Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Vacation in Galveston and Five Things to Do on Your Next Visit!

Brian on the Beach with our corgis

As long as I can remember, my family has spent portions of the spring and summer on Galveston Island. Growing up in Houston, it was a popular sunny destination just 45 minutes away. When I was 14, my parent's bought a beach house in the neighborhood of Pirate's Beach, on the west end of the island. My brother in-law (and new sister in law) got married a couple weeks ago on the island at the Hotel Galvez. Having not taken a long vacation maybe ever in our relationship--Brian and I decided to take advantage and spend the week in Galveston at my parent's beach house.

I find that many people that aren't from Houston (and some that are) often turn their nose up when I mention vacationing at the sunny South Texas Island. To be sure, Galveston is not the prettiest beach to behold---muddy colored sand and water to match--which only turns a pleasing shade of green when pollution in the Gulf is at an all time high---but there is a charm to the island due to it's rich history and eclectic group of locals. Before the great hurricane of 1900, Galveston was set to be the next New York City. The late 19th and early 20th century architecture is a sight to see for sure, and there are so many things to do. We found ourselves returning from the island with the vacation blues, and wishing we could stay longer---or forever!

I thought it would be fun to detail Five Things to Do on Galveston Island---hopefully it will provide some ideas for your next trip---or convince you to book one if you're one of the current naysayers that  I am referring to.

1. Have a Date Night on The Strand.

The Strand is very reminiscent of New Orleans to me---lots of beautiful architecture and very walkable. We did a date night last Sunday night, dinner first at Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar---fabulous gumbo, steamed kettles of fresh clams and seafood and scrumptious seafood po-boys---followed by Ice Cream at Hey Mikey's---homemade, to die for ice cream. 
Are you singing the song in your head now? too.
 Other favorites on The Strand are Saltwater Grill and Rudy &Paco---both more upscale.

2. Buy Fresh Seafood at Katie's on Pier 21

Maybe one of my favorite things we did on our trip was make a visit to Katie's Seafood Market on Pier 19. We parked a little ways down and took a stroll---looking at all the nearby fishing boats. The whole thing looked like a piece of New England instead of South Texas. We bought the BEST sushi-grade yellow fin tuna at Katie's and I brought it home and made a tuna tartare or Tuna Poke (does anyone understand the difference? I won't pretend to.) I loosely followed this recipe from PopSugar, except that I found "hot" sesame oil and used that and omitted the red pepper flakes and it was still equally delicious and spicy. I made the tuna twice---first for Brian and myself and then again for guests, and the second time I served it on it's own and without all the fixings of the bowl.

Attempt One---I used jasmine rice instead of brown like the recipe called for---drizzled with a little sriracha aioli----just sriracha, prepared horseradish and mayo---SO yummy.

And Attempt Two---grouped on a little plate by itself--so delicious and my guests loved it!

Keep in mind that you need very fresh sushi grade tuna for a recipe like this. That keeps it safe and delicious!

3. Order a Pina Colada at The Spot's Tiki Bar

The Spot has long been a family favorite---it's a great place to grab a burger or fried shrimp. Located on the Seawall---it's casual, easy and delicious. Once I reached legal drinking age, I discovered that their bar next door--The Tiki Bar--offers very potent Pina Coladas served inside a real coconut, complete with pineapple wedge and an umbrella. Sitting inside that bar---although it looks directly onto the Seawall, you'd never know you were in Galveston. It seems more akin to a remote resort or island.

4. Visit the Moody Mansion

The Moodys were a well known and very well to do family that were a pillar in Galveston. They bought the mansion in 1900, right after the infamous hurricane. Their family resided there until the mid 1980's and it is now a museum. The tour admission is $12 for adults, $6 for students and free for kids under 6. We did not visit the Mansion on this particular trip to Galveston---we went a couple of years ago. It's a great rainy day activity, but a must see in any event. If you love history and things like Downton Abbey, you will love the Moody Mansion. It is all either in original condition or replicated to look like its original condition and so so cool.

(info courtesy of

5. Buy a Cigar at Havana Alley---and Maybe Stay A While.

Brian is a big cigar fan--although he rarely allows himself the leisure time to actually enjoy one. He made a point this trip to seek out a local cigar shop, and we stumbled upon Havana Alley. The building might as well have been in Cuba---It was deep and dark inside--with a fabulous walk-in humidor and a few locals hanging out at the bar. The deck out back was huge and had an "island" feel. Brian and I decided to stay a while and I may or may not have indulged in a cigar of my own!

We cannot wait to return to Galveston this summer and soak up even more of the food and culture it has to offer!