Sand, seaweed, and sun may be the first images that pop into your head when you think of spending a day in Galveston, but the little island is jam-packed with a lot of fun for visiting families that extends far beyond visiting the beach. We pinpointed kid-friendly activities throughout the city and compiled a list of 10 things to do the next time you travel off the mainland.
For more ideas on summer activities, check out our Summer Fun Guide for Houston families.
For a laid-back beach experience, you'll want to head straight for The Seawall, which offers over 10 miles of beach and water for laying out, playing and swimming. Parking is available along The Seawall and visitors pay by the hour, day or season. Picnic meals can be enjoyed on the beach or you can take advantage of a wide variety of beachfront restaurants that are a short walk from the sand. While you're exploring The Seawall, be sure to make a pit-stop at Murdoch's where you can stock up on beach souvenirs and take in sweeping views of the sea through stationary viewfinders while enjoying a tasty cold beverage.
Related: Best Family-Friendly Beaches in Galveston
Amusement rides, midway games, restaurants and retail shops for kids of all ages abound at Pleasure Pier, and all of it offers a waterfront view. Want to play at Pleasure Pier but also take advantage of other island attractions? Wristbands allow re-entry throughout the day. Tickets can be bought online in advance or at the entrance. Patrons can choose from the All-Day Ride Pass, walk-on passes, single-ride tickets, Family Fun Packs, or the Weekend Adventure Pass that allows you unlimited access to Pleasure Pier, nearby Kemah Boardwalk, and the Houston Downtown Aquarium.
Image courtesy of Landry's, Inc.
Galveston Island State Park
Camping enthusiasts and nature lovers, look no further than Galveston Island State Park for all things active and outdoors. Recreational activities include fishing, bird watching, hiking, kayaking, swimming, and camping. Entry costs $5 per person, and kids ages 12 and under get in free. You can hang out at the park for the day to take advantage of the beach, or stay overnight at one of the 66 available campsites. Kids can even become Junior Rangers by visiting the Nature Center, picking up the Junior Ranger Activity Journal and Explorer Pack and completing tasks to earn a badge.
Related: Family Fun at Port Aransas: Best Kid-Friendly Things to Do
With three different pyramids of attractions, there's something for everyone to enjoy at Moody Gardens. Each pyramid offers a different experience; the recently-renovated Aquarium Pyramid gives visitors a glimpse into ocean life, the Rainforest Pyramid offers a peak of rainforests in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and the Discovery Pyramid houses a museum exhibit and Spongebob Squarepants Adventure. There's also theaters, a golf course, the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, a water park, restaurants, ziplines, a ropes course, and more! Visitors can choose to purchase tickets for individual attractions or buy one or two-day value passes.
To get a feel for the island and its history, take one of the many tours around the city. Each tour offers something unique and gives visitors a glimpse of Galveston that encompasses more than just the sand and waves. Tours include the Tree Sculpture Tour, African American Historic Places, Galveston Historical Homes Tour, various boat tours, walking and riding tours, and ghost tours of local haunted spots for the brave of heart. One of our personal favorites is a dolphin tour, where families can take a tour around Galveston Bay and watch the dolphins jump during an entertaining boat ride.
Festivals and Events
When planning a trip to Galveston, be sure to check the calendar for any festivals or special events that the island may be hosting. Notoriously, Mardi Gras! Galveston held in February of each year is the festival to end all festivals in Galveston, featuring plenty of family-friendly parades and festivities. Also popular for families are the Galveston Greek Festival each fall, Dickens on the Strand at Christmastime, and the Galveston Island Beach Revue in June.
Image courtesy of Schlitterbahn Waterparks
If you're looking for a water experience sans the sand, look no further than Schlitterbahn Galveston. The water park has a variety of rides for all age levels, kids areas and beaches, a lazy river, heated pools and more, including MASSIV, the world's tallest water coaster. You can also rent cabanas for the day so you have a place to come back to and relax and recharge. There are more than 18 different food and beverage vendors throughout the park, however, patrons are welcome to bring picnic meals in as well. Tickets are sold in one or two day passes and season passes.
Did you know that Galveston has a thriving art scene? If you are an art-loving family, head to one of Galveston's many art galleries to view works by local artists, as well as imported pieces. Most of the studios are kid-friendly, but at Clay Cup Studios kids can make their own pottery and paintings. At various times throughout the year, businesses on The Strand display local artwork on Saturday nights as part of Galveston's ArtWalk.
There are a multitude of family-friendly dining options to choose from, many with waterfront views. Try favorites like The Spot for a great burger, Tortuga's for delicious Tex-Mex, or Willie G's for seafood and to watch the cruise ships set sail. If you happen to be in Galveston during the winter months, be sure to check out the restaurants participating in Galveston Restaurant Weeks to enjoy a great meal at a discount for a good cause.
Related: Fun Summer Day Trips for Houston Families
Whether it's in the bay, along the surf or off a pier, there are plenty of places to cast a line and spend the day fishing with the kids in Galveston. Looking for something more intense? Consider making a day of it by booking an off-shore fishing trip, where it's not unusual to catch large tuna and marlins. The kids may not be strong enough to reel in the giant fish by themselves, but the experience is one that will last a lifetime.
Image courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitor's Bureau
The Strand Historic District
Downtown Galveston, known as The Strand, gives visitors a chance to kick off the sand and walk around perusing shop-lined streets. You'll find a variety of novelty stores full of knick-knacks and memorabilia, restaurants and bars to grab a bite to eat or a drink, and every kid's favorite stop: La King's Confectionery, where there's an endless selection of candy, antique arcade games and even Salt Water Taffy pulling demonstrations. No visit to Galveston is complete without a stop at La King's!
Take Amazing Photos
Many of our favorite spots to visit around town happen to also be amazing places to get cute Instagram-worthy photos of kids. Several murals are located in the Strand district, along the Seawall, and at other locations throughout the island. We compiled a list of the best spots for taking photos of your kids in Galveston in this post.
Galveston is rich with history, and there is no shortage of museums to visit, whether you're a kid or kid at heart. For the transportation-obsessed, be sure to check out the Texas Seaport Museum/ELISSA, Seawolf Park and Galveston Railroad Museum. Need something specifically geared at kids? You'll want to stop off at the Galveston Children's Museum. There's also the Galveston County Museum, The Bryan Museum and Ocean Star Offshore Drilling & Rig Museum.
Galveston Island Ferry
Looking for something different, fun and free to do? Take a ride with the kids on the Galveston Island Ferry. Passengers are allowed to walk on (as well as drive) and the kids will have a blast looking for fish, dolphins, boats and birds as you travel to and from Bolivar Peninsula. Round-trip, the whole excursion takes less than 40 minutes.
Top image courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitor's Bureau
This post originally published in 2017.