Time to put on our grass skirts and have a pirate excursion! (Video by Caden Alexander)
Beautiful beaches, lush sand, sparkling, crystal-clear water, fresh ocean smells… are some of the things you might miss when visiting Galveston, Texas. If you’ve ever been off the main strip in Las Vegas, into the veritable third-world country that is the Vegas suburbs, Galveston is kind of like that, except, instead of being surrounded by a dessert, it’s surrounded by a murky gulf. (Actually, I don’t want to insult Galveston too much, outside the Vegas strip is a different kind of ocean; an ocean of sadness and despair the murky depths of which Galveston cannot compete.)
True story. My mom had some relatives from Galveston named Moody. (Video by Caden Alexander)
In all seriousness, I have a special place in my heart for Galveston, Texas. I really enjoy visiting and if you can look past my affectionately snarky remarks, the following paragraphs will actually include some serious recommendations if you happen to visit in the near future. I’ve been visiting since I was a young lad with a single digit age. As you may know, Galveston is home to a large resort-type convention center by the name of Moody Gardens (one of my recommendations, although, not the top). What you might not know is that prior to major construction on the main attractions at Moody Gardens, there was a large horse stable called Hope Arena (I’m not sure if it’s still there). My younger sister has multiple handicaps, and it was thought that riding a horse for people with cerebral palsy had some therapeutic benefits. I think she mostly just enjoyed riding the horses, and I definitely enjoyed visiting. After my sisters’ therapy session, my mom would take us up to one of Galveston’s trademark sites, like the Sea Wall, the Strand, or the Wendy’s off the Sea Wall. So, Galveston, here’s a friendly, fond punch to the nuts, nothing personal, just brotherly love. I’ll “sea” you soon! Wah wah!
Pleasue Pier (Photo by Clay Ratcliff)
Do you like homeless vagrants riding stolen bicycles? Then you’re going to love Galveston! What about an over-priced miniature amusement park that sits over some of the most dubious water you’ve ever laid eyes on? You got it! Sprawling graveyards with seriously gorgeous mausoleums? Yep. If there’s one thing that spells high mortality rate and a drastically shortened life-span, it’s tons of sprawling graveyards. At some point the sea wall may be just one giant tombstone. So, hurry down and catch some of these fabulous sites before everyone is dead.
GALVESTON TRAVEL TIP: Unless you want to sleep in beads and vomit, smell like piss for a week and not remember why, avoid Mardi-Gras weekend in Galveston. I’ve been told it’s fun, but nobody remembers why.
Pleasue Peers (Photo by Unknown)
So, you just showed up on the island and you’re wondering where to start. As you enter the island from the main highway, you can look to the right, across a short inlet, and see the glass pyramids of Moody Gardens. Not a bad place to browse around but won’t be much fun unless you got some serious cash (they take credit cards too). Why not start at The Strand, one of my favorite places on the island. From Galveston’s official website – “The downtown area offers an intriguing selection of shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums within a perfect radius for self-guided tours.” At a nice relaxing pace, you could spend the better part of a day strolling this area. There’re museums. There’re shops. You’re bound to see at least one local urinating on the sidewalk. True story. While my son and I were strolling the island, I realized a local was doing just that, relieving himself in public. Unfortunately, our eyes met, and I couldn’t hide my reaction. The local calmly chuckled at me and said, “You’re not from Galveston.” (Hearty laugh) Quaint. Charming. Border-line sexual misconduct. I kid, this gentleman had the decency to face away from us, giving us his stern and not his bow. Thank you, sir! You ARE from Galveston!
The Huli Huli Hut, a great place to dine! (Video by Caden Alexander)
Now, it’s probably getting about lunch time and, considering you’re on The Strand, you’ve got a lot of choices. Let me make a recommendation. A few blocks from The Strand is Market Street. Once you get there, head the scariest looking direction where you’d think no decent place to eat would be. Now up on your left is a great little joint, “Gypsy Joynt” to be exact. You won’t regret stopping in. The food is fresh! I mean, you can see them washing the veggies from the order line. I like it because it’s got a lot of healthy options, but believe me when I say, it just has A LOT of options, period (and they’re not ALL healthy). From starters, entrees and desserts, I could eat here for every meal all day… AND the décor is reminiscent of a Gypsy… who smoked a joint, organized an LSD orgy, ate all the decorations in the “gypsy“ section at Party City and then vomited them all over the ceiling. It’s great. They got old school arcades. Family-friendly. The orgies over. (Seriously, it’s a fine, clean, family establishment.)
It's Just a Gypsy Joynt, Bra' (Selfie by Mr. Clay)
GALVESTON SIDE NOTE: If you’re into Karaoke, check out "Sound Bar" a block away from the Strand. It's a bar, so leave the kids at home or outside.
Sound Bar, Galveston, Texas (Video by Mr. Clay)
There really is a lot more to do in Galveston then you might think upon initial perusal. In case I don’t get to it, there’s an airplane museum that’s awesome (close to Moody Gardens), there’s a great free art museum right off the Strand, there’s Pier 21 (where you can experience fine dining, tour old sail boats and watch the cruise ships leave), there’s Sea Wolf park (tour a war ship and a submarine), there’s the Bolivar ferry (it’s a free 40 minute boat ride, lots a space, bring bread, feed the gulls, you just drive right on), there’s at least one really cool comic book store at any given time, and right across from the current comic book store is a restaurant, gift shop/fishing pier that extends way out into the gulf. I highly recommend this. The time that we went it was only a couple of bucks to walk out on the pier and it was totally worth it. There was a giant pelican and we became best friends. Also, fishermen are like, catching jelly fish and sting rays and there just pullin’ them up on the pier, bleeding and dying. It’s gruesome. The kids’ll love it.
Mystery Pier (Photo by Clay Ratcliff)
Another place you must treat yourself to while on the island is truly an out-of-the-way, hidden gem. If you head north down the sea wall and just keep driving past the main restaurants and attractions, you’re going to notice a tall building in the distance up on your right. Head towards it and you’ll end up in Beachtown. You have to see this to believe it. It’s as if the Stepford wives built a plan “B” for their summer vacation spot. I recommend going in the off-season because then it has the added quality of an eerie ghost town to boot. There’s a beautiful pier you can walk out onto and if you drive past Beachtown there’s a pretty nice-looking, secluded beach with signs posted that say the water might be radioactive, true story.
Fancy Pier (Photo by Clay Ratcliff)
Anyway, before you leave Beachtown, treat yourself to some fine dining at Porch Café. Hit the happy hour, it’s very reasonably priced and the food and atmosphere are top notch! But don’t hit the happy hour too hard, because my last recommendation has to do with Galveston’s best Margaritas! (The one at Porch Cafe, really good too!)
Fancy Porch at the Porch Cafe (Photo by Clay Ratcliff)
Now it’s time to head back down the Sea Wall to Salsa’s, a great little Mexican restaurant for the Margarita connoisseur. I couldn’t even tell you how many kinds they have. From plain "econo" to top shelf jalapeño flavor, I haven’t tried them all but the 20 we did try were delicious, I think.
Salsa's after one Margarita, enough said. (Photo by... can't remember)
Oh, wait, I almost forgot! Breakfast at the Star Drug Store is the bee’s knees, so don’t pass that up. It’s a 50s stylized soda shop that also sells antiques. Star Drug Store is located within walking distance from the Strand. It’s hard to miss the sign.
Star Drug Store (Photo by Clay Ratcliff)
Goodbye, Galveston! (Video by Caden Alexander)
Oh! One last thing, Galveston beaches are for looking only. Occasionally you might be tempted to "dip-a-toe" when you see someone else brave the water, don’t fool yourself, the man you see in the liquid murk is suicidal (someone probably stole his bicycle).
(You CAN swim in the water, jeez, just kidding, Galveston. It’s murky, “supposedly”, because all the mud that washes into the beach from the Mississippi. It’s “totally” not oil or feces.)