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On this mellow island, Victorian architecture and storied resorts harmonize with buzzworthy new restaurants and family-friendly theme parks. Ready to discover why visitors are singing the praises of this Gulf of Mexico getaway?
By Amanda Gleason
Hotel Galvez & Spa Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra are among the past guests of this Spanish Mission–style resort, named after the city’s famed founder, Bernardo de Gálvez.
The San Luis Resort Reserve a poolside cabana at this relaxing beachfront escape, where a waterslide, swim-up bar, and grotto-style hot tub make it easy to stay in your swimsuit all day long.
The Tremont House Drink in the downtown view at the hip rooftop bar atop this elegant spread. Prefer to stay grounded? Then park yourself at the Toujouse Bar for a honeydew martini.
Continue your quest into the city’s past when you…
In 1892, a Victorian castle was completed on Broadway Street in Galveston. Now dubbed Bishop’s Palace, this elaborate home was built by premier architect Nicholas Clayton for Confederate soldier and Texas congressman Col. Walter Gresham and his family. As you stroll through the entrance hall, flanked by towering marble columns, imagine yourself as one of the hundreds of guests who once flocked to the extravagant New Year’s Day parties held here. For more of the high life, amble down the street to Moody Mansion, a four-story, limestone-and-brick beauty where prominent philanthropist and entrepreneur William Lewis Moody Jr. and his brood used to hang their hats. You don’t even have to leave your shoes at the door.
Make a splash:
C-Sick Surfing The city’s oldest pro surf school offers beginner lessons taught by Brian Jarvis, who learned to ride the waves in Hawaii more than 50 years ago.
Schlitterbahn Galveston Twist along tube slides or brave this waterpark’s tallest attraction, the Cliffhanger, which sends riders tumbling down an 81-foot drop.
Put yourself in cruise control when you…
Come Sail Away
Galveston’s coastal setting makes it a great jumping-off point for jaunts in the Caribbean. Three cruise ships—Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas and Carnival’s Magic and Triumph—call this town their home port, and each offers a unique experience afloat. Completely overhauled in February, the Navigator now sports the industry’s first virtual balconies, which give interior staterooms real-time ocean views via high-def screens stretching nearly floor to ceiling. Carnival’s Magic, home to RedFrog Pub—a laid-back bar with its own private-label brew—puts partying patrons at ease. And if a weeklong journey just won’t cut it, try this: Beginning in October 2015, the Triumph will offer 10- and 11-night getaways to San Juan. ¡Vamanos!
Satisfy your taste buds at:
Shrimp ’N Stuff Locals swarm this casual eatery for its sweet coconut shrimp. Don’t forget the honey-horseradish sauce for your dipping delight.
La King’s Confectionary Pay a visit to this old-fashioned sweets shop if you’re seeking dark-chocolate pecans, root beer floats, saltwater taffy, and more than 30 flavors of ice cream.
Number 13 Serious about seafood? Sink your teeth into the grilled red snapper, served with carrot butter and sweet peas, at this new restaurant on Pelican Rest Marina.
Get ready for a rollicking time as you…
Give It a Whirl
Now here’s a spin on the typical amusement park: Build 16 rides on a platform that’s more than 1,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. We’re talking about Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, a recently reincarnated amusement park that conjures up the heyday of waterfront hoopla in America—think of it as Coney Island on the Texas Coast. After the park’s glory years faded in the mid-20th century, its rides and attractions were torn down to make space for an overwater hotel. But in May 2012, much of the Pier’s original splendor was rebuilt. As you stroll the buzzing midway lined with roaring roller coasters and carnival games, let the smell of cotton candy, funnel
The Heard Gallery Land the perfect island souvenir—tropical-themed oil paintings of pelicans and palm trees—at this cozy shop.
The Grand 1894 Opera House This summer, the Texas Tenors (of America’s Got Talent fame) are just one of the acts to take the stage at this ornate theater.
Moody Gardens Eager for more fun and games? Then head to this sprawling park for its zip line, aquarium, rainforest, 4-D theater, and paddle-wheel boat cruises.
If fishing strikes your fancy…
Reel One In
Sitting aboard a 40-foot boat some 90 miles offshore, gazing out at the vast ocean, you feel a sense of calm wash over you—that is, until you spot a slow-moving fin protruding from the water. “The thrill that fishermen get from catching sharks is addicting,” says captain Matt Garner of Fish-n-Divers, a family-owned company that offers a variety of deep-sea fishing charters for groups of up to six anglers. And while snagging one of these powerful animals is one of the main draws of embarking on a half- or full-day excursion, you won’t be disappointed by the abundant kingfish, wahoo, and trout that call these waters home. Just bring your fishing license (easily obtained in area stores)—and the beverage of your choice—and let the cap’n guide you onto the open water. That’s how we like to make waves.
Getting There Fly into William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, then rent a car for the drive to Galveston, about 50 miles southeast.
Getting Around Downtown is easily explored on foot. For venturing farther out, a rental car or the city’s bus system, Island Transit, are your best bets.
Getting Out Moody Gardens’ summer concert series draws music lovers every Friday and Saturday night throughout the summer. Bonus: Fireworks are included.
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