Free Things to Do in Galveston

Galveston Island offers the pinnacle of luxury when it comes to accommodations, restaurants, historic sites and museums.

But, you don’t have to spend much money when you hit the beach here. There are many free, fun activities you can do that you can’t do in many other spots.

pictured: Galveston's Seaport Harbor

Here’s a list of our favorites:

1. Ride the Galveston Island Ferry

The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry takes travelers between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. Motorists can drive on, and pedestrians can walk or bike on these vessels that run 24 hours a day. While onboard, you’ll hear about the history of each of the vessels. You'll glide past Seawolf Park, home to the USS Cavalla, the USS Stewart and the Galveston Naval Museum. You'll see the remnants of the USS Selma, a concrete ship that now serves as a reef, and you'll likely see some dolphins up close as you enjoy a 30-minute sail. Step off and step back on for a fun, free round-trip boat ride!

2. Hang Out (and Insta!) in Saengerfest Park

Saengerfest Park is a public space in the heart of Galveston’s historic Strand Street (23rd and Strand). Here, you can show off your chess skills on the large, playable chess set; chill on one of the wooden benches surrounding the park; or best yet, take a selfie in front of the iconic Greetings from Galveston Island mural.

The park takes its name from a biennial singing contest sponsored by German immigrant choral societies around the State of Texas in the 19th century – Saengerfest. It’s a project of Galveston philanthropists, George and Cynthia Mitchell.

Used for movie and music nights throughout the year, the park hosts several events associated with Island festivals, including Dickens on the Strand, Mardi Gras! Galveston, and more.

3. Explore Galveston’s Harbor

Pier 21 is a waterfront entertainment and dining area located in Galveston’s Historic Strand Seaport Area. Here, you can walk among the fabled Mosquito Fleet that sets out early in the mornings to catch fresh Gulf seafood you’ll likely find on your lunch and dinner plates. Pay close attention to the water, and you’re bound to see dolphins playing in the bay. Pelicans circle the area hoping to catch some of the fishing boats’ bounty. You can also catch a glimpse of the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa docked at Pier 19.

Shh...

Who visits a library during vacation? You do! Galveston's Rosenberg Library is the oldest public library in Texas, and it’s much more than a place to borrow books. The library contains a museum with an outstanding collection of manuscripts, maps, and works of art.

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Library holdings also include historical artifacts pertaining to Galveston and early Texas.

The library was named after Henry Rosenberg, whose likeness is captured in a statue in front of the building. His gifts to Galveston Island are many and include elaborate water fountains, an orphanage and the iconic Texas Heroes monument located at 25th and Broadway.

You can see a tree sculpture depicting the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz proudly standing in front of the boyhood home of King Vidor.
East End

On September 13th, 2008, Hurricane Ike covered most of the island in a saltwater tidal surge, destroying thousands of old oak trees. Years later, sculpture artists converged on the island with a plan to turn the tree remnants into beautiful works of art.

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The tree sculptures can be found in Galveston’s East End neighborhoods, and many have something to do with the homes' histories. For example, you can see a tree sculpture depicting the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz proudly standing in front of the boyhood home of King Vidor. As a child in Galveston, Vidor witnessed the devastation of the 1900 Storm. He grew up to direct the cyclone scene in the famous film. Pick up a map of the sculptures’ descriptions and locations at the Galveston Island Visitors Center inside the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce building at 2228 Ship’s Mechanic Row.

And, While You’re at it, Tour the East End Historical District. The East End Historical District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It comprises more than 40 city blocks bounded on the south by Broadway, the east by 10th Street, the north by Ship’s Mechanic Row and on the west by 19th Street.

The District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and designated a National Historic Landmark. The architecture here reflects various styles and periods, from Greek Revival style built during the 1850s to Victorian residences built after a tragic fire destroyed many homes here in 1885.

6. Go Turtle Spotting!

Who doesn’t like turtles? Turtle lovers of all ages have the opportunity to see nearly 20 colorful Kemps ridley sea turtle statues that have popped up around the island over the past several years. Turtles About Town is a public art project that showcases the Turtle Island Restoration Network's conservation efforts. Turtle seekers can pick up a brochure at the Galveston Island Visitor Center located inside the Chamber of Commerce building at 2228 Ship’s Mechanic Row.

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Visit Galveston

The Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (GICVB) is the official destination marketing organization for Galveston Island, Texas.