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Are you looking for free things to do in Galveston? Fort Travis Park is just one of many free things we found to do on our last trip to the island. Free is good, right? We all love free. I believe everybody is always searching for ways to save money on vacation, whether it be for a week or just a weekend trip. While Galveston is full of tourist attractions that will make you dig deep into your pockets, I’m going to share with you the things we found that are 100% free to do.
Fort Travis Park
Fort Travis Park is located just across the bay from Galveston on Bolivar Peninsula. To get there from the Galveston side, you have to take a ride on the ferry. We will cover the ferry shortly. ( It’s Free ) This was our second trip to the park. Being there gives you a sense of history as you see the bunkers and what’s left of some of the buildings. The fort was built in 1836 to protect the entrance of Galveston Harbor.
A 17 feet tall wall was built along the southern edge of the fort to protect it from future storm surge, after the hurricane of 1900. In addition to the wall, the U.S. Corp of Engineers spent nearly five years rebuilding the fort. Fort Travis was used during both world wars. During WWI, one of the batteries was equipped with 12″ guns that had a range of up to 17 miles. None of the guns are there today, but you can still see the concrete pads where they were chained down.
The fort was expanded and several more guns were installed for WWII. Battery 236 was built to defend Galveston Harbor from enemy submarines.
In 1949 Fort Travis was sold to M & M Building Corps. After being purchased by the Galveston County Court in 1973, Fort Travis was turned into a public park.
In 1961, during Hurricane Carla, many local residents used Fort Travis to take cover while the storm passed. Residents have used Fort Travis Park to take shelter from many hurricanes over the years.
You can take a 3-D virtual tour through Battery 236 here.
One of our favorite free things to do in Galveston is ride the ferry. The Galveston Ferry transport people and vehicles from Galveston Island to Bolivar Peninsula. Bolivar Peninsula is a 27 mile stretch of sandy beaches. Most beaches in and around Galveston are completely free to use. There are a few paid areas that have the nicer sand and better amenities, but hey, we’re looking for things to do for free.
As we stated above, the ferry is free, if you have some time on your hands to wait. The wait time to cross is usually a couple of hours. You can check the ferry’s wait time by checking the Galveston Ferry Twitter Feed. Local residents have an express lane that takes them to the front of the line, maybe that’s where they get the 30 minute time. And if you are sitting in the line, DO NOT try to cut in line. The Sheriff’s Department WILL pull you out of line, and at the very least, make you turn around and drive to the back of the line.
What To Expect On The Ferry
After you make it to the ferry, you drive onto the ferry and are packed in like sardines. The ferry attendants will guide you where you need to go. When the ferry leaves the dock, you are allowed to get out of your vehicle and enjoy the scenery. The only rule is, DON’T FEED THE SEAGULLS FROM THE FRONT OF THE BOAT.
If you need to use the bathroom after the long wait, you can go to the upper deck and use the facilities. There is also a deck surrounding that you can stand on for a better view.
The trip across the bay normally only lasts maybe 15 minutes, then it’s back to your vehicle for the drive off of the ferry. So, on your next trip to Galveston, make time to take a ride on the ferry. It is a pretty cool experience. Fort Travis Park is a must see on the other side of the ferry ride.
After your visit to Fort Travis Park, another free thing to do in Galveston is visit the beach. Metered parking is on the beach side of the seawall. The free parking is on the other side of the highway. There are plenty of crosswalks all the way down the seawall. You can sit with your toes in the sand or take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico, all for free. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can ride your bike up and down the seawall as well.
Conclusion On Fort Travis Park And Other Free Things To Do In Galveston
Galveston is one of Texas’ most popular tourist attractions. It can get expensive with the souvenir shops, local restaurants, and don’t forget Pleasure Pier. Pleasure Pier was a one time trip. That’s all it took. We made the mistake of getting on the sky swing. 30 years ago that would have been a blast. We are both too old for a ride like that. It was terrifying for us. All I could focus on, while I’m getting whipped around the sky at 300 feet, was the unusually small chain holding our seat to the ride. I just knew at any moment that we would either end up in the Gulf, or tossed across the seawall into a building. But hey, adventure, right??
With all there is to do in Galveston, there are plenty of things to do for free. Don’t forget about the Strand District. It’s an historical downtown area where you can walk up and down the streets and visit museums, window shop, or just admire the 19th century architecture. And if you are looking to head to the east, check out our post, Your Guide To Surfside Beach.
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