When we think of a beach vacation in this family, we don’t usually think “Let’s go to Texas!” But last year, Mike surprised me with a family trip for Christmas. Turns out, there are so many fun things to do in Galveston, Texas for families!
Our Galveston trip was in January, right before my birthday. However, it’s said that the best time to go to Galveston is March, April, October, or November. These are the months were it’s warm, but not too sweltering, and also not too chilly.
But still, there’s no bad time to be in Galveston! And I have to say, January was amazingly un-crowded, which is something we love in a vacation destination!
Galveston, Texas is known as one of the most charming beach towns in the south. It sits on an island about 50 miles southeast of Houston.
So, what are the most fun things to do in Galveston, Texas for families?
Hit the beach to relax or play!
Galveston Island has 32 miles of beautiful gulf beaches.
One of the most fun things about Galveston beaches is the ability to drive onto the beach. At West Beach, just west of the Seawall, vehicles are allowed to drive right out onto the sand!
West Beach also has no fees, so it’s a good free beach for your family to hang out on!
Other fun beaches for families to explore:
Babe’s Beach, which is lined by the historic Seawall, with restaurants and shops across the street.
The super family-friendly Stewart Beach on Galveston’s south coast. This beach has calm waters with life guards, chair and umbrella rentals, sandcastle competitions, as well as showers and restrooms.
One of the “Pocket Park” beaches are nice to get away from many of the other tourists. Pocket Park #1 is near Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn, and has restrooms on-site. Pocket Park #2 is a peaceful beach on the west end of the island. There are also restrooms available here.
Go treasure hunting!
Another fun thing to do in Galveston, Texas with family is to go shelling! Galveston is a great place to find sea shells, colorful sea glass, sea beans, shark teeth, and even arrowheads!
Aside from a ton of awesome shells and sea glass, one of the coolest things we found in Galveston was a shark vertebrae fossil!
For the best “treasure” hunting, head to the east end of Galveston. Take the free ferry (which is also a fun activity for kids in itself – watch for dolphins!) to Port Bolivar.
When you exit the ferry, go north on Highway 87 to Stingaree Road and turn right. This beach spot is best for finding bull shark teeth in the debris that’s been washed up. There is also plenty of shells.
Gilchrist, which is north off Highway 87, is best for finding all different colors of sea glass.
Sea Shell Beach Pocket Park #3 is just minutes from Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn, on 11 Mile Road. It’s known for great shelling – hence the name “Sea Shell Beach”.
Ride a rollercoaster at the historic Pleasure Pier.
What’s not to love about an amusement park on a pier over the ocean? The Pleasure Pier is one of the very few places in the world where you can ride rides over the ocean!
You could spend most of a day here, riding the rides, playing the games, shopping, and eating the food!
The pier is located on 25th and Seawall Blvd. There is premium parking across the street, or you can park along the Seawall. You can see their hours and ticket pricing here.
Visit the animals at Moody Gardens
If you Google “things to do in Galveston Texas for families”, this is for sure going to be one of the first things you see – and it’s worth it!
This was one of our favorite things we did in Galveston. Moody Gardens is made up of 3 pyramids. One is a rainforest pyramid, one is an aquarium, and one houses the Discovery Museum.
At the rainforest pyramid (my personal favorite), you can walk through and get up close with many animals, including Saki Monkeys, sloths, and many tropical birds.
Some of the animals are behind glass, but a lot are just roaming free, including monkeys. I’m super sad to have lost all photos of this (and many other memories!) when my iPhone malfunctioned after our trip. Now we have a reason to go back!
Inside the Aquarium Pyramid, right up front, there is a penguin exhibit. This was the best part of the place for us just because of the way this one penguin would interact with the kids! They had to be pulled away from this little guy!
The aquarium is 1.5 million gallons, and one of the biggest in the Southwest.
Other animals to see here are sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, otters, and more.
The Discovery Museum is an interactive children’s museum with changing exhibits. At the time we were there, the exhibit was about sound. Mike and Mason especially were super interested in all the interactive exhibits.
Looking on their website, it looks like the newest exhibit here (for Spring 2023) will be “Sharks in the Depth and Deep Sea Adventures” which sounds really fun!
There is also a 4D theater, where we watched a documentary about a baby and mama seal, which was really cute. Mason loved it, and Ella got in a nap!
Outside of the pyramids, you can walk around the butterfly garden and look out over the water.
Splash around at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
The other most popular thing to do for families in Galveston, Texas is visiting Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
The waterpark is open seasonally, starting with select dates in April, and closes in September. You can find more information on hours and ticket pricing here.
They have something for every age, including exhilarating slides, a heated pool with swim-up bar, kids area, and wave pool.
If we go back to Galveston in the warmer months, this is on our list of things to do!
Check out The Strand for shopping and dining.
In the 1880s, the Galveston Strand was called “the Wall Street of the South.” At the time, it was “the third richest city in the United States in proportion to population.”
The Strand has many beautiful, historic buildings. Just wandering the streets is a nice family activity.
Visit LaKing’s Confectionary for handmade chocolates, saltwater taffy, and other treats.
Walk through the other specialty shops, have a meal, and take photos with some of the incredible murals along the streets.
While you’re wandering, watch out for some of the “Turtles About Town,” a community art project of 50 colorful sea turtle sculptures scattered around the island.
Play a round of mini golf.
There are a couple of places to play mini golf on Galveston Island. The one we chose was Magic Carpet Golf, on the west end, overlooking the water. This seems to be the most popular choice, and we had a good experience!
Visit Seawolf Park for fishing, playing, and a submarine tour.
One of the best places in Galveston, Texas for families to find things to do is at Seawolf Park. It contains one of the island’s most popular fishing piers.
There is also a playground, a naval museum, a WWII submarine, the USS Cavalla, and the USS Stewart.
We toured the submarine while at the park. You can find pricing here for all of the activities.
There are also picnic areas and restrooms. While we were visiting, we saw dolphins jumping, as well as a wild pig swimming through the ocean!!!
Other things to do near Galveston, Texas for families
I thought it would be worth mentioning some other fun things for families to do, not necessarily in Galveston, Texas, but close enough. Possibly, some of these could be on your way to Galveston as well!
Gator Country Adventure Park in Beaumont, TX
About 2 hours away, in Beaumont, Texas, is this gator adventure park/sanctuary. The gators here were obtained through rescues and surrenders, as well as some nuisance alligators.
The park has daily alligator feeding shows, a petting zoo, tortoise feeding, and a wide selection of other small animals such as lizards, baby gators, hedgehogs, and snakes.
Visit one of Houston’s many museums.
Space Center Houston is a science museum and visitor center of the NASA Johnson Space Center. There are over 400 space artifacts, and many exhibits to engage adults and children.
Visit the Starship Gallery to get an up-close look at flown spacecraft. See the space suit collection, and go inside a shuttle replica.
The Children’s Museum of Houston has 90,000 square feet of innovative, interactive exhibits. It was voted the number one children’s museum in the United States by Parents Magazine.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science has a butterfly center, paleontology hall, hall of ancient Egypt, hall of African wildlife, and many more. It’s one of the most visited museums in the United States.
Visit the Downtown Aquarium in Houston
This was one of the coolest aquariums we have visited. You can take a train ride through a shark tunnel! It’s such a unique way to see an aquarium!
Other than the train ride through the sharks, other areas to see are the underwater shipwreck, tropical rainforest, Louisiana swamp, sunken temple, and more.
Outside, there is a ferris wheel, carousel, and even a splash pad!
Unfortunately, this is another place where I only took iPhone photos, and they all disappeared in a malfunction.
Overall, we really enjoyed Galveston, Texas! It’s a beautiful place for families to gather, with lots of entertaining things to do! If you’re planning a family beach vacation, make sure you also check out our post on family-friendly Gulf Coast beach vacations!
Pin this post for later!