History, Barbecue, And A State Park In Galveston
Just an hour south of Houston is Galveston, an island city on Texas’s Gulf Coast. Stroll around historic
district The Strand, pop into galleries and boutiques, tuck into barbecue and ice cream, and walk the
trails in Galveston Island State Park.
To help combat the spread of Covid-19, some venues below may be closed or by appointment or reservation only. Note that masks are required in all venues except when you’re eating.
Things are changing rapidly. We do our best to update openings, closures, and hours. All information published below was correct at the time of writing.
Day One: Historic Homes, Barbecue, And Art
Pack a few towels or beach chairs and drive out of Houston on I-45 S; about an hour later you’ll be in Galveston. The city has a handful of historic houses. These two are open for tours.
1892 Bishop's Palace. Photo by Illumine Photographic Services, courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
1892 Bishop's Palace: This Victorian-style house spans four floors and a whopping 19,000 square feet (for comparison, the MFA in Houston is 300,000 sq.ft.). The castle-like structure was built between 1887 and 1893 for lawyer and Democratic politician Walter Gresham, his wife Josephine, and their nine kids. The rooms are filled with extravagant furniture and decorative items. See site for tour info
Moody Mansion dining room. Photo courtesy of Moody Mansion
Moody Mansion: Even larger and more opulent than Bishop’s Palace is this 31-room, five-bathroom mansion commissioned by socialite Narcissa Willis in 1893. After Willis died, her neighbor Libbie Moody and her husband moved in with their four children, and their descendants lived there until 1986. See site for tour info
After touring one or both of these handsome houses, go for lunch. If you’re a carnivore, head straight to Leon's World Finest Bar-B-Que. This ultra-popular Galveston mainstay has been slinging barbecue for three decades. Choose your meat (either in a sandwich or on a plate) and sides like spicy rice (with celery and jalapeño). Save room for a slice of sweet potato pie, which you’ll see practically every diner ordering.
If you’re after something a bit lighter, grab a seat on the patio at Mosquito Cafe, an 1870 former home turned eatery. The menu spans breakfast, burgers, tacos, salads, soups, and a few pasta options.
Drive five to seven minutes from either place to Galveston Arts Center (from Mosquito Cafe, you can also walk; it’s 20 minutes). This community space showcases exhibitions of contemporary work, like Going Through a Phrase, text-based work from artists like Alicia Eggert, who works in neon, and rhythm and (p)leisure, Francis Almendárez’s exploration of the labor of Central American and Caribbean diasporas. For 34 years, the Arts Center has also organized an art walk. It’s on pause for now due to covid, but they have an excellent list and map of all local exhibition spaces, galleries, and artists. Pull up the map on your phone, or pick up a hard copy at GAC.
Spend the rest of the afternoon on foot, visiting the galleries on that map and popping into shops. Here
are a few to visit:
Candy making at La King’s Confectionery. Film courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
LaKing’s Confectionary: The King family started making candy in 1927 and today serves ice cream in classic flavors like rocky road and cookies and cream. In the shop is a working 1920s soda fountain.
Tangerine Boutique. Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tangerine: Flowy dresses, jumpsuits, jewelry, and home goods fill this shop, which also has a small selection of men’s clothing.
The Admiralty. Photo courtesy of The Admiralty
The Admiralty: The beach is the theme that runs through nearly everything in this shop, from a 550-piece sea turtles puzzle to enamel jellyfish earrings.
For dinner, take a table overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Miller’s Seawall Grill. This is a strongly southern restaurant, and the menu is extensive, covering sandwiches, burgers, a few salads, and breakfast; we recommend going for the seafood: oysters, shrimp, or fish (grilled or fried) with a few sides like fried okra. Miller’s is quite popular and there may be a line, but Galvestonians say it’s worth the wait.
Day Two: Picnic in Galveston Island State ParkSunflower Bakery & Cafe. Photo by Kennon Evett, courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
You can either drive or leave your car and walk 15 minutes through downtown. Go for a turkey club with fig spread or the Greek with hummus, smoked provolone, black olives, and cucumber. Brownies, lemon bars, and the house-made pies are irresistible.
Galveston Island State Park, Galveston, Texas. Film courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
From here it’s a 25-minute drive to Galveston Island State Park, flanked on one side by Galveston Bay and on the other by the Gulf of Mexico. Note that the beach side of the park is closed until 2022, but you can still sit on the sand overlooking the bay.
Stop in to the nature center (open weekends 10am-2pm) for more intel on the animals who call this park home, among them 300 species of birds, raccoons, armadillos, and marsh rabbits (plus loads of fish). Within the park are four miles of trails for strolling or biking (bring your own, no rentals here), with boardwalks covering dunes and marshes.
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. The hotel experts at the MICHELIN Guide since 2018, Tablet has hotels to meet every taste and budget, and makes booking them a joy.