Galveston has given Mother Nature a helping hand with the island beaches, spending millions to replenish sandy strands, adding as much as 150 feet to the width of some stretches, notably the always-popular East Beach. This is a party beach to brag about, with rentals of all kinds (umbrellas to windsurfers), shallow sandbars that make for easy wading – and parking for 7,000 cars. (If you’re looking for less-crowded beaches, head to the eastern end of the island.)
With not one but three historic districts, the city center is a walking tour delight. But first take the Galveston Island Trolley tour through the Strand and Silk Stocking Historic Districts to set the mood. Then head to the East End Historic District for a look at Bishop’s Palace: one of some 400 mansions in the East End, this Victorian masterpiece is on the American Institute of Architects’ list of Top 100 U.S. buildings. (Perhaps the fact that one staircase took more than 7 years to carve impressed the AIA.) And don’t miss the stunningly restored Grand 1894 Opera House, where today’s leading performers take a stage that has seen the likes of Sarah Bernhardt and Groucho Marx.
Take a museum tour, starting with a look at exhibits (including film footage) of the deadly 1900 hurricane at the Galveston Country Historical Museum. Then visit the Texas Seaport Museum, which documents the names of the more than 130,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. through this port. Transportation buffs can tour the Lone Star Flight Museum (more than 40 restored plants) and The Railroad Museum, one of the nation’s finest rail museums – which has branched out to include a collection of some 2,000 model automobiles.