Updated: Jun 22, 2020
I’ve lived 15 miles from Galveston for 19 years and visited the island too many times to count, yet I do more than go to the beach. In fact, there is so much more to Galveston than the brown water and gritty sand. According to The Galveston County Daily News, 7 million people visited the island in 2017. Many of the visitors are cruisers who are awaiting departure, Texans looking to spend a day or weekend on the island, or travelers interested in what Galveston has to offer.
You definitely cannot explore all of Galveston in one day, but is there really a place that you can explore EVERYTHING in one day? Without further ado, here is my guide to spending a glorious day in Galveston (or as some locals like to call it, "The Island")!
Start your day off with a delicious breakfast at ShyKatz! This colorful restaurant serves everything from eggs, bacon, and a biscuit to a breakfast burrito and so much more. My personal favorite is the Berries-n-cream Cinnamon French Toast. The French toast is made with fresh French bread and coated in cinnamon and sugar (yum!). It is served with a side of berries, whipped cream, and maple syrup. While eating, make sure you read the joyful signs covering the restaurant walls that say things like “good morning, let the blessings begin” and “give thanks and eat pie.”
ShyKatz: http://shykatz.com. 1528 Ave L, Galveston, TX 77550. Mon-Sat 7am-3pm.
After breakfast, head on over to Moody Mansion and take a tour of the 28,000 square-foot, 1895 house. This mansion was purchased by W.L. Moody Jr., a businessman, in 1900 and remained in the family until 1986, when it was turned into a museum. The museum offers self-guided audio tours with stories from Moody family members and narration from the perspective of W.L. Moody Jr.’s daughter, Mary Moody Northen.
Moody Mansion: http://www.moodymansion.org. 2618 Broadway, Galveston, TX 77550. Sun-Sat 10am-5pm.
If you enjoyed touring Moody Mansion, tour the 19th century Bishop’s Palace, just a mile down the road from Moody Mansion. After visiting Bishop’s Palace, check out the neighboring Sacred Heart Church. Sacred Heart was established in the late 1800s, but the beautiful building that stands today was not constructed until 1904. You can also tour Galveston Island’s oldest house, the 1838 Michel B. Menard House (tours must be scheduled through Galveston Historical Foundation prior to your visit). The Greek revival style house, built in 1838, was almost demolished in the 1990s, before the current owners bought and repaired it.
If touring mansions isn’t your thing, visit exhibits at the Rosenberg Library. Their “Rare Books of the Rosenberg” exhibit features writings from as far back as about 2350 B.C., while the “Galveston: Treasure Isle of the Gulf” exhibit presents Galveston’s history, starting with artifacts from the founders of the island.
Rosenberg Library: https://rosenberg-library.org/. 2310 Sealy St, Galveston, TX 77550. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm.
For lunch, try the Gulf’s delicious seafood at BLVD. Seafood. They serve sliders, tacos, fish, chicken, and so much more! (FYI, their Caribbean Tacos are amazing!) I have tried so many different things on the menu and loved all of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for side substitutions if you want to switch up the menu a bit. There are plenty of times that I have asked to replace a side included in my meal with mac and cheese (I’m a huge mac and cheese fan and theirs is delicious) and the servers will kindly tell you if it is possible or not.
Tip: If you sit at the bar, you will get to know your waiter, while watching all the behind the scenes action and learning about the restaurant.
BLVD Seafood: http://blvdseafood.com. 28th & Seawall, Galveston, TX 77550. Sun-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm.
Make sure you save room for dessert because La King’s Confectionery is a must visit! La King’s was started by Jack King, son of a confectioner, in 1976 and looks like an old-fashioned confectionery with a 1920’s soda fountain. Their candy counter (aka the longest candy counter I’ve ever seen) holds an assortment of candies, including fudge, chocolate, pralines, and so much more. La King’s is also the only place that makes and serves Purity Ice Cream, the oldest ice cream brand in Texas. Your shake, malt, scoop, or sundae that you ordered at the soda fountain will be served by an employee dressed in 1920s attire. How awesome is that?!
For an extra special experience, watch La King’s Taffy Demonstration (demonstration times vary depending on the time of year, so call in advance). The taffy is made on two different pieces of machinery, one which is from 1914 and another one from 1933. These pieces of equipment make 3,000 pieces of saltwater taffy (from a 40-pound batch) in about thirty-five minutes (roughly 80 pieces a minute!).
Tip: Stay until the end of the demonstration to receive free pieces of taffy that were just made! While visiting La King’s on Galveston’s Strand, pop in some of the quirky shops that make this shopping district famous.
La King’s Confectionery: http://www.lakingsconfectionery.com. 2323 Strand St, Galveston, TX 77550. Hours vary.
Next, travel back in time to 1877 when you climb aboard the ELISSA. This ship was built in Scotland and used for shipping cargo around the world. Visitors can go on an hour-long tour to explore the ship’s history.
1877 Tall Ship ELISSA: 2200 Harborside Dr, Galveston, TX 77550. Sun-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-6pm.
After becoming a sailor, learn about sea and rainforest life at Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens, an awesome experience for all ages, features pyramids containing different environments. One pyramid is all about the oceans and sea life. Visitors can see fish, penguins, seals, and sharks, and you can even touch jellyfish and stingrays! Another pyramid is represented as a rainforest. When you walk into this pyramid, you really feel as though you’ve just walked into a real rainforest. You are immediately hit by humidity (Galveston is very humid, but nothing like this mock rainforest) and you see monkeys, macaws, and many other animals!
Tip: You can get up close and personal with penguins, river otters, or seals by doing special animal encounters.
Moody Gardens: https://www.moodygardens.com. One Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550. Sun-Mon 10am-6pm. (Open year-round!)
Like I said before, it is practically impossible to fully explore everything Galveston has to offer in one day. If there is something on this guide that you aren’t able to get to, don’t worry. You’ll be back before you know it. Just remember, take it easy and have fun because, after all, you're on island time.