Like most of Texas, Galveston is basically a three-season destination. In the spring, the island draws bird-watchers and college kids looking to frolic in the surf. Families will want to check out Moody Gardens, with its signature pyramids visible from the causeway connecting Galveston to the mainland. Fresh from a $25 million renovation in 2011, it has an aquarium, science center, rainforest exhibit, golf course, and private beach, and also hosts a concert series during the summer. In April, the island’s Schlitterbahn Water Park opens its outdoor operations with slides, standing waves, and rides for summer.
The weeks leading up to Halloween throw Galveston, which claims to be one of the most haunted towns in the country, into high gear. Whether you believe that ghosts dating back to the pirate Jean Lafitte and the Great Storm of 1900 wander the town, or simply want a close-up glimpse of history, avail yourself of the Galveston Historical Foundation tours of the Ashton Villa mansion and Galveston graveyard. Or check in with Dash Beardsley, the long-haired local ghost hunter who offers haunted tours year-round. Galveston does lie within the hurricane path that carves through the Gulf of Mexico, and it has borne the brunt of a number of devastating storms. Proceed with caution if you plan on visiting during the peak season, which starts roughly mid-June and can last through September.
The winter holidays are another exquisite time to visit, with temps lingering in the 60s. The first week in December is the annual Dickens on the Strand celebration, sponsored by the Galveston Historical Foundation, which transforms the nationally recognized Strand Historic District into a Texas version of 19th-century London. Parades, concerts, a steam punk circus, and costumed street vendors add to the frivolity. From around Thanksgiving through New Year’s, Moody Gardens hosts the largest lighting trail on the Gulf Coast, with millions of lights decorating a mile-long trail, a snow zone, and an ice-skating rink.