Galveston is one of the many cruise ports in the US, less than an hour away from Houston in Texas. It might not be as well known as some other cruise ports such as Miami or New York. However, Carnival for instance offers several cruises departing from Galveston to the Caribbean each year and the city has plenty to offer, too.
Texas itself is a fascinating and interesting state with so much to see and do that it is definitely worth a visit and there is no better way, at least in my opinion, than to combine a trip around Texas with a cruise.
You can spend a few days sightseeing in Houston easily and then join the ship for your cruise in Galveston.
Most people tend to embark the ship as early as possible to make the most of their time on board and already enjoy some of the amenities and activities, but there are many attractions in Galveston that you should not miss.
So, definitely make some time for sightseeing before or after your cruise!
1. OCEAN STAR OFFSHORE DRILLING RIG AND MUSEUM
Texas is well known for its oil and gas industry especially during the early 20th century. The Galveston Ocean Star Offshore Drilling and Rig Museum gives you a unique opportunity to find out how oil was extracted and processed.
Furthermore, you get to experience life on board on an actual real oil rig. Some of the highlights include an oil extraction simulation and a visit to the pipe deck. It is well worth a visit as it is really interactive and interesting!
- Opening times: Open Daily from 10 am – 5 pm, Summer Hours from 10 am – 6 pm (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
- Admission: Adults – $10.00; Youth 7 to 18 – $6.00; Children 6 and under – Free; Seniors 55+ and Military – $8.00
- For more information please visit: www.oceanstaroec.com
2. GALVESTON RAILROAD MUSEUM
The old Galveston rail station hosts the Galveston Railroad Museum, which is ideal for the young and old. It exhibits a collection of different trains such as passenger and freight cars, cabooses and showcases different train engines including steam and diesel as well as other train related artefacts.
If you time your visit right, you can even take a ride on one of the historic machines and step back in time.
- Opening times: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm; Hours may change and vary due to weather and bank holidays
- Admission: Adults 13 to 64 – $10; Children 3 to 12 – $5; Children 2 and under and active military – Free; Seniors 65+ – $8; Veterans $5
- For more information please visit: www.galvestonrrmuseum.org
3. THE STRAND HISTORIC DISTRICT
Downtown Galveston is well known for its historic Strand District, or just Strand. Well preserved Victorian – era buildings line the streets.
Back in the days the district was a place where wholesalers, merchants and the largest banks were trading. Today, the buildings are housing restaurants, little cafes, galleries, shops and random antique stores. It is fun just to stroll down the Strand and pop into one of the many shops before your cruise.
From the Strand, many of the cities most important and famous sights can be accessed such as The Grand 1894 Opera House, a restored Victorian theatre which has survived several hurricanes, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum or Railroad Museum just to name a few.
The District is also close to the cruise port, which allows visitors the opportunity to see some of the famous sights of the city before or after their cruise, if you only have a few hours to spare in Galveston.
4. ALONG THE BEACH
As a coastal resort city, Galveston offers plenty of choice and activities for beach and water lovers.
There are several beaches with washroom facilities, restaurants, shops and hotels. The most popular beach being Stewart Beach as it is very family friendly.
You can even find a Pleasure Pier with roller coasters, games and other fun activities for all ages, which reopened in 2012 after renovations.
If you are into bird-watching, fishing and water sports such as kayaking and stand up paddle surfing, a good place to go to is Galveston Island State Park. On the ocean side, you can find a beach, on the bay side area trails and observation platforms for nature walks and hikes.
Galveston also has its own waterpark the Schlitterbahn. It is famous as it has a vast collection of thrilling water slides and apparently the most in Texas. Other attractions include a wave river, water coasters, Shipwreck Harbour, a swim up bar and a kids playing area for all ages.
5. NAVAL RELATED POINTS OF INTEREST
Galveston has a rich naval history as it was a very important port for trade or nowadays tourism. You can find several naval related tourist attractions that showcase its heritage.
Visit the Galveston Naval Museum and explore WWII vessels and the USS Cavalla, a WWII submarine responsible for sinking a Japanese aircraft carrier that partook in the Pearl Harbour attacks. Learn about life on board these war vessels and their important missions.
- Opening times: Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm
- Admission: Adults – $10; Seniors and Children 5 to 11 – $5
- For more information please visit: www.galvestonnavalmuseum.com
The Texas Seaport Museum is home to the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA and tells her story from when she was taking to the sea to how she was rescued from the scrap yard and restored. Furthermore, visitors have the chance to learn about the rich commerce and immigration history. A database allows visitors to look up ancestors that migrated to the US through Galveston.
- Opening times: Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (closed 3rd, 4th and 30th November, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
- Admission: Adults 19 and up – $12; Youth 6 to 18 – $9, Children 5 and under – Free
- For more information please visit: www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/maritime-heritage/texas-seaport-museum-4
6. OTHER ATTRACTIONS
Moody Gardens is a big complex divided into separate sections and you can easily spend an entire day there. This is especially very family friendly and the kids will love it. If you do not have too much time on your hand you can also decide to visit just one of the sections.
There is the Aquarium Pyramid that showcases different species of marine life from places such as the Caribbean, Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica.
The Rainforest Pyramid is home to animals and plants from the rainforests of Asia, Africa and the Americas. You will be able to see birds, spot some Amazon River Otters or just watch the Saki Monkeys hanging around.
Relax and step back in time while you embark on a one-hour cruise on a replica of a 1800s Colonial Paddlewheel Boat. Or if that sounds not exciting enough for you try out the Ropes Course and Zip Line.
Another attraction on the site is Palm Beach. This smaller waterpark compared to Schlitterbahn is more suitable for families with smaller children and toddlers. There are less thrill slides, but more spaces to just sit back and relax in a sun lounge chair.
Lastly, Moody Gardens also has a 3D and 4D Theatre that will engage you and certainly all your senses if you attend one of the 4D viewings.
1892 Bishop’s Palace and Moody Mansion are two of Galveston’s famous Victorian mansions. Especially Bishop’s Palace is often described as one of the most noteworthy and important Victorian mansions in the US. Both showcase impressive architecture and design.
Galveston was hit badly by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The damage to the city and especially buildings along the seafront was extensive. Since then, many restoration projects were put in place and investment in tourism was a major focus which lead to the reopening of the Pleasure Pier for example.
Still, you can see the impact the hurricane had when you visit Galveston, but I want people to look beyond this. There are many interesting places and attractions in Galveston so this city should not be dismissed as a place to see and especially not when you are already there!
(Prices were valid at the point when this post was first published)