Galveston, the “Un-Texas” Texas Island

Komodo Dragon looking for his next meal. Endangered species except to wealth Japanese who consider this an exotic and expensive dish
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Article and photos By Bob Nesoff

I’m sure we’ve all heard it many times: “You can’t go back.” I tried going back to the town I grew up in and it was a profound disappointment. It had been a terrific summer community and the all-year round residents had, at least, a nodding acquaintance with each other.

Visiting other resorts after an absence of some years often had the same result. Things change and it’s not what we remember. But that did not hold true for one island many years after a visit.

The pool and sunning area at Moody Gardens Hotel


Fort Worth, for all its place in the modern world still holds on to its past as a cow town. In its historic Stockyards district, you can witness a daily cattle drive. Shop in a Western wear store frequented by real cowboys. And for the mildly adventurous, stay at the Stockyards hotel and ask for the suite that had been occupied by Bonnie and Clyde.

Nearby Dallas is even more pretentious today than it was years ago. No personality. No hominess. Just glass and concrete. But Galveston? That’s a Texas horse of a different color.

Flying in to Texas for a Galveston visit you’ll land at either Hobby Airport of George Bush Airport. Both are well over an hour drive to Galveston.

Perhaps because of its location, off the Texas coast and into the Gulf of Mexico, it has maintained a sense of independence. But that location was a double-edged sword. In 1900 the island was hit with a devastating hurricane that demolished much of the island and its infrastructure. It rebuilt And today is a very thriving community with a bit of something for everyone.

While there are myriad hotels, motels and places to stay, one of the most beckoning is Moody Gardens, a very modern, but welcoming resort hotel. Wake up in the morning and you might think you were accidentally transported to Cairo, Egypt overnight. Look out the window and you’ll spot three immense pyramids. But these structures are not constructed of huge stone blocks moved into place somehow by slaves. Rather they are glass. And there is a reason for that.

The pyramids from the Moody Gardens Hotel window

One pyramid houses an amazing tropical rain forest replete with virtually every plant and creature you’d find in a real rain forest. This is a must visit. Wooden ramps take you on an easy trek through the forest. Take your time and breathe it all in.  The birds and animals roam free, but are separated from visitors. One major caveat. Wear light clothing because the humidity in this pyramid is truly akin to a real rain forest. 

Another of the three is an aquarium with a variety of creatures ranging from a spoon-bill stork-like bird with long, spindly legs and a bill in the shape of a spoon. Easier to scoop up its meal.

You’ll also see a rare and endangered Komodo Dragon that made an unusual, but desired dish for wealthy Japanese. You don’t want to pet these fellows because they could make a rare meal of you. 

Spoonbill bird preening for an audience

Some of the birds and small mammals have free rein and will wander the boardwalk with you. But please don’t touch.

One little seal enjoys primping for the visitors. It will stretch out of the faux rocks and seem to be sunbathing. Then up and swim off before returning moments later. The sea creatures in the aquarium are arguably healthier and better fed than their cousins in the open ocean. And they have considerable space to move around. 

The smaller of the three is dedicated to the younger set. It has interactive exhibits and myriad activities the kids will enjoy if you can tear them away from the rain forest and aquarium. 

But there is so much more to see and do in Galveston. Restaurants offer food for the most eclectic tastes, prepared by chefs who would be at home in any Michelin-rated restaurant.

One of Galveston’s locations for adult libations. Each has its own special offering

Bars and micro-breweries offer terrific beer and other libations. One has a secret annex for the invited. 

History is important to Galveston. It had its share of pirates in the early days because of its proximity to open water offering a quick get-away. Jean LaFitte, the Jewish pirate famed for helping defeat the Brits in the Battle of New Orleans, headquartered here for a while. And, unfortunately, there are no rumors of any treasure he may have hidden.

Galveston is famed for a modern holiday that could be a question on Jeopardy. 

“What date in past history is now a national holiday?” 

“Why, it’s June 19.”


Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Slaves on Galveston, and slave holders, never heard about it as the Civil War was still raging. After Robert E. Lee’s surrender, as things began to return to normalcy in 1865, slaves on Galveston found out they should have been declared free men and women two years earlier.

Fish in the circular aquarium in the pyramid

The date of realization, June 19, or, as the local freed slaves called it, “Juneteenth” has been declared a National Day of Independence and is now a federal holiday.

No single article can do justice to Galveston. The island hosts a Mardi Gras in The Strand section. It has a fabulous art center often featuring accomplished local artists. The Galveston Symphony Orchestra comprised of both professional musicians and amateurs, is renowned for its performances.

One of the most extensive water parks in the country, the Schlitterbahn, sits across from the Moody Gardens Hotel.

For an island with a population of only about 53,000 permanent residents, it truly is a destination to look forward to.



  1. Thank you all (or Y’all) for the nice comments They are appreciated. To the writer who commented about “Red or Blue,” please be advised there is no hint of politics in this article, nor will there ever be in a travel piece I write. I have no idea why you injected red/blue politics here. Please take those comments/opinions to a political column.
    Bob Nesoff

  2. And that’s the beauty of my hometown I grew up in as a child but moved to the hustle and bustle of huge Houston in my late 20’s and now back in my 60’s to care for my 88yo mom;you can’t tell whose Red or Blue because everyone is nice no matter what you race, age, or affiliation to whatever group you happen to be part of. You’ll find peace solely with the slower pace of the city, lack of traffic and how everything literally can be reached on a bike or or long walk if you really had to. It’s way cooler in the summer because it not all cement and asphalt like Houston and it’s surrounded by water and warmer in the winter for the same reason. In fact, bike riding is the best cheapest way to enjoy the history and unique architecture the city has to offer. A unique place to forget about your phone and enjoy the nature the island has to offer from the wild chayotes roaming the city streets late in the night to the huge pelicans roaming the skies in daylight in their patterned flight searching for their school of fish to feast on in the colorful picturesque sunset as u sit for dinner looking out over the smooth silky water. Yass!!! Galveston oh Galveston; how I love Galveston, as Glen Campbell once sang.

  3. Don’t forget to ride the free tx dot ferry to bolivar peninsula. There’s a new margaritaville down there. Swim free on weekdays.

  4. Thanks for the positive review of Galveston. I’m a fairly recent newcomer to the island. Moved from Chicago. We went for a short visit and within 24 hours I knew I wanted to live there. It’s a wonderful place with all the attractions and history. People are nice and friendly. Being so close to the beach is the best.

  5. Whoa whoa whoa sister, they is plenty Red folk in Houston too. I been here my life, except when I step away for work. I know the blues are out there. But my entire circle are red.

    • I don’t see anything in the article about red folks. I’ve never heard of blue folks unless it’s smurfs

  6. Cindi Rose
    Thank you for the very kind comment. I’m hoping to get to Houston when the trail riders mass and come in. I can look at the art you mention at that time.

    BESAFE !!!!

  8. Hobby Airport Is only 48 minutes from Galveston down I45 while Bush is 30 miles further away in horrid Houston traffic

  9. I hope the City of Galveston will continue to support Moody Gardens as Robert Moody did!He and Moody Foundation always made sure it was a first class place and never short changed the wildlife there!

  10. What a great article. Now show how Houston is not Texas. It’s blue and the most diverse city in the USA, with the third and fourth greatest art in the USA. Very well endowed. Best medical center in the USA. Best food in Texas.

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