As 2020 winds to a close, it’s easy to feel like you’ve exhausted every possible safe local activity—especially if you’re one of the many Houston parents suddenly faced with home-schooling your children for the first time. Now more than ever, it’s worth taking a look around to see what other regional destinations have to offer. Whether you’re looking for a way to liven up your kids’ day-to-day routine, supplement their online learning experiences, or just take a relaxing getaway, Galveston has something compelling to offer.
An Edu-tainment Destination
For parents who have unexpectedly become home-school teachers this fall, balancing the desire to keep kids interested and engaged with the need to continue their education can be a tremendous challenge. To meet that challenge, many families are taking a “road-school” approach to their home-schooling journey, visiting local sites of interest and using hands-on experiences to jump-start kids’ interest in local history, geography, and art as well as core curriculum subjects like math, science, and English. Galveston has a wealth of potential destinations for families who want to try this approach, including:
This island institution manages and maintains some of the city’s richest historical sites. Families can visit and board the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, a floating, sailing museum—one of only three of her kind of ships left still sailing in the world. The foundation also manages the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a meticulously preserved time capsule of Victorian architecture offering educational field trips with a focus on history, math, and science.
Home of the ELISSA, also houses the Galveston Historic Seaport, which compiles extensive immigration records from Galveston’s time as one of the main national immigration ports—second only to New York City’s Ellis Island. Elementary-aged kids may enjoy learning about the immigration experience during Galveston’s heyday as an immigration port, and older kids may benefit by using the foundation’s records as a jumping-off point to do family genealogy research, learning about their own immigrant roots, or tracing the journey of one of the immigrants coming through the port of Galveston and learning what became of them and their descendants. Families looking for a larger educational project could even use the visit as the seed for a larger U.S. history project, tracing contrasts and parallels between the immigrant experience for those entering the port of Galveston in the 19th century and immigrants coming to America today.
Not only is the Bryan home to an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the American Southwest, the building itself—a former orphanage and survivor of the Great Storm of 1900. Rich in its own history, it has much to offer both casual visitors and students of local art and history. Whether you’re supplementing lessons about state history by showing students artifacts from the region’s first native settlers; or viewing the Bryan’s large and immersive diorama showing the Battle of the Alamo; or stepping back in time by viewing relics from the building’s time as the Galveston Orphans Home, this building vividly brings the history of the region to life. Like many of the other Galveston museums and historical sites, the Bryan also offers at-home educational resources as well as educational tours and activities for in-person visits.
For kids who need a dose of excitement with their science lessons, the Moody Gardens pyramids might be just what the doctor ordered. As the home to plant and animal life from Asia, Africa, and South America, as well as a wide range of lectures and guided tours from experts, the Gardens offer age- and grade-appropriate content for a wide range of young scholars. Moody Gardens also offers supplemental activities to support educators (that’s you, homeschooling mom and dad!) on their website to help you bridge the gap between “fun family trip” and “things they’ll need to remember for science class next year.”
If your focus is on history more than science, the Moody Mansion—another Great Storm survivor—provides a fascinating glimpse into what life in Galveston was like over a century ago. This year, students in 4th and 7th grade are admitted to the Moody Mansion free of charge in order to help with their studies in Texas history.
For more resources on Galveston as a home-schooling destination, including curriculum guides and worksheets, head to visitgalveston.com.
Relaxation, wellness and self-care
Even if you’re not unexpectedly home-schooling this fall, odds are you’re still feeling the weight of this year and its unprecedented challenges. Luckily, Galveston is also home to many wellness and recreation destinations where you can safely unwind and recharge.
Outdoor activities like kayaking at the Coastal Heritage Preserve or hiking in the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve are naturally “socially distant”. And also can serve equally well as diversions for the whole family or a weekend date for parents sans kids.
For an adults’ getaway, a luxurious staycation at the Hotel Galvez & Spa or a visit to the Spa San Luis, both of which have taken considerable safety precautions in the wake of COVID-19, might be just what you need. Even a quick yoga session on the beach or a bike ride around town can be a great, cost-effective way to reset your mind, unwind your body, and release some anxiety as the year winds down. And, if you’ve discovered a newfound love for cooking this year, you may want to visit one of the local seafood markets before you head home for some of the freshest catches the Gulf has to offer.
Regardless of what you and your family are looking for in a local destination this fall, Galveston is worth your time. Especially if you and your family have only ever experienced the city as a beach day trip. It’s high time to see everything else the island has to offer.
Kim Davis Guerra, publisher and owner of Houston Family Magazine was interviewed by Courtney Zavala, host of the Houston Life segment on KPRC – 2 about the many attractions Galveston island has to offer local families.