We just got back from a long weekend down at the Texas coast with my brother's family, and overall it was a great trip, but just like on all family vacations, I have to sometimes hide away in a bathroom and tell myself, "we're making memories... we're making memories."
Here's the thing about family vacations: they are not only memory makers, they're also memory triggers. As in, "Oh yes, I remember now why I swore I'd never go anywhere with a teenager," or, "Oh that's right, now I remember why you should remove sand pronto from the seat of your swimsuit."
So after cancelling all future plans with the teenager and applying diaper cream to my fun bun in an effort to soothe the discomfort of being salty-sand exfoliated for the last four days, I wanted to share our trip with you and give you some places-to-go and things-to-do on your next Galveston visit.
We rented a house through Airbnb (highly recommend) and it was just a short two blocks from the beach.
You know I still drove my car, though.
That way, we wouldn't have to walk with all our beach bags, cooler, and pop-up cabana in tow.
Plus, I get weirdly panicky when I'm hot. I have to have air conditioning in my face right away, or I feel nauseous and I have to shake my hands out like I'm airing them dry, and I start saying really fast, "I need air, I need air, I need air."
I simply do not know how Laura Ingalls Wilder did it.
Parking availability wasn't bad at all on Thursday and Friday, and I even found a close spot on Saturday, too. Make sure to download the PayByPhone app before you get down there, because that's how you pay for your parking spot.
There's so, so much to do in and around this small coastal town! Here are some of my favorites:
Sights To See
Seawolf Park - one of our country's former immigration sites, the park is located on Pelican Island and has one of the island's most popular fishing piers. Also home to two WWII sea-crafts, the USS Stewart (one of only three destroyer escorts in the world) and the USS Cavalla, a submarine that was shot down by friendly fire, drowning its entire crew of more than 60. Tragic but fascinating visit for history buffs!
Fun fact side-note: to get to Seawolf Park, you pass the Galveston campus of Texas A&M University, the college where my son got automatic admission and subsequently dropped right the eff out. I'm still trying to heal, so please forgive my bitter tone.
NASA - The Space Center is only about 35 minutes from Galveston, located on the very south side of Houston, and it's such a fun and interesting half-day trip. Make sure there aren't any thunderstorms in the forecast because some of the attractions close during lightning, specifically tours of the original modified 747 aircraft carrier and replica of the shuttle Independence.
Moody Gardens - A gigantic park with tons of (expensive) stuff to do: an aquarium, water park, 3D and 4D movie theaters, dinosaur animatronics, paddlewheel boat ride, botanical gardens, and a handful of seasonal attractions. Definitely an all-day thing.
Where To Eat
Please do not go to Galveston and eat hamburgers or chicken nuggets. The seafood is amazing here! Smaller oysters than you'll get in New England, but still tasty, and there's no better place for shrimp than the Gulf waters.
Gaido's - A Galveston tradition you absolutely must visit! Opened in 1911 on the seawall, the restaurant still peels shrimp and shucks oysters by hand, and create their own sauces (their tartar sauce is so mild and creamy, it tastes whipped). Start with a plate of fried calamari for the table and save room for dessert because their cheesecakes are cut thick and the key lime cheesecake is tangy and fresh. I highly recommend making reservations.
Fisherman's Wharf - This restaurant looks like the quintessential coastal seafood house. Located on Pier 21, it overlooks the marina out its giant floor-to-ceiling windows on one side, and opens to Old Galveston (the Strand) on the other. The food is amazing - try the lobster bisque, get a plate of fried oysters to share, and have yourself some fresh steamed lobster and a loaded baked potato. #nomnom
The Spot - Located on Seawall Blvd, this is five venues under one roof, which makes it kinda cool because it's so different. It's lower-priced than Gaido's and Fisherman's Wharf, but this is a more relaxed, very casual place. You order at the counter and they call you up when your meal is ready versus being served. Everyone at my table loved the calamari, but I thought it was terrible. You definitely want to get a piña colada - they're served in a real coconut and they're mixed perfectly: very creamy and the perfect blend of sweetness (I find some piña coladas to be syrupy sweet and a watered-down texture).
Gino's Italian - If you're tired of seafood, or if you just feel like staying in one night, order pizza or pasta from Gino's. I made friends with the lady who lived next door to our Airbnb and she said this is the place to get pizza and pasta, especially because they deliver. We ordered the all meat pizza and a few pepperoni pizzas and they were good! They have an extensive pasta menu, so there's plenty of options for everyone.
Murdoch's Bathhouse - One of the most historic locations on the island, Murdoch's was built in the 1800's directly on the sand. It's got a storied history and is now a huge souvenir shop.
Pleasure Pier - An attraction-packed park with the vintage seaside look and feel of an old-school boardwalk. I just love the way this pier looks when you're lying on the beach and you see the merry-go-round twirling and the roller coaster soaring out over the horizon of the Gulf!
Pier 21 Theater and Museums - Pier 21 is home to three museums and the Pier 21 Theater, which shows a 27-minute documentary on the Hurricane of 1900, which is still considered the deadliest natural disaster in United States history.