I booked a stay in Galveston because it was located along our route between New Orleans and San Antonio.  The 10 day visit was way longer than we wanted, but we had time to kill, and Galveston seemed like a reasonable place to stop.  But as our visit got closer, we began second guessing ourselves. When we told folks we were headed to Galveston, no one seemed particularly enthusiastic, and several encouraged us to visit other locations instead. We thought about it, but it just didn’t make sense mileage-wise for us to change our plans.  We decided to stick with our itinerary and make the most of what we expected might be a pretty disappointing stop.

Galveston Hurricane Memorial Sculpture
A sculpture commemorating the loss of some 6,000 residents during the 1900 hurricane.

But that’s where we segue into one of the little “life lessons” we’ve come to appreciate as we’ve traveled around: You can’t judge how you’re gonna feel about a place based on other people’s opinions. Expectations are different. Experiences are different. Priorities are different. Hell, we’ve found the weather can have a huge impact on how people feel about a place.The bottom line is we have to decide for ourselves what we like and don’t like.  And the only way we can fairly analyze a place is by visiting for long enough to get a real sense of it.

And so it was for us with Galveston. We ended up really enjoying our time there. Was it the best place we’ve been? No. But it had lots of things we really liked and enough points of interest to keep us busy and happy. In fact, we liked it well enough to extend our stay from 10 to 14 days, and have even discussed the possibility of coming back some day when we have more time.

 

Galveston Island Sunset over the Bay.
A not-too-shabby sunset over Galveston Bay.

 

Beer at Galveston Island Brewing
A pretty tasty beer at Galveston Island Brewing….

 

Galveston bird diving into the ocean
Some stellar opportunities to practice wildlife photography at Galveston Island State Park

 Galveston Bird sitting on a rock.

 

Unique Art in the Historic District

When one of the bloggers I follow (Ingrid at Live, Laugh, RV) saw that we were going to spend several weeks in Texas, she was kind enough to reach out and point us to several interesting places. Based on her suggestions for Galveston, one afternoon I headed over to the East End Historic District which is a neighborhood that’s been designated a National Historic Landmark.  It is full of beautifully restored Victorian homes, historic designations, and pretty landscaping.

House in Galveston's East End Historic District

House in Galveston's East End Historic District

House in Galveston's East End Historic District

Houses in Galveston's East End Historic District

Historic designation placard in Galveston's East End Historic District

Sadly, when Hurricane Ike hit Galveston in 2008, the neighborhood sustained heavy damage, including the loss of numerous old trees. Fortunately, several forward-thinking residents made the decision to employ artists to turn the downed trees into unique works of art.  The resulting sculptures are spread throughout the neighborhood and can be toured with the help of a map from the Visitor’s Center.

My favorite was this statue of a Geisha.

geisha-sculpture-collage

Geisha Tree Sculpture

Other sculptures included various birds, a squirrel, the Tin Man and Toto, and a frog (decked out for Mardi Gras, of course).

galveston-tree-sculpture

galveston-tree-sculptures collage

It was a brilliant way to turn destruction into unique and memorable art that will, hopefully, continue to bring appreciative visitors into the neighborhood.

The Strand

The Strand is the main historic district on the island.  If you tell anyone who’s been to Galveston that you’re going to Galveston, they’ll tell you to go to the Strand.  Yet somehow, even though we were in town for two whole weeks, we never went down there to hang out. It’s amazing how the time gets away from us sometimes… I did head over for a few minutes just to check it out and take some photos, but it was more out of a sense of obligation than anything. In any case, it looks like a pretty cool little neighborhood filled with old restored buildings and interesting shops and restaurants.

Historic buildings in the Strand

Historic building in the Strand

I loved this building.

galveston-historic-area-91-of-101

Detailed brick work on building in the Strand.

I also thought this demarcation of the water line during Hurricane Ike (If you look carefully, “Ike Water Line” is painted on the building) was pretty shocking.  I remembered the storm, but had to go look up some news articles to appreciate just how devastating it was to Southeastern Texas.

Building marked "Ike Water Line" showing level of flooding from hurricane.
This building was about 4 blocks from the waters edge.

 

The Ocean Star Museum

Located right down the dock from the cruise ships stands the Ocean Star Oil Rig Museum. It is an actual offshore drilling rig that was re-purposed into a museum that seeks to educate visitors about the industry.

The Ocean Star Drilling Museum

The museum is owned and maintained by several of the big oil companies, so we weren’t sure if it was gonna be a “Yay Ra-Ra” marketing tool or a true educational experience. We figured there was only one way to know for sure, so we decided to check it out. Overall we were really impressed. The process of drilling for oil in the ocean is unquestionably complex and the museum did a good job of both explaining how it’s done and showing all the various equipment and processes the oil companies use to do it.

Ocean Star oil rig museum collage
Clockwise: A replica of one of the 500 pound links in a chain that anchors certain deep-water rigs to the sea floor, a blowout preventer (yeah, that thing), the view up the tower on the exterior of the rig, a model showing how companies do directional drilling, an exhibit on some of the boats the companies use during various phases of oil extraction.

The museum spent a fair amount of real estate talking about environmental concerns and what steps the companies have taken in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to make sure such a tragedy never occurs again.  It also had several exhibits about the various government agencies that work to limit the environmental impact of the oil industry. Overall, the museum was pretty even handed in addressing both the positive aspects of oil drilling and the environmental concerns a lot of people have about the process. If you have any interest in learning about it, the museum is worth a visit.

Making More Connections

Once again, we made new friends through Instagram. We met up with Curtis and Tami (Just Breezin Along) for beers at Galveston Island Brewing, and they brought: 1) a King Cake; and 2) Ron and Lauri, their neighbors at the RV park they were staying at.  After Curtis and Tami headed west, we hung out with Ron and Lauri several more times, including having dinner over at their rig one night. While we were there, another one of their neighbors stopped by with his 8 week old Husky puppy who I promptly kidnapped for a serious snuggle session.  All of which was fine until I got home and was subjected to a Spanish Inquisition style investigatory session by Dixie. She was NOT happy that I smelled like another dog.

Galveston friends collage
Clockwise: The King Cake Curtis and Tami brought to happy hour, Curtis and Pete, the dog, who had been lapping up spilled beer just prior to this photo, out at lunch with Lauri and Ron, the cutest puppy ever passed out on my lap.

Ron and Lauri are from Canada, so we had several interesting conversations with them about politics, government, and current events, and they gave us some great information about our future visit to their lovely country. By the end of the week, we had a standing invitation to stay on Lauri’s mom’s property up in Canada and enjoy a home cooked meal (Moose Steak!!) if we visit.

And speaking of socializing, while in the Houston Area, we also visited with Kevin’s Penn State buddies, Bob and Chris, and their wives Thyra and Katrina.  It had been 16+ years since they had all seen each other, so we had a fun night eating crawfish and catching up. That’s another nice benefit of doing what we’re doing: catching up with old friends we haven’t seen in years.

Kevin with his college roommates
We are… Penn State.

While in Galveston, we also went up to the Johnson Space Center, but that’s a whole other post….

In the meantime, we are at a nice park in the middle of nowhere, Texas. We’re enjoying the down time before what we expect will be a busy couple weeks in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.

 

23 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome post. Great pictures. I haven’t been to some of those areas since I was young. It looks completely different than I remember.

  2. Interesting Victorian homes, I had not expected that in TX. Please explain what is a king cake? Looks awesome! Can’t wait to hear about the space center (we loved Cape Canaveral) and the San Antonio river walk!

    • Good point, I probably should have explained what a King Cake is. We’d never heard of it before we got to New Orleans either. So, a King Cake is a feature of parties during the Carnival season (the several weeks leading up to Mardi Gras). Hidden somewhere inside the cake is a little doll figurine representing the Baby Jesus. Whomever finds the figurine in their slice of cake is designated King or Queen for the party and is expected to throw the party the next year and buy the King Cake. There are different ways to make it, but the ones we had were kinda like a coffee cake/cinnamon roll.

  3. I voted for this destination as our spring break venue; but, I lost. Your blog will be my ace in the hole next year! Miss you LMG.

    • Where are you guys going instead?? I definitely think it’s worth a stop. I will say the beaches are not particularly beautiful… The sand is packed in and the water is rather gray.. BUT, there is a lot to do and they have a really cool looking boardwalk area (called the Pleasure Pier), and lots of other family friendly places to visit (check out Moody Gardens., for one.) Just realize, it’s not white sand beaches like the Florida panhandle. or the beautiful beaches near OBX….

      —And I miss you too!

  4. Glad you enjoyed Galveston. I know we really did. I fell in love with some of those Victorian homes and I can’t image the devastation Ike caused. Nice collection of photos. Thanks for the mention ????

    • Thanks! Yeah, I really would not have expected a neighborhood like that in the middle of Galveston (thanks again for the tip). Just goes to show, you never know what you’re gonna find. The pictures of Ike’s damage in that news article were incredible.. The residents and government did a great job restoring the neighborhoods and creating something positive from the destruction. We also thought it was interesting how,, as we traveled west across the island, we could see the differences in the ways the buildings were built, to avoid damage from storms. The engineering has come a long way. Fascinating stuff….

    • We found out there are A LOT of full timers who head there during the winter. The weather was cloudy and rainy at times when we were there, but always warm. It was nice. Also, the friends we met there were staying at one of the private parks on a very reasonable monthly rate. We would definitely consider doing something like that in the future.

  5. We haven’t been to Galveston in years and years….we had reservations at the state park for two weeks back in 2008 and Hurricane Ike changed our plans. We’ve since spent time in Rockport—it’s another delightful spot on the Texas Gulf Coast.. Thanks for the tour of Galveston—it’s on our list for next winter, along with a return visit to Rockport.

    • I had never heard of Rockport before, but now it seems to come up ALL the time. It was one of the places that was suggested to us (along with Port Aranasas) as an alternative to Galveston. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a great place to hang out for a while and we’ll definitely add it to our list, but we are glad to have stopped in Galveston. I think you guys will like it too!

  6. Thanks for taking me back, we had a great time in Galveston as well despite the rain that we have to endure!
    And I agree weather has the big impact of your impression of a place. Although we listen to what other people say we always gauge our impression based on our experience.

    • We had our fair share of rain while we were there too. I wonder if it’s just their weather pattern or something…. But we won’t complain too much. It still beats snow!!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Yes, the architecture was definitely a nice feature for us,. Between the Strand and the East End District, there were plenty of cool buildings and houses to look at. Galveston’s absolutely worth a stop for a couple days if you find yourselves in the area!

    • Thanks! We are heading toward Austin next. It’s been high on our list since we left home, so it should be fun. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on it. We’ll be looking for as much insider info as we can get!

  7. Thanks for the tour of Galveston! We only spent two nights at Galveston Island State Park a couple of years ago and didn’t get to explore the town at all. Looks like we missed a lot! Isn’t Ingrid great? She had a lot of tips for us when we traveled to Texas two years ago. Happy trails!

  8. Thanks for the tour! We could only spend two nights when we camped at Galveston Island State Park so we didn’t get to explore the town at all. Looks like we missed a lot. Isn’t Ingrid great? She had great tips for us when we traveled to Texas two years ago.

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