Galveston calling: Authors offer tips for social distancing on Texas coast
There’s a reason people love Galveston.
From its sprawling beaches to its high-caliber attractions to its delectable seafood, this popular beach town located an hour from Houston and 3 1/2 hours from Austin has something to satisfy every taste.
Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to let some of the state’s stay-at-home restrictions, which were put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, expire at the end of April, some travelers are wondering if they can, or should, return to visit the beloved island.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest and in the community’s interest to keep themselves safe,” said Heidi Lutz, a Galveston resident and co-author of the new book “100 Things to Do in Galveston Before You Die.” “(Local businesses) are doing everything they can to be able to continue offering those experiences that everyone loves and make sure they still feel safe doing that.”
While acknowledging that any decision to travel right now remains a completely personal choice and depends on what’s best for each individual and his or her family, Lutz and co-author Christine Hopkins said there are many opportunities to enjoy Galveston while social distancing.
“People can visit, and they can visit safely and use common sense,” Lutz said. “There are so many activities you can do on your own.”
Hopkins said researching the book opened her eyes to things that even she, a BOI, or Born on the Island, resident, didn’t know.
“What’s fun about this book is that even for people who have visited Galveston multiple times over the years, there’s always something they didn’t know about,” Hopkins said. “It gives them the opportunity to discover something new and create new memories with family and friends. Even for people who live in the area, it’s a great bucket-list book.”
Below, Hopkins and Lutz shared ideas for things you can do while social distancing if Galveston is in your upcoming travel plans. Learn more about their book or purchase a signed copy at 100thingsgalveston.com.
Beaches: Galveston beaches reopened May 1 with social-distancing mandates that include people stay at least 6 feet apart, not gather in large groups and wear face coverings when possible, although there have already been some reports of overcrowding. Another option is to visit Galveston Island State Park, which, like most other Texas state parks, is currently open for day use. Activities at the park, which has both beach and bay sides, include swimming, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, hiking and mountain biking. Advance day pass reservations — which help to control crowding — are required, as is social distancing. Check website for details. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island
Horseback riding. Galveston Island Horse & Pony Rides has resumed operations but is placing limits on the number of participants to ensure social distancing and requiring advance reservations. “I did that a couple years with my best friend — she grew up in Galveston — and it was just lovely,” Hopkins said. Equipment is disinfected after each ride, and masks are required. gihpr.com
Public art. The city of Galveston is peppered with unique and stunning free art that’s easily accessible via car, bike or foot. One local tip is to take a self-guided tree sculpture tour, which features dozens of sculptures ranging from a pod of dolphins to SpongeBob SquarePants, created by homeowners from trees that were ravaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008. galveston.com/treesculpturetour
Another public art tour comes on the half-shell: Turtles About Town showcases dozens of turtle monuments painted by local and national artists. A partnership with Galveston’s Clay Cup Studios and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the project aims to increase awareness of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles native to the area. Galveston.com/turtles
Finally, if you prefer to keep your art appreciation beachside, one option is to take a stroll along the seawall, where 70 benches have been transformed into beautiful mosaics by the nonprofit Artist Boat as part of the Seawall Interpretive Trail, or Project SIT. artistboat.org/project-sit
Water sports. Artist Boat, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit behind Project SIT, also hosts public eco-art kayak adventures and recently started offering tours again on a limited basis and with new guidelines to ensure proper social distancing. artistboat.org/public-kayak-registration
SUP Gulf Coast will also deliver stand-up paddleboards and surfboards to your location. supgulfcoasttx.com
Fishing: The Galveston Fishing Pier is open and offering daily updates including capacity of the pier on its Facebook page, facebook.com/GalvestonFishingPier.
Popular attractions: The 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship that resides at the Texas Seaport Museum, has reopened with “safe, sanitary and physically distanced friendly experiences,” according to its website, as has Bishop’s Palace (galvestonhistory.org/sites/1892-bishops-palace) and Moody Mansion (moodymansion.org), with limited hours and increased guidelines. The Historic Harbor Tour and Dolphin Watch, Seawolf Park and the Galveston Island Railroad Museum have also reopened with new guidelines.
Restaurants: Many popular Galveston restaurants continue to offer take-out and some have increased their seating to allow for dine-in social distancing, including Rudy & Paco (rudyandpaco.com), Mosquito Café (mosquitocafe.com), Gaido’s (gaidos.com) and Yaga’s Café (yagascafe.com). “One of the things I love about Galveston is how many locally owned restaurants we have,” Hopkins said.
Also of note: Moody Gardens Golf Course has reopened with COVID-19 guidelines in place (moodygardensgolf.com), and many shops and boutiques have reopened with limited hours. Clay Cup Studios, a local interactive art studio, is open with limited seating and new guidelines (claycupstudios.com).
Find the latest news and updates about Galveston at Galveston.com.
My family visits Galveston often, but we’d never stayed at a beach house until our most recent trip in January. From the minute we punched in the gate access code at Beachside Village, which features Jordan almond-colored cottages and sparkling ocean views on Galveston’s West End, we were in love. Our house, Kat’s Korner, was a block from the beach and included a covered deck, screened porch, sprawling kitchen and, most importantly, at least according to our kids, two sets of bunk beds. From splashing in the sand to playing cards around the kitchen table, it was the perfect place for our family. Learn more about Kat’s Korner and find other Galveston rentals with Sand ‘N Sea Properties at sandnsea.com. Sand ‘N Sea Properties continues to offer rental properties but has revised some of its policies and procedures in light of COVID-19. Check website for details. – Kristin Finan