Galveston has 32 miles of beaches, fine dining, art galleries, shopping and an amazing concentration of Victorian architecture. Choice Hotels will put you right in the middle of everything this island city has to offer visitors. Whether you choose to pound the surf on horseback, watch dolphins ride the bow-wave as you take the ferry or check out a museum or concert, you will love all of Galveston’s attractions near your hotel room, which include:
Possibly the best introduction to the Galveston area is on the back of a horse, and you can do that at SnG Horseback Riding. Unlike other quiet single-file trail rides, this one takes you trotting and galloping along beside—and into—the surf on a beach you will share with shorebirds, crabs and the others in your party. One of the best things about this experience is that it is tailored to your level of expertise: beginners feel safe and comfortable, and experienced riders find it to be enjoyable and challenging as well. The views are spectacular and the ride is exhilarating. Your wrangler will take photos for you and explain everything that you want to know about the horses, the area and the water. It may just be the perfect family outing!
It has been declared the official opera house of Texas, and the accolade is well-deserved: the Grand 1894 Opera House is a monument to Texas’ ability to withstand time, storms and trends and deliver a quality experience. No matter when you are visiting Galveston, there will be several shows for you to choose from at “The Grand,” as it is known locally. And what a choice—musicals, comedy, current pop and country music performers, plays, children’s “Serious Fun” series, classical music concerts, ballet and modern dance—the list goes on and on. The building itself is worth a visit, decorated in the appropriate nineteenth-century style, with brilliant acoustics and an intimate feel. The staff is mostly volunteer, and is happy to share the joy and pleasure of being a part of The Grand.
One of the best vacation-outing deals anywhere is the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry: it is free, and offers some of the best fun available anywhere. Drive your car onto the ferry and then get out and watch for gulls, brown pelicans and other seabirds—as well as the tremendous ships that ply these waters. But the best view by far is watching the dolphins that will be swimming and leaping along in your bow-wave. Even if you choose to turn around and come back to Galveston on the return trip, this ferry ride is a high point of any vacation.
The people of Galveston turned a tragedy into something of beauty: when Hurricane Ike destroyed numbers of the island’s beautiful hundred-year-old oak trees, a local artist turned the stumps and remains into a remarkable series of Tree Sculptures. They are not all in one place, and you can set yourselves off on a treasure hunt to find them all—some are quite well hidden, so have your kids keep a sharp eye out. You can go on a self-guided tour (maps are available at the Visitor Center) via car, on foot or by bicycle, or take one of Galveston’s many guided tours during which the sculptures will be pointed out to you.
Ah, life in the Gilded Age! You can experience it—albeit vicariously—when you tour Galveston’s Bishop’s Palace, named one of the 100 most important buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects. It was built between 1886 and 1892 for a railroad magnate, and clearly no one involved with the palace had any concerns about excess. You will see colored stone, rare woods, stained-glass windows, Siena marble columns, bronze dragons, tapestries, luxury furnishings and sculptures. There are fireplaces imported from all over the world, including one that is—inexplicably—lined with pure silver. The docents are interesting and knowledgeable, or you can take the self-guided tour with a handheld speaker if you prefer.
As the national conversation about the country’s energy needs continues, why not take an afternoon to learn about offshore drilling? Head out to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum for three floors of exhibits—many of which are hands-on—about the history, practice, challenges and benefits of offshore drilling. Begin your tour with a short film and then take the self-guided tour (and enjoy spectacular views along the way). Tip: there is free parking nearby, so look around for a spot before you decide to pay.
They say that it is “where the Texas coast begins,” and your hotel in Galveston will put you right in the middle of the warm Texas sun and warmer Texas welcome that have lured visitors for decades from as close as Houston and as far away as the other side of the world. Now it is your turn to make Galveston the most memorable of all your vacation destinations!
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