If you live in the United States and are looking for a great vacation spot, then I highly recommend taking a trip to Galveston TX. Galveston sits about an hour outside of Houston. So, you will have the opportunity to visit the big city and still get a feel for beach life on the island. It is a great destination all year long, especially for those trying to get away from a cooler climate. Even in January, you can still be comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans.
We loved the idea of visiting Galveston so much that we decided to make it our daughter’s first vacation spot. We kicked off 2019 with a week long family vacation down there and had a blast. With the help of the Visitors Bureau I was able to find some great spots for us to visit while we were there. Today I am going to be sharing some of my favorite family friendly destinations to visit in Galveston. I’ll also be including a set of free printable luggage tags for you to use if you decide to make the trip too.
Places to Visit in Galveston TX
If you have one big splurge during your trip, then it has to be at Moody Gardens. Trust me, it is worth every penny. Moody Gardens is known for their two main attractions – their Aquarium Pyramid and their Rainforest Pyramid. In the aquarium you’ll discover a variety of animals including sharks, jellyfish, seals, sea lions, penguins, and so much more. The Rainforest Pyramid is a truly unique experience. Here, you’ll get to immerse yourself in the rainforests of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. You can get up close and personal to many of the plants and animals that inhibit these areas including monkeys, birds, and bats.
Moody Gardens has a variety of other exhibits to check out while you are there. They have a MG 3D Theater and a 4D Special FX Theater both of which play a rotation of movies throughout the day. There is a Colonel Paddlewheel Boat which you can enjoy an hour long cruise on. Spongebob Squarepants Adventure features a 3D media experience on a deep sea submarine voyage with the television characters. The Discovery Museum is currently housing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exhibit which is the perfect place for young children to get down and run out some energy. There is even a ropes course and zip line for you adventurers out there. Moody Gardens also features rotating seasonal exhibits such as IceLand, a Christmas lights show, an ice skating rink, and Palm Beach. So, be sure to check for dates on those types of activities.
While you’re in Galveston, you should make time to head over to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. They are open year round, but their hours change seasonally. So, be sure to check them before deciding which day to go. I do recommend trying to arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. Once the sun starts to set the rides light up. It is a stunning view you won’t want to miss.
Pleasure Pier is a perfect stop for kids of all ages. They have a variety of family-oriented attractions which include rides, games, food, and shops. When I say that they have something for everyone I really do mean it. They have a great selection of rides, like the carousel, for the real little littles. These rides gradually increase in thrill level all the way up to a roller coaster for the real adventure seeker. You’ll even find an exciting 5D theater ride across the street that you can add onto your wristband. If you’re a fan of the movie Forrest Gump, then you’ll want to grab dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp company on the Pier before you head home.
The Strand / Pier 21
I highly recommend setting aside a day of your trip to visit Downtown Galveston. Make sure to bring your walking shoes when you come! This unique area offers a large variety of shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums for you to visit. You can spend your morning walking the streets of The Historic Strand District to do some shopping. Be on the lookout for some beautiful murals while you walk around. If you look hard enough, you’ll find some gorgeous art around you. Once you do enough shopping to work up an appetite, you can walk on over to Pier 21. Here you’ll find a variety of options for delicious seafood over the water. While you’re on Pier 21 be sure to take advantage of one of the many tours they offer. It’s a great way to learn more about the area and it’s history. They have a variety of tours on site, so you’ll be sure to find one that fits your interests.
La King’s Confectionery
To satisfy your sweet tooth, take a stop in La King’s Confectionery while on The Strand. This confectionery will bring you back to a by gone era. It features a 1920’s soda fountain that serves malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats, and of course your favorite fountain drinks. It also houses a colorful candy shop where you can find old time specialities such as peanut brittle, pecan pralines, hand dipped chocolates, and fudges. On top of that, they serve over 40 different candies made from traditional recipes. I haven’t even told you the best part yet! Not only can you buy their famous salt water taffy, but you can also watch them make it on antique equipment. La King’s is a delicious trip back in time that you won’t want to miss.
At some point during your day, you’ll want to take a short break from all of the shopping you’ll be doing on the Strand. That’s when you should head on over to Saengerfest Park. You can take a seat on the large wooden compass (meant to be used as a seat) or one of their wooden benches to rest your legs while your children run off their energy. A couple of my favorite features of Saengerfest Park include the large, playable chess set and the old-fashioned phone booth. This park also features a stage that is used for movies, live music, and various events throughout the year.
Galveston Harbor Tours
A trip to Downtown Galveston just isn’t complete without a little time spent on the water. So, be sure to set aside an hour of your day to climb aboard the Seagull II and see Galveston Harbor. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn more about Galveston Bay, the historic port of Galveston, and the birds and marine life that hang out there. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a dolphin or two throughout your tour. The guides on this tour are humorous, friendly, knowledgable, and personable. They make this hour an hour well spent.
Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa
Once you finish up your harbor tour, I recommend staying in the historic port of Galveston to visit the Texas Seaport Museum. Here you’ll learn all about the legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. You’ll have the opportunity to read the stories of various families who immigrated to the US. While you are in the museum be sure to take a look through their database that collects the names of immigrants who entered the United States through Galveston. Who knows, you might even find one you know.
Admission into the Texas Seaport Museum also includes a self guided tour of the tall ship Elissa as well as a short theatre presentation. This short film tells the tale of Elissa’s rescue from the scrap yard and the caring volunteers who meticulously brought her back to life. After the film ends, you can head outside and climb aboard the Elissa. Once you board the ship, you can walk throughout the decks and read about the day to day life of the sailors on board and the hardships they faced.
Historic Home Tours
One of my favorite ways to spend a vacation is by getting to know the area I’m visiting. If you feel the same way, then I recommend taking the time to visit some of the historic homes around Galveston. It’s a wonderful way to see some of the extravagance and beauty of times past. You’ll get to hear about some of the iconic families from Galveston’s past as well as some of this city’s history. These tours also provide great insight into the great hurricane of 1900, the devastation that occurred, and Galveston’s determination to rebuild. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Here are two of my favorite tours.
Bishop’s Palace was built by Colonel Walter Gresham from 1886-1892 for his wife and nine children. It is filled with lavish materials such as Sienna marble, stained glass, rare woods, pure silver, and more. The house miraculously withstood the great storm of 1900 with relatively little damage aside from minor flooding in the basement. It also survived Hurricane Ike in 2008. The home was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston in 1923. The home remains in their possession. It served as a bishop’s residence until 1963 at which point it was opened to the public for tours. Bishop’s Palace is Galveston’s grandest and best-known building. This architectural treasure was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 100 most important buildings in America.
Moody Mansion is a 28,000 square foot, four-story home completed in 1895. The home was purchased by W.L Moody Jr. for his family after the great hurricane of 1900. The home housed Moody family members until 1986. Today, you can tour the home which is still filled with many personal items of the family. There are two different audio tours that you may choose from when visiting the house. The first is the Moody Family Tour which features six family members sharing stories of their ancestors. The second is Mary’s tour in which an actress portraying Mary Moody Northern guides you throughout her home. The Moody family are a philanthropic legacy in Galveston with major forces in health care, education, historic preservation, and the arts. In fact, they are responsible for the Moody Gardens that I shared with you earlier. This tour is an excellent opportunity to learn more about this great family.
BONUS: Downtown Aquarium in Houston
At some point during your trip you will probably have a few hours to fill in Houston. For example, in between the time that your flight lands and when you can check into your hotel. During this time I highly recommend heading on over to the Downtown Aquarium in Houston. It has the perfect amount of activities to fill a few hours without eating up your entire day. Your adventure at the Downtown Aquarium begins by exploring their various aquarium exhibits including Louisiana Swamp, Shipwreck, Rainforest, Sunken Temple, Gulf of Mexico, Education Room ,White Tigers of the Maharaja’s Temple, and Stingray Reef. After that, I recommend heading outside to take advantage of some of the many games and rides the Aquarium offers. You can catch a view of the downtime skyline on the Ferris wheel, ride a dolphin on the carousel, ride a train through a 200,000 gallon shark tank, and more! There’s endless amounts of fun to be had at the Downtown Aquarium.
Printable Luggage Tags
Don’t forget to grab your free luggage tags before you go! I’ve created three colorful and fun luggage tags for you to attach to your family’s suitcases for your trip. All you have to do is print them out, laminate them, punch a hole in the top, and attach it to your suitcase. It’s a simple and affordable way to make that plain black bag of yours stand out during your vacation. Simply fill out the form below to get them sent straight to your inbox.