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A Victorian Holiday Extravaganza

Your guide to having a queer time at Dickens on the Strand.

Koby Brown Photography

Early December in Galveston is the best of times—and the wildest of times.

Every year, thousands of Dickens enthusiasts flock to the Island for parties, parades, competitions, craft and food vendors, and tributes to Charles Dickens—arguably Britain’s most famous writer. And while there aren’t many LGTBQ-specific events (given that the entire festival is one continuous Victoriana drag show) we can assure you that being loud and proud while toasting The Inimitable (as Dickens was nicknamed) is most welcome.

This year’s 49th Dickens party features both traditional and novel happenings. Here is your guide to having a jolly queer time at Dickens on the Strand.

Photo by Illumine Photographic Studios

Christmas Music

The fun begins on Friday, December 2, with a festive, get-you-in-the-holiday-spirit handbell concert at St. Joseph’s Church. This iconic house of worship was constructed by immigrants in 1859, and now lays claim to being the oldest German Catholic church in Texas. There are three showtimes (5:30, 7, 8:30 p.m.), allowing for maximum flexibility—but as with all ticketed Dickens events, buy your $20 ticket ahead of time to secure a seat.

Soiree at the Bishop’s Palace

The festivities continue with the lavish Dickens Soiree at the resplendent Bishop’s Palace. Party like it’s 1859 by donning your best petticoat or top hat (or both!) at this lavish ball featuring live music, performances by celebrity guests (including acclaimed re-enactor Ollie Dickens), and acrobats. And a show-shopping buffet of nibbles will include beef wellington puff pastry bites, bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp with raspberry barbecue sauce, cranberry-nut cheeseballs, and individual cheesecakes.

Tea with the Captain’s Wife

The early birds get the best pick of the arts and crafts for sale from carts along the streets of downtown Galveston. Head out early to avoid the crowds and secure parking. After getting your fill of souvenirs (and maybe doing some early holiday shopping), refuel and recaffeinate at Tea with the Captain’s Wife. This charming English-style high tea is conducted with utmost sophistication (pinkies up) on the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, where guests will enjoy brewed beverages and sweet dainties while enjoying demonstrations of authentic ship rigging, nautical maneuvering, and period sailing techniques.

Koby Brown Photography

Salute to Sunset Party

A brief nap, perhaps a costume change, and then at 4:30 it’s back to the Tall Ship Elissa for cocktails, small bites, and a cannon salute. You’ll be in good company, with dignitaries from the British Consulate of Houston and even Her Royal Highness Queen Victoria in attendance.

Pickwick’s Lantern Parade

Disembark from the sunset party feeling warm, fuzzy, and ready for perhaps the most romantic part of Dickens on the Strand. You’ll want to wander along the Strand’s ethereal, glowing parade promenade wishing peace on earth and good will to all.

Dickens Dash

Bright and early on Sunday morning, you can feel the burn and work off your weekend’s excessive caloric intake by participating in the Dickens Dash. Don’t fret if sprinting is not your strong suit—this 5K race is explicitly described as “a stroll, walk, or run through the festival grounds” where you can go at your own pace—and perhaps even sporting a Victorian-era tracksuit. Then head back into town for some last-minute gallivanting, return that rental costume (or maybe buy one–you know you’re coming back!), and say goodbye to all the friends you made along the way.

What: Dickens on the Strand
When: December 2–4, 2022
Where: Galveston’s Strand district
Info: or call 409.765.7834


Joanna O’Leary

Joanna O’Leary is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine and a freelance food and travel writer based in Houston. Her exploits are chronicled on
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