Serving both as a community to long time residents and an island destination for travelers, Galveston, Texas is unlike other beach destinations like Cabo San Lucas, Maui, or any other flight worthy destinations outside of Texas. It may not be a magical island surrounded by tropical mountains, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as special to the long time citizens and visitors that have traveled there over many years. In just a short one-hour drive from downtown Houston, Galveston plays hosts to a vast selection of locally owned restaurants, fun theme parks and resorts along the expansive sea wall facing the Texas Gulf Coast.
We recently visited the island in search of fresh Gulf seafood and a true southeast Texas epicurean experience. If your Summer plans include a scenic road trip with your friends and family, you may want to add Galveston to your list of destinations for food and fun after reviewing our guide on one of the state’s most impressive culinary transformations in recent years.
Where to Stay
San Luis Resort
San Luis Resort & Spa is a 32 acre beachfront resort offering 250 guest rooms all overlooking Galveston’s famous sea wall, making it one of the most luxurious hotels you’ll find on the island. The 16-story resort, Spa & Conference Center features a 40,000-square-foot conference center, an indulgent spa, a spacious pool and water slide, and award-winning dining options including the top rated steakhouse in Texas, The Steakhouse, and Grotto Ristorante.
H20 Pool + Bar
I’m normally most impressed by a hotel’s restaurant offerings, but the most impressive attraction at the San Luis hotel is easily the H20 Pool + Bar featuring it’s swim-up wet bar. If you’re looking for a bit of an upgrade, check in to The Villas which features five, 800-sq-foot suites in lush surroundings on the first flood of a quiet corner of the resort. The Villas offer guests a private entrance with in-room check-in, welcome Champagne, separate veranda with personal hot tub, valet service and a serene pool with cabanas and daybeds.
The original Tremont House was built in 1839 which is also the same year Galveston was founded. The original location was at the corner of Postoffice and Tremont Streets, and was considered the finest hotel in the Republic of Texas. Fast forward to present time, where the Tremont House is now in its third incarnation serving as a luxurious boutique hotel and the first of it’s kind to open downtown. Today the historic hotel serves as the hottest spot for visitors, residents and celebrities looking for a taste of Galveston’s downtown life, with the rooftop lounge and bar serving as it’s biggest highlight. The Treemont’s elegant guestrooms and suites are among the most charming available on the island with their high ceilings, hardwood floors and custom-crafted period furnishings.
2300 Ships Mechanic Row, Galveston, TX | www.wyndhamtremonthouse.com
Harbor House Hotel sits at a vantage point for portside ship watching and is the hotel of choice for cruise ship passengers seeking pre-cruise excursions on the island. Harbor House is a 42-room hotel, located at Pier 21 featuring three one-bedroom suites boasting a modern look offering an industrial yet warm feeling with all new furniture, lighting, bedding, flooring, and bathrooms.
Where to Eat
Galveston might literally be tucked away on it’s on island in southeast Texas, but the island’s culinary flair is influenced by nearly every part of the world. Lovers of fresh Gulf seafood, will never get bored because no two restaurants prepare this island specialty the same way. Independent, family-owned restaurants take up a majority of the dining options in Galveston and they all offer unique flavors you can only find on the island.
Hotel Galvez’s award winning Sunday Brunch has reached legendary status and has become so popular that guests have made it a point to stay at the hotel just for the brunch alone. It’s been named one of the Top 100 brunches in the country by Open Table users and recently named No. 1 by Houston’s Open Table users. The entire brunch itself extends over 300 feet in length featuring a vast array of fresh fruit, cheeses, pastries and an almost endless offering of fresh seafood including oysters, shrimp, smoked salmon and more. You’ll also find servings of breakfast, lunch and desserts but the best part of the service is the endless champagne and mimosas to each person dining.
2024 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX | www.hotelgalvez.com
Sunflower Bakery & Cafe
This locally owned classic cafe is located on Galveston’s East End Historical District. The charming space is family owned and actually gives the feeling as if you’ve been welcomed in to someone’s home. The restaurant serves delicious scratch made breads and pastries, fresh seafood and a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings with a Southern home-cooked touch.
512 14th Street, Galveston, TX | www.thesunflowerbakeryandcafe.com
Chef Randy Evans is known around the island for his devotion to fresh gulf seafood and local farm grown cuisine. The Ocean Grille’s menu and setting takes full advantage of the Gulf’s endless seafood bounty as well as it’s beautiful views from the large outdoor patio overlooking the seawall. The carefully crafted menu features fresh seafood specials sourced daily from a local market. It also features a half-pound Wagyu Beef burger, fresh salads, and delicious pastries and desserts.
Locals rave about the authentic Greek cuisine and seafood dishes at Olympia Grill as some of the best in the area. The restaurant is family owned and features a dockside patio with a remarkable view of Galveston’s harbor. The restaurant is primarily known for its delicious steamed clams, Texas oysters, and whole flounder.
2100 Harborside Drive | www.olympiapier21.com
BLVD Seafood features plentiful fresh seafood in it’s menu sourced from local providers Katie’s Seafood and Galveston Shrimp Company. The restaurant specializes in dishes boasting fresh Gulf seafood and steaks and Broken Arrow Ranch. They also feature a well-rounded wine list, cocktail menu and seasonal dessert menu.
2804 Avenue R ½ | blvdseafood.com
Rudy and Paco
Rudy & Paco may be considered one of the best restaurants on the entire island. It features grilled seafood and steak with South and Central American flair where you can also relax and unwind with your favorite cocktail while enjoying delicious Antojitos. It’s located next door to The Grand 1894 Opera House, where the restaurant is a favorite for a pre-show dinner. It’s also been named one of the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America by OpenTable users for the last several years.
2028 Postoffice Street, Galveston, TX | www.rudyandpaco.com
Where to Play
Standing over the Gulf of Mexico, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier has become an iconic symbol of the Galveston beachfront since opening in May 2012. The amusement park, reminiscent of a pleasure pier that was built in the same location during the 1940s, includes 16 rides, midway games, shops, live music and entertainment, and a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant.
2501 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX | www.pleasurepier.com
Moody Gardens has been a Galveston family destination since 1986. The gardens are filled with a variety of exciting attractions from an aquarium to a live a tropical rainforest. It offers a waterfront view and gorgeous botanical gardens, the complex also features a Discovery Museum, 3-D and 4-D theaters, a golf course, water park, ropes course and zip line, historic paddlewheel boat and the Moody Gardens Hotel. In the Rainforest Pyramid you’ll find free-roaming rainforest animals, tropical plants and hundreds of endangered species.
1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77554 | www.moodygardens.com
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is 26-acres of thrilling waterpark oasis and adventures. It’s the third waterpark in the Schlitterbahn family of parks and features more than 30 attractions. The park also features the next generation of the award-winning river system that combines three unique rivers into one endless floating adventure. You’ll also find other thrilling rides like Blastenhoff, Surfenburg, and Wasserfest areas which incorporate state-of-the-art water adventures like two racing uphill water coasters, a wave pool, water slides, kids’ activity areas, whitewater rapids, heated pools, and the Boogie Bahn surf ride. The park also features an award winning Heated-Indoor Waterpark section.
2026 Lockheed Rd, Galveston, TX 77554 | www.schlitterbahn.com/galveston
If you’ve ever wanted to see Galveston Harbor up close, jump aboard the Seagull II, Texas Seaport Museum’s 50-foot twin-engine motor vessel. She’s fast, sheltered and well built specifically for harbor sight-seeing excursions and education, and is a perfect platform for waterborne experiential learning. The boat is U.S. Coast Guard certified and her operators are fully licensed and knowledgeable about the history and lore of her home waters. Seagull II offers soft drinks and bottled water for sale, and has a comfortable main deck, sheltered from sun and rain. An open upper deck affords a full panorama of water and sky.
Cruise-N-Time Harbor Tour Pier 21, Galveston, TX 77550 | www.suntimewatersports.com
If you’re looking to get in the water without getting sand between your toes at the beach, jump in a kayak in Galveston’s East Lagoon with Artist Boat Kayak Adventures. Artist Boat guides will lead you on a kayak adventure of the Lagoon Nature Park & Preserve or a variety of nature excursions. All adventures include kayaking and birding at various locations throughout the island and eco-art tours. Artist Boat is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and preservation.
$50 per person, includes equipment rental
$25 per person, without equipment rental
For more information on exciting activities, dining and lodging in Galveston visit www.galveston.com to design your customized trip itinerary.