No other coastal resort in Texas can match the rich historical significance of Galveston. Just a 50-minute drive from Houston, Galveston regularly draws thousands of tourists from all around the world.
Dating back to the 18th century, the small island community boasts architecture, traditions, and exciting sightseeing and vacation opportunities.
But with so many things to do in Galveston, the best visitor experience starts from Historic Pleasure Pier.
We recommend you have a well-informed guide who can share with you facts and fables about Galveston. Not to mention its history’s most notorious characters, and so much more. With this in mind, we highly recommend our Galveston Magical history tour.
Here are the top 10 must-see historic attractions and museums in Galveston, Texas:
1. East End Historic District
Steeped in historical significance, Galveston’s East End Historic District covers 50 city blocks. Firmly placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the East End offers visitors an authentic taste of yesterday in Galveston.
Here you’ll find ancient horse-drawn carriages and street after street of homes boasting intricate architectural details.
Besides brightly-colored stained glass windows and ornate carvings, visitors can take an intimate peek into Galveston’s famous “Gilded Age.”
Feel free to attend and enjoy a host of events such as block parties, neighborhood cleanups, and Christmas light contests. These are all preserved by the East End Historic District Association.
2. The Strand Historic District
The Strand Historic District in Galveston is probably one of the most attractive downtown areas of any North American city. It is composed almost entirely of beautifully maintained Victorian-era buildings.
A favorite with visitors and locals alike, the Strand District bristles with antique stores, cafes, restaurants, and galleries. The locale is perfect for a spot of sightseeing while you shop and experience the region’s exclusive ambiance.
The Strand extends down to the busy dock area, where you can see superbly renovated warehouses. It’s also the sight of the Christmas Dickens Festival.
Visitors should give this place at least a full day to experience the entire ambiance of the area.
Perhaps when you’re checking out the stores, you could spare a thought for the many Galveston residents who died there. The great hurricane of 1900 claimed over 6,000 local lives.
3. Texas Seaport Museum
A beautiful old 3-master, the tall ship Elissa is one of the most former ships still in operation today. Built-in Aberdeen, Scotland, Elissa first launched in 1877.
Based at the Texas Seaport Museum, the vessel has been designated a National Historic Landmark since 1990.
Elissa’s story is illustrated in remarkable detail in the museum’s onshore center. Offshore, visitors are welcome to explore Elissa’s decks and imagine themselves exploring the world’s global oceans of yesteryear.
A visit to the Texas Seaport Museum is a great place to discover an essential part of Texan history. The museum provides a fascinating view of maritime history.
The two-story building also houses a database with the names of 133,000 immigrants who passed through the Galveston Port to make their homes in the US.
The museum is an excellent place for visitors and tourists to base a full day-out. If you fancy a peek at a WWII submarine, you can head to the nearby Seawolf Park.
The Clifton Steamboat Museum in the town of Beaumont is just an hour’s drive away. Here you can enjoy a wide range of artwork and displays related to Galveston’s maritime past.
Also, you can board the Hercules, a tugboat from the 1930s.
4. Lone Star Flight Museum
Home of the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, the Flight Museum defines aviation’s development via restored aircraft and aviation artifacts. Exhibits provide an exciting overview of the history of flight, from gliders to modern jet aircraft.
An additional highlight is the opportunity to see the museum’s planes in action. The vast majority of the aircraft here have been restored to operational status. Notable examples include the B17 Flying Fortress and a P-47 Thunderbolt.
5. Galveston Railroad Museum
Part of the Galveston community for over 30 years, the Galveston Railroad Museum features an extensive collection of steam and diesel engines.
A snapshot of rail transportation through the years, the museum is home to antique passenger and freight cars. You can also view a remarkable selection of superbly maintained cabooses.
Highlights include the Texas Limited Passenger Train and the fabulous Santa Fe Diesel.
A true must-see attraction for both young and old, visitors should plan their trip to coincide with the regular museum events Opportunities to ride the historic engines are trendy. Plus, there are permanent exhibits such as The Depot, an active passenger depot for more than 30 years.
The “Ghost of Travelers Past” is another attraction of the museum. Here you can see plaster molds of individuals who passed through the area.
The museum hosts events throughout the year with train shows, parades, and Mardi Gras celebrations guaranteed to be fun for the entire family.
6. The Bryan Museum
JP Bryan bought his first pistol at the tender age of 8. It was a .22 caliber Derringer, and Bryant paid for it with money he earned mowing lawns and delivering newspapers.
The Dillinger was the first piece in a vast collection that you can see in the Bryan Museum. The collection currently has over 70,000 items. These include curiosities as a Walker Colt used in the Comanche Wars and a solid silver Mexican saddle.
Besides the excellent collection of firearms, the former orphanage is home to expertly crafted saddles, spurs. But that’s not all. Visitors can also enjoy folk and religious art exhibitions, superb portraits, plus a collection of important historical documents, maps, and books.
7. Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum
Packed full of fascinating exhibits, the Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig and Museum offers a real insight into the energy business. A visit to the pipe deck is a must. Here you can be amazed at the sheer size of the equipment needed to drill down more than 200 feet.
The whole Offshore experience is on display, from exploration to extraction. Presentations are fully interactive and sure to enthrall the entire family.
8. Galveston Children’s Museum
Located in Moody Mansion, the Children’s Museum is where kids of all ages can safely explore and discover science and the arts.
The museum regularly offers entertaining and educational adventures. Exhibits are very hands-on, and the interactive activities are specifically designed to enhance the young mind’s curiosity.
Тhe Museum has it all. Whether your child would love to study a bug under a microscope, build a robot, and lots of other fun stuff in-between. Event programs are available for visitors to plan their excursions around their museum experience.
Parents can join in the fun, too. Besides, the museum runs a range of classes where moms and dads can enjoy painting, yoga, and a lot more with their kids.
9. The Grand Opera House
Opened in 1894, Galveston’s Grand Opera House is well worth a visit, even if you don’t like opera. After suffering severe hurricane damage in 1900, the Grand was rebuilt by thousands of Galveston volunteers.
The final restoration work was completed in 1974. The result is an exceptional monument to the hard-working and selfless dedication of Galveston residents.
Visitors can enjoy events throughout the year, but it’s not all about opera. Food and wine festivals, art shows, and many other cultural events are featured regularly. The Grand is also available to rent for receptions, corporate meetings, and lavish parties.
10. The Rosenberg Library
The 1900-established Rosenberg Library is the oldest public library in Texas. It is home to an ever-growing collection of materials and artifacts about Texas in general and Galveston in particular.
The addition of the Moody wing in 1971 doubled the floor space, creating room for a historical center, a children’s library, and several exhibit galleries.
The Galveston and Texas History Center is located on the fourth floor of the library. It is home to a fascinating collection of historical manuscripts attributed to significant figures from Galveston’s past.
Here you can browse papers and documents penned by Samuel May Williams, Gail Borden, James Morgan, and John Grand Tod, Jr., amongst others.
Geography-interested visitors are also in for a real treat with the center’s collection of original maps. The maps are dating back to the 16th century and document Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and other neighboring coastlines.
Finally, a Special Bonus
Despite its big-city charm, Galveston remains a coastal town. It means beautiful sunsets and sunrises are almost guaranteed.
Every day in Galveston begins and ends with shades of pink and orange that will take your breath away. So, by all means, enjoy the historical significance, the cultural offerings, and have fun at the many events and attractions.
But don’t forget to take a relaxed stroll on the beach, too. The gorgeous weather in Galveston is a special, free-of-charge bonus, just for you.