Beaches, Restaurants, Hotels, Culture & History

by Dr. Lara Leonhardt

Editor’s Note: Top Twelve Travel Tipsheet is a series on favorite FAMILY-FRIENDLY places and activities outside Houston. Dr. Lara Leonhardt is a Houston SuperMom with a daughter and son. She is a native Texan and attended Texas A&M University. She is a private practitioner and owner of Bee Well Pediatrics at 3701 West Alabama. Her website:

Growing up in Texas, our only vacation spot was the muddy waters of the Gulf of Mexico. As my brother always refers to Galveston, “Galveston was the Manhattan of the South in the 1800s.” Below you will find a very fondly written list of family friendly fun.



100 Seawolf Park Boulevard, 409-797-5114
Seawolf Park is located on Pelican Island just north of Galveston. There is a large pavilion with a view of Galveston Harbor, picnic benches, a playground area and lighted fishing pier. This park is great for the history buff or kids who love ships and boats. And of course, who isn’t fascinated by a submarine? This is a place that stands alone for a half day of excitement.


Ferry Road, 409-795-2230
The Galveston-Bolivar Ferry connects Galveston Island to the Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach. If you are at East Beach where all the fun is, it is a great activity for the kids. There is a long line from time to time so you will want to go early in the day to avoid the headaches. You drive your car on board the ferry and once ready, everyone gets out and roams the ferry and searches the sea for dolphins which are aplenty.


Seawall Boulevard, 409-621-4771
This tour is a land and water sightseeing adventure. The kids are sure to enjoy this new way of touring. It is an open-air bus that travels down the seawall and then actually into the bay for a 15-minute tour. Then you hit the pavement again to enjoy some of the historic mansions and the Strand. Fun for all ages!


2323 The Strand, 409-762-6100
This historical candy and ice cream shop is super fun and always a hit with the kids. Stroll in when you’re walking down the Strand and try the handmade chocolates and fresh Salt Water Taffy. La King’s is famous for its working 1920s soda fountain that creates malts, shakes, floats and other fountain treats. The shop makes and serves Purity Ice Cream. Purity was Texas’ first ice cream manufacturer, established in Galveston in 1889.


LONE START FLIGHT MUSEUM – 2002 Terminal Drive, 409-740-7722
If you are an aviation enthusiast, you will love the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, where you can actually ride war birds from World War II.

TEXAS SEAPORT MUSEUM AND ELISSA – 2200 Harborside Drive, 409-763-1877
This museum, located in the port of Galveston, is home to the 1877 tall ship Elissa. Families can walk the decks of Elissa, a floating National Historic Landmark. Guests can access the Galveston Immigration Database, which contains the names of more than 133,000 immigrants who entered the United States through Galveston.



BEACH TIP: If you are going down to Galveston for the day, you can exit 61st Street off Broadway and go down to the seawall. This area of the beach is generally not as crowded and it is kept clean because of the nearby San Luis Resort. Umbrellas and chairs are also available to rent.


1923 Boddeker Road, 409-797-5111
Galveston’s East Beach is the coolest and biggest beach in Texas; famous for its great beach parties, outdoor concerts, and water parks.


West Beach is the west end of the island where most of the oceanfront private homes and house rentals are located. If you are a big family or travelling with another family, this is definitely the way to go. There are several restaurants nearby, a grocery store, Seven Seas, and of course, the ice cream man makes his appearance several times a day by your house and to the beach!


2020 Post Office Street, 409-765-1894
The Grand is a must if you have time in your schedule for a little culture. It’s a good way to get out of the sun for a while. It is a beautiful opera house with hardwood floors and very intimate venue. There’s not a bad seat in the house. If you call the box office, you can request a box, which seats 6-8 people and it is a great way to experience the VIP seating for a great price. This summer, they have the Addams family and a summer pops concert.



5222 Seawall Boulevard, 409-744-1500
This is a beautiful upscale hotel with an awesome pool with slide, waterfall and adult swim-up bar. During the summer, scavenger hunts and other family activities are scheduled throughout the week.


2024 Seawall Boulevard, 409-765-7721
The Galvez is a historic hotel. It has been on the island since the early 1900s. It is beautiful and stylish and was recently remodeled. If you are going to partake in the East beach action, this is a hotel in close proximity. The Galvez is famous for its New Orleans-style brunch.


13706 FM 3005, 409-797-5500
This is a beach house rental agency on West Beach in the Pirates Beach neighborhood. They are extremely knowledgeable about the properties for rent. I have used them for 15 years and have continued to be happy with their service and quality of houses.


THE SPOT – 3204 Seawall Boulevard, 409-621-5237
The Spot might be more in line with your teenagers. It’s a fun oceanfront dining experience with music, burgers and beer. There is a line you get in to order, but don’t worry, it moves quickly and don’t let that be a deterrent.
MOSQUITO CAFE – 628 14th Street, 409-763-1010
This is my personal favorite to go for Saturday morning breakfast or brunch. It’s a super quaint bistro in Galveston that has an outdoor courtyard with tables for your young ones, so you can enjoy eggs Benedict, mimosas or your favorite pastry.
MI ABUELITA’S MEXICAN – 1728 45th Street, 409-621-1616
This is the best little Mexican food cafe in Galveston with a killer breakfast!
WILLIE G’S – 2100 Harbor Side, 409-762-3030
Willie G’s is an upscale steak and seafood restaurant on Pier 21 on the harbor side of the island. Don’t be scared to take your kids here. Shorts are welcome and they have a great outdoor dining section where the kids can watch the cruises go out and fancy yachts come in to dock!
WATERMANS – 14302 Stewart Road, 409-632-0203
This seafood restaurant has one of the most spectacular sunset views on the island. It is located on West Beach next to the Galveston Country Club. It is a seafood restaurant with the best Shrimp Kisses you’ve ever set your taste buds on.

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