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

 

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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.

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!

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!

Favorite Eateries in Galveston

Eating out out-of-town is fun but can be challenging for me. I’m gluten intolerant and allergic to soy. Soy is a primary component in vegetable oil which is found (in what seems to be) an infinite number of dishes in restaurants. This keeps me from usually eating all sorts of yummies that are fried, which on the coast, is a lot. Unfortunately for me, the soy allergy rules out many of the most popular restaurants in town. However, there are several where I’ve found some really delicious meals and easily work with my food issues. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mario’s on Seawall has the BEST gluten free pizza I’ve ever had. I almost always get the Popeye’s Special – spinach, Roma tomatoes and slices of Italian sausage. Delish! It’s such a great restaurant – beautiful courtyard, interesting art (including a giant mural) and good service. We are usually so full from the meal, there’s no room for dessert, but if I had room I’d get their gelato.

Zack’s Mac Shack surprising as it may be has a fantastic Taco Salad. I went with a friend who got the lobster mac – really rich and decadent. Every table around us had something different and it all looked good. It’s in a great location – on Post Office and close to the Strand. Start here for lunch and get fortified for an afternoon of touring and shopping.

Waterman’s Restaurant, just off Stewart Road near the Galveston Country Club, Waterman’s is an elegant and casual restaurant. Great for a date night. The inside is gorgeous – lots of exposed beams. I’ve been several times, but never in time to see the sunset over the water, which I think would be fabulous. I usually get the Tequila Shrimp (Gulf shrimp sautéed in tequila, olive oil, onion, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice) and like it so much, I just can’t get anything else.

Red Snapper Inn (Surfside, TX) has an incredible menu. It’s west of the beach house at Pointe West, but it takes about as long to get to Surfside as it does to get in to town in Galveston, so it’s a great trip to make after spending the day at the beach in Pointe West. I love the Sauteed Filet of Snapper Veracruz. The snapper is served on mediterranean rice, topped with fresh tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, green olives, and capers with cilantro and sherry. It’s such a large portion, it’s great for dinner and leftovers are good for lunch the next day.

Other faves: Mosquito Cafe, Farley Girls and who can live with out Ben and Jerry’s 🙂

My favorite Galveston eateries

My favorite Galveston eateries

Confession: I’ve never made it to Gaido’s and from what I hear, it would be on the favorite list if I’d eaten there. I’m planning to visit this Fall!

I’m always happy to hear about new places in Galveston to check out – let me know if you have any favorites!

Winter Texans Wanted

It’s that time of year again – mid summer – happily most of the beach house dates are booked til September and the summer season is cruising along. Aound July 4th we start getting inquiries for Thanksgiving, Christmas and a winter stays. It feels strange to advertise for Winter folk in July, time is slipping by us like sand through our fingers, but most of the folks I know are trying to ignore that fact. Me too this year – my oldest heads to college in about a month…say it isn’t so! Alas, time is marching on and we change our headlines to start attracting the people that head south for the winter.

Weather on the coast in the Fall and Winter is fabulous! Highs in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s. Check out these links for Port Aransas and Galveston monthly average temperatures. The crowds are gone and the water is warm well into the Fall. It’s actually my favorite time of year to be at the coast.

Several major publications have stories about heading south to the Texas coast for the Winter. This great article from the Dallas Morning News lists some fantastic things about wintering anywhere from South Padre to Galveston.  This article from Texas Monthly is about Port Aransas and all the activities with directory (address and phone numbers) of places not to be missed.

Please check out our Pinterest Boards for more ideas about what to do as Winter Texans and ideas for activities in Galveston and Port Aransas. If you have any questions, let me know!

View of walking through dunes

Giving Thanks

We had a great time at Las Brisas for a week over the Thanksgiving holiday. While we did the usual beach house maintenance of painting this and fixing that, we also had sufficient time for some R & R. One of my best moments was sitting on the main deck listening to my teenage daughters giggle and laugh with each other below in a new hammock. It was a wonderful time. Here is the week in images:

 

Delight

Delight

 

Joy

Joy

 

If you haven’t made it to La King’s Confectionary on the Strand – it’s a must. They are up for several “Best of Galveston” awards. It’s an old fashioned ice cream parlor with every imaginable candy and coffee drink. Something for everyone!

La King's Confectionary - Coffee Bar

La King’s Confectionary – Coffee Bar

 

La King's Confectionary - candy!

La King’s Confectionary – candy!

 

La King's Confectionary - Chocolates!

La King’s Confectionary – Chocolates!

 

We also spent a nice amount of time on the Bayside this week. My husband rode from the beach house to the marshes every day. Saw some amazing birds. I biked over with him a few times and the last morning there we took the youngest who wanted to take some photos of the birds.

Bayside tracks after rain

Bayside tracks after rain

 

Bayside bike ride

Bayside bike ride

 

Birdwatching on the bay

Birdwatching on the bay

 

And of course there was plenty of time for just strolling on the beach.

Beachwalk

Beachwalk

As always, the we enjoyed every minute there and it’s never long enough!