Thirty-two miles of beaches, surf and sun make Galveston one of the most popular vacation destinations in Texas—even for Texans. Sailors, surfers and beachcombers fall into the relaxed, easy island pace, lulled by the water lapping onshore and palm trees bending in the winds.
Once devastated by a hurricane in 1900 (the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history), Galveston made a remarkable comeback. Some of the buildings survived the hurricane and are still standing, as part of the 36 square block historic district. Antique and art galleries, shops and businesses fill the ornate buildings. Carriage rides are a unique way to travel through tree-lined streets in The Strand and other historic districts. This isn't to say that Galveston is all well-preserved history. Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is certainly a new development, and the three pyramids of the Moody Gardens are island landmarks. These pyramids are the Rainforest Pyramid, the Discovery Pyramid, and the Aquarium Pyramid and together they create an attraction part zoo and part amusement park.
Because of its proximity to Louisiana, Cajun influences abound on the island, including a huge Mardi Gras celebration. It's not unusual to see a purple or yellow house along the road for a touch of Mardi Gras spirit year-round. The island also has a touch of pure French influence, as pirate Jean Lafitte once made Galveston his home. It's rumored he buried treasure on the island, though it's never been found.
All along the shores, dinner cruises, paddlewheel boats and charters are readily available. For a different kind of sea experience, at the Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship Elissa you can climb aboard the ship for a firsthand view of this National Historic Landmark and American Treasure, this ship is over 120 years old and still sailable.
Galveston lies offshore of Houston. Take I-45 across the bridge.