There’s no shortage of holiday destinations in Texas, but historic Galveston Island is the only one where you can experience tropical weather and a 32-mile-coast with traditional Victorian charm, a world-renowned Dickens festival and light shows – all within a close drive from the state’s largest city.
Located just 50 miles south of Houston, Galveston is bringing exciting events to its holiday lineup this year with the return of the POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride offering rides to the North Pole from the Galveston Railroad Museum.
Here are the top reasons Galveston Island is a holiday destination worth traveling to:
Rides to the North Pole
All aboard! Galveston will welcome the POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride to its lineup of holiday attractions in 2021. Set to the soundtrack of the motion picture, The Polar Express will be theatrically recreated to immerse passengers in the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic children’s tale while they are whisked away for a magical one-hour trip to meet Santa. The POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride in Galveston consists of six separate cars pulled by vintage locomotives from the Galveston Railroad Museum’s collection. The attraction will be open on weekends and select dates Nov. 18 through Dec. 23.
Holiday in the Gardens at Moody Gardens
Moody Gardens Holiday in the Gardens takes place Nov. 20 through Jan. 2. Here, visitors can stroll through Festival of Lights, a mile-long trail of illuminated holiday displays, music, festive food and more. Other attractions include an Arctic Ice Slide, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4D experience, Holiday 3D films, train rides and pictures with Santa. New Year’s Palooza also offers an action-packed two-night family event with games, food, DJ, fireworks and other exciting activities for all to enjoy. Holiday hotel packages and Breakfast with Santa events are also available. Visit here for details.
Dickens on The Strand
The first weekend in December, the majestic iron-front buildings found in Galveston’s historic downtown district will make the perfect backdrop for the 48th annual Dickens on The Strand. This holiday street festival transforms the area, particularly Strand Street, into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens complete with costumed characters, street performers and vendors, parades, holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts and more. Attendees are encouraged to join in the fun by dressing in period costumes. Fore more information visit www.galvestonhistory.org
Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Brunches at the Grand Galvez
On Friday, Nov. 26, the Grand Galvez is reviving its annual Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration to bring in the holiday season with an appearance from Santa Claus, live performances by the Galveston Ballet and Galveston Symphony and the lighting of the city’s official 35- foot Christmas tree. Another highlight at the 110-year-old Queen of the Gulf is the return of the award-winning Sunday Brunch – made even more special during the holiday season. The feast is a long-standing tradition for visitors and locals alike. As if plentiful stations of all-you can-desire meat, seafood, breakfast, lunch, and dessert offerings aren’t enough, brunch comes with bubbles and mimosas. During December, you can visit Santa during brunch, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can enjoy special holiday menus.
With Galveston being home to one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country, it’s not hard for the island to put you in a nostalgic state during the holidays – especially on the East End Historical District’s Victorian Christmas Homes Tour. The tour will take place Dec. 3. This event allows you to tour through several of the district’s private historic homes as they are decked in traditional holiday décor. And, if you’re not in town that weekend, the 1895 Moody Mansion museum is open for tours daily and is also dressed up for the holidays with festive trimmings and elaborately adorned Christmas trees throughout the home.
Live Holiday Entertainment
For holiday entertainment, Galveston certainly won’t disappoint. The Grand 1894 Opera House, which is a gem in the island’s historic downtown district, offers no seat further than 70 feet from the stage for its exciting lineup of live holiday shows happening throughout November and December. Here you can catch shows like Jason Williams in Blood and Holly, The Official Blues Brothers Revue, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and The Temptations. www.thegrand.com . Also, be sure to check out Moody Gardens’ Cirque Joyeux Holiday Show Dec 17 – 30 as a team of acrobats, aerialists, cats and more perform for an enchanting evening of circus, music and comedy with matinee, evening and dinner shows. www.moodygardens.com
The Santa Hustle
If you’re a runner or just like to dress up, you’ll get a kick out of the Santa Hustle, one of Galveston’s wackiest events. More than 5,000 half-marathon and 5K runners are expected to convene in Galveston Dec. 19 for this jolly race where participants are provided Santa attire –including a Santa suit shirt, Santa hat and beard – to wear along their journey. The route is lined with speakers playing holiday tunes and fuel up stations serving cookies and candy. Yum! www.santahustle.com/galveston
Downtown Holiday Tree Decorating Contest
Galveston Holiday Tree Decorating Contest set to take place from Dec.1– Jan. 2. This unique holiday lets shoppers admire the creatively decorated trees and gives them the opportunity to vote on their favorite entries. They also make for great holiday photo-ops! Details can be found at participating businesses.
For more happenings for the holiday season, visitgalveston.com