Things to do in Galveston TX

28 Best Things To Do in Galveston TX with Family 2024

Looking for a fun beach spot within the continental US? Look no further than Galveston TX. When Midwesterners think of the ocean, most think of Florida or California. But what about Texas?

There is so much oceanfront property and a great view of the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston has become my favorite place to relax.

Cruise companies have started to make this the main port, and with everything, for their guest to do I understand why. Vacationing here is so economical with tons of things to do in Galveston TX with the family.

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The Best Things to Do in Galveston TX with the Family

Visit the Best Beaches on Galveston Bay

If you want to visit the beach in Galveston, you have two options. The public Galveston Seawall Beach, or drive up to the shoreline yourself. The first option is by far the most popular. Unlike many other shoreline destinations, hotels are rarely found on the shoreline.

There is a highway separating you from the water, making it a true public beach. For those that choose to park across the highway, there are lots of stoplights to cross at. Please do this, the traffic is kind of crazy.

Seawall Beach is almost impossible to miss. Stretching most of the length of the island is one of the best beaches to visit. There are many different sections, and none have lifeguards. Along the beach, you’ll find public restrooms, and piers.

The other option is Stewart Beach or a public beach access. Driving south on the Island, you’ll start to see little blue signs on the side of the road with public beach access. Follow the small road, and in most cases, you can drive right up to the shoreline.

It may be the northern in me talking, but driving on a sandy beach is one of the most fun things about a visit to Galveston Island.

Driving on the beach in Galveston


Dolphins love Galveston. More so than any other place I’ve visited. They even have low-cost BayWatch Dolphin Tours available. They’ll have cost friendly tours on a Dolphin friendly boat to find them.

Sightings are almost guaranteed and the boat leaves right off the pier. If you are looking for a free opportunity to see dolphins, keep on reading. This is a must-see thing to do in Gavelston TX.

The Dolphin Tours are top-rated and guarantee sightings. Make sure you book a tour before you leave by clicking here.

Bolivar Ferry

The Bolivar Ferry takes you and your vehicle through the channel to visit the neighboring island of Bolivar. The best part is the ferry is free! Bolivar is a flatter island with some unique opportunities to camp right on the beach. However, parking or camping on the beach requires a $10 vehicle sticker that can be picked up in any of the gift shops.

But the main reason we went to the island was to see dolphins. The closest I’ve ever gotten was aboard the ferry. Locals were telling us that we could save ourselves some cash and take the ferry for guaranteed sightings.

They were right. On our trip across we came up with nothing but on the way back we were surrounded. They came right up to the boat.

Ferry to Bolivar Ferry

Catch Something off the Fishing Pier

There are plenty of opportunities to fish in Galveston. Locals were fishing right off the rocks on the shorelines, or really any shorelines they can find.

Some will wade into the water and throw a line out, others use nets. We saw it all. But for most out-of-towners, you’ll want to stick with some of the fishing piers.

Pier 21 is a great one to start off with. They sell bait and licenses and will rent you everything else. They fully equip their guest with everything they need. There is currently a Groupon to get you started.

Bike along the Seawall

Just for fun, you should rent a quad bike and take the family along. It is the ultimate beach time fun activity.

Don’t worry about looking silly, my family and I did it and we were laughing the entire time going up and down the Seawall. There are a few different vendors available.

There is an amazing eBike adventure around the island run by Zipp E-Bikes They take you on a tour of the best sites on the island. Make sure to get your ticket ahead of time because they sell out all the time.

Kayak Adventures

If you are looking to do something more adventurous, try sea kayaking. Outfitters like Artist Boat Kayaks know some of the best places for a leisurely kayak ride.

They focus on promoting awareness and preservation of the coast. There are multiple destinations to choose from, so you’ll find something for everyone.

Fly a Kites

Whenever you are by water, you should always fly a kite. Kites Unlimited has a great selection of kites.

The kites were priced about a few dollars more than Amazon. Mine was only $4 more at the store and they had superior service.

Before we left the store, they made sure to make sure we had the right kite, and that we knew exactly how to set it up. This is one of the best things to do in Galveston with kids.

We ended up going back again not to get help with our kite, like they offered, but to buy more kites. We were a little addicted.

Flying Kites in Galveston TX

Ropes Course & Zipline at Moody Gardens

If you are looking for something a little more thrilling to do, check out the Ropes course and Zipline and Moody Gardens. This had to be one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.

There are 5 different levels of steel ropes, making it the tallest in the Gulf Coast. Each rope is 81ft and there are 48 different obstacles to face. When they say it’s challenging, it is, but also fun. For those younger kids, they have a Sky Tykes Ropes course a few feet off the ground.

Look No hands on the ropes course

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

When you get the chance to visit an amusement park on a pier, you gotta go for it. The Historic Pleasure Pier has been entertaining guests for years.

They have some great rides and dining options. I recommend visiting at night. But that’s mostly because I love all the lights.

Pleasure Pier

Mini Golf

There is an amazing little mini golf course Magic Carpet Golf. Two different sets of 18 holes to try out, each with its own set of challenges and difficulties.

One side was shaded while the other was sunnier. The whole family was laughing and having a great time.

Mini Golf in Galveston

Ride the Galveston Trolly

Galveston has a Trolly to get around. The fair is $1 per person. Kids are free with a paying adult. The best part is the trolly covers almost all of Galveston in different loops. If your kids love trains, trolly, and all things that move, like mine, they’ll love getting to ride on the Galveston Trolly.

Pirate Museum

The Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast Museum in Galveston TX is a fun way to get into the pirate lifestyle. The museum staff is in character at all times making it very entertaining. They actually drew us into the establishment when we were walking by and they made it hard to stay no.

Inside, kids can learn about the pirate lifestyle, by looking at different artifacts. At the end of the adventure, you’ll pass through movie memorabilia, including some from Pirates of The Caribbean and the Goonies.

If you don’t have kids, you’ll probably get a little more of the historical elements out of it.

Like did you know the famed pirate Jean Lafitte used Galveston Island as a smuggling base? This may feel like a cheesy tourist attraction, it was the most memorable of all attractions in Galveston. Plus, we learned a little more about the Texas coast and it’s fun for the whole family.


Ride the Worlds Tallest Watercoaster at Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark

A friend of mine took a day trip to Galveston and all she could talk about is Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark. They have some of the tallest watercoasters I’ve seen.

Shlitterbahn is tucked away by Moody Gardens making it off the beaten path, but still accessible. We were there in the offseason so we couldn’t get a chance to see for ourselves. but in the Texas heat, it’s perfect way to cool off.

Seawolf Park

Seawolf Park was an unexpected treat. On its own separate island with a view of Galveston, it housed a battleship, submarine, playground for the kids, and fishing opportunities. The coast is lined with fishermen.

Seawolf Park

If you have kids, I recommend planning to be at Seawolf Park for at least 2 hours. Our kids loved getting the opportunity to let loose and play. While we got to sit aside and watch the fishing and dolphins swim by the harbor.

The cost is $6 to park. $6-9 to fish up to two reals. Visiting the Naval Ships cost $13 for adults, $8 for children and Active Military is free. This was one of the top things to do in Galveston TX with kids.

Seawolf Park Playground on Galveston Island

Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary

Nature lovers need to check out the Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary. This coastal haven provides a vital resting and feeding ground for a variety of migratory birds.

You’ll find pelicans, sandpipers, and other feathered friends in their natural habitat. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

Rainforest Café Ride

The Rainforest Café in Galveston TX has a ride! This is geared toward kids 8 and under. The ride looks like it’s a water ride from amusement parks but you don’t get wet. Think of it like a lazy river through similar displays in their restaurants.

If you have a child and plan to eat at the rainforest, you almost have to go on the ride. Unless you can distract them from it. My kids loved it, while I was underwhelmed by it. As a group, we made it fun.

Rainforst Cafe Ride

Moody Gardens

Moody Gardens was exactly where we chose to spend our rainy day. They have tons of different activities in one location. Most are contained inside the iconic three pyramids making it perfect when it started to downpour.

The main features include a Rainforest and Aquarium. Inside the last pyramid is a mix of theatre and rotating displays similar to what you’d find in a children’s museum.

Aquarium at Moody Gardens
Jelly Fish

Galveston Island State Park: Nature’s Retreat

Escape to the Galveston Island State Park, where you can enjoy unspoiled nature and a range of outdoor activities.

Hike along scenic trails, fish in Galveston Bay, or simply unwind on the beautiful beach. This protected sanctuary is breathtaking.

Shopping in Strand Historic District in Downtown Galveston

When you drive down the Historic Strand shopping area, I challenge you not to stop. Why? Because it’s almost impossible. Their seafront location and historic buildings make it one f the best places in the city to stroll.

They have a great selection of shopping, restaurants and more. Whether you are looking for fine art, cheap trinkets or a good bite of food, you’ll find it here. If you are looking for a change of scenery from the beach, this is a great thing to do in Galveston TX.

Historic Strand District of Galveston TX

Ghost Tour

Did you know Galveston is Haunted? After the storm of 1900 and the pirate legends, there is bound to be a few spirits roaming around.

Just talking to some of the residents of the island, they will tell you stories about the hauntings they’ve experienced in their own homes.

Book your tour before you leave

If you want to find out more about them, take a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. This adults only tour covers both the Ghost of Galveston and the Red Light District.
If you have kids with you, they offer a traditional Ghost Tour too!

Bishops Palace

Bishops Palace is one of the most breathtaking buildings you will ever see. Built-in 1982, the palace is considered one of the most significant Victorian residences in the country.

With the wrap-around porches and magnificent columns, it’s no wonder. Check out their website to find out how you can walk in and explore more of its beauty.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum

Galveston is a huge port bringing in tankers every day. Those that take a cruise ship from here will most likely see the offshore oil rigs as the boats come and go. That’s why you should stop by the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.

The museum is an old oil rig. Its multiple levels of the museum both indoors and outdoors, showing what it was like to live and work on one of these rigs.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig
Oil Rig

Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship Elissa

The Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship are beautifully restored 1877 tall ship that visitors can explore. Located in the port of Galveston,, it is currently tied up on Pier 21. This ship is a floating museum that can actively sail still.

Guests can either explore the ship while in the dock or schedule a trip out on the water. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tall ships in Galveston

Galveston Railroad Museum

Step back in time at the Galveston Railroad Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the fascinating history of railroads.

Explore vintage locomotives, historical artifacts, and interactive exhibits that showcase the significant role of railways in shaping Texas’s past.

Learn about the evolution of transportation and the vital connection between Galveston and the rest of the state.

The Bryan Museum

Discover the rich history of Texas at The Bryan Museum. This treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits provides a captivating glimpse into the diverse cultures, events, and people that have shaped the state’s identity.

From Spanish colonization to the Texas Revolution, The Bryan Museum offers a unique perspective on all Galveston Island offers.

Johnson Space Center in Houston

Have you ever wondered where our astronauts train? That all happens in Houston Texas.

At the Johnson Space Center, you can walk through our space history, touch a moon rock, and see rockets, and even stand inside the space shuttle. It’s an experience that is mind-blowing.

The Johnson Space Center

Where to Eat in Galveston

La Kings Confectionery

It’s hard to walk down the History Strand District without seeing some great food or smelling the delicious La Kings Confectionary. Their sweet aroma brings in guests like crazy.

What sets this confectionary store apart is not those chocolates, but the ice cream, and gourmet coffee too. The only problem we ran into was trying to keep our chocolate from melting.

Katies Seafood

Katies Seafood offers some of the freshest seafood on the island. Located on Pier 21, this seafood restaurant has outdoor seating with views of the docks.

There you can watch their boats bringing in the fish daily. The oysters were amazing and the fish tacos out of this world.

The staff was amazing. If you would prefer to cook your own, you can also pick up some of their catch right next door. Truly this is a top thing to do in Galveston TX. You have to check it out!

Oysters Doc Side at Katie's Seafood
Fish Tacos in Galveston

Texas Pit Stop BBQ

You can’t go to Texas without getting some award-winning BBQ. We found the delicious Texas Pit Stop BBQ joint just off Seawall Blvd. With more trophies on display than you can count.

They are the 5X Triple Crown winter in the 7th Annual Galveston County competition, their ribs took first place in Galveston County and they were the 2nd Runner up in Brisket at the Houston Rodeo.

They serve table side Briquet, Ribs, Chicken and more. For sides, you have to try their fried okra and Cajun Potato Salad.

Saltgrass Steak House

If you are looking for melt in your mouth steak, you need to visit the Saltgrass in Galveston. Off of Seawall Blvd, this steak house may have been my favorite stop.

Not only did they provide great service, and excellent food, they took special care to make sure my daughter’s food didn’t have dairy. Food Allergies are always a challenge at restaurants and they made sure to treat us right.

The Saltgrass T Bone Steak

The Original Mexican Cafe

Some of the best restaurants are not in the tourist areas. That why I loved stopping at the Original Mexican Cafe for some great Tex Mex food. They’ve been doing this since 1916.

The table-side salsa is plentiful and a little spicier than what I normally get in the Midwest. But I wasn’t complaining.

The Beef Enchiladas were spectacular! I recommend getting a sampler plate of food to try it all. And if you need any more reason to go, they have the best Margaritas.

The Original Mexican Cafe Tex Mex in Galveston

Yaga’s Cafe

We stumbled on to Yaga’s Cafe in the Strand District. They had a great selection of delicious southern favorites. I have to admit, that I almost felt like I was on a tropical island eating here.

It probably helped that this was one of the only sunny days of the trip. The seating is open-air, including a patio and great drinks.

Yaga's Cafe

Where to stay in Galveston TX

moody gardens hotel

There are many hotels to choose from all over the Galveston shorelines, but Moody Gardens is probably the most famous. They offer spacious rooms and package deals to see some of their other attractions.

Four Points by Sheraton

If you are looking for something on the Seawall, and let’s face it who doesn’t want an ocean view, consider staying at Four Points by Sheraton. They are located right next to Pleasure Pier and have walking distance to a bunch of restaurants and other shops.  

Vacation Rental on the Beach

Often more economical than a hotel, a vacation home, condo or even apartment is the perfect way to feel at home in Galveston.

The benefits can often include the same amenities as a hotel, without the daily cleaning service. But you get a kitchen saving even more money.

Doing a vacation rental will cut your expenses in half in most cases. We stayed at a fabulous beach condo right on the waterfront, where you could watch the sunrise each morning. We loved getting to be on the quieter side of the island. There is plenty to choose from depending on your price range.

Sunrise in Galveston

FAQs about Galveston

What is Galveston, Texas, best known for?

Galveston is renowned for its historical significance, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture. Visitors flock to this coastal city to explore its rich maritime heritage, enjoy beautiful beaches, and immerse themselves in the unique blend of history and modern attractions.

Is Galveston, Texas, worth visiting?

Absolutely! Galveston offers a wide range of attractions for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply relaxing by the beach, Galveston has something to offer. With its charming architecture, cultural sites, and natural beauty, a trip to Galveston is definitely worth it.

Why is Galveston so popular?

Galveston’s popularity stems from its unique blend of historical charm, scenic beauty, and diverse attractions. From its iconic architecture to its beautiful beaches, the city offers a dynamic experience that appeals to history buffs, nature lovers, and those seeking relaxation.

How many days do you need in Galveston?

To fully experience Galveston’s offerings, plan for at least a weekend getaway. This will allow you to explore its museums, historical sites, and natural attractions without feeling rushed. However, even a day trip can provide a taste of the city’s highlights.

Is Galveston a walkable city?

Yes, Galveston is a walkable city, especially in its historic downtown area. Many of the attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance, making it convenient for visitors to explore on foot.

You can use the trolly to get from one end to the other too.

What is the best way to get around Galveston?

While walking is a great way to explore the city’s core, you can also utilize public transportation, such as the Galveston Island Trolley and buses, to navigate longer distances. Biking is another popular option, allowing you to cover more ground while enjoying the scenic views.

Getting there is half the fun

Galveston TX has so many things to do on it, it’s hard to keep my list under control. There also theaters, surfing, beach fun and so much more.

My family and I were planning a trip down to Galveston for a while now, but we missed the hot deals on tickets, so we decided to road trip there.

Not only did we save a bucket load of money, but we also had so much fun getting to drive there and see more of Texas. We went through four different audiobooks for family, we played our favorite travel games and the kids each had their own road trip travel binder filled with fun activities.

If you ever get the chance to do something crazy like that, I highly recommend it.

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