I had the opportunity last week to spend a couple of days on Galveston Island. It has been many years since I visited and honestly, did not remember much except for the beach. You know how I like to explore, so I want to share with you what I found while there.
I really only had one full day in Galveston. My plan was to visit Moody Gardens to see the aquarium and the rain forest and share beautiful photos with you but I fell prey to the history bug. Moody is a wonderful place to visit and the experience is one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Galveston. The Caribbean exhibit in the Aquarium Pyramid is well worth the admission price. Being able to walk through an underwater tunnel to view the beauty of the ocean is just unbelievable. On the next trip, I promise to provide photos of the awesomeness of Moody.
Most folks from Texas know that Galveston is a cruise port. We watched two Carnival ships and one Royal Caribbean in port during our short visit. The pier area is also home to an abundance of history and things to see and do.
The cruise pier is right next door to Pier 22 where you can find the Fisherman’s Wharf restuarant. We stopped in the first night there for dinner and the food was far beyond my expectations. After trying the sampler appetizer platter (the Shrimp Kisses are a must!), I ordered the crab stuffed Tilapia in a lobster cream sauce. My mouth waters now just thinking about it. My husband ordered the shrimp combo and was pleasantly surprised with shrimp cooked perfectly and seasoned amazingly well. Everything we ordered was fresh and incredibly delicious. If you are ever there be sure to ask for Cody or Ali. They were loads of fun, very attentive and knew the menu inside out.
Stuffed Tilapia from Fisherman's Wharf
Shrimp Combo Platter - (after a few bites)
Docked near Fisherman’s Wharf is the Texas Seaport Museum which is home to the tall ship Elissa. You can see her from the dining room at Fisherman’s Wharf. She is a sailing ship from 1877 and in beautiful condition. Here is what she would look like in the open ocean.
Elissa courtesy of Texas Seaport Museum
Among the other exhibits, the museum hosts a film about the Elissa which is included in the admission price of $8 for adults, $5 for kids to 16 and free for children under 5.
Just a short walk further down the block is the Offshore Energy Center which contains the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Museum which may not sound very interesting at first but believe me, it is truly a great experience. We all know that oil is being drilled offshore, right? We have all heard about the disasters that have caused the moratorium on drilling too, but what I learned through this exhibit was truly, truly fascinating. Many of the exhibits are interactive but the really cool part is to walk out the door and step onto the offshore drilling rig. Realizing that men are out in the middle of the Gulf working on these things is pretty mind blowing when you are standing on it. I really enjoyed the short tour and the information they provided about how drilling is done and what ecological steps they take in doing so.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig
After a brisk morning of exploring, we headed over to a local favorite, Mosquito Cafe, for lunch. We ordered at the counter and stepped onto the patio for dining. This is a super little bistro right up the street from the Strand area of downtown. The food was fresh, very tasty and healthy. Yes, healthy and tasty can be had in the same meal and they do it wonderfully at Mosquito.
Ok, you know I can’t go anywhere without checking out the shopping scene. I cannot help myself! My first stop was the beach scene along the seawall where you can find the always present souvenir shops and beach wear. I have to admit, there were really cute clothing items in some of them including, Hi 5 located at 1320 Seawall Blvd and my new favorite, Wings Beachwear. Wings had a nice assortment of casual clothing and really good prices too.
After leaving the beach area, we wandered back down to the Strand historic district located downtown. Strand Street is located just one block from Harborside Drive which is where the cruise port is located. The entire area here between Strand and Market streets are laden with boutiques, shops, restaurants and bars. Here are a few pictures of my new favorite spots.
Large shop with beach wear and accessories.
La Rumba is a huge shop with tons of cute clothing items. Be warned though, the prices in the historic district are slightly higher than the exact same product in the beach stores. The benefit is that the offerings, while some of the same, are broader with more upscale lines.
My new favorite boutique. "Yaga"
I LOVE the store pictured above. The name is Yaga – Mo Betta Threads. This store has the cutest line of women’s clothing. The store is small but the lines they carry are perfect for cruising, casual yet refined. Perfect!
All in all, the stores in the Strand area are a great place to browse, especially if you are looking for that little something extra to take on your cruise. I saw some brands here that I have not seen anywhere else.
If you tire of walking the historic district, you can always take a ride.
Carriage on Strand Street
The other place I want to share with you about Galveston is the Seawolf Park, named after the Seawolf submarine lost in WWII. The park has several areas for families, but the main attractions are the USS Cavalla SS-244, a WWII submarine and the USS Stewart, only one of two suriving destroyers.
Courtesy of Seawolf Park
The park offers access to the submarine and destroyer for a nominal donation. I have to tell you, I have developed a totally new respect for the sailors whose tours of duty were aboard submarines. I am not in the least bit claustrophobic but I cannot even imagine living in the tiny, cramped surroundings inside of them for a day, much less for weeks or months on end. There comes a solemnity during the tours of these two vessels when you start to realize these were the homes of many, many soldiers during war time. Let us not forget that our freedom has a price and those who pay it for us deserve our respect. Needless to say, if you are in the Galveston area, I highly recommend taking time to visit this park. Your appreciation of our men and women in the armed forces will amplify after this short excursion.
After our day of exploring, we went to dinner at Gaido’s restaurant which has been in the same place on the seawall since 1911.
You cannot miss this sign but in case you don’t see it, just look for the giant crab right next to it.
Gaidos Giant Crab
Seriously, please don’t let the exterior of the building keep you from trying this restaurant. It looks a little run down but once you walk in, the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Everything we had was wonderful, I ordered the soft shell crab and my husband had the seafood platter. The wait staff was very knowledgeable about the menu and the fish in particular. It is definitely a place we will revisit.
As I left Galveston, I made a mental note to visit again soon. I will be cruising out of Galveston a couple of times next year, so I’m planning to squeeze in another day or two. If you are cruising or just heading there for a little beach time, let me know. I’d love to share more with you.