This is a guide on free things to do in Galveston.
Galveston Island is located just south of Houston and sits on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a frequent tourist destination for Texas residents, as well as people outside of Texas. Not to mention that there are so many things to do in Galveston with kids! But if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free things to do in Galveston to enjoy as well.
Here are 16 [totally fun] free things to do in Galveston.
Free Things to do in Galveston
Free Things to do in Galveston: Port Bolivar Ferry
Take a ride from Galveston Island to the Bolivar Peninsula on the Port Bolivar Ferry as one of the top free things to do in Galveston. You can either walk on or drive your car onto the ferry and park. If you park your car on the ferry, you’ll definitely want to get out and watch the passing scenery as you ride. The trip is about 20 minutes, and on the way, you can look out for dolphins swimming in the water and enjoy the breeze, which is especially nice during the hot summer. Another fun feature is feeding the seagulls on the ferry, so be sure to pack some bread. Best of all, of course, is that the ride is completely free.
Free Things to do in Galveston: The Strand
One of Galveston’s tourist hot spots, known as The Strand, also happens to be one of the best free things to do in Galveston. This 5-block downtown strip located along Strand Street features a variety of shops, museums, restaurants, and more overlooking the water.
Many of the buildings feature some impressive Victorian-style architecture, making it a great place to take photos with your family. Of course, shopping isn’t free, but the stroll along the Strand is free, and there’s a free park at 23rd Street known as Saengerfest Park that features a life-size chessboard.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Self Guided Tours
African American History Tour
Did you know that Galveston is the site of one of the biggest events in African American history? The Juneteenth holiday, nationally recognized as the end of slavery in the United States, was birthed in Galveston when General Granger read General Order Number 3 right from the shores of Galveston. One of the buildings where it is believed he issued the decree is still standing today. Learn more about this monumental event and more with Galveston’s self-guided African American History tour.
Tree Sculpture Tour
If you want to see a great example of art being created out of tragedy, you’ll want to check out the Galveston Tree Sculpture Tour. In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, devastating many buildings and landscapes in its path. But some residents saw an opportunity to create beauty out of destruction.
They worked with area sculptors to take some of the damaged oak trees and transform them into beautiful tree sculptures. Featuring over 30 sculptures, this self-guided tour will take you through some breathtaking gardens and yards throughout the island’s East End Historic District, and it is completely free.
Turtles About Town
Galveston is all about the ecological preservation of the sea life that inhabits the island. That’s why the Turtles About Town self-guided tour is another fun, free thing to do in Galveston. Follow the tour around the city to discover over 50 colorful sea turtle sculptures. Each one is dedicated to the awareness, conservation, and preservation of endangered sea turtles.
Free Things to do in Galveston: East End Lagoon Nature Preserve
For a relaxing day away from the normal hustle and bustle of the city of Galveston, East End Lagoon Nature Preserve is located on the eastern end of the island and features 685 acres of land and water, including the East End Lagoon. The space is beautiful with a natural landscape and man-made enhancements and is a great place to take a stroll, take a ride on a kayak, fish, or watch the many birds that call the preserve home, including sandpipers, pelicans, ducks, and many more.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Galveston Seawall
The 17-feet-high Galveston Seawall stretches 10 miles and was designed to protect Galveston Island from rising sea waters from the Gulf of Mexico. The wall is the perfect sidewalk to stroll along the beach or ride a bike. And, of course, you can lay out on many of the beaches that sit in front of the seawall or take a dip in the water. Along with beaches, the Seawall sits in front of many restaurants and shops. The Seawall also has an impressive sunrise and sunset view at the end of the day.
Free Things to do in Galveston: La King’s Confectionery
If you’re looking for a unique addition to this list of free things to do in Galveston, La King’s Confectionery is a candy and ice cream parlor with a 1920s design, creating that warm feeling of sitting with friends and enjoying a treat. While the treats aren’t free, La King’s does feature an interesting free demonstration of confectioners making saltwater taffy. There’s a historical element to the demonstration as well because the equipment they use has been used to make taffy for over a century.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Rosenberg Library
As the oldest continuously operating public library in Texas, there’s plenty here for the book lover or Texas history enthusiast to enjoy. Formerly the Galveston Mercantile Library, which was founded in 1871, Rosenberg’s main library building was dedicated in 1904 with the Moody Memorial Wing being added in 1971. The library features a children’s library, a history center, galleries featuring house museum collections, as well as a computer lab. Learn about the history of Texas and Galveston through some interesting historical collections from important figures in Texas history.
Free Things to do in Galveston: East End Historic District Tour
Take a trip into the past to Galveston’s “Gilded Age” through the East End Historic District Tour. A National Historic Landmark, the district covers 50 blocks. Visitors can take a walking tour to explore several historic homes from as far back as the mid-1800s. Some of the highlights on the tour include the 1895 Mood Mansion, the 1859 Ashton Villa, and the 1892 Bishop’s Palace. With a variety of architectural styles represented, including Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Victorian, these colorful neighborhoods will be sure to impress.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Seawolf Park
For some interesting outdoor fun with a historic slant, Seawolf Park is home to the World War II submarine USS Cavilla and the USS Stewart destroyer. Tours of both vessels do cost a small fee, but the park has plenty of free activities to enjoy as well. Take a stroll along the fishing pier, play on the playground, or enjoy a nice outdoor meal in the picnic area. See a little bit of the history of WWII, and enjoy a relaxing day outdoors.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Galveston Old City Cemetery
While not the first place you might consider visiting on a trip, Galveston’s Old Town Cemetery is actually an interesting historical spot to stroll through. Dating back almost 200 years, Old Town Cemetery features several old headstones that reveal a lot of history. The site is well-maintained and features colorful blooms and wildflowers. The 1900 Galveston Hurricane, which is known as the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, took many lives, and this cemetery serves as their final resting place. Of course, there are many rumors of hauntings, and you can even pay for a ghost tour, but taking a walk through the cemetery for free is just as fun.
Free Things to do in Galveston: Beach Activities
If you visit Galveston and don’t build a sandcastle, did you even go? Take part in the city’s Sandcastle Days at Stewart Beach where you can learn how to create amazing sandcastles right there on the shore. The lessons are led by professional sandcastle builders. It’s completely free and all you need to bring are buckets and shovels. [Don’t worry – if you don’t have the right supplies, they do keep a limited supply on hand as well.]
If sandcastles aren’t your thing but you still want to play in the sand at Stewart Beach, check out the Bucket Brigade. It’s another free thing to do in Galveston and allows you to explore the creatures and features of Galveston. They cover everything from Galveston’s turbid water, marine debris, the seaweed in the water, and more. It’s a great way to learn more about the ecosystem there without spending a dime!
Family Beach Challenge
A gigantic sand-based obstacle course sounds like fun, right? Well, the Family Beach Challenge is another on our list of free things to do in Galveston. Every second Sunday during the months of May, June, July, and August, a portion of Stewart Beach is transformed into a family-friendly obstacle course with battleships, bean bags, and limbo showdowns. There’s even a chance to win prizes. It’s a ton of [free] summer fun so be sure to catch it! The last Family Beach Challenge day of the year is the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
Free Things to do in Galveston: ArtWalk
The art scene in Galveston is a big part of the city’s culture. Luckily, ArtWalk is another free thing to do in Galveston! The Galveston Arts Center holds this special event every 6-8 weeks in partnership with galleries, art studios, local non-profits, and other businesses in the area. Participants can meet local artists and peruse some of the best art the city has to offer. The best part of it all is that it is completely free.
Regardless of which you choose, these free things to do in Galveston are sure to be a blast!