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Last Updated on August 29, 2019 by Amy

I’m a proud Houstonian; I’ve lived there most of my life (from about two years old on).  I graduated high school out in the ‘burbs, bought my first house inside the loop, and my parents still live out in Clear Lake.  And all my life, Galveston has been about an hour drive away; a fun and proud beach community.

Me in Galveston in 1986

On our last trip home in February, Mom and I took a staycation in Galveston, staying the night at my favorite hotel in the world and renting bikes during the day.

About Galveston

Galveston is an island in the Gulf of Mexico, about an hour drive away from downtown Houston.  The island is thin and narrow, about 30 miles long.  Most of the activity used to happen on Strand Street – known as The Strand – but shops are restaurants are expanding out south and there are some great places to explore down on Mechanic and Market Street.

Bike Rentals at Island Bicycle Company

We drove over to the Seawall to rent our bikes from Island Bicycle Company.  Bikes were $25 each for a full day – 10 am to 6 pm.  We left our cars on the lot and took off with our little beach cruisers (with bells and baskets!) up 19th, which has a bike lane and runs all the way up to Harbourside Drive (on the north side).

When to Bike Around Galveston

Mom and I did this tour in February, on a beautiful day (no jacket required).  Winters can be hit or miss – it can be 70 one day and 40 the next, so be prepared.  Spring (March and April) are usually amazing, while May – September is pretty god damn hot.  Decembers are decorated for Christmas (Dicken’s On the Strand is a big thing here) and when we went in February, decorations for Mardi Gras were up (the best Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans).

Gorgeous narcissus in bloom in February.
Home with Mardi Gras decorations on Galveston tree sculpture tour.
In February, Mardi Gras decorations are up.

Tree Sculpture Tour

We stopped at the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center on 23rd and Mechanic to pick up a map for our first Galveston art tour; the Tree Sculpture Tour (you can also get a Tree Sculpture Tour map online).

In September 2008, while I was holed up in my one-bedroom apartment in West U with my parents, two dogs and two cats watching the storm, Hurricane Ike passed over Galveston and Houston, leaving a massive amount of damage and tidal surge.  The storm uprooted or killed many of Galveston Island’s gorgeous old trees.  The Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, the Galveston Island Tree Committee and hundreds of residents made sure the trees would be put to good use, like rebuilding historic ships or carving into artwork.  Some of the trunks were left where they died, and artists came to carve beautiful sculptures out of the trunks, and thus we have the Tree Sculpture Tour.

The tour starts at 19th and Sealy (convenient if you are coming from Island Bicycle Company).   From start to finish, it takes just 20 minutes, not including stopping for pictures.

Wood carving of egrets on Galveston tree sculpture tour.

There are also many other things to see on the bike ride around town.

Homes decked out for Mardi Gras.
Community park.
Some houses need some TLC.
Victorian gingerbread trim decorates many of the historic homes.
Vegetable garden at the local elementary school.
Check out that widow’s walk!

Turtles About Town

The Turtles About Town project is another great Galveston art tour.  The local art studio Clay Cup Studios partnered with Turtle Island Restoration Network to raise awareness about the endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle.  The sculptures are very new, so new there’s not even a map of them yet, but Mom and I found two close together, one at Clay Cup Studios and another across from Mod Coffee.

Clay Cup Studios

And if you are checking out the turtle in from of Clay Cup Studios, why not stop in?  My mom and I have always been a big fan of the paint-your-own-pottery studios.  We’ve done the pottery painting there, but next time we are going to do the glass fusion that looks amazing.

Julie, my sister-in-law, at Clay Cup Studios.

Galveston Arts Center

This small, free art museum is located just a few blocks from The Strand.  It focuses on “emerging and established regional artists in a variety of disciplines”.  When we visited it was a lot of modern art, which isn’t really my cup of tea but I enjoyed the visit anyway.

What More Galveston Art?

The Bryan Museum is relatively new (it opened in 2015) and is on my list for the next time I visit Galveston.

Where to Stay

Admittedly, I don’t stay in hotels very often since I travel around with my own home.  However, The Tremont House in Galveston is probably my favorite hotel in the world.  The style is modern, classy and clean and it’s in a great location to access the Strand.

The lobby of the Tremont House with the historic Toujouse bar.

Where to Eat

There are so many food choices available in Galveston.   Yaga’s, a low-key cafe with cajun or soul-inspired eats, was a classic we always stopped at while I was growing up.  The salads and burgers are always amazing, and it’s located on the Strand.  One of my favorite restaurants in Houston has just opened their own place on the Strand.  Hearsay is upscale with craft cocktails and classic American food with a twist of Southern.  Try the deviled eggs appetizer!

If you’re willing to leave the Strand, you HAVE to go to Mosquito Cafe.  It’s been around for 20 years and serves an amazing brunch and lunch menu.  My favorite is the Far East End, a noodle salad with seared tuna and three sauces.  So good!

Far East End at Mosquito Cafe.

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5 Comments

  1. I have lived in the Greater Houston area for almost 40 years. This is a great piece! I have not tried the restaurants but I’m currently in the Florida Keys and once water maker is up, we’re going to the Bahamas!
    I still have a house there so I will be back sometime.
    Thanks again!
    S/W Ocean Potion

  2. Amy, I really like this article filled with good information about the city and a lot of pictures a specially the beautiful tree sculptures. What a great idea that was to change the image of the poor damaged trees to a beautiful art.

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