La Vida Local: Galveston’s Best-Kept Secrets

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The Haneys welcome visitors to their Galveston vacation home (Well technically Surfside Beach, but close enough.) with this motto: Mi casa es su casa. Check out why this cozy coastal town and their four-bedroom house makes for a great family vacation, and what–besides badminton and barbecues–keeps folks coming back year-round.

I’ve never been to Galveston. Name five things to do (attractions, theme parks, historical sites, etc.) in the area.

Other than hanging out on the beach, Galveston is a must see for any tourist coming to the Texas Gulf Coast. Many people do not know this but Galveston was the capital of Texas in the 1800s and the city was very prosperous owing to a booming sea trade. The best way to connect to Galveston’s past is by an excursion through one of its historic districts, or a tour of one of the architecturally beautiful historic homes that are open to the public.

A major tourist destination, two top spots for Galveston visitors is the 242-acre Moody Gardens and the newly-opened Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark. Part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden, Moody Gardens is a vacation all by itself, and Schlitterbahn is the first waterpark of its kind that is open year-round! Both are great places for adults and children alike.

Galveston is a major port of call for all the huge cruise lines and shopping is a priority for folks getting off the boats. If you like to shop, you will love to explore the enticing shops on The Strand, the waterfront district and the trendy Postoffice Arts District, where you can find just about anything–upscale, artsy, or beach trendy. With a city this historically minded and individual in its tastes, expect to find wonderful antique and curio stores; look for treasures both downtown and on Broadway.

Fishing is of course extremely popular with both the locals and the tourists and charters are plentiful as well as party boats, bay and pier fishing.

Dining is a Galveston highpoint. The specialty is fresh-cooked, fresh caught Gulf Coast cuisine–available both in traditional and nouvelle settings–but you’ll find restaurants for every mood and palate, from upscale continental, to hip fusion, to authentic Tex-Mex, to down-home barbecue.

What makes it a great place to visit, especially for families?

The beach is a wonderful place for families with kids of all ages. Who doesn’t love the ocean, building sand castles and going crabbing? Schlitterbahn Waterpark caters to people of all ages and have life jackets and special infant pools to fit the tiniest vacationers.

What are the best times of year to travel to Galveston and why?

There’s never a bad time to come to the coast. If you love the heat, come in the summer, if you’d prefer empty beaches and a bit of solitude, come in the winter when the sea shells are most plentiful and you don’t have to fight the crowds. My personal favorite is the fall. The weather is usually exceptional in October and November–warm days, warm water and cool nights.

Why is renting a Galveston vacation home a good idea in this economy?

Take it from someone who knows. A two night stay at the Hotel Galvez or San Louis will run you $600 easy and then you have to pay for all of your meals when you eat out. Why not stay at a beachfront home and have use of the entire house and kitchen? Make it even more economical by finding a home with enough rooms for two families to vacation together.

What bars and restaurants do you recommend and why?

Guidos is a tradition in Galveston, but there are many many great restaurants there. Rudy and Pacos, the Steakhouse in the San Louis Hotel, Luigis on the Strand.

What, in your humble opinion, is so special about your vacation home?

There are several things that make my home so special. For one thing, the location is perfect: We are a beachfront property located in a kind of remote area about 30 minutes outside of Galveston, in a sleepy little community called Surfside, population 700. Called the best-kept secret on the Gulf Coast, Surfside is not on the tourist radar. Therefore the beaches are quiet, the fishing is plentiful and it’s a great place to relax with friends and family. Galveston, with all of its attractions, is a quick and scenic drive up the coast. The second thing that makes our home so special is the actual house which was carefully designed by my husband and I. As I mentioned our home is beach front and the architectural details allow the guests to take advantage of the spectacular views from everywhere–inside and out. We have decks on three sides of the house, both upstairs and down and all the rooms open to decks. Inside, we have vaulted ceilings with one huge wall of windows giving you uninterrupted beach gazing from anywhere in the kitchen or living room or upstairs hallway.

What is the “secret room” that one of your previous renters referenced in a user review?

Our home was designed by my husband and I to be a wonderful home for not just the adults but for our children as well and so a lot of thought went into every detail. In the original plans for the house, there was supposed to be a “butler’s pantry” under the stairs. But we decided instead that we would tuck a small child’s room there. It has just enough room to accommodate a small bed, complete with lots of comfortable pillows and sea-themed sheets and comforter, a toy chest, and a 12-inch TV is mounted to the wall so little ones can watch TV, play video games or watch a dvd. Adults are too big for this room, so it is very much an exclusive kid’s cozy hideaway. The room is LOVED by little children, mine included and is always mentioned in the guest comments book I keep in the house.

Posted in All-season rentals, Beach vacations, Family vacation spots

About Valerie

Valerie Moloney is your resident blogger and the Expansion Markets Editor for, who oddly enough, feels panicked when asked, "What's the best place to eat in Chicago?" or her favorite, "It's my birthday. Where should we go with a party of six?" No stranger to travel--and traveling with kids--she is a young mom who ODs on the Internet when it comes to planning family trips or buying clothes. Here's hoping she finds you the vacation you deserve.

One Response to La Vida Local: Galveston’s Best-Kept Secrets

  1. There are so many wonderful things to do in Galveston! You can tour the Lone Star Flight museum, full of WWII plane and you can even fly in one! The Grand 1894 Opera House is also amazing to tour as well as see one of the fabulous shows that make the Grand a top notch theatrical attraction. There is the oil rig museum, the state national park, the NOAA rescue turtle center, the free ferry to Bolivar Island (you will most likely spot dolphins), rent a bicycle and take a ride down the seawall, the beautiful new beaches, the Origional Mexican Cafe, Benno’s, Shrimp N Stuff, The Spot, Marios, Bachus Wine Bar, Yagas…and the list goes on and on. Come to Galveston and plan to enjoy, relax and eat! 8 – )

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