TWENTY-FOUR HOURS IS AN UNFAIR allotment of time for any place worth visiting. But that's the way things worked out for my two friends and me on a recent trip to Galveston—little time and a lengthy to-do list: eat good seafood, stroll the Gulf waters, bike the Seawall, shop the Strand, educate ourselves (courtesy of the Railroad Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum, the Moody Mansion, and the Bishop's Palace), and play bingo (a last minute addition made after combing through the concierge-substituting flyers in our hotel lobby).
Food first: Rolling into Galveston at midday meant we were navigating less by a map and more by our stomachs. And since eating along the waterfront isn't something we normally get to do, we decided an on-the-water eatery would be the perfect spot for lunch. While cruising the ten-mile-long stretch of sidewalk known as the Seawall, which stands seventeen feet tall and works to protect inlanders from the wrath of the Gulf, we spotted the Ocean Grill, a breezy joint on stilts with indoor and outdoor seating. We parked ourselves in the latter, listening to the waves crash around us as we sipped iced tea and soda from fat glasses, silencing our grumbling bellies with catfish, sandwiches, and lots of fries.
Sight-seeing next: Full stomachs mandated the first detour from our master plan. After all, as many a mother has warned, water activities should be postponed for at least thirty minutes post gorge (we figured the same advice should also be heeded for bicycling), so we leapfrogged numbers two and three on the to-do list and headed to the historic Strand district just blocks away. We popped in the Railroad Museum, which features 41 life-size sculptures known as the Ghosts of Travelers Past and restored baggage cars showcasing artifacts and photographs, and the Texas Seaport Museum, where we saw the grand Elissa, a restored ship from 1877, parked just outside its doors, before weaving in and out of galleries and shops galore, eyeing trinkets decoratives. If seeing the Strand by foot isn't your thing, you can always hop aboard the Galveston Island Rail Trolley, and, for only $1, ride as much of the Strand-to-Seawall route as you'd like. On our way back to the hotel, we took a drive through some of Galveston's older neighborhoods, admiring the beautiful Victorian homes.
B-I-N-G-O: Having not tested our good fortune at this luck-of-the-pop-up-ball game since grade school, we figured we were due for a round or two or seven. And B.O.S.S. Bingo, off Interstate 45, proved a fine refresher course. The folks at B.O.S.S. were beyond courteous, explaining (sadly, more than once) the rules of small diamond, small picture frame, and coverall. A floor manager with obvious novice radar even checked in on us each game just to make sure we had a firm handle on things. Unfortunately, even with the added assistance, one square came between us leaving Galveston $700 richer.
The morning after: We cruised the Seawall one final time before heading back to Austin. I made a mental to-do list of all the things I'd like to see and do on my next visit to Galveston, including a tour of the Moody Mansion and the Bishop's Palace (we didn't get to them on this trip)—hopefully, I'll have more than 24 hours.