Home of fun Galveston's Beaches, The Strand Historic District, Moody Gardens and Aquarium Pyramid and many things of activities to do on Memorial Day in Galveston. We've compiled some of the best things to do in Galveston on this Memorial Day holiday.
Turquoise water laps at the seemingly endless stretch of soft sand that fronts the ocean and draws crowds of people here from spring until fall. The Seawall runs for more than 10 miles along the beach, offering plenty of room to find your own patch of sand and space to play in the shallow and often calm water. Several washroom facilities are located along here at various intervals, and behind the beach are restaurants, shops, and hotels. At the heart of the action along here is Pleasure Pier.
During Memorial Day, one of the most popular beaches, near the east end of the island, is Stewart Beach. At this family-friendly beach, you'll find showers and restrooms, chair and umbrella rentals, a children's playground, concessions, and a lifeguard. If you are looking for more nature and activity, head west to Galveston Island State Park, where you can go walking along the boardwalks, kayaking through the bayou, and bird-watching on either the bay or ocean side.
The Strand Historic District in Galveston — also known simply as the Strand — is a National Historic Landmark District consisting mainly of Victorian-era buildings, many of which survived the Great Storm of 1900. Now housing numerous restaurants, cafés, galleries, and antique stores, it's a pleasant place for a little sightseeing, shopping, and dining.
The district stretches all the way down to the busy wharf area, with its old restored warehouses, and is home to many of Galveston's most important tourist attractions. Also in this area, you'll find Pier 19, with the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the nearby Texas Seaport Museum, and places to eat overlooking the water. Be sure to stop in at the Pier 21 Theater to watch The Great Storm, a film on the 1900 Hurricane that hit Galveston and changed it forever.
The Strand is also home to an eclectic mix of retail and dining, from old-fashioned candy stores, like LA King's Confectionery, where you can watch taffy-making demonstrations, to more upscale restaurants, like the long-running Rudy and Paco, next door to The Grand 1894 Opera House, or the more modern Vargas Cut and Catch across the street.
Built as a private residence, the Bishop's Palace, also referred to as Gresham's Castle, is often described as one of the most significant Victorian mansions in America. It was completed in 1893 after seven years of construction. Highlights include its castle-like exterior, complete with turrets and towers and sculpted granite, limestone, and sandstone.
The grand interior displays elaborate carved woodwork, high ceilings, stained glass windows, fireplaces, and fine furnishings. Now a National Historic Landmark and museum, the home is open for tours on Memorial Day. For a more in-depth visit that takes you literally from the attic to the basement, book in for a specialized tour that takes place only on Saturday mornings.
Moody Gardens is a huge complex with things to do for the whole family on Memorial Day. It can easily be an all day outing, or you can target just one of the many attractions here and spend a few hours. The most dominant features are the three glass pyramids.
The main attraction for many people is a visit to the Aquarium Pyramid. This huge aquarium showcases the marine life of the Pacific, the Antarctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and the Caribbean. Some of the highlights are the underwater tunnel, touch tanks, and the giant river otters and the penguins, both of which are part of the animal encounter programs.
The Rainforest Pyramid is home to flora and fauna from the tropics, including free-roaming monkeys and sloths, birds, and fish. A boardwalk at canopy level takes you right through the heart of the rainforest. The aptly named Discovery Pyramid focuses on science and offers a range of displays.
Afterwards, head to Palm Beach waterpark with its white sands, freshwater lagoons, slides, lazy river, and replica paddlesteamer. Also check out the elaborate seasonal displays.
Movie buffs will want to take note that Moody Gardens has the largest movie screens in Texas. These towering screens have the latest projection technology and are a great spot to see MG 3D and 4D Special FX features. Visit the Moody Garden's website to see what's showing when you are visiting.
The most prominent feature along the Seawall is Pleasure Pier. Jutting out into the ocean like a carnival on stilts, the pier's roller coasters and colorful structures can be seen from well off in the distance along the beachfront.
Opened in 2012, this 1,130-foot-long pier — built on the site of its predecessor, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1961 — boasts numerous fun rides suitable for all ages, as well as games and activities, and a restaurant. If you are visiting Galveston with kids, this is a great family thing to do and a fun way to spend some time. The Pleasure Pier is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and on weekends during the winter.
The Port of Galveston is home to many rigs and supply vessels, and with a nod to Galveston's important role in the Gulf of Mexico's bustling oil and gas industries. A visit on Memorial Day to the Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig and Museum offers a fascinating insight into the energy business.
Based on an actual oil rig — the massive Ocean Star, built in 1969 — the museum showcases many excellent exhibits. Highlights include a visit to the pipe deck, where some of the larger equipment needed to drill the rig's more than 200 wells is stored, along with interactive displays showing the process from exploration to extraction.
The Texas Seaport Museum is home to the tall ship Elissa, built in 1877 and considered one of the finest restored historical vessels in the US. This lovely old ship still puts to sea regularly, and her fascinating story — including her rescue from the scrapyard — is told in the museum on shore. Other highlights include a look at the history of the Port of Galveston, including the names of the more than 133,000 migrants who passed through.
If you want to see more on Memorial Day, drive over to nearby Seawolf Park for a peek at a WWII-era US Navy submarine and the USS Stewart, a destroyer from the same period.