and keep in mind that this all-in-one resort is also a hotel, so you can stay and play all in one!
It’s not hard to find ways to keep busy under the Texas sun — but there’s plenty to do here once the daylight hours are over. Here are some of our favorite options to get into after nightfall in Galveston.
With a place with a tagline like “Where lyrics still count,” you know you’re in for an incredible show that will fill both your ears and your soul. The Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe is a one-of-a-kind live music venue that’s well worth your time and money… and also a great date-night pick if you’re looking for things for couples to do in Galveston.
Looking for a different kind of nightlife? Tin Cup’s Caddy Shack is a full service bar… and also a driving range and putting green! Yes, it’s true, normally you should never drink and drive, but with a golf club, it’s a little bit different. This is also an incredible spot to enjoy a one-of-a-kind Galveston sunset!
You don’t have to take out a second mortgage to get acquainted with Galveston. Here are some low-cost diversions that’ll keep your mind busy and your wallet full.
The high-flying rides and swift, scenic Ferris Wheel beckon from afar, and it’s true, you really should check out the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier… even if it seems touristy. There’s nothing like enjoying some cotton candy and flying high over the pier, all with the sound of the ocean gently lapping the shore in the background. And all-day ride passes start at less than $30!
Looking for a different kind of Galveston pier experience? Sit back, relax, and watch the line in the water slowly bob at the Galveston Fishing Pier, where you can fish all day for as little as $12. For those still eager to experience the waterfront in a different way, you can rent bikes to pedal down the seashore or boards to surf in the waves with.
True story: there are some incredible things to do in Galveston that are 100% free of charge. Here are a few picks.
Sun, sand, surf — what’s not to love? Better yet, many of Galveston’s most scenic beaches are totally free to enter, though you may end up paying for parking or other incidentals. (Who doesn’t need beach snacks?) East Beach and Stewart Beach are prime contenders, though there are plenty along the island to pick from.
A historic distinct dating back to Galveston’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s, The Strand is scenic enough to enjoy simply walking around in — though it’s also home to a variety of shops, art galleries, and restaurants that might just make you think twice about taking out your wallet. Still, if you simply sit back and enjoy the people watching over the sound of the clip-clopping hooves of horse-drawn carriages, you can get a beautiful taste of the island life without spending a dime.
Everyone needs some TLC from time to time, and there’s no better place to get it than Galveston. Here are some of the best day spas and salons in the area if you’re in need of a little bit of pampering.
The touch of a talented massage therapist can be more than just a nice feeling — it can be downright healing. Wellness Spa Massage offers a wide range of treatments and services to meet your various spa needs, including customized massages, aromatherapy, facials, peels, and waxing.
Whether it’s traditional spa services like massage and facials or beautifying salon treatments like haircut and color, manicures, pedicures, and special-occasion styling, Lulu’s The Salon and Day Spa is your one-stop shop in Galveston for all things restorative, rejuvenating and revitalizing — and you’re sure to leave feeling and looking better than you did when you came in.
There’s so much more to fitness than what you look like on the outside — it’s about how you feel on the inside and the confidence and strength you have to tackle your day-to-day tasks. Here are the best gyms and yoga sessions for those searching for a sweat session in Galveston.
With a wide range of equipment to meet your cardio, strength training, and circuit training needs, Gymaica Fitness is a well-known local spot for those at all places on the fitness spectrum. No matter where you are on your journey, you belong here!
If you’re the kind of fitness buff who likes to get the work in and get on with your life, Hardcore Galveston is what you’re looking for. A gym built specifically with lifting in mind — and requiring no contract or commitment — this spot is open 24/7 for you to get in and get the results you know you can.
Offering Baptiste yoga, a challenging and rejuvenating flow, Island Salt Air Yoga Studio will help you get in touch with and cultivate the inner strength that’s already waiting. Along with Baptiste-style classes, this studio offers a range of other practices to help engage yogis across the spectrum of fitness and interest levels.
Clearly, you don’t have to go far from Galveston to have a good time — but there are plenty of day-trippable options if you’re in the mood to get on the road. Here are some of our top spots for a quick weekend, or even afternoon, getaway.
Just an hour away, the state’s capital is full of incredible cultural attractions, museums, cuisine, shopping options and more — not to mention the Space Center, which makes this road trip well worth it on its own. With an array of state parks and natural landscapes to explore in the surrounding areas, Houston is truly a perfect combination of urban and outdoor adventures. You won’t be disappointed!
A little bit further away (such that you’d probably want to make this one into a long weekend), Austin is an incredible and unique Texas city known for its lovable weirdness and stunning live entertainment legacy. From bar hopping to kayaking on Lady Bird Lake, there’s so much to see and do in Austin — you’ll feel like you’ve traveled much further than you really have.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Galveston that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Galveston? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.