A new pirate exhibit opens this month at Moody Gardens, just one of many pirate-themed adventures open to explore on Galveston Island. Why not make a mini-vacation of it?
By Sara G. Stephens
From Captain Hook to Jack Sparrow, kids are fascinated by pirates. Parents who want to turn this fascination into an appreciation for historical discovery and scientific research will be marking their calendars for March 8, when they can take the family to see National Geographic’s Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah exhibit at Moody Gardens in Galveston.
This touring exhibit brings the classical age of 18th-century piracy to life by showcasing more than 200 artifacts recovered from the wreck site of the Whydah, a pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717.
After years of searching, underwater explorer Barry Clifford and an expedition team made world headlines with the discovery of the pirate ship Whydah. The team discovered more than 200,000 artifacts. These pieces, along with those that still remain on the wreck site, represent a vast cross-cultural collection of treasures from more than 50 ships captured by pirates under command of “Black Sam” Bellamy.
To make the most of your visit, get the family to watch the short film The Untold Story of the Whydah, from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship, which tells the amazing story of this vessel, before you visit the exhibit. This will put the exhibit’s wonderful artifacts in vivid perspective. You can find the film on YouTube by searching for its title.
Moody Gardens will feature Real Pirates through September 28, 2014. For details, visit www.moodygardens.com.
Other Pirate Adventures in Galveston
The Gulf Coast has plenty to offer pirate-loving, treasure-hunting travelers of all ages. The infamous pirate Jean Lafitte’s settlement in Galveston in the early 1800s has made the island a center for travelers fascinated by this era in history, and a variety of new pirate-themed attractions are making the hunt even more exciting in 2014.
Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast Explore the history of pirates in Galveston and New Orleans at this interactive museum in downtown Galveston. Visitors will delight in a variety of pirate artifacts, a deck of a pirate ship, a captain’s cabin and actors who tell the story of the notorious pirate jean Laffite, who settled in Galveston during the early 1800s. Exhibits in the museum are all about pirates—from their involvement along the Gulf Coast to their popularity in Hollywood. The museum is open year-round. For details, visit www.piratesgulfcoast.com.
1877 Tall Ship ELISSA What better way to experience the life of a pirate than by coming aboard a historic tall ship? The 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA is docked in Galveston year-round at the Texas Seaport Museum, where travelers can explore the ship’s deck and cabins along with its fascinating history. ELISSA is a three-masted, iron-hulled, fully functional vessel that continues to sail on annual sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. For details visit www.galvestonhistory.org.
Pier 21 Theater’s The Pirate Island of Jean Laffite For background on Galveston’s pirate history, visit the Pier 21 Theater to watch the short film The Pirate Island of Jean Laffite. Was Laffite a pirate or patriot? Smuggler or businessman? Merciless murderer and thief, or hero in the time of war? In the film, you will learn about Laffite’s life and the harsh actions that have secured his place in infamy. Pier 21 Theater is open year-round. For details, visit www.galvestonhistory.org.
Chasing the Legends of Jean Lafitte Visitors to Galveston can go on a personal hunt to chase the legends of Jean Lafitte, who settled on the eastern side of Galveston in 1812. Lafitte called his settlement Campeche and built a home that he named the Maison Rouge. Although Lafitte burned the home down when he was forced out of town by the U.S. government in 1821, you can still see what is believed to be his original homesite at Harborside Drive between 14th and 15th streets. On the west end of the island, you can visit the site where it is believed Lafitte and his men engaged in the “Battle of the Three Trees” with the Karankawa in 1818. Legend has it that Lafitte buried treasure somewhere near this site, although it has yet to be found.