Out and About in Galveston's
Galveston, TX, is a great walking town or you might take a carriage ride or rent a Segway!*
By Kathryn Straach
Just a block from the cruise pier in downtown Galveston visitors will discover a 30-plus-block shopping and entertainment playground. This grouping of more than 100 shops, restaurants and attractions is so close that some over-served cruisers might think they've stumbled into an undiscovered part of the ship.
From the cruise terminal, it's just a short stroll to the sites. Visitors arriving by car might park in the lot adjacent to the cruise terminal parking garage. Parking is $5 daily.
A precautionary note for walkers: Many of the sidewalks in the historic areas are brick. Some streets are uneven and there are a few steps leading to some sidewalks. So although the walk itself is easy in terms of grade and distance, be prepared for a few “bumps” in the road.
If you feel a walk is too much, have no worries. Alternatively, take a trolley ride (409-797-3900 or www.islandtransit.net) for only $1 per person. Carriage rides are also available.
And, the adventuresome might rent a Segway from Cajun2Wheels Segway Galveston (www.cajun2wheels.com); the cost is $20 for a half-hour, $35 for an hour.
On Your Way
Begin your tour by heading straight one block on 25th St. (also called Rosenburg) to the Railroad Museum (409-765-5700 or www.galvestonrrmuseum.com), near 25th St. and Sante Fe Place. Located within the restored Union Depot, this museum details the birth of railroading in Texas.
Admission is $6 per adult, $5 for those 65 and older, and $3 for kids 4 to 12. If you opt not to spend the time or money to see the entire museum at least peek into the former waiting room, now called the People's Gallery. “Ghosts of Travelers Past,” full-sized figures made of plaster molds but depicting real people, are eerily scattered about.
Back outside, straight ahead is the Strand, the best-known street in the district. Until recently, the entire area was called the Strand Historic District. Now, it’s Galveston's Historic Downtown District (at least by the Convention and Visitors Bureau). The 19th-century Victorian buildings lend a New Orleans air.
The next five blocks along the Strand are filled with antique stores, T-shirt shops, boutiques and restaurants. Wander through the shops from 25th to 20th.
If you have plenty of time and energy, veer off to the left at 22nd, wave at your ship as you backtrack across Harborside, and visit Piers 21 and 22.
Here you'll find the Texas Seaport Museum and the Tall Ship Elissa (409-765-7834 or www.tsm-elissa.org ), a floating National Historic Landmark; admission to both is $8 for adults and $6 for kids 7-18.
A popular stop for visitors is at the Texas Seaport Museum, home to the historic tall ship Elissa.*
On site you'll also find the Pier 21 Theater (409-763-8808 or www.galveston.com/pier21theatre). It features a multi-image documentary of the hurricane that killed more than 6,000 people in Galveston in 1900.
The theater also runs a movie detailing the life of the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte, who once called Galveston home.
Cost of the Great Storm movie is $5 for adults, $4 for children ages 7 to 18. Cost of the Jean Lafitte movie is $4 for adults, $3 for children.
When you’re ready, head back to the Strand. A few of my personal favorites along that popular avenue are:
- La King's Confectionery (409-762-6100 or http://lakingscandy.com), 2323 Strand, offers a soda fountain on the left. For handmade chocolates and fresh-pulled saltwater taffy, look right. Sweet! (See photo at right.*)
- Yaga's (409-762-6676 or www.galveston.com/yaga), 2314 Strand St, has
good food, a better nightlife, and superlative survival skills. An entire wall of Yaga¹s was knocked down in Hurricane Rita in September 2005. The
restaurant re-opened in November 2006. Diners may peruse photos of its hurricane experience and enjoy excellent seafood flautas ($5.95) and a bowl of tortilla soup ($4.50).
- Col. Bubbie's Strand Surplus Center (800-231-6005 or www.colbubbie.com), 2202 Strand, is a military surplus stores that’s a local institution. This retail store appeals to re-enactors, costumers, veterans and campers. But even if you have no interest in camoflauge gear, it¹s a quirky browse.
- Hendley Market (800-349-8375 or 409-762-2610 or www.hendleymarket.com), 2010 Strand, has been in business for more than 25 years. The market features eclectic items from antique medical instruments and glass eyes to more than 200 nativities
from around the world including one made from a propane tank.
Arts, Theater and Mardi Gras
You might walk to the arts district or, alternatively, take a trolley.*
Next, you’re off to Postoffice Street, a lovely arts district. You could simply walk three blocks down 20th St. to reach it, but along the way you’ll pass some lounges in a touristy area. A good option is to detour a block back to 21st St., then walk three blocks south to Postoffice St.
Lined with lovely trees, Postoffice Street is equipped with benches. It’s a good place to relax and soak up the scenery. This street is home to theaters, galleries and upscale restaurants and bars. Highlights include:
- The Grand 1894 Opera House (800-821-1984 or www.thegrand.com), 2020 Postoffice St., is a beautifully restored opera house. The venue attracts big names on a regular basis -- from Elton John to Tony Bennett. Admission is $2 for adults, free for children 12 and under. The opera house (shown at right*) will provide a pamphlet so take a self-guided tour.
- Rudy and Paco (409-762-3696 or www.galveston.com/rudypaco) is at 2028 Postoffice St. This restaurant is a great spot for a lunch or dinner break. The South/Central American restaurant is top-notch from its fish tacos ($9 at lunch) to Chuleta de Ternera ($38, dinner), a grilled veal chop with a trio of mushrooms. On Wednesdays, the daily special is chicken-fried steak ($9.95), which covers the size of your plate.
- Sky Bar (409-621-4759 or www.galvestonskybar.com), 2107 Postoffice St., serves outstanding sushi. Many visitors enjoy the bar’s food and drink happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
At 23rd St., turn right onto Market Street. One-half block to the right is the Galveston County Historical Museum (www.galvestonhistory.org).
This 1921-era building is a good stop if you’re interested in how the island has weathered its past. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.
When ready, return to 23rd St. and turn left on Mechanic.
On the left is the free Mardi Gras Museum (409-765-5930 or www.mardigrasgalveston.com).
A tip! Enter the museum through Midsummer Books at 2309 Mechanic St.
Across the street is the Tremont House (409-763-0300 or 800-WYNDHAM or www.thetremonthouse.com), 2300 Ship's Mechanic Row. It’s a historic hotel with a stunning atrium lobby.
Take the elevator to the Rooftop Terrace for a great view. From the terrace, you can see the way back to your ship or the parking lot, basically a two-block walk on either 24th Street or 25th Street.
Kathryn Straach, now a freelance writer, formerly wrote a column about traveling in Texas for 10 years while on staff at The Dallas Morning News. She lives in McKinney, Texas, but is packing her bags to move to San Antonio within the next few months.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.