This review and itinerary covering the best things to do in Galveston Texas on the weekend is part of our travel guide series. Learn about our favorite things to do, places to eat, drink and stay at locations like Galveston Island in Texas.
Discover Galveston Island
The city of Galveston itself is located on Galveston Island, Texas. It’s a coastal city, and depending on which weekend you decide to visit, you can expect a low-key, nautical vibe offered by not only the location, but the various restaurants and bars that dot the Seawall Boulevard strip along the beach.
Below, we’ll highlight our favorite things to do in Galveston, suitable for any budget. In addition, scroll down for tips on the best restaurants to eat at and the best hotels to stay at in Galveston, Texas!
Tips for Visiting Galveston on a Weekend:
- If it all possible, avoid holiday weekends. Large crowds coming from Houston are all looking to get away from city life and enjoy a weekend by the water. You’ll also avoid traffic, as both Beltway 8 and I-45 are the main routes into Galveston, and can be congested during most holiday seasons. Everyone has the same idea as you.
- Visit Galveston in the Fall. There are two main reasons for this. First, the weather is nicer. It’s less humid and hurricane season is dying down. Second, you won’t find as much seaweed (or any at all) on the beach.
- Sunday is the best, most low-key weekend day to visit Galveston.
- Parking along the beach Seawall is available for $1/hour, up to $8/day via Pay by Phone. You can pay for parking through Paybyphone.com or call 1-866-234-7275 or 409-797-5198. I have to admit that we’ve had some issues getting our parking squared away by calling Pay by Phone, but the system is hopefully improving. What you can do, however, is download their app if you have a smartphone. This offers a more streamlined experience and you can add time remotely. Prices are fair, and parking by the Seawall is your best bet for convenience sake as well as to support the city of Galveston. Note that Discover credit cards are not currently accepted by the city. Parking between 69th and 81st Street is free of charge.
13 Best Things to do in Galveston on a Weekend
1. Visit the Strand
A beautiful outdoor atmosphere with a wide assortment of shops, restaurants and bars. Walk up and down the strand, stop for a coffee and sit at a table outside and people watch for a while. Note that The Strand is one of the historic districts of Galveston. It’s not just one strip of road, but rather a whole neighborhood if you will. Architecture enthusiasts will love the beach and unique designs of the buildings along the Strand. Many of the structures that dot the area are over a century old and have survived some of the worst storms the modern United States has ever seen. Most shops and restaurants are air-conditioned, so don’t hesitate to stop in and look around at the local fare, which will also offer a chance to cool off. If you like casual dining, art galleries and unique boutique shops, The Strand is a trendy area in Galveston where you could easily spend 2 – 3 hours taking in the scene. Try stopping at Trattoria La Vigna (Italian) restaurant!
2. Check out Elissa, The 1877, 3 Masted Tall Ship
A work of floating art, Elissa is one of the oldest merchant sailing vessels still floating today. Built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland, she was restored in 1979 and currently lays moored in Galveston, not far from The Strand. Self guided audio tours are available, as are more in depth guided educational tours that cover life onboard the ship and in depth insight into how she can be sailed. This is a unique nautical experience that really reenforces the nostalgic feeling of being on the water. Note that the bowels of the ship can get warm if you’re visiting in the summer, so bring a bottle of water with you! The gift shop and museum areas are air conditioned, however, if you’re looking for a spot to cool off. Find out more about the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa at the Galveston Historical Foundation website.
The Seawall beach is one of the main attractions on Galveston Island. The beach is fairly wide, making it relatively easy to find a good spot to throw some towels down without other people being right on top of you. Closest to the shore, the water is pretty clear. Especially if you visit during the late summer and fall when seaweed is limited. It’s also a great spot to bring a cooler of beer and wine while posting up for a beautiful Gulf Coast sunset.
Related: Check out our top picks for places to eat and drink in Galveston here!
The Galveston Island Pleasure Pier is a relatively new attraction. Launched just over 3 years ago in May of 2012. There used to be a “pleasure pier” in the same location until 1961 which was destroyed by Hurricane Carla that same year. It was originally constructed as an attraction for US troops to enjoy in the 1940s during World War II.
The new Pleasure Pier extends from Seawall Boulevard out into the gulf and is about 1,130 feet long. You can find an assortment of 16 rides, including a ferris wheel at the end of the pier. The Pleasure Pier is ideal for all ages. There are also snack bars, and the large, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurant (the first in Texas!) at the entrance of the pier.
Note that ride hours can vary by season, and may change based on weather conditions or other outside factors. You’ll need a wristband to enter the Pleasure Pier, though the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurant does not require a wristband. All-day ride ticket prices per individual are currently $26.99 (48″ and up) and $19.99 (under 48″). Family packages and military discounts are also available. Get more info on the new Pleasure Pier at their website.
Almost other-worldly, the Moody Gardens offers unique visuals and an educational experience to those visiting Galveston Island. There are a multitude of attractions, and 3 pyramids which each have their own unique identity. The rainforest pyramid is always a hit, as is the aquarium (when open), the iMAX theater, festival of lights, Palm Beach, and ice sculpture displays. Note that some of these events are seasonal. You can bring your own lunch and relax in the gardens. Seniors also receive discounts.
Open 10am – 6pm daily. Tickets are sold up until one hour before the gardens close. Ticket prices vary, but day passes are currently $59.95. You can get two day passes for $79.95. Note that the Aquarium Pyramid is currently closed for refurbishing. View individual attraction pricing and tickets at the Moody Gardens here. Learn about more of the attractions currently offered here.
Play Golf at the Moody Gardens in Galveston
There is also a beautiful links-based seaside golf course in the area. The course is touted as Galveston’s premier public golf course, complete with golf carts and a beautiful sea-side restaurant dubbed The Pelican Grille. Learn more about the Moody Gardens golf course here.
Although tickets are a bit expensive ($50), and the New Braunfuls Schlitterbahn is larger — both families and water park enthusiasts young and old will have a good time here. If you buy your tickets online ahead of time you’ll save a couple of bucks. Note that you are permitted to bring in a cooler and picnic items. A good call if you want to save some money. Just note that alcohol cannot be brought in — it needs to be purchased on site. Schlitterbahn Galveston is great for a warm day in the summer. Bring some sunscreen and go earlier in the day to float along the lazy river with fewer crowds. If you want to spice things up, try out the white water rapids on your tube!
7. Fish from the Shore or by Charter
Galveston resides within an ideal location for ocean sport fishing. Texas Fishing License holders may legally fish from the shore or from the many piers and jetties that dot Seawall Beach. If you’d like a more exciting day out on the water, either deep sea or inshore charters are offered by several companies on Galveston Island. Galveston is great for catching red snapper, shark, trout and redfish. Check out several Galveston Fishing Charter options here.
If you’re looking for a low-key place to getaway, you might consider Galveston Island State Park. This park is an ideal beachfront location to go camping, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, paddleboarding, mountain biking, geocaching and or bird watching. Galveston Island State Park has both bay-front and beach-front areas. Both have canoe and kayak launching areas, complete with a fish cleaning station. Since it’s a State Park in Texas, you don’t need a fishing license to cast here! While there are numerous places to kayak, note that they do not rent them. You’ll need to bring your own.
We recommend camping at this park if you’re looking to save a bit of money. Campsite prices start at $15 for 8 person sites. Check out more about the campsites at the Galveston Island State Park website.
Depending which weekend you’ll be visiting Galveston, the Galveston Arts Center puts on what they call the “ArtWalk” every 6 to 8 weeks on a Saturday around Galveston. While it’s called “ArtWalk,” the event itself is largely spread across Galveston Island. An abundance of art galleries and artistic spaces will open their doors to the public to come in and view a variety of artistic styles. Many establishments will also offer drinks while staying open later than usual. Check out the ArtWalk schedule for a look at when the next event is!
If you’re looking for a somewhat upscale place to stay in Galveston, TX, look no further than the famous San Luis Resort & Hotel. It’s conveniently central across from Seawall beach. The pool is fantastic with a full luxury spa. Multiple bars, some with live piano and friendly service. The entire hotel is clean, the rooms are spacious with comfortable beds. Make sure you checkout the Grotto pool and enjoy a cold one along with some funky beats! Learn more about the San Luis Resort at their website.
11. Eat at The Spot
“The Spot” couldn’t be more appropriately named, given the style of cuisine offered, location by the beach, and really great rum punch! If you’re looking for a great “Spot” to relax with some great drinks and Caribbean inspired cuisine, stop here. The view looking out over Seawall Beach is fantastic, and you can even catch a glipse of Pleasure Pier in the distance! Note that there are really three parts of this restaurant. You have a downstairs indoor/outdoor bar for ordering drinks. You then have another indoor/outdoor section designated to ordering food. (Food must be ordered inside at the counter, you’re given a buzzer, then you go and pick it up and add your own toppings). Lastly, you can head upstairs to the Tiki Bar and order drinks and appetizers. Full course meals must be ordered downstairs, but you can bring them up to the Tiki Bar if there’s room! Try the waffle fries, chicken tostadas, blue cheese bacon burger, salmon-poblano fish tacos or the raw oysters! Check out all of The Spot’s venues and offerings at their website.
12. Galveston & Port Bolivar Ferry
Looking for a quick, easy and free way to get out on the water? Look no further than the Port Bolivar Ferry. This ferry service has up to 3 boats operational on any given day, depending upon traffic. It runs between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. These 100% free ferry rides offer Galveston visitors an opportunity to see a busy commercial route and even a chance to see dolphins off of Crystal Beach. The upstairs area is air conditioned, but you probably won’t need it with the beautiful salty breeze. Learn more about the Galveston Port Bolivar Ferry and schedule at the official website.
A unique experience, just offshore in Galveston, there are numerous oil rigs that are both operational and retired. The Ocean Star offshore drilling rig is both a retired oil rig and museum. While the facility itself is not huge, it’s very well put together and educational. Self guided tours are offered along with interactive videos providing insight into how oil rigs work. Parking nearby is no more than $5, and admission into the museum is only $10. The museum entrance can be found on the east side of Pier 20. Learn more about the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum offerings at their website.