We spent last week in Galveston, TX. Looking back, I have to say it was possibly my favorite stop during our RV journey so far. It was a mixture of some of my favorite things: good food, relaxation, historic sites.
The beachy/laidback atmosphere was exactly what we needed after our three harrowing (albeit productive) weeks at “home” in Austin.
Here’s a collection of what we did (and ate!). I hope you’ll use our fun experiences to plan your next trip. If I’ve left any questions unanswered, or I don’t mention your favorite Galveston stop, please let me know in a comment!
Sand Sculpture Contest
Totally unplanned, the day we arrived corresponded with the annual AIA Sandcastle competition. From AIA’s website:
“For over two decades teams of architects, designers, and engineers have taken their tools to East Beach in Galveston for one of the world’s largest sandcastle competitions.”
Somewhere else, Eric read that it’s the largest amateur sand sculpture competition in the world. “Amateur” must be used loosely! Though these guys and gals may not be professionals with sand, they know architecture and design. Some of the sculptures were amazing! Toes in the sand, snow cone in hand, the experience can’t be beat.
Our adventure to the sculpture competition was almost as fun as the competition itself. You can read all about it in our most recent Captain’s Log.
Attending the competition is free, but parking is not. $10/vehicle if you want to park right there at East Beach.
The Spot / Side Yard
Famished from our biking madness to and from the beach, we drove down Seawall Blvd. to find some food. Since it was a Saturday, we were morally opposed to using our phones to find a restaurant (screen-time overload!). Left to our own devices (no pun intended), we drove up and down Seawall and picked the place that looked the most fun!
That place was The Spot/Tiki Bar/Side Yard/Rum Shack/Squeeze. Yes, five places in one! Two stories and dressed in a thatched roof, how could we resist?
This became our go-to spot for the week. After our initial dinner at The Spot, we came back a couple of times for happy hour at Side Yard, and brought our friends back for dinner and drinks later in the week!
As far as what we ate, Eric had Parmesan Tilapia (parmesan-crusted tilapia with marinara on a bed of fettucine alfredo) his first time and the Ralph Burger (cheddar, bacon, BBQ and pickles) on his second trip. I had the Bleu Cheese and Bacon Burger both times because it was that good. Bleu cheese crumbles, tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and ranch…I shouldn’t be writing this blog article when I’m hungry.
You’re looking at about $10 for most of the entrees, though some of the seafood plates are more in the $20 range.
But you can’t beat the ambiance! We love the upstairs patio which overlooks the Gulf. Be prepared for a wait on the weekend if you want a table. I recommend one person goes up to scout out a table, while the other person orders and waits for the food!
We spent our Sunday meandering The Strand Historic District. These shops and restaurants are housed in historic, Victorian buildings. If you’re in the mood for a stroll and some shopping, this is your spot.
At intersections, the cruise terminals on your north side may have you contemplating another kind of adventure!
Shrimp N Stuff
Shrimp N Stuff came highly recommended, both in online reviews and from our friends. While waiting in line, we struck up a conversation with a friendly local who has been a loyal customer for years. This is your traditional seaside fare with Cajun influence: po-boys, fried shrimp and fish of many kinds, gumbo, crab balls, etc.
We went for the fried shrimp dinner and the shrimp po-boy. Both were good, though not the best we’ve had. Compared to restaurants with a sea view, the restaurant lacked a bit in ambiance.
Galveston Island Ferry
This post-work outing during the week was one of our favorites. After a very brief wait around 4:30 PM, we drove onto the complimentary ferry and prepared to cross the watery space between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a longer trip than I expected (I’m used to the very short Port Aransas ferry further down the Gulf coast), which allowed time to enjoy the experience. We had an amazing view of Seawolf Park, which drove us to Googling curiosity and a visit later in the week. As we took off, we could see the Coast Guard base, and saw many ships coming into port.
Fun ferry trivia: the newest fleet of ferries are painted with the colors of major Texas colleges. Yes, you’ll see Burnt Orange and Aggie Maroon. The ferries are named after former Texas Transportation Commission members (except one, but too much detail!).
The ferry takes you to Port Bolivar Peninsula. There’s pretty much nothing to see or do when you land, unless you drive on to Crystal Beach. Which leads to the next part of our adventure…
The real reason we took the ferry was to get to another recommendation, our dinner destination: Stingaree. From the ferry landing, it’s a lovely 20 minute drive straight down 87.
Stingaree is co-located with a small marina, with a beautiful view of East Bay. Warning: Stingaree is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Of course, we went on a Monday.
But we were in luck! A spot right downstairs (assumedly owned by the same people) was open: DownUnder. DownUnder was Stingaree-enough for us!
We absolutely loved our meal and the tiki bar ambiance. The place seemed to be filled with locals only, which added to the authenticity. Though my memory is failing me, I’m pretty sure Eric had the burger, and I had fish tacos. Both so good!
After dinner, we went out on the back patio and talked for an hour or so while the sun set. Make sure you walk outside and see just how long the patio is. You can’t see it from inside! You may decide you want to enjoy your food and drinks there.
$6 parking and $5/adult tour fee will give you access to these WWII vessels. Here’s the down-low on the Cavalla:
Cavalla was a Gato class fleet sub[marine], designed and built in the summer of 1943 by the Electric Boat Company and launched on November 14, 1943….On June 19, 1944, on her maiden patrol, she sank the 30,000 ton aircraft carrier Shokaku (veteran of Pearl Harbor and Battle of Coral Sea). This earned her the Presidential Unit Citation.
I had never seen the inside of a submarine before, not to mention a WWII submarine, so this was quite an amazing experience. We walked through the torpedo room, the bridge, the galley, the quarters.
If that wasn’t enough, Cavalla is now Seawolf Park neighbor to the USS Stewart, “one of only two preserved U.S. destroyer escorts and the only surviving example of her class.” This was a special tour for me, since my grandfather Ronald Hardy served on a destroyer escort during WWII as part of the Royal Canadian Navy. This is a photo of me on a gun similar to the one he manned. During his service, he was also a signalman, and he assisted with setting depth charges for submarines.
My memories of Galveston are caught up in Mosquito Cafe. The interior is sweet and comfortable, with local artistry decorating the walls. There’s a beautiful patio out back for cooler weather.
The menu is almost overwhelming! But as we read through it, both Eric and I saw a dish that beckoned to us! For Eric, the Island Slammer: grilled shrimp, hickory smoked peppered bacon, melted swiss cheese, fresh tomato, red leaf lettuce and garlic-herb mayo on a french baguette.
I debated, but decided on the Spinach Pasta: farfalle (bow tie) pasta sautéed with fresh spinach, fresh roma and sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, fresh herbs, feta and imported parmesan cheese (served hot). If I wasn’t sure about my choice at first, the Texas Monthly review on the wall bolstered my confidence. For them, the Spinach Pasta was a stand-out.
Okay. The Spinach Pasta was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Period. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since! Do we really have to wait until December to get back to Texas?! I think Galveston will have to be on our list…even if it’s just for a mealtime stopover at Mosquito Cafe!
Bayou Shores RV Park
Eric has the best of intentions when it comes to keeping up with RV park reviews. But since I haven’t seen one yet, a few words on ours in Galveston. It was modest, with pretty much no amenities. But the location was perfect, on a small bay off of 61st Street.
We did have one RV between us and the water, which was a bummer. But now that we know the layout of the park, I’m sure we can reserve in advance next time to get a front row seat.
One of the biggest highlights: there is a small beach where you can wade in to go swimming! The water stays shallow for yards and yards out – about waist-high on an adult. I’m not sure when or if it gets deeper. We didn’t go out that far. The swimming here was far and away preferable to swimming at Seawall Blvd. or at any of the beaches (East Beach, etc.). Why? The seaweed was coming in droves. So gross…no one wants that in their hair or anywhere!
That’s a quick review of our week in Galveston. It was a wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back.
If you’ve made it this far, cheers! Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the spots I mentioned. I’d also love to hear about your adventures in Galveston, so we can try some new spots when we return. -Brittany