Want to listen to the article? Great--listen here!

Ariel view of the Galveston Pier Photo Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Galveston is packed with history, heartbreak, and a lot of good food and fun. From beaches to shopping on The Strand to visiting a pyramid, you’re also bound to fall in love with the 32-mile sandbar that has weathered many storms. What you may not know is that the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history—the 1900 Storm, occurred in Galveston, in which more than 6,000 people lost their lives on this fateful September day. Before the storm, Galveston was the second richest city per capita in the United States and was even dubbed the “Wall Street of the South.” “Resilience” is a word you’ll often hear around the island to describe Galvestonians—also friendly and warm. In Galveston you can feel comfy wearing cowboy boots or flip flops. I’ll always choose pink flip flops, but you be you.

Beach Wheelchair Program: When I learned about this program, I knew I was a Galveston convert. Galveston takes their accessibility seriously, as should each city. They have ramps to the sand and access decking that wheelchairs can roll out to the water on. When Galveston originally put in the portable decking, they didn’t realize that strollers and others with wheels, like rolling ice chests, would also use the decking. Beach wheelchairs are available at all Park Board-operated beach parks in Galveston for free and without reservations on a first come first-served basis. Cory Lee with CurbFree visited Stewart Beach and made a video of him rolling on the accessible beach mats. Galveston truly is a pioneer in making their city accessible for most.

You’re not in Egypt. You’re in Galveston. The three pyramids—Aquarium, Rainforest, and Discovery Museum. Moody Gardens Hotel & Pyramids Photo Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Moody Gardens, the Aquarium Pyramid: You can explore the deep blue sea in the Gulf of Mexico, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean at Moody Gardens. My favorite part of the Aquarium were the animal encounters. You can meet a penguin! Or a sea otter! Or an owl with piercing eyes. This is a great place to bring kiddos. Moody Gardens, a 242-acre facility, really is an ideal family vacay spot, with multiple attractions, comfy rooms, a great pool where parents can swim long laps, and amazing food. The breakfast buffet had a great selection—from egg dishes to fresh fruit. Moody Gardens is also wheelchair friendly. The buildings have ramps leading to the entrances and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. The man-made lagoons have ramps to get into the water.

Absolute Equality Mural Photo Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Juneteenth: While Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, it began at the southwest corner of 22nd and Strand in Galveston when General Gordon Granger set up his Union Headquarters. You can take the self-guided Freedom Walk Tour on their own and visit five historic sites. They can also download an app and take the “Freedom Walk Challenge.” Some of the sites include Pier 21 and the Middle Passage Marker, which commemorates enslaved Africans during the 18th and 19th centuries or the Ashton Villa, the site where the Galveston community commemorate the General Order No. 3 through a reading, prayer breakfast, and reenactment. Other sites include the “Absolute Equality Mural” and Galveston’s Juneteenth Exhibit, “And Still We Rise…”

And Still We Rise… Galveston’s Juneteenth Story
Historical Ship “Elissa” at theTexas Seaport Museum Photo Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Immigration: Galveston was the second largest point of immigration into the U.S. behind Ellis Island in the 1800s. You can visit Galveston’s Maritime Industry Past and Present and experience what immigrants experienced as they sailed to America at the “Ship to Shore” exhibit. Also, Galveston is the 4th busiest cruise port in the United States, so you can visit the new Royal Caribbean cruise terminal or just watch the ships and dream of your next vacation.

The Grand Galvez Hotel poster in historic style

The Grand Galvez: Established in 1911, the AAA 4-diamond property is the only historic beachfront hotel on the Gulf Coast. They are also the only hotel in Texas to own their own beach, which is right across the street. They are still developing their beach but have plans to offer facilities on the water. The Grand Galvez has a storied history of celebrities and prominent public figures, such as Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, visiting and staying. The Miss Universe Pageant was said to have begun at the “Pageant of Pulchritude” that took place originally at the hotel. In 2021, they began a construction plan totaling $31 million, and in 2023, they transitioned to a Marriott Autograph Collection Property. Don’t forget to sip a drink at the legendary mahogany bar that was originally housed in Galveston’s last speakeasy during the days of prohibition.

The Grand Galvez Hotel
Gaido’s since 1911. Fresh locally caught Gulf seafood served with elegance and grace

Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant: While they are known for their “Deluxe Shellfish Tower,” which is literally a tower of oysters on the half shell, chilled Gulf shrimp, jumbo lump crab salad, and chilled blue crab claws,” don’t miss out on their au gratin potatoes and blue cheese grits. Their “Watkins Bisque” is delish, and their wedge salad is perfection. Pecan pie is the official state pie of Texas, and Gaido’s pecan pie is covered from top to bottom in Texas pecans. Is it pee-KAHN? Or puh-CON? Gaido’s is across the street from the water, so depending on your table, you’ll have a gorgeous view. The restaurant has dark cozy lighting and smells delicious, with wafts of seafood, butter, and garlic.

What I love about Galveston is that you can be transported back into time. If you visit LaKing’s Confectionary, where candy is still handmade, you can feel like you’re thrown back to the 1920s. Or if you visit The Grand 1894 Opera House that survived the storms of 1900 and 1916, you can feel like you’re back in the early 1900s. Galveston truly is grand in all that it has to offer. Sometimes we wait years to visit a place on our bucket list, which was the case for me with Galveston. I waited over two decades to dip my toes in the Texas Gulf Coast. And now I’m hooked on the small town, beach-vibe and the welcoming feel of the Jewel of the Gulf. I’ll be back, donning my pink flip flops and pastel sunnies.

LaKing’s Confectionary, an old-fashioned soda fountain, ice cream parlor, candy store, and coffee shop. Watch salt water taffy being made

Link to original article