Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier: Nostalgic Family Fun by the Beach
The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is iconic for many reasons, including that it is the closest theme park to Houston, with a history that reflects our city's resilience. At Pleasure Pier you can hop on the Texas Star Flyer and get a bird's eye view of the Gulf of Mexico, test your luck at classic carnival games, and enjoy a full day of classic family fun. There are several restaurants and shops as well as beach entry just steps away from the pier, making it a great Houston day trip with the kids.
Part of what makes Pleasure Pier special is the property's history, something I love to share with my kids whenever we visit historic properties. For decades the pier has been a destination for families, surviving and being transformed by multiple hurricanes along the way. When Hurricane Ike destroyed the last tenant, Flagship Hotel, in 2008, Landry's Inc. renovated and opened an amusement park for guests of all ages.
The resulting seaside attraction is a Galveston landmark and a must-see for families! There are rides and activities to delight kids big and little, cautious and thrill-seeking. Here's a breakdown of the attractions and what to expect on a visit to Houston's favorite local theme park.
Best Rides for Kids
Pleasure Pier has an excellent mix of attractions, which works great for families with children of varying ages or degrees of bravery. You can't convince my husband to ride a roller coaster with a million bucks, and yet he was happy to spend a good hour playing the carnival games with my son and riding the Gulf Glider, which is a classic swing carousel.
There is a section of smaller rides appropriate for toddlers and younger elementary-age children, with rides like a small Ferris wheel (the Lil' Captian's Wheel), the Frog Hopper bouncer, and of course, a classic two-story carousel perfect for photo ops
In an indoor section, you'll find two kinds of bumper cars: single karts and double. My 7-year-old was able to drive a single car by himself and looked like he was ready to take on the Indy 500.
Galaxy Wheel, the pier's giant Ferris wheel, is a sight to behold in the evening when its LED lights create a beautiful display. The view from on top is also fairly memorable, and with cars that fit six people it's a good ride for the whole family to do together.
Rides for Bigger Kids, Too
The larger roller coasters and thrill rides for older riders are the icing on the cake. Located closer to the end of the pier, there is the massive Texas Star Flyer famous for its panoramic views and the Iron Shark Rollercoaster with a 100-foot lift and drop for those with guts of steel.
Other rides for the not-so-faint of heart include the Pirate's Plunge flume ride, the intensely rotating Revolution, and the head-over-heels Cyclone. In short, there is as much here to keep a teenager happy as a toddler.
Note that on any given day, a few attractions could be closed for maintenance. When we visited, the large swing ride, Texas Star Flyer, as well as the water tube chute were closed. It's a good idea to call the day of to learn more about what to expect when you arrive.
Carnival & Arcade Games
Come with cash or be prepared to use the on-site ATM, because the carnival and arcade games and just too tempting! Surprisingly, our kids actually each came away with several prizes (stuffed animals). In fact, the website says most games will yield a prize, which helps to rationalize the money spent. There is a good mix of games as well as a small indoor arcade section.
While not exactly a game, another non-ride amusement is the 5D Theater Ride which is located right across the street from Pleasure Pier. You can choose to visit a forgotten mine in "The Mysterious Underworld" or brave the "Shark Attack" ride, which promises a full-on, glass-busting attack by a Megalodon shark.
Food & Shopping: Where To Eat at Pleasure Pier
A great option for snacks is the souvenir cup from the Lolli & Pops Candy Shoppe for cheap refills all day. This is the route we went and it worked out great for our kids to share. You can also use this cup at other Landry's propertie—the Downtown Aquarium and Kemah Boardwalk. Other eateries on the Pier include Big Top Bites where you can grab a burger and fries, Carousel Court Sweets where you can grab yourself a delicious funnel cake (you are doing fun things with your kids; you deserve it!), Brew Station for adult beverages, and Sweet Scoops for Blue Bell ice cream.
At Pleasure Pier's entrance, you'll find Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. For all other restaurants, you'll have to walk off property. Right across the street is a Chick-fil-A Express as well as Fish Tales, a fun seafood restaurant with great patio seating.
Know Before You Go
- Tickets: You have to pay to walk onto the Pier, so you can purchase a Walk-On Pass and then pay per ride, or you can purchase an All-Day Ride Pass. Family packs are available with discounts for up to four passes. Click here to see the latest ticket prices.
- No surprises here, but it can get hot on those wooden planks! We suggest making it a later day and arriving closer to 2pm or 3pm to skip part of the scorching heat.
- Strollers and backpacks are allowed.
- Visit during a weekday for smaller crowds.
- View the pier's map to get a good lay of the land before your visit.
- If you have time before the day ends, make a quick trip to the beach! We parked at Fish Tales and were able to walk across to the Seawall and spend a few hours letting the kids play in the ocean before heading home. What's great about that stretch of beach is the water is shallow for a long way out. A mother of young and unpredictable children's dream!
Pleasure Pier was a big hit for our family because of its variety of fun attractions. There really is something for everyone, and it made our most recent visit to Galveston Island an unforgettable one.
All photos by Carrie Taylor