TEXAS

Uniquely Yours, Galveston Island

While Galveston Island is a part of Texas, it doesn't feel like you are in Texas. Perhaps its the beaches or the fact that it was the "Playground of the South" in the late 1800s or Victorian architecture; whatever the reason may be, Galveston Island is definitely in a category to itself.

And this is good.

With its rich history, it's not a cookie-cutter island escape, either. Galveston is a unique destination worth a weekend or three-day getaway.

History

Of course, a great way to learn more about the barrier island is to tour it by land and by water. Starting on land, galveston is home to four historic districts: East End, Silk Stocking, Lost Bayou and The Strand. You can take a guided tour of the East End Historic District on an electric shuttle with the Galveston Island Tours, an affiliate of Galveston Historical Foundation. East End is home to various styles and periods of homes -a little of everything, including a castle. You'll also learn more about the tree sculptures, which were created from stumps of  the stately oak trees, many planted after the devastating hurricane in 1900, were destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Homeowners, with the assistance of three artists (Jim Phillips, Earl Jones and Dayle Lewis) created works of art from the destruction.

After the tour, head to Bishop's Palace and choose to take either a self-guided audio tour or guided tour. Located  in the East End, this stately and ornate home took about six years to build at a cost of $250,000 (would be $6 million today.) Built during 1887-92 by a wealthy businessman, the ornate property was designed by prominent Galveston architect, Nicholas Clayton. The home survived the great hurricane of 1900. In the 1920s, it was purchased by the Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese (still the current owners) as a residence for Bishop Christopher Byrne.
It makes perfect sense that the 102-year old Hotel Galvez would house a permanent public Hall of History. Located on the lower level of the hotel, it details the property's past as well as Galveston Island's past in photos and items. Did you know that Galveston Island is home to the Bathing Beauties Contest, which is said to have been a precursor to the Miss Universe Pageant. The pageant takes place on the beach across from Hotel Galvez.

Over at the Strand, you'll find the Texas Seaport Museum/ELISSA. The museum provides a look into the island's early history and its role as the "Ellis Island of the West." The Ocean Star OffShore Drilling Rig & Museum offers an in-depth look at oil, oil production and off-shore drilling. The self-guided tour takes you through the three-levels on the refurbished offshore drilling rig.

Don't forget about the Harbor Tour and Dolphin Watch cruise. While seeing dolphins aren't guaranteed, you will learn a lot about Galveston as a port and see first hand how busy the waterways are.

Fun

While there are 32-miles of beaches to enjoy, there are some attractions you don't want to miss, either. When you are able to tear yourself away from the beach, head to Moody Gardens. You might want to devote a half of a day to explore the complex. The three pyramids are home to an aquarium, a rainforest and a hands-on science museum.

Depending on the time of the year you visit Galveston, why not enjoy Schlitterbahn Waterpark, 26-acres featuring over 30 attractions that include everything from water coasters to water slides to whitewater rapids and more. A great way to cool off and stay cool in the Texas sun.

Great for kids or those who enjoy amusement parks, Galveston Island Historic Pier feature 16 rides, midway games, live entertainment and shops. Fair warning, not all of the rides are for the faint of heart.

Food

If your main reason for traveling is to eat, then you'll definitely enjoy Galveston. Leaving hungry is not an option here. Some suggestions include lunch at Olympia Grill at Pier 21 for some authentic Greek food and a breathtaking view of the harbor, or something lighter at Sunflower Bakery & Cafe. You can't leave Galveston without dining at either or both Gaido's Seafood Restaurant (and yes, leave room for their pecan pie), and Rudy and Paco.

Stay

The Tremont House situated near the Strand district is great for a couple, and those who want to park and walk (complimentary shuttle is available.) One of its highlights is the Rooftop Bar. Offering 119 rooms, among the property's many amenities is the Tremont Cafe. The sister property - Hotel Galvez & Spa trends toward families as well as couples. The full-service , 224-room historic hotel, known as the "Queen of the Gulf," offers ghost tours in October.

 

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