In the years immediately before and after the Civil War, Galveston was known as the “Playground of the South,” a place for visitors to eat, drink, and be merry in style and comfort. Tourists flocked to its lovely beaches, drawn by its convenient location and many attractions. Not surprisingly, these are the same qualities that draw tourists to the Island today. As winter moves into spring, there’s no better place to visit for a leisurely few days away, whether you’re looking for a fun family vacation or a romantic getaway for you and your partner.
Mardi Gras! Galveston 2012
We’ve discussed Mardi Gras! Galveston in great detail in this publication as recently as last month, but in case you missed the memo, here are some of the highlights:
- This year, Mardi Gras! Galveston will feature 26 concerts, 24 parades, 19 balcony parties, and five fancy dress masked balls, all taking place between Feb. 10-21.
- Due to last year’s revival of a ticketed entertainment district, last year’s event saw increased attendance and a 50 percent drop in police calls, making it one of the largest and safest Mardi Gras events on record. The 2012 event will be larger still, with over 300,000 people anticipated to be in attendance!
- Mardi Gras! Galveston is adding a number of parades this year, including the Zaniest Golf Cart Parade and the Gloworama Art Car Nighttime Parade. It will also reprise its traditional parades, including the celebrated Children’s Parade, Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Parade, Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade, and Mystic Krewe of Aquarius “Fat Tuesday” Parade.
- On Sunday, Feb. 12, the Entertainment District will be free to the public for Family Gras, presented by Moody National Bank. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit the Sunshine Kids, an organization that provides activities for children with cancer, and Shriners Hospital for Children. Families are encouraged to come down for parades, live music, vendors, and more!
Hotel availability is limited on the Island during the festivities, and guests should reserve rooms at their earliest convenience. For a complete schedule of events and more information about Mardi Gras! Galveston, visit galveston.com/mardigras/.
Here Come the Brides!
The winter holidays are traditionally a peak time for couples to get engaged—which makes February a great time for a bridal extravaganza! The Lyceum of Galveston Bridal Show, also known as “The Best Little Bridal Show in Galveston,” will take place on Feb. 5 from 1-4pm. The Lyceum, an elegant Victorian-style chapel and meeting hall in the heart of downtown Galveston, has become one of the Island’s premier venues for weddings and wedding receptions since its restoration in 2009, making it an ideal home for Galveston’s leading bridal showcase. This year’s show will feature top wedding professionals in a broad range of fields, including photographers, caterers, florists, wedding planners, DJs, beauty professionals, bridal gown merchants, purveyors of formal wear, limo rental agencies, and more. In addition, there will be door prizes, giveaways, cake and catering samples, tablescapes, bridal fashions on display, and a number of advisers on hand to help each bride plan her special day. Admission is free, and the first 200 brides in attendance will receive a complimentary VIP bag filled with samples, discount cards, gifts, and a special “wedding” issue of Coast Magazine. Brides may pre-register for the showcase by contacting email@example.com.
The Island offers romantic opportunities for the already-married as well: couples looking to rekindle the romance in their relationship need look no further than the Hotel Galvez Wedding Vow Renewal Ceremony, scheduled for Feb. 11 at 11am as part of a “Romantic Rendezvous” getaway package offered by the hotel for Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 10-12.
“Hotel Galvez hosted a mass wedding vow renewal in February 2011 as part of its centennial celebration, and we are making this event an annual tradition,” says Hotel Galvez General Manager Steve Cunningham. “Hotel Galvez is synonymous with romance for many couples, and this…is the perfect getaway for couples who want to rekindle a little romance and have a little Mardi Gras fun too.”
Since the event takes place during Mardi Gras, participating couples receive tickets to the Uptown Entertainment District each day and round-trip transportation to the festivities. The beachfront location of Hotel Galvez makes it a prime viewing spot for several of the largest and most spectacular Mardi Gras parades, which can be seen from the hotel balconies. Also included in the package are an oceanview room for two, champagne and keepsake glasses upon arrival, rose petals on the bed as part of the hotel’s turndown service, and breakfast in bed throughout the weekend. The wedding vow ceremony, which is open to the public, will be officiated by an area Justice of the Peace. Following the ceremony, couples are invited to enjoy a small reception hosted by the hotel. Advance reservations are required. Interested parties can call (409) 765-7721 or visit www.WyndhamHotelGalvez.com.
Port of Call: Plan Your Getaway Now
Galveston has always been a port city of note, but lately its growth has focused on its potential as a superb cruise port. In 2012, Galveston will welcome two new cruise ships to the Port of Galveston, including the Disney Magic and the Crown Princess. The Disney Cruise Line ship will begin sailing from Galveston in September, while the Princess Cruises ship will begin in December. These will add to the three new ships that arrived to the island in 2011, including the Carnival Magic, Carnival Triumph, and Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. Would-be vacationers can book cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico from the port of Galveston; visit www.galveston.com/cruiseschedule for more information.
Those who wish to stay a little closer to home while still enjoying the pleasures of the water can do so via Colonel Paddlewheel Boat Dinner Cruises, which take place on the second Saturday of each month. Each dinner cruise offers beautiful views of Offatts Bayou, plus dinner buffets, nonstop dancing, and a cash bar, all on a glorious and authentic replica of an 1800s paddlewheel boat. The boat’s climate-controlled Galveston and Texas Rooms, which feature large dance floors, can also be booked for private dinners and parties.
Finally, those vacationers who enjoy spending time on the beach (and who doesn’t?) will be delighted to know that the Island is reviving its legendary Historic Pleasure Pier. The amusement park, reminiscent of the pleasure pier that was built on the island in the 1940s, will include 16 rides, a full-service restaurant, midway games, shopping, and live entertainment. The new pier will be located on the Gulf of Mexico off Seawall Boulevard at 25th Street where a pleasure pier stood from the early 1940s to 1961, and where the Flagship Hotel stood from 1965 until last year, and is scheduled to open in May.
All of this is only the tip of the iceberg, as far as Island fun is concerned—the Island has also added several new attractions, including an interactive pirate museum called Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, which features sections made to resemble the deck of a pirate ship and a pirate captain’s cabins, as well as a number of entertaining exhibits. The Haunted Mayfield Manor has also been welcoming a steady stream of visitors since its inauguration as a year-round haunted house in October of 2011. Located inside a historic Galveston building that served as a morgue after the 1900 Storm, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, the Manor compiles deliciously creepy Island folklore and historical facts for a chilling yet educational experience.
The Island will also offer visitors access to two remarkable temporary exhibits this month: Dallas artist Charlotte Smith‘s exhibit of abstract paintings, “dot dot dot,” showing at the Galveston Arts Center Jan. 28–Mar. 4; and “Bodies Revealed,” a scientific/anatomical traveling exhibit showing at Moody Gardens’ Discovery Pyramid Feb. 11 – Sept. 9. Interested parties can visit www.galveston.com to learn more about these and other Island attractions.
Whichever attractions you decide to visit during your next Island stay, and whether you bring the whole family or just that special someone, we wish you a happy and rewarding visit as you enjoy all that Galveston has to offer!