Galveston Event Tips: AIA Sandcastle Competition Edition

The 34th annual American Institute of Architects (AIA) sandcastle competition descends on Galveston’s East Beach the weekend of Aug. 21st.

This event is considered one of the largest amateur sandcastle competitions in the world and draws close to 10,000 people. Architects, engineers, and college students come together to vie for the coveted Golden Bucket Award. Here’s what you need to know to avoid the crowds and take in this true one-of-a-kind event.

Day 1 - August 21, 2021

Competitors are hitting the sand and building for five intense hours as they fight to maintain the structural integrity of their sculptures. The competition is considered one of the world’s largest amateur sandcastle competitions and draws thousands of spectators to watch teams vie for the coveted Golden Bucket Award.

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Day 2 - August 22, 2021

By popular demand, the Galveston Park Board is working to help teams maintain the event's sandcastles overnight for beachgoers to take in these architectural marvels (with potentially smaller crowds). There are also free sandcastle building lessons in conjunction with this viewing at 11AM, 1PM and 3PM.

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AIA Sandcastle Competition

The event is hosted by the AIA Houston chapter and features builders from all over the state of Texas. The teams have five hours to bring their designs to life while battling the elements (sand can be a fickle medium) and racing against the clock. Some will topple, some will tower, and some will triumph— but all will be worthy of admiration for the attempt.

The competition has a wide array of categories such as pop-culture, family fun, traditional sandcastle and many more which means there will be a diverse offering to peruse on Sunday.

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AIA Sandcastle Competition

With over 60 teams competing, the beachfront transforms into an expansive and immersive outdoor art gallery displaying these massive masterpieces.

While the building takes place on Saturday, August 21, the best time to view the structures is actually on Sunday, August 22. The Galveston Park Board employs security to watch the castles overnight so beachgoers can take in these architectural marvels at their own pace the very next day.

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Directions: Galveston Causeway to East Beach

East Beach is located at the very far eastern tip of the Island on Boddecker Drive. To get there, take Seawall Boulevard past Stewart Beach two miles until it dead ends. Then hang a right on Boddecker and follow the beach road all the way down.

Sandcastle Building Lessons

Want to try your hand at constructing your own castle? Sandcastle building lessons will be available near the East Beach Pavilion on Sunday, August 22 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and will be led by Emerson Schreiner, a sandcastle building veteran and owner of Galveston-based Sandy Feet Sandcastle Services.

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