There’s no doubt Texas is gaining popularity as a homeport state. Galveston, severely damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, has recovered and currently serves as home base for Carnival Triumph, Carnival Magic and Mariner of the Seas (which will be replaced by Navigator of the Seas in November).
With its historic buildings and clean beaches, Galveston is a charming spot to spend a few days pre- or post-cruise. I spent several days in the city earlier this month, and here are my picks on how to spend some time.
1. Stroll through the Strand District. It’s within walking distance of the cruise terminal and offers shops, restaurants and gorgeous architecture. Be sure to stop in at La King’s Confectionery, where you can snag candy, ice cream and drinks like soda, coffee and smoothies.
2. Catch a film at Pier 21. Learn more of Galveston’s history with a movie about the hurricane that wiped out the island in 1900. There’s also one about pirate Jean Lafitte; the remains of his Galveston home are just a few blocks away on Harborside Drive.
3. Spend a day at the beach. If you’re itching to perfect your tan, the best options are East Beach and Stewart Beach. East Beach is ideal for lively travelers who like water sports, concerts, bars and drinking on the sand, while Stewart Beach is better for families; it offers snack bars, changing rooms, a waterslide and a mini-golf course.
4. Visit a museum or art gallery. The Texas Seaport Museum is where you’ll find Elissa, a 430-ton square-rigger, circa 1877. It still sails today and is often docked along Harborside Drive at Pier 21. Much like Ellis Island, Galveston was a gateway to the United States for many immigrants, and guests can look for their ancestors in a computerized database. The Lone Star Flight Museum and Galveston Railroad Museum are other options. Art galleries abound throughout the city, as well.
5. Enjoy the nightlife. Post Office Street is the place to be if you’re spending the night in Galveston. Grab some grub and a few drinks at one of many venues along this thoroughfare. If you prefer a county fair or amusement park vibe to that found in a bar or club, head to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. While you’re there, you can also check out the island’s famous Seawall.