The Strand is Galveston's historic district located at the northwestern end of the island and is a fun place to spend a sunny afternoon. If you get tired of the beach and trashy seawalk joints, head to the Strand where you'll find everything from open-air tiki huts to boutiques and wine bars.
Highlights are Colonel Bubbies, the nation's largest army surplus store and the Ice Cream Factory, where root beer floats are made the old-fashioned way with soda water, syrup, and homemade ice cream and are among the best I've ever had. Also, Galveston has its own mini-Mardi Gras every year which is a lot of fun and an annual Motorcycle Rally takes place in the strand and is a pretty great chance to people-watch (South Texas bikers get pretty eccentric).
Traveler's tip: you can drink on the street in the Strand! Most of the souvenir shops and restaurants offer beer to go (get Shiner, of course....you're in Texas!) and you can take them with you as you peruse the shops and squares.
One of the funnest things to do in Galveston is also one of the free-est. Follow Ferry Street north, away from the beach, but stay in the right lane, bypassing the line of idling cars, and pull into the free parking at the road's end. From there you simply walk on to the ferry (wait until you are told to proceed) and up on to the observation deck. The sailing from Galveston Island to Bolivar Peninsula takes about 20 minutes and takes you up close to waiting tankers, shrimp trawlers, and jumping dolphins, as well as Sea Wolf Park, where two old war ships are anchored. There's not much you can do on foot on the Bolivar side, so wait while the cars and trucks off load and then the boat makes its way back to the island. Tip -- pedestrians exit first, so when the boat begins to dock, walk in front of the cars and wait for the OK to debark.
The Galveston Seawall is nice to walk on and fun for people watching, but rather light on sand. A few sandy spots appear at low tide, but overall you get waves crashing into broken concrete. At the end of the seawall is the first natural wide-sand beach you can get to. There is cheapish parking near by and, in-season, out houses. The water here is warm well into October and the sand yellow. Swimming is not allowed next to the seawall but is open about 50 yards down. Galveston does not get huge waves as a rule, but usually has a dependable small swell so you can almost always find 1-2 foot waves to play in. Due to sandbars further out the ocean here is murky, but the upside is that you can walk 100 yards or more out into the water and still be less than waist deep.
Galveston is an old city along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and in many ways it has more in common with New Orleans than it does with Houston -- which is just 50 miles away. You're going to need several days to properly explore all it has to offer, and even more if you're list of stuff to do in Galveston includes fishing, diving, boat tours, or whale watching. Of course, the list of what to do in Galveston focuses on the water, but there's a lot to see on land as well.
Among the top places to visit in Galveston is one of the state's most beautiful buildings, Bishop's Palace. The former home is open for tours. Galveston attractions also incloude the Moody Mansion Museum, East End Historic District, and The Strand. The Strand is a shopping district near downtown in an area full of New Orleans-style buildings. More attractions in Galveston worth mentioning are found around Moody Gardens, which is an entertainment and museum complex.
Of course, no list of tings to do in Galveston would be complete without mentioning the beaches. The most popular are Stewart Beach, East Beach, and Jamaica Beach, all with yellow sand and warm gulf water. At the east end of the island is another of the great Galveston activities -- the Bolivar ferry, which is free to walk on. Another of the great thigns to see in Galveston is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, which is a theme park at the edge of the beach open 365 days a year.
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