Galveston Texas is a relatively small, 50,000-person island city with a big history. The infamous pirate Jean Lafitte originally settled it. Later, Galveston became a harbor for the Texas Navy. By the Civil War, Galveston had become Texas’s largest seaport and commercial center. And by the 1890s it was the largest and most prosperous city in the state.
Then came the devastating hurricane of 1900 that killed an estimated 6,000 people, decimated the city’s structures, and destroyed its economy. It muddled through the Depression through a combination of bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution.
Galveston began to recover in the 1970s. Many of its remaining Victorian structures were restored. Its long stretch of beaches brought tourists and more development. And it gradually became one of the largest cruise ports along the Gulf Coast.
Today Galveston is a Victorian tourist mecca with hundreds of beautifully renovated Victorian homes and retail buildings and many bars and restaurants. Take one of its free self-guided historic walking tours through the Strand Commercial Historic District and its East End Historic Residential District. You’ll see some beautiful and elaborate buildings such as the Bishop’s Palace and Moorish-inspired Sacred Heart Church.
Art To Save The Sea
Galveston has even turned recycling into a tourism opportunity with its Washed Ashore program. Artists recycle waste plastic that has washed onto the city’s beaches into innovative and elaborate sculptures. The sculptures are designed to entertain, educate, and inspire action to save the sea. The Washed Ashore walking tour features 20 (and growing) elaborate sculptures including giant whales, sharks, octopi, eagles, jellyfish, sea turtles, and fish.
Another program encourages homeowners with trees killed by hurricane-level winds and floods to “recycle” the remnants into sculptures. View over 25 specimens by following the Tree Sculpture Tour.
Turtles About Town
And if you’re looking for yet another tour, check out the 5o artistically decorated fiberglass sea turtles that dot the island. Businesses sponsor the turtles and local artists are commissioned to decorate them.
Eating in Galveston
As we were only here one night, we only had a single meal at the Saltwater Grill. We started with a large, bubbling cast-iron skillet of shrimp and crawfish fondue with mushrooms and cream sauce baked with pepper jack and cheddar cheese with grilled bread. Then came a large piece of pan-seared grouper with lemon and butter and Pontchartrain sauce with crawfish and mushrooms in white wine cream. Both were very good and very inexpensive given the quality and quantity. Although the wine list is very limited, the 2021 August Kensler “R” Riesling worked with the meal.