If you’ve been looking for a place to take the family on a vacation, Galveston might not be high on your list. But it should be. Visiting a booming tourist town like Galveston doesn’t have to break the bank.
Galveston is easily one of the most visited cities in Texas. In fact, it is estimated that more than 7 million people visit the island every year. With all the tourist attractions, festivals, and home of the 4th busiest cruise ports in America, one might think it would hard to find things to do that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not hard at all. In fact, we have put together this list of 5 totally free things to do in Galveston to show you that you can still have a blast without busting your budget.
Let’s jump in…
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Where Is Galveston, Texas
Galveston is an island on the Texas Gulf Coast that is located 51 miles south of Houston, and 39 miles east of Surfside Beach, Texas. It is home to just over 50,000 people and has some of the most visited attractions in Texas.
At 27 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, Galveston has miles of sandy beaches to enjoy a day in the sand. Other popular activities include fishing, kayaking, surfing, and biking.
5 Totally Free Things To Do In Galveston
Visiting Galveston doesn’t have to cost you much money. Don’t get me wrong, it is very easy to spend hundreds of dollars or more visiting some of the more popular attractions.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can still visit the island and have a great time. Over the past few years, Kellie and I have found ways to visit Galveston and enjoy ourselves doing these free activities.
- To stretch your budget even further, be sure to check out these road trip money saving tips.
1. Ride The Galveston Ferry For Free
One of our favorite things to do in Galveston is to take a ride on the Galveston Ferry, a.k.a. Port Bolivar Ferry. In fact, no visit to the island is complete without a ferry ride. The ferry service carries folks from Galveston Island across the bay to Bolivar Peninsula.
The ferry ride is totally free and it’s a great way to see dolphins, cruise ships, and pelicans along the way. You can choose to “walk-on” or drive onto the ferry. You can even drive your RV onto the ferry if needed.
The ride typically lasts anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, and you can choose to remain in your vehicle or walk around the deck for those perfect Facebook photos.
There is also an observation deck you can check out if you need to use the restroom or hang out in a climate-controlled environment for the duration of the trip.
We always opt for walking around on the deck checking out the scenery.
2. Visit Fort Travis Park
Fort Travis Park is located on the Bolivar side of the island, not far from the ferry landing. It is a historic site that was established by the Republic of Texas in 1836 to protect the entrance of Galveston Harbor.
After the historic 1900 hurricane that decimated Galveston, a 17’ tall wall was built along the southern edge of the fort to protect it from future storm surges.
Today you can see the remaining bunkers and concrete pads where the heavy artillery was once chained down. If you love history, you won’t want to miss Fort Travis Park.
There is no entrance fee to Fort Travis making it a great place to take the family for a picnic, check out the historic bunkers, try your luck at fishing, or just sit and watch the harbor.
3. Visit The Strand District
The Strand District is located in downtown Galveston and is best known for shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, and checking out the architecture of the historical buildings in the area.
Although visiting the Strand District is a great free activity to do while you’re in Galveston, you will have to pay a small fee for parking if you visit during the week. However, according to spotangels.com, “most of the metered spots in downtown are free of charge on Sunday. Parking meters are enforced from 9 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday”.
In addition, a user wrote on tripadvisor.com that there is free 2-hour parking on Rosenberg Street from 9 AM to 6 PM.
While you’re checking out all the shops and eateries in the Strand District, make sure you stop by the Saengerfest Park to play a game of life-size chess or take a selfie in front of the “Greetings From Galveston” wall mural to post on social media.
4. Take A Walk On The Galveston Seawall
Taking a stroll along the Seawall is one of the most popular free things to do in Galveston. With more than 10 miles of sidewalk, spending the day taking in the sights and sounds of the beach has never been easier.
There are also more than 70 concrete benches along the way to take a rest and watch the waves roll in.
If you feel the need to dip your toes in the water, head down to the sandy beach and walk along the shoreline.
Need to work on your tan? Spread your blanket on the beach and soak up some sun.
If you park your vehicle on the south side (beach side) of the Seawall, you will have to pay for parking. While the parking fees are relatively inexpensive, ($2 an hour, 2 hour minimum, not to exceed $16 per day), this post is about the things you can do for free in Galveston. So, the free parking is on the north side of the Seawall. Don’t worry, there are plenty of crosswalks to use to safely cross the busy street.
5. Relax On The Breezeway At Murdoch’s
Murdoch’s is a well-known souvenir shop on the Seawall and is another totally free thing to do in Galveston. Of course, the shopping isn’t free, but relaxing on the deck is. Like the Galveston Ferry ride, our trips to Galveston aren’t complete until we visit Murdoch’s.
The breezeway sits above the beach and is a great place to sit and listen to the waves crash onto the shore while you watch the rides at Pleasure Pier.
If you have a few bucks to spare, they sell drinks, both adult and non-alcoholic, for you to enjoy while you kicking back in a deck chair.
Bonus: Visit Surfside Beach
If the above free things to do in Galveston doesn’t quite satisfy your need for adventure, take a short, scenic drive west on Highway 257, A.K.A. Bluewater Highway, to visit Surfside Beach.
Although it’s not as big of a tourist destination, you can park on the beach and have fun in the sun just the same. Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide To Surfside Beach before you go.
Taking your family to the beach doesn’t have to be over-the-top expensive. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do for free in Galveston and still have a blast.
So, pack up your swimsuit, load up the family, and head to the Texas Gulf Coast and enjoy all Galveston has to offer, completely free of charge.
What are your thoughts? Have you been to Galveston and experienced any of the free things listed? Did we miss anything? If so, please leave us a comment below and let us know.