Say the name Galveston and most people start humming the Glen Campbell song. But while it’s a place that looms large on the musical map, few of us would be able to locate it on an atlas. For those who’d appreciate a little guidance, Galveston is an island city on the Gulf Coast of Texas, about 50 miles from Houston.
It’s also the fourth busiest cruise port in the USA, welcoming more than a million passengers in 2016. But don’t just think of this fine city as somewhere to fly into and sail out of. Spend a little time here and you’ll find it has plenty to offer – all wrapped up in that famous Texan hospitality.
GETTING FROM THE SHIP…
It couldn’t be simpler. Galveston port is right in the heart of the city and no matter where your ship docks, it is unlikely you’ll be more than a few blocks away from the main entertainment district.
If you are making the long journey from Galveston to Houston, however, then you’d be best off ordering an Uber to take you there, or alternatively, you can hop on one of the shuttle buses provided by the many cruise lines who port here. Be warned though, taxis are quite expensive and will set you back $50 at the very least.
WHAT WE LOVE…
The Strand: The Strand is Galveston’s main shopping street, where horse-drawn carriages rattle over the cobbles between beautifully restored 19th century buildings. Here you can browse boutiques, galleries and gift shops, and visit the Galveston Railroad Museum or the interactive Pirates Museum. Be sure to pop into La King’s Confectionery, an old-fashioned candy factory and ice-cream parlour, where you can treat yourself to a cone while watching the staff make saltwater taffy (soft, chewy sweets).
Moody Gardens: Whatever the weather or time of year, Galveston’s Moody Gardens has something for everyone. Under cover in the Rainforest Pyramid you’ll find endangered species such as the giant river otter and the fearsome Komodo dragon, while the Aquarium Pyramid boasts artificial reefs as well as comical penguins and shark-feeding sessions. You can even touch a jellyfish – if you dare.
Houston Space Centre: Houston, we have a problem – or we will if you don’t explore the world-famous Space Center. Just half an hour’s drive from Galveston (about £35 by taxi), this is simply a must-see attraction. Touch a real piece of lunar rock. See a real spacesuit worn by an astronaut. But the star of the show is the Command Module of Apollo 17, the last manned lunar mission, which launched in December 1972.
TOP 3 PLACES TO EAT…
Olympia Grill: You simply have to sample Galveston’s delicious locally caught seafood. The Olympia Grill at Pier 21 is known for its Texas oysters, steamed clams and whole flounder, as well as its dockside patio with fabulous harbour views.
Rudy & Paco: There’s nothing more American than a big, juicy steak and they don’t come much finer than the ones found in this Latin American steakhouse.
Float Pool & Patio Bar: Sometimes you just want to relax by the pool and enjoy a burger and a shake. A beachside restaurant and bar, the Float Pool also serves delicious tacos.
TOP 3 PLACES TO SHOP…
The Strand: Looking for a cute souvenir to take back to the ship? Then the main entertainment hub of Galveston, The Strand, is the place to go.
Tanger Outlets: A 20-minute drive from Galveston, this classic American mall is the spot to shop till you drop at bargain-filled designer stores and high-street favourites.
Henley Market: This indoor market is great for picking up those little oddities you can’t find anywhere else.
OUR LOCAL TIP…
Texans are incredibly polite and you’ll often be referred to as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ – so be courteous and respectful in return, unless you want to get on their bad side!