We are on Airbnb!

We’re diversifying our listing exposure. While remaining on HomeAway and VRBO, we are also listing the Galveston Beach House, Las Brisas, on Airbnb. Go on over there to check it out! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7761435 Add us to your wish list! It will help other travelers find us.

I’d love to hear from travelers and owners if you have a favorite travel website you like best and why. When would you choose a hotel vs choose a home? Does it depend on location/number of folks/whole vs. partial place?  We’ve rented three times through VRBO for extended family gatherings in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. All three were fantastic experiences for all ages – grandparents, aunts, uncles and kids.

And of course, we love sharing our beach houses!

 

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Las Brisas

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Galveston Island Happenings

It’s a great time to visit Galveston. Yes, it’s technically in the middle of winter (what’s that?) and not officially beach season, but there’s a lot happening on the island!

Galveston Restaurant Week

It’s the last week of Galveston Restaurant Week – Jan 9- 23rd. Select restaurants around town put together a prix-fixe menu at price points between $10-$40. Along with the celebration of food comes the voting of a winning restaurant. You can vote for your favorite eatery to be crowned “Galveston Restaurant Week Restaurant of the Year!” #CelebrateDelicious

Here’s a list of places with the “Magical Affordable $10 Lunch” a great option to savor food at some of the best restaurants without breaking the bank.

  • The Gumbo Diner 3602 Seawall Blvd.,  (409)762-3232

  • Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar 2107 Postoffice St., (409)744-8626

  • Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar 3828 Seawall Blvd., (409)762-9625

  • Nonno Tony’s World Kitchen 2100 Harborside Dr., (409)621-5100

  • Rainforest Cafe 5310 Seawall Blvd., (409)744-6000

  • Riondo’s Ristorante 2328 Strand, (409)621-9595

  • Saltwater Grill 2017 Postoffice St., (409)762-3474

  • Shrimp ‘N Stuff Downtown 216 23rd St., (409)974-4609

  • Sky Bar Steak & Sushi 2102 Postoffice St., (409)621-4759

Vote for your favorite here! http://www.galveston.com/galvrw/

Mardi Gras

Galveston has one of the largest celebrations of Mardi Gras in the country. The festivities begin January 29 and run through February 9. Parades with floats, Golf car parade, concerts and even a 5K race provide something for everyone. For the full schedule and all the details go Galveston.com. I did notice that Cory Morrow will be headlining the entertainment on February 5th beginning at 10:30pm. We saw him play at Stubb’s in Austin last summer at a concert and had a great time!

It’s always a good time for Island Time on Galveston! Spring Break is around the corner!

It's always a good time for Island time! Mardi Gras, Restaurant Week, Spring Break....

Children of guests at beach

 

Progressive Dinner in Galveston

Best Oysters Rockefeller at Gaido's in Galveston, TX

We love food.

My daughter and I went on an unplanned progressive dinner in Galveston recently. Our usual stop is Mario’s on Seawall. We can’t get enough of their gluten free pizza. It’s really the best one I’ve ever had. It was our first stop as we arrived on the island around dinner time. We placed our order (Gluten Free Margherita Pizza) and a small caesar salad and a small garden salad. As we were finishing our salads, the pizza arrived, but it wasn’t gluten free. HORROR. Turns  out they were out of gluten free dough. So, we made the best of it, paid for our salads and went on to Landry’s. We arrived at Landry’s and hoped to get one of my daughter’s favorites, but it wasn’t on the menu any more. We asked for a gluten free menu, and while it had some good choices on it, nothing really caught our eye. So we decided to have 1/2 dozen raw oysters and a shrimp cocktail and moved on. Stop #3 was the Rainforest Cafe. By this time we knew to ask about the menu before sitting down! We both found something to satisfy – I ordered the fish tacos (not on the dinner menu, but they made them for me anyway) and the daughter had pot roast and mashed potatoes. The food at each restaurant was good and it was a fun way to spend an extended evening with my big girl.

The next night, we planned a little better and called ahead. The winning choice was Gaido’s. How we’ve had a house on the island for 5 years and never made it to Gaido’s, I cannot say. It was fantastic!!  We started with the Oysters Rockefeller. I’d never had that dish and it was delicious. The presentation was beautiful – the oysters were covered in a saucy spinach and cheese mix on a bed of rock salt on a sliver plate. We followed the oysters with shrimp and blue cheese grits with a side of asparagus and chicken ponzini that had a wild mushroom swiss cheese cream sauce on a bed of dirty rice and a side of potatoes. Just writing about it is making my mouth water. We can’t wait to go back!

Gaido's Shrimp and Blue Chees Grits

The delicious Chicken Ponzini at Gaido's in Galveston

Things to Do in Galveston during the Holidays

Galveston Dressed Up for the Holidays

For the past few years my extended family has spent the week of Thanksgiving at the beach house in Pointe West on Galveston Island. Aside from cooking and eating the usual holiday feast, here are the other things we like to do during that week and other times during the holidays on the island.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

Fun family holiday events and activities in Galveston

My kids can’t get enough of the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier – an amusement park that juts out over the water. It’s is a real thrill to ride the roller coaster over the Gulf of Mexico! I tend to stick to the less thrilling rides myself, but love hearing their squeals of terror and delight. Tickets for unlimited rides are $26.99 (48″ and up) $19.99 (under 48″). Walk on passes are $10 (48″ and up) $8 (under 48″) $7 Senior Citizens (must show valid I.D.) There are places to eat on the Pleasure Pier or great restaurants with in walking distance off the Pier.

Moody Gardens

The Moody Gardens Festival of Lights runs from November 14th – January 10th, 6-10pm each night. The display has more than 1 million lights and has over 100 animated displays with sound. Tickets are $10.95 and include admission to the skating rink. Skates available to rent for $7. Moody Gardens offers discounted admission to some of their other attractions after 4:30pm with a Festival of Lights ticket. It’s been a good time for us to take the kids late in the day. The walk around the complex is easy and slow. A visit definitely gets you in the holiday spirit and there are plenty of picture taking opportunities.

There is also a much acclaimed exhibit of ice sculptures returning to Moody Gardens this year. ICE LAND runs November 14th – January 10th. Tickets are $26.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors and $15.95 for children. You can receive a discount of $5.00 Sunday through Thursday, Nov. 15 through Dec. 17, excluding Thanksgiving Day. The theme is “SpongeBob’s Christmas Party” and boasts 65 sculptures and figurines. The event is in a 28,000 square foot chilled tent, down to 9 degrees. Parkas are available for the visit, but be sure to dress warmly!

Beyond Thanksgiving: Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on the Strand is an annual favorite in Galveston. It’s a Victorian Holiday Street Festival December 4th-6th. The event features parades, entertainment, carolers, holiday food and crafts sold by vendors in full Victorian regalia. The event is sponsored by the Galveston Historical Foundation and this year will have a “distinctive historical theme that will add new attractions and cultural experiences,” according to GHF Executive Director, Dwayne Jones (GalvestonHistory.org) There are a lot of special events during the weekend that require RSVPs – including breakfast with Charles Dickens great grand daughter cooking a traditional English breakfast and a special tour of Bishop’s Palace that opens rooms that are usually off limits. Tickets in advance are $13 or $15 at the gate. Children 7-12 are $7 in advance or $9 at the gate. If you want to dress up in Victorian attire, you can get in for half price!

Check out Galvston.com for a complete listing of other holiday events.

Holidays at the Beach

Of course, as much as we love all the things Galveston has to offer, we can’t get enough family time at the beach. Most years the kids can run around in short sleeves, play football in the yard and event get in the water. Only once in the past 4 years, did we actually have to bundle up for our family beach walks. We have great memories from times there!

Thanksgiving at the beach - food, family and fun.

What’s your favorite island holiday tradition?

1% to Conserve Galveston

Protect This Land!

We are so happy to be a partner with 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™.

“1% To Conserve Galveston Island™ funds land conservation projects on Galveston Island. These permanently protected lands helps preserve: our beach, bay and upland ecosystems; ocean and bay view sheds; wildlife and avian habitats; recreational access; and, clean water.” This is a program of Artist Boat, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization.

Please support the program, and the Island, by shopping with local business partners in Galveston and saying yes to donating 1% of your purchase for conservation. For more information on the program and how to be involved see 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™.

1% to Conserve Galveston Island.

Girls Gathering at the Beach House – A Quick Guide

A few weeks ago I hosted a 2 day retreat for some girlfriends at Las Brisas in Galveston. We arrived at the beach house on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t get in the cars again until Tuesday morning. What luxury! For busy moms who seem to do life in cars, to have nearly 48 hours to relax, renew and connect was so needed. Here’s how we managed to make it work!

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 1: Timing is everything!

We planned the getaway about 2 months in advance for an off season Sunday – Tuesday.  We left home on Sunday mid day – this got the Dads and kids through most of the weekend activities and returned by the time school got out Tuesday afternoon. While we were there, we talked, walked the beach, hung out at the beach club, share meals, did a fun craft project that helped remind us of who we are and walked the beach some more. We came away refreshed!

Tip 2: Bring two days worth of food

Our Menu:

Sunday Night – one sweet friend roasted a chicken Sunday morning, chopped the veg for a salad and brought a bowl full of quinoa and greens that assembled quickly. Dinner done!

Monday Morning – gluten free cinnamon rolls from my favorite local farmer’s market vendor, Sweet Texas; coffee.

Monday Lunch – ham and turkey sandwiches and leftover salad and chicken.

Monday Dinner – turkey burgers, vegetable sautee with zucchini, squash and mushrooms

Tuesday Morning – eggs scrambled with leftover veggies; coffee.

Grocery List: (I brought these things with me so we didn’t have to make a grocery store run) apples, bananas, creamer, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, condiments, ground turkey burgers, buns (for sandwiches and burgers), cinnamon rolls, foccacia bread, Seeds of Change brown rice/quinoa microwave pouch, mushrooms, farmer’s market zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes, assorted snacks and wine. My friend brought the roasted chicken and all the fixings for a super salad.

Tip 3 – Do Something Creative

We brought along poster board (1/2 sheet per person), glue sticks, scissors and a TON of magazines – mostly Coastal Living, National Geographic, Southern Living and Eating Well because that’s what I have. We set up at the kitchen table clipping out pictures and words that caught our attention. Everyone’s was different and was a great reflection of who they are and visions had of what they want in life. The photo below is of mine. Nothing fancy but meaningful for me. With a daughter off to college and another with one foot out the door, I’m wondering what’s next in my life. These pics helped me remember how important hospitality and connectedness is to me and to be open new ways to doing that.

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 4 – The Housekeeper

I never ever clean the whole beach house when we stay. I do start the laundry but I hire my housekeeper to come in and do all the make ready for the next guests. If I had to clean, it wouldn’t be a getaway!

Haunted Galveston

Galveston Ghost tours are a great way to learn about the rich history of the island this Halloween season.

Over the years Galveston has been consistently ranked at the top of Most Haunted Cities in America. Of course this list also includes places like New Orleans, Baltimore and Boston – all fantastic travel destinations regardless of paranormal activity. From the phantasmic to the historical – Ghost Tours can be spooky, but all in good fun.

Voted #1 Most Popular Haunted Ghost Tour in America, Dash Beardsley (Ghost Tours of Galveston Island) offers thrill seekers four tours infused with Galveston’s rich history. According to their website, The Original Ghost Tour of the Strand is the most family friendly, good for first time visitors, Ghost seekers, and families because of the emphasis on the history of the area. Their other tours include a follow up to the Original Ghost Tour, a Cemetery Tour and even a Jack the Ripper Mystery Island Tour.

If you want to dip your toes in history with a just a side of spook, The Galveston Historical Foundation opens up the oldest home on the Island, the 1838 Michel B. Menard House for trick or treating on October 31 from 5-7 pm. The event is free and fun for all.  Menard was one of the founders of the City of Galveston in 1838. The Galveston Historical Foundation gives detailed history about the Menard house on it’s website.

The history of Galveston island is rich with stories – some probably more embellished than others. It’s had it’s share of tragedy, turmoil and wild times through the years. The tales of the island, especially the first hand accounts of the hurricane of 1900, can be haunting, whether or not you see a ghost. Dive into the island history and lore, it will make you appreciate the indomitable spirit of Galvestonians – past, present and future.

 

 

5 Reasons to go to the Beach in the Fall

1. No Crowds

It’s all yours – the beach is lovely, warm and uncrowded. Perfect for morning walks, evening walks and anything in between. I’m always surprised at how warm the water can still be in the Fall. My kids have even been in it at Thanksgiving!

It's all Mine!

It’s all Mine!

2. Great Shells

I’m amazed at the different shells we find on the coast. A few Septembers ago I was in Galveston with some friends and we found the entire beach was littered with quarter sized shells – I think they were disk clams (Elegant Dosinia). Shelling on St Joe’s Island is an adventure anytime of the year. One contributor to TripAdvisor said they found fantastic shells in November.

Sea Treasure

Sea Treasure

3. Great Temperature

The average highs and lows in degrees fahrenheit for October are:

Galveston 79.7 and 68.4.

Port Aransas 82 and 71.

Very. Nearly. Perfect.

Perfect conditions

Perfect conditions

4. Great Fishing

Port Aransas, TX Offshore Charters & Bay Fishing Guides says that Fall is a great time to fish – still warm, not crowded and with more flexibility in booking trips. In searching for charters/guides for family trips, I’ve also seen that some rates are less in the Fall.

5. Fun Local Activities Happen in the Fall

Check out the local calendar for goings on in the area  Port A Calendar of Events and Galveston Calendar of Events.

Highlights include – October 16-10 The Port Aransas plyWooden Boat Festival and Oct 23-25 The Harvest Moon Regatta

Boats heading to Port A

Boats heading to Port A

6. Bonus: Just Because You Can

Always a new place to explore!

Always a new place to explore!

We don’t really ever need a reason to head to the coast – Just grab friends and family and hit the road!

Good times ahead!

The Water Calls Us

This week, we take our oldest child to college. So I’m feeling a little emotional – nostalgic, scattered, happy, anxious, satisfied, excited and a host of other emotions that seem to flow intermingled throughout my days these past weeks. Many of our family trips have been to places with water (fresh or salt) – California, Massachusetts, Alabama, and of course Texas. As summer comes to a close and I look back over he past years of vacations, I’ll take you along memory lane with me.

Hotel del Coronado 2004 – My mom was dying and she wanted to see the ocean one last time. It was summer and the Gulf Coast was way too hot and she was really to frail to do too much moving around. The Del was the perfect spot – she could sit on the balcony and feel the ocean’s peace. Saltwater is good for the soul.

Hotel Del Coronado 2004

2005 Thanksgiving at Big Bend – the kids had never seen the mighty Rio Grande. Here are the girls at the Santa Elena Canyon

Girls at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend

In 2004 we moved near Lake Travis and spent summers going down to a nearby park. This picture is from 2006. When the lake was low, the kids could pretend they were at the beach.

In 2007 we visited my uncle in Boston. We were joined up north by my sister’s family and several of our Italian cousins. My uncle rented a beach house in Hull for all of us. It was a constant party for days. The water was wicked cold, but that didn’t stop the kids from getting wet.

For a couple of years in a row, the girls and I had mother daughter camp weekends at Kamp Kickapoo with their girl scout troop and siblings. The river felt great on that hike. This is from 2007.

And as you can seem, most of our water adventures took place with friends. This is from summer 2007 on Lake Austin.

In 2008, in celebration of the kids finishing their time at a private school for kids with dyslexia, we took them to Maui. That black sand beach on the way to Hana was really an incredible site. The girls each brought home a spoonful of the black sand in a jar.

In 2009 we went to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee – my husband’s old stomping ground. We went with dear friends and took the mother of all hikes along the river to the falls. Trail wasn’t marked but we made it. It was an adventure for sure. This photo was taken at one of the several small waterfalls in the park.

In 2010, my grandmother turned 100, so back to Boston we went for a delightful family reunion at my uncle’s beach house in Scituate. This beach house has remained one of our favorite places to go. So many memories and good times have been had there. It was the inspiration for us to purchase our own beach place. 

After 2010, many of our trips centered around going to the beach houses in Port Aransas and Galveston, combining business with pleasure. We’ve loved having the houses to take the girls, friends and family. They’ve provided us exactly what we had hoped for – places of joy and family memories. Sometimes it’s been a stretch and a challenge, but the moments we’ve created for the family have really been invaluable. We’ve loved hosting extended family Thanksgivings in Galveston for several years.

 

 

The next chapter will hold new things for all of us. Wherever life takes us, I know we’ll still gather by water, whether it’s at the Texas coast or elsewhere – it’s where we slowdown and share stories, laugh and renew. The water is where we are at home.

 

Desperately Seeking Shade

Beach days on the Gulf coast require a little bit of mid-afternoon shade. In preparation, we purchased a pop up tent for the Galveston beach house for guests, but we have never actually used it. I had no idea how to set it up!

The heat index in August in Port A was 105-109 degrees on the last trip, so it was either stay inside or figure out how to put up some shade. Guests had left a 99.9 UVA/UVB umbrella and we borrowed a giant deadly looking metal contraption from a friend that is supposed to secure the umbrella in the ground. We used the giant metal screw like thing that we twisted into the sand about 10 inches down. The first attempt in moderate wind was pretty good but as the afternoon went on, the umbrella became loose. So, we took off the bottom section of the umbrella and tried it again for some success. While we sat under the low umbrella I checked out the varieties of methods to secure umbrellas and tents to tried to figure out the secret science of securing shade.

Our umbrella and holder

Our umbrella and holder

Tents

Every beach trip I see at least one tent either mid tumble or post tumble. Tent skeletons collect around the trash cans. The wind that comes of the water is strong! This trip the tent next to us was secured with Lowe’s buckets filled with sand. Ropes attached the tent frame to the buckets. Excellent – that tent didn’t move in the wind at all. Bring the kids and sand shovels and put them to work! We also saw folks to the other side of us employing our tactics of putting the shade low….

Tent held by sand buckets

Tent held by sand buckets

Short tent

Short tent

Umbrellas

I saw all kinds of umbrellas stay put, but never was able to see one actually being put in. So, I googled it. Some sites recommended various forms of sand screws like we used. However, several sites had videos of people placing an umbrella in the sand and moving the umbrella back and forth about an arms length. This moves the umbrella down into the sand to a recommended depth of about 18 inches. Point the umbrella in the direction of the wind so the wind blows the umbrella into the sand rather than catching it and blowing it away. Step on the sand around the pole to pack it down. One post I read said they pour water around the pole to help pack down the sand around the umbrella.

Umbrella and sand chairs

Umbrella and sand chairs

What’s your solution to securing umbrellas and tents? I’d love to know!