Galveston Island is a quaint town just 50 miles south of Houston, TX. This mighty Island is full of heart and history. Believed to be visited by the Pirate Cabeza de Vaca in 1528, this was the first sign of Europeans in the Island. At that point, populated by Akokisa and Karankawa Indians. But is wasn’t until the late 1600’s that the French claimed the land to then, King Louis.
During the 1800’s Galveston became the largest city in Texas and the most active port west of New Orleans. With that, came many firsts for the state of Texas. The first Post Office, the first Opera House, the first Hospital, the first Country Club, and the list goes on.
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Then, in September of 1900, Galveston was hit by the most deadly storm in the United States reported to this day. A third of the city was destroyed and more than 6000 people were killed.
According to history, too many to be buried in a conventional way, so they were weighted and buried at sea. But later, the bodies started to wash ashore. That being the reason Galveston Island is one of the most haunted towns in America.
What to do in Galveston, Texas in One Day
There are many ways to spend a perfect day in Galveston. Here are some ideas for you to make the most of it on your visit:
Best Breakfast in Galveston
Galveston Island offers plenty of alternatives for a hearty meal to start your day right-from breakfast buffets to a light bite for those that like to keep it simple. However, if you are in Galveston you should start your day at the Sunflower Bakery and Cafe. Their food is made fresh daily and is well worth the visit. Some of the favorites are the shrimp omelet and the grilled cinnamon rolls.
The Strand Historic District
Just a few blocks away from the Sunflower Bakery (a 6-minute walk) is The Strand District, a National Historic Landmark District with impressive architecture dated back to the 1800’s. Most of the buildings suffered considerable damage in The Great Storm of the 1900s and have been restored since. This stretch of historical buildings was once known as the “Wall Street of the Southwest”. The Strand can keep you entertained for the whole day if that is what you choose. Here you are going to find many art galleries, with a multitude of local artists and a variety of mediums.
Also, there are many museums and antique stores in walking distance from each other, and lastly a great selection of retail shops including clothing, souvenirs,etc. And, if you are a history buff, take the time to visit Pier 21 Theater to watch The Great Storm and visit The Tall Ship ELISSA, the oldest 3 masted ships still sailing today and it serves as an exhibit at the Texas Seaport Museum.
Time For Lunch
After spending some time at The Strand, it’s time for a well-deserved lunch. That can be enjoyed at one of the many restaurants around downtown Galveston. You can always opt to take the Galveston Trolley. With two loops, one servicing downtown and the other servicing the Seawall, the trolley runs every 30 minutes and is an easy way to not only take you to where you need to go but to have a quick tour around Galveston Island. From downtown, take the Seawall trolley and get off at the 14th St. and Seawall stop, this is where Benno’s Cajun and Seafood restaurant is located. It’s a perfect place for a seafood lover to enjoy what the gulf coast has to offer.
Historic Buildings and Places
After lunch, it’s time for a tour of the many historic buildings scattered around Galveston Island. Some of them are The Bishop’s Palace, the most well known Galveston’s buildings, The Bishop’s Palace was built from 1886 to 1892 and it’s listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Moody Mansion was built in 1895. The 28,000 square-foot, four-story building, was the home of the very affluent Moody Family. Today the Mansion offer tours to anyone interested in its history and splendor. It’s also reported as one of the most famous houses in America by the Travelchannel.com
Ashton Villa, built in 1859, was the first house to be raised on Broadway Blvd. and the first mansion in Galveston Island. Today, the Ashton Villa belongs to the City of Galveston and serves as a visitor center for the city.
All these wonderful historic houses are walking distance from each other making it easy for you to visit them all or just one if that is what you choose to do.
Dinner Options in Galveston, Texas
Whenever you are done, it’s time to start thinking about dinner. There are many choices of restaurants, as well as many variety of cuisines in Galveston Island. One of the Island’s best is Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant, a staple in Galveston for over 100 years, still serving the family’s original recipes to this day.
If you happen to be visiting the Island in the month of October, you should try the Ghost Tour Dinner at the Hotel Galvez. With such a tragic past, Galveston is believed to have many of its historic buildings being haunted. And the food at the Galvez is amazing.
Galveston Ghost Tour
If you are still up for some interesting interaction after dinner is over, you can opt for a couple of different tours. The Graveyard Tour is a tour of the most historic cemeteries on the Island. You will learn about some affluent citizens of Galveston and where they were laid to rest.
The Ghost Tour of Galveston, once voted the most haunted ghost tour in America, is how all tours started in Galveston. The knowledgeable tour guide has gone above and beyond to research the facts about the historic events in Galveston.
In addition, there is the Red Light District Tour. This tour will show you about the days of the mafia in Galveston Island.
Galveston Resorts and Hotels
With so many activities to choose from you may even want to spend a few days on this fabulous Island. If that is the case, here are a list of the hotels around town.
Hotel Galvez & Spa: 2024 Seawall Blvd. The architecture and history in this hotel will leave you speechless. The Sunday brunch buffet is one of the best in the area.
Mid Range Hotels:
Hilton Galveston Island Resort: 5400 Seawall Blvd. A great option being steps from the beach, this hotel has a heated pool with a swim-up bar, a great option if your budget allows it.
There are many beachfront condos that you can find on Airbnb for a reasonable rate and you still can enjoy all that Galveston has to offer.
Your perfect day in Galveston Island can be as packed with activities as you want it to be. The entertainment options are bountiful and you can leave knowing you are taking a piece of history with you.
How to get to Galveston Island
From anywhere in the country you will fly to one of the airports in Houston, rent a car or take a taxi/ride share and drive for about an hour south on I45 to Galveston Island.
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A huge thank you to Visit El Paso for their generous hospitality. I enjoyed a visit to the city as a professional blogger, but as always, all opinions my own.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Patricia Martin is a travel blogger that currently specializes in writing about family travel in the big state of Texas. She caught the travel bug very early when her family would go on camping trips to the beach with some extended family for 2 weeks at a time in southeast Brazil. She lives in Texas since 2014, when she met and married her sweetheart.