A few places to visit in Galveston:
Galveston State Park and Jimmy’s on the Pier (Thanks for the tip Island Traveler!)
Galveston’s nickname is The Oleander City after the beautiful but very toxic flower that blooms all over the city. Considering Galveston’s cataclysmic past combined with its beauty (it may not be the pristine beauty we see on travel magazine covers, but there is beauty in this city and in its history), the nickname seems particularly appropriate. Ever since I read Isaac’s Storm (an amazing book) about the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 and killed over 6000 people, I have found this city’s history and reconstruction of itself to be poignant and impressive. As many know, Galveston was hit again in 2008 by Hurricane Ike, but the people of Galveston keep rebuilding and recreating this remarkable city.
It was with this in mind that last summer Ben, his parents, and I set out to see the new Pleasure Pier that opened in May 2012. I love the idea of the new Pleasure Pier. It is modeled to recapture the old Pleasure Pier that was there until 1961 when Hurricane Carla destroyed the pier. After Hurricane Carla, the pier was home to the Flagship Hotel until it was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
Pleasure Pier is exactly what one might expect from a carnival or very small theme park, bright and a little bit scary (I don’t trust those rides quite as much as I did as a youngster, but I can’t help but try them; Ben resolutely refuses.). When you arrive, you are greeted by a large arch and a vision before you of bright green, blue, yellow, and red rides and souvenir stores.Our first activities were to read a bit about the history of Galveston at the outside entrance hall (I really like that they have this) and then to head to the end of the short pier where we looked out at the ocean and watched the large barges and sailboats out in the water. Feeling a bit emboldened by the vastness of the ocean and and a desire to get out of the sun, we rode the Ferries wheel and the roller coaster. The Ferris wheel is fun because you get a wonderful view of Seawall Boulevard, minus the casinos that apparently made it quite popular in the 1920’s.
The roller coaster is a quick ride that will definitely get your heart rate up. After that, we took it easier. Ben and I took some pretty funny photos in a photo booth and rode one of the calmer rides. Finally, we strolled a bit more while enjoying a cool glass of sugary lemonade, and I bought some salt water taffy, which was devoured quickly mostly by me, from Lolli and Pop’s Candy Shoppe. It was a lot of fun, but we still wanted to swim so we left the shiny new amusement park in search of water.
Ben’s father used to go fishing in Galveston often, so he knew a good spot to go. We loaded up in the car, turned the AC on as high as possible, made a quick stop to get a beach towel, and drove up the road a bit to one of the West End beaches. We took took Seawall Blvd. to San Luis Pass Rd (Farm to Market Road 3005). Along this road, we exited and drove onto the beach. You will see blue signs along the road that say “Beach Access.” There were few people where we stopped, just a few up the beach looking for seashells and swimming. Getting out of the car and just simply enjoying the ocean and the beach was definitely a nice respite after a day on the fun, but busy and hot Pleasure Pier. I cooled off in the water and then spent some time looking for seashells on the beach and getting some sun. Then, it was dinner time.
For me, the day in Galveston and any trip to the ocean is reminiscent of fond childhood days spent on the beach getting worn out by playing on the beach and in the ocean. In 1984, we lived in Florida for a summer, wore Mickey Mouse t-shirts most days, and spent every day, unless it rained, on the beach. On special occasions, we would go to Red Lobster and order shrimp cocktail, french fries, and a Shirley Temple kid beverage. After our swim in Galveston, Ben’s parents treated us to a meal at Nate’s Restaurant, a small restaurant with paintings of seashells on the wall and a balcony where one can wait to be seated while sipping a glass of wine, or other beverage, and peering past the houses on stilts at the ocean.Nate’s restaurant was the perfect place to go after a swim in the ocean, and the rather large amount of fried food felt like the type of indulgence one should partake in on a vacation. I had the fried oyster po’ boy with half a plate of big steak fries. It was wonderful.