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by Karen Derr
If you’re new to the Houston area, you may have recently discovered what natives have known since childhood: we have our own coastal playground just an hour away. Even if you’re looking for something more quaint or exotic than your childhood beach vacation, Galveston can still deliver the goods. You can enjoy a great getaway focusing on relaxation, dining, culture, and historic charm—all without using up your vacation days at work.
OutSmart presents this LGBT-friendly Galveston itinerary that makes for a perfect long weekend. And if exercise is on your list of things to do, park the car and walk or rent a bike in order to see our “Jewel of the Gulf Coast” in a whole new light.
Leave work early to avoid the traffic and plan to lunch on the Island. Good lunch choices include the Mosquito Cafe at 628 14th St. (try their Health Nut Daily Special or other eclectic entrées), or Rudy & Paco at 2028 Postoffice St. (to end your work week with Galveston locals having classic fish, pasta, or beef dishes and handmade cocktails or wine).
Check into your room and indulge in an afternoon nap, or just relax knowing you’re already at your destination while your fellow Houstonians are still at work or facing a slow crawl out of town on the freeways. Grace Manor Bed and Breakfast, 1702 Postoffice St., is a favorite East End inn. There are also weekend rentals of historic homes, The Tremont House, and several other B&Bs listed at galveston.com.
After a luxurious nap, you’ll be ready for a walk or bike ride around the historic East End. Download a self-guided tour map of historic homes (eastendgalveston.org) and check out the post-Ike oak tree sculptures that are scattered throughout the area at the same time.
Galveston Oak Tree Sculptures
• Birds of Galveston – 1620 Sealy
• Wildlife Totem Pole – 1302 Ball
• Dolphin – 828 Ball (facing 9th)
• Dolphin, Eel, and Dorado – 1302 Ball
• Owl – 1302 Ball
• Squirrel with Acorn – 1302 Ball
• Toad – 1516 Ball
• Angel Cradling Bunny – 511 17th
• Sister Angels – 1717 Ball
• Great Dane – 1228 Sealy (facing 13th)
• Pod of Dolphins and Mermaid – 902 Ball
• Geisha – 1717 Ball
• Two Herons – 1316 Ball
• Mermaid Holding Clam Shell – 1428 Church
• Large Pelican – 1609 Postoffice
• Pelican Sitting on Piling – 1618 Church
• Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz – 1702 Winnie
• Monument to Galveston’s Trees – 1028 Winnie
• Yellow Lab – 1820 Winnie (inside chain link fence)
• Pelicans – 628 14th (behind Mosquito Cafe)
• Dalmatian and Fireplug – 823 25th (on the grounds of City Hall outside Central Fire Station)
Don’t miss the chance for a moment of reflection at the site of pirate Jean Laffite’s Galveston home, called Maison Rouge, at 1417 Harborside Drive. Catch a ghostly vibe as you gaze at the foundation’s remains and the read the historic marker.
Grab a drink and a bowl of gumbo at Gumbo Bar, 2105 Postoffice, where spicy gumbo and Abita beer are getting rave reviews from visitors and locals alike.
Plan for a nightcap and watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace at the historic Tremont House, built in 1879 and located at 2300 Ship’s Mechanic Row. Sangria is the specialty on the terrace, but you might try a mint julep to disperse any vapors you may be experiencing in this most historic of Gulf Coast cities.
Ready for late-night fun? The post-Ike location of 3rd Coast, 2416 Postoffice, will be crowded with local LGBT patrons, straight couples, and even Houston-area celebrities. A sassy drag show starts after 11 p.m.
Breakfast at The Sunflower Bakery on 14th St. at Postoffice. They feature a full breakfast menu plus signature dishes like Challa Bread, Bread Pudding French Toast, or delicious quiches and coffee cakes.
11 a.m. – Refresh yourself with restorative yoga led by Kathleen DiNatali at Yoga Haven, 2507 Market St. The lovely and peaceful bamboo-floored studio offers all you’ll need for a great class, regardless of your experience level. Wear comfortable clothes, or you can purchase suitable attire at the Haven shop.
Lunch could be a blue-plate special at Sonny’s Place, 1206 19th St.–possibly the oldest bar and grill on the island. (Sonny’s will be closed during June and July for remodeling.) Another recent culinary addition to
the island is Que Cafe and the adjoining coffee shop and bar, Nada, 408 20th St. At Que, where you can build your own tacos with 12 types of fillings. For a heart healthy lunch head to the new Olympia Grill location at Pier 21 on Harborside Drive for Mediterranean food.
Afternoons can be lazy in Galveston, but you may prefer skipping the nap and shopping for antiques and gallery-hopping along Postoffice from 20th to 25th. Get a map of members of the Galveston Antique Dealers’ Association at piecesofship.com/map.htm. Grab a pick-me-up with the locals at the MOD Coffeehouse, 2126 Postoffice.
You might catch resident artist René Wiley at her gallery/studio next door 2128 Postoffice where she is displaying her latest series of paintings of churches entitled Island Sacred Places. End your antiquing at Le Chat Noir, 4301 Avenue S, where you’ll find home and garden furniture and accessories, from junktique to fine antiques, at great prices. It’s out of the way, but well worth the trouble if you’re looking for something a little different to take home. Recent finds there have included a Toby mug for $12 and a harlequin painted bistro table with two French cane café chairs, all for $125. (As of late June, there was a small oak wardrobe for less than $200 that probably won’t last long.)
At 4 p.m. (through Labor Day), take the special $30 tour of the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, “From Basement to Attic: A Behind the Scenes Look.” After Labor Day, this tour is offered every third Saturday. (The normal tour at other times is $10.) The house is ranked as the 14th most important Victorian building in America by the American Institute of Architects. Wear comfortable shoes. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 409/762-2475.
Any of the restaurants previously mentioned for lunch serve great dinners, too. But if Italian or steaks sound good, head over to DiBella’s at 1902 31st St. After years of accepting only cash or checks, DiBella’s now accepts credit cards. It’s an island treasure that tourists often miss.
More drag and entertainment at Stars Beach Club, 3102 Seawall, 3rd Coast Beach Bar, 2416 Postoffice, Robert’s Lafitte, 2501 Avenue Q, or at the Pink Dolphin, 1828 Strand. Check out the Tremont House piano bar until 10 p.m. Pick up a copy of The Parrot at a free newsstand, or log on to galvestonparrot.com, for more live music choices.
Sleep late, wake to the sound of seagulls and mourning doves, and dress “island casual” for brunch at the historic Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., for people-watching, Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and great food on a huge buffet.
After brunch, drive, take a cab, or bicycle over to the Boliver Ferry. Park your car and walk on to the ferry, cutting past what is often an hour-plus wait for cars. This 20-minute ride is free and a great way to watch bottlenose dolphins, brown pelicans, or just the kids feeding gulls off the back. It’s always amazing to see wild dolphins that often play in the wake of the ferry.
After your fabulous brunch you may not be hungry, but plan to take home fresh fish packed in ice from the merchants at Pier 19, just off Harborside Drive at 1902 Wharf Road. Call Katie’s Seafood Market at 409/763-8160 to see what’s in season.
Load up your antiques, your seafood, and your memories and head home on Sunday afternoon—you’ll still have plenty of time that evening to do your laundry!
Karen Derr, a Houston-based Realtor for over 20 years, is a frequent contributor to OutSmart.