Things to Do

History

Galveston Island is a barrier island believed to be approximately 5000 years old and has had an interesting history during the past 500 years. It is generally believed Cabeza de Vaca and his crew were shipwrecked here in 1520 and eventually made their way from the island to colonies in Mexico. The LaFitte brothers, fleeing the prosecution of pirates in the United States, established a government here in 1817, with visions of creating a "Manhattan on the Gulf."

The city served as the main port of the Texas Navy in the Texas Revolution and the capital of the Republic of Texas. During the Civil War, the Confederates overcame the Union forces and forced them to leave the city. Commerce did thrive here, but major storms in 1867, 1871, 1875, and 1886 greatly slowed progress. During this period, Galveston emerged as an international city conducting trade from around the U.S. and the world. Immigrants also came from Europe and other parts. Galveston was once one of the nation's busiest ports and the world's leading port for cotton exports. It was Texas' largest city and its prime commercial center. The great storm of 1900 devastated the island, killing 5000 to 10,000 people, and prompted the construction of the seawall which protects the northern half of the island.

Reconstruction immediately began and the Seawall was built to protect the city from future storms. The Galveston Seawall was built to protect the island from future hurricanes after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Worked started in 1902, and the first phase was completed in 1904. Since then, the seawall was extended from 3.3 miles to over 10.3 miles. The structure is approximately 17 feet high and 16 feet thick at its base. Seawall Boulevard which runs along the seawall also claims to have the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 10.3 miles. Here are a couple of pictures I found related to the pre and post construction of the Seawall:

Seawall of Galveston, Texas, under construction, 1905
Seawall, Galveston, Texas, 1907

With the redevelopment of the city’s many historical buildings and its rich history, Galveston gradually became a tourist destination once again.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the city became a major tourist destination offering casinos and other vice businesses and gain notoriety as the sin city of the Gulf. The various illegal businesses were shut down in the 1950s. This led to long period of slow growth and stagnation. The city was kept alive with the support of some businesses like insurance companies and the medical school.

The city gradually re-emerged as a tourist destination centered on its history and its historical buildings. New tourist attractions were established and further development of the medical school and other area businesses have revitalized the economy in recent decades.

Today, after Hurricane Ike, Galveston is in the rebuilding process with new developments and facilities to attract and engage returning visitors.

Galveston Area Attractions

Galveston Island offers everything in a resort destination – beautiful accommodations, entertainment, shopping and 32 miles of Gulf Coast beaches. Galveston’s festivals, special events and attractions are enjoyable for Islanders and tourists alike.

Perhaps Galveston's greatest attraction in recent years has been the advent of cruising. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines have all found a home at the Port of Galveston in recent years. These premier cruise ships will take passengers to various stops in Mexico, the Caribbean and more. For information about departure dates, times and itineraries, visit GalvestonCruises.com.

Galveston Island Ferry, located on Hwy 87 (Ferry Road), continues to be one of Galveston's most popular attractions. Riders can park and ride the ferry or drive their vehicle aboard the ferry. Ferries run approximately every fifteen to twenty minutes and are free.

One of Galveston’s newest attractions is the Historic Pleasure Pier. The attraction is becoming a preferred family destination with the same greatness as Chicago's Navy Pier, the Santa Monica Pier and Coney Island's Luna Park. The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is a first-class, nostalgically themed amusement park, reminiscent of another historic landmark, Galveston's Electric Park. Traditional rides include a 36-foot diameter, double-decker carousel and a 100-foot tall Ferris Wheel, and for the more adventurous, a steel roller coaster with a 100-foot vertical climb, a 200-foot tall swing recognized as the highest ride in Texas and a classic bumper cars for adults and children. The restoration of the historical elements of the Pier with the rides and amusement offerings brings back the memories of what the destination was known for in the late 1940s.

The Great Storm, a multimedia presentation at the Pier 21 Theater, gives visitors a glimpse of the devastating 1900 Storm through a multi-image documentary experience. The 27-minute story gives actual accounts from diaries and letters of survivors during and after the storm.

One of Galveston's most popular attractions is Moody Gardens, One Hope Boulevard. Work or play, this tropical destination is ideal for families and groups alike. Water your imagination and travel the oceans of the world at the Aquarium Pyramid. Step into the Rainforest Pyramid with thousands of tropical plants, exotic fish and birds. Explore the mysteries of science at the Discovery Pyramid, and take a rocking and rolling ride through the universe at the Ridefilm Theater. Get in the middle of the action at the 4D Special FX Theater. See spectacular images leap from the screen of the six-story IMAX 3D Theater and visit beautiful Palm Beach (seasonal) and the newly expanded Moody Gardens Hotel.

Docked at Moody Gardens, the Colonel, a 750-passenger, 19th-century-style sternwheeler, offers a unique view of the Gardens and an enjoyable cruise. And business or pleasure, the Moody Gardens Hotel offers spectacular views of the entire Island. 

With its huge array of awesome aquatic adventures, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island can be your personal happy place! During the summer season, the park offers amazing rides and attractions, including a large wave pool, uphill water coasters, thrilling speed slides, kid's water playgrounds, whitewater rapids, relaxing hot tubs, family raft rides, the Boogie Bahn surf ride and the exclusive Transportainment river system. Relax in steaming warm waters and enjoy summer fun all year long at

The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, located at Pier 19, gives visitors an opportunity to step aboard an offshore rig and experience how oil and gas is produced offshore. Videos, interactive displays and models take patrons to offshore locations all over the world.

Seawolf Park, Pelican Island via Seawolf Parkway (51st Street), was built on an immigration station site and offers a three-story pavilion with a view of Galveston harbor, picnic sites, a playground area and a lighted fishing pier. A World War II submarine (the USS Cavalla), a destroyer escort (the USS Stewart), and other military hardware are open for tours.

Of course, no visit to Galveston is complete without a savoring the Island's historic homes and museums, which give visitors a glimpse of an era featuring both wealth and prosperity, as well as disaster and change.


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