Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip to Galveston

July 21, 2012 6:00 AM

One of the best benefits of living in the fourth largest city in the United States is that Houston is within an hour of the beaches of Galveston Island. A weekend getaway to Galveston can, and should be, much more than a day at the beach. Whether you’re shopping for that eclectic gift, heading to an amusement park, touring historic homes and buildings, sitting harborside watching the cruise ships, or just strolling along the coastal seawall, Galveston is the perfect place for a quick getaway that feels much further from home than it really is.

Getting There

Only an hour’s drive down I-45 from almost anywhere in the area, most travelers take a right at the 61st Street exit and roll down the windows when 61st dead ends at Seawall Boulevard to soak the sights, sounds and breezes of the Gulf of Mexico. But you can also venture further in to town and take a left turn on 25th Street to get to the Strand and harbor district.

Where to Go

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Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
2501 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston, TX 77550
(855) 789-7437

Prices: $10 adults/$8 children/$26.99 adult all-day ride passes/$21.99 children

Galveston’s newest tourist attraction is certain to be a hit with kids of all ages. Designed to harken back to a tourist destination of the 1940s and 1950s, this new incarnation is completely 21st century. Spend the entire afternoon on of the one dozen amusement park rides and playing the midway games. Leave the coolers and picnic baskets at home as they won’t be allowed onto the pier, but food vendors offer traditional carnival fare and Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. promises pier-goers the perfect spot for a full seafood meal.

Where to Play

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Pier 21 Theater
2100 Harborside Drive
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 763-8808

Prices: $6 adults, $5 children (ages 6-18), children under 6 are free

This quaint theater nestled in the Pier 21 area can be overlooked by the weekend tourist, but those who want to learn something about the history of the city may find it in the short films shown here. Jean Lafitte is famous, or infamous, for his exploits, but “The Pirate of Jean Lafitte” explores what his motives may have been in the years he called Galveston home. “The Great Storm” chronicles the devastating hurricane of 1900 that affected the island for years afterward. This is a great stop for the family looking to include some educational opportunities for the kids.

Related: Galveston Ferry May Be Texas’ Best Tourist Bargain

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Galveston Seaport Museum/Tall Ship Elissa
2100 Harborside Drive
Pier 21 / No. 8
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 763-1877

Prices: $8 adults/$5 children ages 6 to 18/free children younger than 6

Experience what it may have been like to be a seafarer of the 19th century on this authentic restored, three-masted ship that was built in 1877. The Elissa is a fully functioning sailing vessel that still occasionally sets out to sea. Other exhibits of the museum offer glimpses into the history of the Port of Galveston as well as some of the industries that keep it thriving today. Harbor tours also set out from the museum.

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Schlitterbahn Waterpark
2026 Lockheed Road
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 770-9283

Prices: $42.99 adults/$32.99 children and seniors

This family owned waterpark has become a favorite for island goers who want a little fresh-water fun. Extremely family friendly, it offers complimentary tubes for gliding around a lazy river and life vests for flying down the water chutes and playing in the wave pool. Pack a picnic lunch and fill the cooler with soft drinks or juices — but no glass containers or alcoholic beverages — because those are welcome at the park. Rent a cabana for a nominal fee to have a shady place to dry off and reapply the sunscreen.

Related: Best City Escapes From Houston

Where to Eat

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The Spot
3204 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 621-5237

Part of the Island Famous on the seawall that includes watering holes Drip, Tiki Bar, Squeeze and Rum Shack, The Spot is the place to sit and enjoy a burger while people watching and catching the sights and sounds of the beach. While, like many of Galveston’s great dining spots, you can find seafood fare here, the delicious burgers are cooked over an open flame, and you may fix them up any way you like at the burger bar. Let the kids loose in the game arcade while mom and dad relax with a cool drink on the deck. Don’t leave without trying some of the freshly baked cakes or pastries.

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Shrimp ‘N Stuff Seafood Restaurant
3901 Avenue O
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 763-2805

It may take a little searching away from the bustling beaches and downtown areas to find this spot, but it’s worth it. This family owned seafood shop has been a treasure for locals since 1976, offering great seafood at moderate prices. You won’t be here for the ocean view or white-linen service, but if a laid back atmosphere and great fried seafood are your thing, this is the place to eat. The shrimp or oyster po’ boys are must-try fare, and don’t forget to ask for some of the homemade remoulade sauce.

Where to stay

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Grace Manor Bed & Breakfast
1702 Postoffice Street
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 621-1662

Prices: from $139 per night (weeknights)/$169 per night (weekends)

This cozy Victorian-style bed and breakfast is the perfect place to spend a night or two. Located just minutes from the downtown Strand district and Pier 21, it is also just a short drive away from the beaches along the seawall. Choose from four distinct room settings to find the perfect place to unwind at the end of a busy day. Lounge in the shade on the wraparound porch or explore the lush flowers and foliage that surround the stately mansion.

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Lonnie King is a freelance writer living in Houston. His work can be found at

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