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There’s no need to spend an arm and a leg when you visit Galveston Island.
There are plenty of free and inexpensive things to do both on and off the beach. Here are some of our favorites:
pictured: Saengerfest Park
Are you a traveler who enjoys self-guided tours? There are no arrival or departure times. Many of the experiences are free. And if you want to experience our island alone or with just your family, these self-guided tours are ideal.
Another free self-guided tour takes visitors throughout the island to discover colorful Kemp's ridley sea turtle sculptures. More than 50 of the sculptures are part of this effort meant to raise awareness for conservation and preserving this endangered species of sea turtles.
After Hurricane Ike, Galveston lost thousands of oak trees because of the saltwater surge. Soon after, island residents began commissioning artists to create sculptures from the damaged trees. Each of the more than 30 sculptures was designed to accent its surroundings and to express the homeowners’ personality and history.
A lot of people aren’t aware that Galveston was where Juneteenth, a monumental event in U. S. history occurred. This day has come to be known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Take this self-guided Freedom Walk to learn about 5 historic sites and their importance to Juneteenth.
Presented by the Galveston Arts Center, ArtWalk is Presented every six to eight weeks in partnership with downtown galleries, artist studios, nonprofits, local businesses and also takes place inside existing art spaces. This popular event is free and open to everyone.
The ferry travels between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. Pedestrians and bicyclists can walk on, cars can drive on. The ferry is free, and most of the time, passengers can see dolphins playing in the water along the way.
The East End Lagoon Nature Park and Preserve (EEL) is located on the eastern tip of Galveston Island. A project of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, the City of Galveston and the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, the EEL is a unique and valuable area spanning almost 700 acres of diverse habitat.
Recent improvements to the area include the addition of a half-mile walking trail that features educational signage. The lagoon is a hotspot for birders, especially during the spring and fall migration seasons.
Galveston Historical Foundation brought ELISSA, an 1877 square-rigged iron barque, from a scrapyard in Piraeus Harbor, Greece to Galveston to begin restoration work in 1978. By 1982, GHF staff and volunteers completed restoration and transformed this rare, historic vessel into a floating museum that would actively sail. Today, the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA is one of only three ships of her kind in the world to still actively sail and welcomes over 40,000 visitors annually. She also serves as the Official Tall Ship of Texas, a National Historic Landmark, and a symbol of the Gulf Coast’s historic beginnings as a seaport and active waterfront. The 1877 ELISSA welcomes visitors at the Galveston Historic Seaport.
See Galveston Harbor up close aboard Seagull II, Texas Seaport Museum’s 50-foot twin-engine motor vessel. Don’t miss this chance to get a new perspective on Galveston Bay and the historic Port of Galveston. Knowledgeably narrated tours explore the wide variety of birds and marine life that teems in the Bay. (They have no contract with them, but playful dolphins almost always show up to entertain themselves by watching the red-and-white boat and its passengers.) And the human activity in this busy port can only truly be appreciated from the water. A tour aboard the Seagull II is always an hour well spent.
The Ocean Star is a retired jack-up drilling rig that operated in the Gulf of Mexico from 1969 to 1984 and drilled over 200 wells during that timeframe. In 1995, the OEC purchased the Ocean Star, and after lengthy refurbishment, opened it as a museum in 1997. The museum is designed to be a self-guided facility with videos, information, interactive exhibits throughout, and takes most visitors about 1.5 hours to tour completely.
The Galveston Railroad Museum is dedicated to the restoration, observation, and re-use of its historic facilities and equipment for the development of educational and interactive programs, which support railroading and transportation initiatives serving our regional community. Here, you can explore restored trains and a station that once served as a busy transportation hub for the region.
The Galveston County Museum cares for over 25,000 artifacts and archives. Recent donations include photographs and documents from a family that survived the 1900 Storm, a pen and inkwell used by photographer and artist Jesus Murillo (1895-1971), and Mardi Gras costumes. Admission and parking are free!
Home to one of the largest collections of art and artifacts relating to Texas and the Southwest, the Bryan Museum features items dating back more than 12,000 years. Kids and adults will appreciate the variety of paintings, saddles, weaponry and an impressive diorama that depicts the epic Battle of San Jacinto. Located in the former Galveston Orphans’ Home, a 1900 storm survivor, the museum also includes interactive, educational activities for children.
The 1892 Bishop's Palace (a.k.a. Gresham House) is a contributing building in the East End Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance in the area of architecture. Architectural historians list the Bishop’s Palace as one of the most significant Victorian residences in the country.
The Galveston Island State Park offers a wide variety of outdoor activities that are free to participate in. While each person over 12 must pay a $5 entry charge to get into the park, families can enjoy beach combing, geo-caching, kayaking, birding, nature field trips and fishing at no cost.
To save even more, plan your trip midweek to save on accommodations. And, take advantage of the Island Pass. Select at least four participating attractions and you can save up to 40% off on admission. For participating attractions and more information, click here.
Where the Texas Coast begins.
by Dr. Hal Needham
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by J.R. Shaw
by Nicky Omohundro