If you’re looking for a beautiful day or week away where you can enjoy a lovely sea breeze, Galveston is the destination for you. Known for its storied history and for being a popular cruise port, the city offers fun for all ages in the form of parks, art, restaurants, and entertainment. With year-round attractions, there’s a seemingly endless list of fun, free and cheap things to do in Galveston. Whether you’re a college student, a family, or a couple looking for a quick getaway, Galveston has something for everyone.
We’ve come up with some of the most fun and must-see activities in Galveston. Keep reading to get our take on the best cheap and free events on the island. And be sure to check out our article on the Galveston Island Pass, which offers a 40% discount on many of the attractions mentioned below.
A quick note before you head down to Galveston. Right now, there are some safety guidelines in place due to the pandemic. If you’re over 10 years old, you’re required to wear a mask in all public spaces. No large events are going on at this time either. Beaches are open to the public, but many businesses in the area are operating with a 50% capacity on customers, so plan accordingly. Reservations and advanced tickets may also be required at some attractions, so always check the websites of any places you plan to visit before you go.
Parks & Outdoor Activities
There’s no shortage of parks and other outdoor activities on Galveston Island. The most well known is Galveston Island State Park, with 2,000 acres of undeveloped barrier island habitats. The entry fee is only $5 per person, and children 12 and under are free. The park is open every day for swimming, kayaking, camping, fishing, and hiking. It’s one of our favorite cheap things to do in Galveston! There’s also some great bird watching, with Galveston sitting perfectly along the trans-Gulf migration route of many bird species.
Another great option is Lee and Joe Jamail Bay Park, located right off 61st Street. This family-friendly park offers free parking, covered picnic tables, grills and a free boat launch. Looking for some cool playgrounds for kids? Check out Schrieber Park or San Jacinto Park.
The East End Lagoon is a nature lovers paradise that offers opportunities for bird watching, hiking, kayaking, and more. The lagoon is considered the most ecologically significant area of undeveloped land on the entire island.
And don’t forget about the Coastal Heritage Preserve. It’s the largest undeveloped area on Galveston Island and it sits in the West End. The Coastal Heritage Preserve boasts nearly 700-acres filled with beautiful nature.
Given its location right on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston is a great place to fish. But before you start baiting your hooks, make sure you have a fishing license. They’re easy to get – you can either purchase one online in advance, or in person at Academy or Wal-Mart. Temporary licenses also come with your admission into Galveston Island State Park.
Another great spot for anglers is the 61st Street Pier, where adults can fish for $12 and kids for only $6. They also have rods for rent and bait for purchase. Just two miles down the road along the Seawall you’ve also got the Galveston Fishing Pier. If you’ve never fished before, don’t worry – you can book a professional fishing guide for two hours to show you how it’s done.
And if you’re traveling to the northern part of the island, make sure you check out Seawolf Park. Once you’ve caught your fill, enjoy one of the picnic areas and let the kids enjoy the playground before you head over to the neighboring Galveston Naval Museum.
Museums & Art
Galveston is a city rich in history, with many fantastic museums. The Bryan Museum showcases the history of the American West and Texas in 20,000 square feet of curated exhibits. Tickets for adults are $14, children 6-12 are $5, and children under 6 are free.
Then there’s Moody Mansion, where you can admire the sophisticated furnishings of a rich and powerful Texas family. Self-guided audio tours are $12, students 6-18 are $6, and children 5 and under are free.
If you’re looking for something less formal, explore the city on the Public Art Tour. Among the many pieces spread around Galveston are the 1900 Storm Memorial, Mardi Gras Arch, and Rosenberg Fountains. There’s also a Tree Sculpture Tour.
Along the Strand, you’ll also find the Galveston Railroad Museum, home to a completely restored locomotive depot. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. And don’t forget about the Ocean Star Offshore Rig Museum, where you can take a self-guided tour of a retired jack-up rig that worked in the Gulf of Mexico. They offer a family package for 2 adults and up to 4 children for just $30.
Don’t forget you can check out many of the island’s best museums and attractions at a discounted rate up to 40% off using the Galveston Island Pass!
Shop, Dine & Explore
The Stand Historic District is home to several of Galveston’s best restaurants and shops. One you absolutely should not miss is La King’s Confectionary. Travel back in time to the 1920s and enjoy some classic confections, handmade chocolate, and fresh saltwater toffee. Then pull up a stool to the old-fashioned soda fountain for a delicious ice cream treat. While you’re at The Strand, you can also check out Yaga’s Cafe and Bar, a great spot to grab anything from sandwiches to pizzas and Jamaican-style fun!
Looking to relax with a drink? Head over to Float, Galveston’s spot for good times along Seawall Boulevard. There’s an indoor air-conditioned bar as well as an outdoor pool that’s perfect for cooling off when it’s hot outside. While you’re on the Seawall, make sure to grab a bite at The Gumbo Diner. Fill up on Southern staples, like chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and more.
What are your favorite free and cheap things to do in Galveston? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
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