Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Galveston

By Peter Simek 12.5.19

Galveston may be one of Texas’s favorite beach towns, but it’s more than just that. Once the financial capital of the south, the town today retains its old-timey flair and plenty of character and culture. So skip the crowds, because making an offseason trip is the perfect way to experience another side of Galveston.

Here are a few good places to start to experience Galveston’s historical side.

Photo by Kim Schaffer

Port of Entry

From the earliest days of explorations of Texas, Spanish and French explorers recognized that Galveston’s bay provided the best natural port between New Orleans and Veracruz, and the city became a setting of both settlement and conflict. After the Texas Revolution, Galveston emerged as the republic’s — and then the state’s — most important port. During the Civil War, Union troops blockaded and briefly occupied the city until they were driven out in the Battle of Galveston in 1863. But hurricanes, and not wars, would eventually mark Galveston’s downfall as Texas’ major port.

The hurricane of 1900 was the nation’s worst natural disaster, killing an estimated 6,000 people and leveling much of the city. Shipping and commerce would eventually move away from the exposed coast and toward Houston, while Galveston reinvented itself in the 20th century as a beachy resort town.

Photo by Kim Schaffer

Texas Seaport Museum

To capture the feeling of Galveston’s shipping glory days, head to the Texas Seaport Museum, where you can climb aboard one of the oldest still-sailing merchant vessels, which was built in 1877. The museum also offers sunset boat tours highlighting the bay’s history.

East Beach

Back on land, head to East Beach, the best place to watch the sunrise. From the shore, you can stand in awe of the massive container ships that round the island on their way to the Port of Houston.

Ghost Tours

At its height, Galveston was known as the “Wall Street of the South,” and the city’s economic prowess is still on display downtown, which is home to an incredible collection of historical homes and buildings. There are plenty of tours available — including ghost tours — but it is easy to tap into the history by walking or biking.

Photo by Kim Schaffer

The Strand

Peruse the Strand, Galveston’s historic downtown strip, where you can find antique shops and restaurants.

  • Stop into La King’s Confectionery, a restored 1920s soda fountain and candy store.
  • Continue past the Victorian mansions and Greek Revivals that once housed the city’s gilded class to Bishop’s Palace, an impressive historic mansion built in 1892.
  • Finish up at the Moody Mansion Museum, which has been restored and offers tours of the 20 rooms that once housed a powerful Texas family.

Explore more of Texas’s historic cities and towns here.

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