Best Things To Do On Your Galveston Day Trip

See Galveston In A Day With All The Fun Places To Go

By Robert Schrader | Published on June 5, 2023

When you decide to take a Galveston day trip, you can daydream about how you'll explore this magical island in Texas. Some travelers, particularly those who focus more on Houston's urban delights, simply need a beach day. Others want to discover Galveston's cultural side, with its eclectic gastronomy or historical district. Perhaps you're hoping to see both sides, as you wait to set sail from this famous port city. Whether you're cruising as a couple, with kids or solo, there's no shortage of things to do in Galveston before or after your cruise.

Hit The Beach(Es) In Texas

Not surprisingly, many Galveston day trippers cross the causeway in search of sun and surf. If that's you, and you want to get your suit on as soon as possible, hang a left when you reach the water, and park at either Porretto Beach or Stewart Beach. These long, sandy beaches have plenty of places to put down your towel, as well as concession stands and changing rooms. If you choose Stewart Beach, you may even be able to join in on a game of beach volleyball.

Alternatively, if you turn right, you'll need to drive along the Galveston Seawall for a few miles before arriving at the next stretch of beaches. Specifically, once you pass the famous Galveston Fishing Pier, you'll have reached Sunny Beach. In addition to being Galveston's longest beach, with over 8 miles of unbroken sand, Sunny Beach is dog-friendly, so bring your pup or just enjoy watching the other dogs frolic on the shore.

Continuing even further down the coastal road, you'll find more beaches. A unique place to stop is Galveston Island State Park, which boasts waterfront access on both the Gulf of Mexico and West Bay sides, not to mention hiking trails and a nature center that's great for kids (or really anyone of any age who loves learning).

 On your way back, you can always visit the Galveston Pleasure Pier, a theme park with rollercoasters, carnival snacks like hot dogs and cotton candy and a festive, fun atmosphere. While views from here are especially amazing around sunset, you might choose to stop here earlier in the day if you're just coming from a day trip — it's about an hour's drive back to downtown Houston.

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Discover Galveston Gastronomy Cuisine

Galveston, not surprisingly, is a top Houston destination for fresh seafood. Examples of fish caught offshore include mahi-mahi, red snapper, black drum and tuna, to say nothing of shellfish, including the famous Gulf of Mexico shrimp. Galveston seafood restaurants typically give each table a separate menu devoted to the day's fresh catches, so let that be your guide as much as your own preferences.

Which is not to say seafood has to be the culinary focus of your Galveston day trip — Galveston's restaurant scene is almost as diverse as that of Houston itself. Not surprisingly, you can also find several Mexican restaurants throughout Galveston Island, as well as other popular cuisines such as Italian and Chinese. Vegan and vegetarian diners can also find plenty of options, as can anyone simply wanting to sit down for cake or coffee.

Romantic Things To Do In Galveston For Couples

As far as where to find Galveston's best restaurants, you really have two main options. If you want to eat close to the beach, heading right when you reach the Gulf is probably your best bet. Harborside Drive, on the other hand, allows you to dine with views of West Bay. More concerned with what's on your plate than what's on the horizon? Many of Galveston's best grub is inland along Broadway Avenue J, or in the Strand Historic District (more on that later).

Dining out is one of the best things to do in Galveston for couples, although you should keep a few things in mind if this is the goal of your day trip. If you have your heart set on a specific restaurant, make sure to call in advance to see if you need a reservation, especially if it's a weekend or holiday. Likewise, while Galveston's restaurants are as famous for their drinks as they are for their food, make sure either to designate a safe driver, or wait a few hours before getting behind the wheel again.

Whether you're specifically seeking things to do in Galveston for adults or plan to bring along travelers-in-training, the island's underrated natural side is a great way to bring everyone together.

Spend The Day In Texas' Nature

Fun Things To Do In Galveston For Adults With Kids

Whether you're specifically seeking fun things to do in Galveston for adults or plan to bring along travelers-in-training, the island's underrated natural side is a great way to bring everyone together. Galveston Island State Park allows you to hike amid the natural marsh landscape, and spot native birds and other marine animals. Even if you're just visiting Galveston island for the day with your children, you'll definitely find it interesting even if you missing out on the beach camping.

Of course, if you want to enjoy the natural ambiance though don't actually want to rough it, Galveston has options for that. Several companies offer a dolphin sightseeing tour (and other boat trips, with varying levels of luxury) at the pier on West Bay not far from the Strand. The Historic Strand is a really fun thing to do on vacation with kids, although many couples find it romantic, too.

Want to try your hand at fishing? Galveston's famous seafood doesn't catch itself. If this activity interests you, you've got two main options. If you want to organize a half- or full-day trip in advance, you can head out deep sea fishing, which is more exhilarating but also more of a commitment. Alternatively, if you've got gear or can easily access it, you can turn up to Galveston Fishing Pier, or any other number of top fishing spots in Galveston. If you take your family to the local Galveston Island State Park you'll be pleased to know that your park entree covers your fishing license.

If you really want to disappear into nature on your Galveston day trip, you can continue driving along San Luis Pass past the western tip of the island and onto adjacent barrier islands. While these spots will lack many services (and certainly, crowds), they'll also allow you to get an idea of what Galveston island would've been like before locals developed it into one of Texas' premier coastal destinations.

Dive Into Galveston's History And Culture

You might not know Galveston as an "old" destination, but you'll sense it the moment you set foot on the island's historical areas. This is especially the case when you visit heritage homes, be that the Romanesque Moody Museum or the 1892 Bishop's Palace, which is built in a more recognizable Victorian Style. You can admire these stunning structures from the outside, or go inside and take in-depth tours.

You can drive, walk or take the Galveston Trolley between these fascinating cultural treasures, most of which are between Broadway Avenue J and Harborside Drive. Nearby, you'll also find the Strand Historic District, which pairs architecture that harkens back to a bygone era with shops, bars and restaurants, from more standard souvenir stalls to stores selling chocolate and even beef jerky.

The Best Thing To Do In Galveston For Kids

If you're looking for art, on the other hand, Galveston is home to plenty of galleries, from large commercial collections like The Bryan Museum to smaller, family-run outlets such as René Wiley Gallery. Seeking things to do in Galveston with kids? The Galveston Children's Museum is actually located within the Moody Museum, which makes this a must-visit stop for travelers of all ages.

Another interesting stop, if you don't mind driving over another causeway, is the Galveston Naval Museum, which is located on the eastern tip of Pelican Island. In addition to illuminating tours offered by staff with expertise in military history, you can actually tour two World War II-era vessels: The USS Cavalla Submarine and the USS Stewart Destroyer Escort.

See This Island City All In A Single Texas Day Trip

There's no wrong way to take a Galveston day trip, whether you set out with a specific itinerary in mind, or just load up the kids and head to the first beach you see. At the same time, there's value in being mindful, particularly if you've decided to spend a day in Galveston before departing on one of the many Texas cruises that are popular among Houston-area travelers.

Galveston's got it all, from food to history to culture to nature and, of course, some of Texas' most popular beaches. The only thing it doesn't have is you — aren't you ready to change that?

Written By

Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer and one of the web's original travel bloggers. In 2009 he launched his blog Leave Your Daily Hell, which has taken him to nearly 100 countries, and has since spun off niche sites focused on Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Italy. Robert seeks to inform, inspire, entertain and empower travelers through his work, which has been featured in in-flight magazines and digital media outlets around the world. He's excited about travel's post-pandemic rebirth, and in particular the cruise industry's comeback!

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