From big-name attractions to simple pleasures, Galveston, Texas, remains an ideal destination for families.
Galveston made national news in late May when photos and videos surfaced of something shocking happening there: The water had gone from its typical shade of mud brown to crystal clear.
By coincidence, my family, which visits Galveston frequently, had already booked a trip there for the following week, and as we drove up to the seawall, we craned our necks to see if we, too, would get to experience it.
It wasn’t to be. The water was back to its chocolate-milk hue, just like we were used to. And it didn’t matter.
From its big-name attractions like Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn and the Pleasure Pier to simple pleasures like taking a morning stroll on the quiet beach, Galveston remains an ideal destination for families looking for a beach town that offers something for everyone.
Here are 10 fun things to consider during your next trip to Galveston.
1. Attend a taffy demonstration
La King’s Confectionery dates back to 1927, when Jimmy King learned how to make "Old World" candy in Houston. In 1976, his son, Jack, moved to Galveston and recreated an old-fashioned confectionery in the historic Strand District.
In summer, it’s a must-visit destination thanks to its working 1920s soda fountain, delicious handcrafted shakes, rainbow rows of candy and its saltwater taffy, which you can watch being pulled and stretched in store.
During the free hourlong taffy-making demonstration, made using antique equipment, guests receive samples, such as the just-pulled watermelon taffy that we enjoyed during our visit. Demonstrations take place on weekends and throughout the summer; call for times and details.
Side note: The soda fountain at Star Drug Store is another fun place to grab a shake or a sundae.
Info: 2323 Strand St. 409-762-6100, lakingsconfectionery.com
2. Take a tree sculpture tour
After Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston in 2008, a group of Galveston homeowners banded together to turn the devastation into art.
As you travel the island, look for its incredible tree sculptures, which range from the historical (a replica of the figurehead from the island’s famous Tall Ship Elissa) to the whimsical (a pod of dolphins with a mermaid). Kids will also appreciate recognizable items such as a guitar, a squirrel and even SpongeBob SquarePants.
Info: Various locations around Galveston, with many centered in the city’s East End Historic District, galveston.com/treesculpturetour
3. Walk through a real submarine
The American Undersea Warfare Center at Seawolf Park is home to the USS Cavalla, a World War II submarine that sank a Japanese aircraft carrier involved in the Pearl Harbor attacks, and the USS Stewart, a World War II destroyer escort that is one of the few left in the world. As you stroll through the insides of both, seeing the actual places where crew members once slept, ate and worked, it’s like having a history book come to life. Want more? Groups can even rent the vessels for sleepovers.
Info: 100 Seawolf Parkway. 409-770-3196, americanunderseawarfarecenter.com
4. Create your own artwork
After a couple of days of sun and sand, everyone in our crew needed a break. Enter Clay Cup Studios, a charming art studio that offers a variety of make-your-own options for all ages, including paint-your-own pottery, canvas painting, glass fusing, silk painting and more. We opted to paint colorful cupcake and starfish pottery creations, which turned out to be the perfect souvenirs from our trip. Projects start at $10.
Info: 409 22nd St. 409-762-2529, claycupstudios.com
5. Check out the trains
From its cute decor to a train that you can actually ride most Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Galveston Railroad Museum offers everything a train enthusiast could want. Don’t miss the detailed model train layouts or dinnerware displays.
Info: 2602 Santa Fe Place. 409-765-5700, galvestonrrmuseum.com
6. Set sail with the Elissa
The 1877 Tall Ship Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship that was built in Scotland and now resides at the Texas Seaport Museum, where visitors can walk across her decks and imagine what it would have been like to sail the seas with her. The Texas Seaport Museum also offers exhibits about Galveston’s role as a hub of seaborne commerce and immigration.
Info: 2100 Harborside Drive. 409-763-1877, galvestonhistory.org/attractions/maritime-heritage/texas-seaport-museum-4
7. Shop the Strand
Every time we’re in Galveston, we have to drop by the Style Co., a funky boutique located on Postoffice Street filled with bright jewelry, trendy clothing and fun accessories. Afterward, head next door for a spin through the Naked Mermaid, which is filled with treasures from the sea.
Info: 2113 Postoffice St. 409-750-8442, facebook.com/The-Style-co-177576185594319
8. Pause for a bite to eat
From Rudy & Paco to the Sunflower Bakery & Cafe to the Gumbo Diner, there’s no shortage of great places to eat in Galveston. During our trip, a local recommended dinner at Mama Teresa’s Flying Pizza, where we watched in awe as saucers of pizza dough were tossed high in the air. We loved every bite of our dinner here, from the cheesy garlic bread to the loaded Tuscan salad to the supple, rich tortellini.
Info: 416 21st St. 409-765-6262, mamateresas.com
9. Enjoy movies or music
After a fun-filled day exploring the Strand District, grab a blanket or some lawn chairs and head to Saengerfest Park, which hosts Movie Nights and Music Nights many Saturdays in summer. Movie Nights are held the first Saturday of the month, March through October, and begin at dusk. Upcoming films include "Guardians of the Galaxy," "The NeverEnding Story" and "Hocus Pocus." Music Nights take place on the second Saturday of the month.
Info: 2302 Strand St., galveston.com/saengerfestpark
10. Stay in the Strand
During past trips to Galveston, we’ve always stayed at hotels that line the beach, so I was excited to book a room this time at the Tremont House, a historic hotel located in the Strand District that dates back to 1839. From its bright, breezy atrium to its bustling rooftop bar to its spacious, beautifully decorated rooms, the hotel is a perfect choice for people who want to be close to the action of downtown. The Tremont does not have a pool, but guests have access to the pool at the hotel’s sister property, the Galvez, which is located on the Galveston Seawall directly across from the beach.
Info: 2300 Ship Mechanic Row St. 409-763-0300,thetremonthouse.com
— Kristin Finan writes for the Austin American-Statesman.