Last week I had my first real experience in Texas when I had the chance to enjoy a unique familiarization tour to Galveston Island.
Once known as the "Playground of the South," Galveston Island was renowned for its sophistication and splendor in the early 1800s as an active port town that was also the location of the state's first post office, the first hospital and even the first opera house, but the area became ravaged in 1900 after when it was devastated by The Great Storm. Those who stayed after the storm built a Seawall, a wall that was built slanting the ground so that water was unable to run off the bay.
Since the 1980s the island has been building its tourism efforts offering tourists an historic and charming beach destination where you can discover one of the largest concentrations of Victorian homes, art galleries, shopping, restaurants, 32 miles of beaches and exciting attractions like Moody Gardens, Pleasure Pier and Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark - offering families a truly special getaway.
Starting with an experience at the Tremont House, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, I was struck by its intimate setting with its gorgeous Italianate architecture and homey features like 14" ceilings, ironwork balconies, and a cozy oversized bed that made the room so cozy and comfortable. They also offer fantastic features such as a rooftop bar (with a stunning view) and a classic lobby where you can listen to pianist play and relax. A former dry goods warehouse, is a perfect location for first-timers to Galveston since you can easily leave the hotel and discover its charming downtown area on foot.
While staying in Galveston you can also stay at the historic Hotel Galvez and Spa. Situated right off the beach, this beautiful hotel was built-in 1911 and retains its original charm and historic splendor. As a four-diamond AAA rated hotel, you can discover incredible spa services (also accessible to those staying in the Tremont House), a heated outdoor pool and world-class dining. Additionally, you will also be very close to beaches, attractions, and historic sites for you and your family to explore.
There is plenty to do in Galveston Island - offering kids of all ages beaches and numerous attractions. Starting with the downtown, families will love checking out the walkable Historic Downtown Galveston Strand Seaport District where you can check out the Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, view "The Great Storm" documentary, explore the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum or enjoy the very cool Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast Exhibit.
You can also explore by simply wandering in and out of the many small and boutique shops on the Strand with one of my personal favorites being La King's Confectionery, a homemade candy shop that transports you back in time where you can enjoy ice cream and milkshakes all while watching employees make Salt Water Taffy right in front of your eyes.
We also toured Moody Gardens, an amusement attraction for kids featuring an aquarium, Rainforest Pyramid and Discovery Center. At the aquarium I had the chance to enjoy a cool penguin encounter where I had the chance to learn about them along with a biologist from Moody Gardens. A fun activity for kids, this 45-minute experience teaches kids all about the care of the penguins as well as gives them a behind-the-scenes. The aquarium itself features 10,000 marine animals where kids can learn more about sea life from all around the world including the North Pacific, South Pacific, South Atlantic and Caribbean. Personally, I loved the experience at the Rainforest Pyramid where I could freely explore and walk around amongst tropical plants and see animals - including birds and monkey's - roaming around freely thanks to its recent $25 million enhancement project that has brought animals and plant-life even closer to guests.
Another fun place for families is Sclitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark. This 70,000-square-foot indoor waterpark is the ultimate attraction for kids where you will discover water coasters, slides, kids' areas, whitewater rapids wave pools, a lazy river, a cool surf ride and their new 100,00-gallon wave lagoon! While touring the facility I really appreciated that they allow families to bring their own food and water into the park as well as how they have heated areas when it is a bit colder. Named the Best Indoor Waterpark, Sclitterbahn is not to be missed.
Aviation enthusiasts will love the Lone Star Flight Museum with its collection of rare and restored war aircrafts. This includes old Continental Airlines planes, warplanes, and fighter planes with some of them still able to fly today!
Another place for families to explore is the The Seawall. A 10-mile-long, 17-foot-tall wall that protects the Island from intense storms is also an art space, the location of numerous shops, more hotels, and the latest family attraction Pleasure Pier, a new attraction in Galveston where you and your family can enjoy rides and games as you overlook the beautiful water.
I also enjoyed a fun tour of seeing a piece of the past of Galveston by visiting Bishop's Place, a home built in 1892 that is one of Galveston's most popular historic mansions. I took an audio tour through the home as I walked from room-to-room taking in the decor and furnishing from the Victorian-era.
Much of our trip was spent eating, and in Galveston you are sure to eat well where I had a sampling of everything from South American, Grilled Seafood, Greek, Sushi and delicious desserts. For breakfast, I loved checking out the Sunflower Bakery and Cafe. where I enjoyed a spinach quiche and some fruit. Located in Galveston's East End Historial District, I loved this family-owned restaurant that rebuilt after it was destroyed in Hurricane Ike. Today, this local favorite is renowned for their yummy baked goods made from scratch as well as lunch, dinner and brunch that always comes with a line out the door.
Another favorite was lunch at Farley Girls were you can literally find a little bit of everything - hence their tagline "the little bit of everything cafe." I loved the casual vibe of the cafe complete with its diverse selection of homemade soups, salads, omelets, sandwiches, pizza and hot meals that are all kid-friendly and fun to accomodate anyone's tastes. Lunch was also delicious at Olympia Grill that is situated right on the dock where you can enjoy Greek food while being on the lookout for dolphins. Renowned for their claims and oysters, they also have a delicious salad dressing that makes their Greek salad a hit.
For dinner I loved checking out Rudy & Paco's, a restaurant that was named as one of the 100 restaurants in the US by OpenTable. Here you can find everything from salads to fresh seafood to steaks with an incredible South and Central American twist. My salmon was divine and the potatoes and carrots were mouth-watering.
I also loved Gaido's Seafood Restaurant, another local seafood favorite that is currently celebrating their 102nd anniversary! The diverse seasonal menu featured everything from cold appetizers like Iced Gulf Shrimp to hot appetizers like their incredible Watkins Bisque. For dinner you can find flouder, tuna, salmon, chops, shrimp and family-friendly sides like potato wedges and mac and cheese. They also have an incredible pecan pie that was actually ranked the 'Best Pecan Pie in Texas' by Texas Monthly. After devouring my pie it was easy to see why.
Just 50 minutes from Houston, my visit this charming and historic port town was filled with delicious food, amazing attractions, and a lesson in history that I will always treasure.
Momtrends was not paid for this post.
Galveston Island paid for our accomodations and airfare.