As temperatures rise, flowers bloom, and everyone starts daydreaming about afternoons spent basking on the beach, why not consider taking a spring break in sunny Galveston? With 32 miles of beaches and tons of year-long and seasonal attractions, there’s plenty for both activity- and relaxation-oriented vacationers to do and see—not to mention the gorgeous spring weather on the Gulf! With average temperatures peaking in the high 60s, March is an ideal time to take a beach vacation in Galveston.
Fun on the Gulf
Galveston’s beach parks open to the general public on March 3. These preserves each offer different amenities—and different, though equally spectacular, views for visitors. Stewart Beach, for example, offers umbrella and chair rentals, volleyball courts, an outdoor pavilion with an elevator, a snack bar, a souvenir shop, restrooms, and showers, making it a convenient beach destination for families with members of varying ages. East Beach and Pocket Parks 1, 2, and 3 also offer special amenities, including an educational wetlands preserve in Pocket Park 2 and a revolving schedule of entertainments at East Beach, including major outdoor concerts, bikini contests, live bands, and other activities. With the exception of East Beach, alcohol is not allowed on any Galveston beaches; plan accordingly. Visit www.galveston.com/beachparks for more information.
If your family is looking for a more active kind of beach vacation, why not try surf lessons? Ohana Surf & Skate will offer reasonably priced, private surf lessons for individuals and groups all spring long. These lessons are great for beginners, as well as for those looking to improve their skills. Lessons must be reserved 48 hours in advance; Ohana will also offer surf camps starting in June. For more information, visit www.ohanasurfandskate.com.
Galveston’s natural resources, wildlife preserves, and temperate weather also make it an ideal destination for nature-lovers and birding enthusiasts. Its location on the Gulf of Mexico places it squarely in the middle of the trans-Gulf migration route used by hundreds of bird species, meaning that over 300 species travel through Galveston during fall and spring migrations each year. Bird nerds (“berds,” to those in the know) are sure to have plenty to watch and record if they visit in the spring, and may want to mark their calendars for FeatherFest (www.galvestonfeatherfest.com), an annual festival offering birding workshops, nature photography tutorials, and field trips. The festival will take place in Galveston in April.
Nature enthusiasts can also enjoy dolphin-watching, fishing, kayaking, biking, and camping, and are sure to take pleasure in Galveston’s national wildlife refuges and nature parks. BayWatch Dolphin Tours, a family-owned and -operated business, provides 45-minute dolphin tours every day. The boat has a covered and heated interior, and has no propellers, so no marine life is ever harmed. Visitors will thus be able to watch dolphins in their natural habitat and learn fun facts about dolphins first-hand.
Fishing fanatics will be delighted to learn that more than 100 species of fish are regularly caught in the Galveston area, including speckled trout, redfish, flounder, golden croaker, drum, and Spanish mackerel. Anglers can enjoy wade fishing, or cast their lines from rock piers or boats in either the bay or the Gulf. If offshore fishing appeals to you, try hiring one of the port’s many charter fishing boats, or buy a day pass on a party boat with other fishermen and see how many kingfish and red snapper you can bring home. Visit www.galveston.com/fishingcharters/ to learn more about charter boat fishing.
If being in a boat is the fun part of fishing for you, you may want to look into Artist Boat Kayak Adventures, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and preservation of coastal margins and the marine environment through the disciplines of the sciences and the arts. In addition to its work promoting public art collaborations and science workshops, the organization provides kayak tours for individuals and families throughout Galveston Island and Galveston Bay. Destinations include Galveston Island State Park, Armand Bayou, East Beach Lagoon, Christmas Bay, Drum Bay, and other locations throughout Galveston Bay. All guides are trained ACA kayak/canoe instructors, and are trained in first aid and CPR. For pricing and tour information, visit www.galveston.com/artistboat/.
Cyclists may want to check out Island Bike Rental & Tours, which, true to its name, offers bikes for rent as well as guided bicycle tours through the city. Tours travel from the beach to the historic Strand district and offer stories and anecdotes from the city’s long, rich history, narrated by Island Tours’ knowledgeable guides. Those wishing to strike out on their own and enjoy an unbroken view of the Gulf may want to try cycling on the Island’s seawall, which, at 10.4 miles long, is the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. The view at sunset from the seawall is spectacular—take the kids and see how many pelicans you can count!
Glorious though they are, Galveston’s beaches are by no means its only attractions. The city also features a fabulous shopping and entertainment area, the Historic Downtown District, a 35-square-block area filled with shops, antique stores, art galleries, and fine restaurants. Shoppers may seek—and find—everything from haute couture clothing and fine jewelry to antique furniture, beach souvenirs and apparel, old-fashioned baked goods and homemade candy, and much more.
The downtown district is located conveniently near to the Galveston Cruise Terminal and Pier 21, where visitors can take boat rides and dolphin tours or catch films in the Pier 21 Theater. Downtown Galveston is also home to the Haunted Mayfield Manor, a year-round-haunted house, and a new pirate museum, Pirates! Legends of the Gulf. Visitors may also catch live performances at The Grand 1894 Opera House located on Postoffice Street. This month, The Grand will be offering theatrical performances of Doubt and Young Frankenstein, as well as musical performances by The 5 Browns, Anthony Kearns, The Rob Landes Trio, and more. Visit www.galveston.com and www.thegrand.com for more information on Galveston’s Historic Downtown District and on programming at The Grand 1894 Opera House.
There are also, as ever, plenty of opportunities for visitors to learn about Galveston’s rich and storied past this spring, from touring historic mansions like the Bishop’s Palace to visiting any of the Island’s more traditional museums. Galveston is home to the Texas Seaport Museum and 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, the Galveston Railroad Museum, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the Rosenberg Library Museum, and the Lone Star Flight Museum, which is currently featuring an exhibit of the real airplanes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen (as seen in the recent film Red Tails).
Visitors in search of a place to stay on the Island can find lodging to suit their needs and their budgets via www.galveston.com/lodging/, which provides would-be guests with lists of different accommodations separated by type (hotels, motels, B&B’s, etc.) and allows visitors to read descriptions, read and write lodging reviews, and view photos of the accommodations, as well as maps of their locations. Lodging highlights include the Island’s three AAA-rated four-diamond resorts, Hotel Galvez, the San Luis Resort, and the Moody Gardens Hotel; the European-style boutique hotel The Tremont House, located in downtown Galveston; and an abundance of beach house rentals to be found in Galveston’s West End.
Whatever your pleasure, you’re sure to find something to delight you on the Island this spring. Enjoy the balmy weather, soak up the rays, and relax—whether you visit for a day, a week, or a month, the minute you set foot in Galveston, you’re on Island time.