Historic Downtown Galveston

Despite—or because of?—a series of epic hurricanes, this port town has charm to spare.
Historic Downtown Galveston
Photograph by Kenny Braun

1. 
Texas Seaport 
Museum/ Elissa

Unless you’re dying to learn the names of the various parts of a shrimp’s anatomy or search the Galveston Immigration Database for ancestors who arrived in the U.S. by way of the “Ellis Island of the West,” don’t bother with the museum itself. Just head for the Elissa. The three-masted ship, built in 1877, isn’t a replica; she’s the real deal. One peek at the tiny bunk areas and you’ll gain a new appreciation for your bed back home. A useful history lesson for young fans of Pirates of the Caribbean . Pier 21, 409-763-1877, tsm-elissa.org

2. Hendley Market

Located in the first commercial building on the Strand—it dates to the 1850’s—this cavernous shop is full of gifts for your quirkier friends, such as glass prosthetic eyes, handmade in France in the early 1900’s, and “trubyte
 bioblend anteriors”: antique fake teeth arranged on red velvet. Kids will love the tiny rubber chickens, sharks’ teeth, and fossilized dino dung, and the whole family might get a kick out of 
irreverent tomes such as The 
Big Book of Gross Stuff and The 
Super Book of Useless Information . 2010 Strand, 409-762-2610, hendleymarket.com

3. Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor

Owners Michael and Adrienne Culpepper have cornered 
the local market on nautical stuff—compasses, flags, ship wheels, you name it. Looking for a funky accessory for your living room? 
How about an engine order telegraph (a device that allowed a pilot 
to communicate with the engine room)? Wooden ship doors with brass-frame porthole windows are surprisingly popular: customers install them in their home offices and wine cellars. 2202 Ship
 Mechanic Row, 409-539-5469, piecesofship.com

4. La King’s Confectionery

Housed in a beautiful nineteenth-century structure, this old-fashioned 
ice cream parlor boasts seven 
kinds of fudge, six kinds of chocolate bark, eight kinds of clusters, twenty kinds of truffles, plus huge suckers, 
handmade saltwater taffy, and 
a fully functioning twenties-era 
soda fountain with a long marble counter. Every Saturday between 
ten and seven, the master candy maker gives demonstrations using antique equipment—be sure to wait for the samples of warm taffy.  2323 Strand, 409-762-6100, lakingsconfectionery.com

5. Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano

The day we visited, the ravioli, filled with ground beef, spinach, and chicken, was freshly made. “Some people like it with marinara sauce,” our waiter noted, but we could sense he wanted us to try it his way, dressed in garlic and olive oil, which turned out to be an excellent idea. The rest of the waitstaff was equally engaging; we walked away with book recommendations (the Galician writer Álvaro Cunqueiro’s culinary history La cocina cristiana de Occidente , for instance) and great stories. 2328 Strand, 409-763-6500, luigisrestaurantgalveston.com

6. Tremont House

The original Tremont House, 
where Sam Houston delivered 
his last public speech, is long gone, having been destroyed in a fire in 1865, and its reincarnation was demolished in 1928. But in 1985, 
George and Cynthia Mitchell* turned the 1879 Leon & H. Blum Building (previously a wholesale dry-goods warehouse with fourteen-foot-tall ceilings) into a hotel, outfitting it with a light Victorian touch. Guests can eat at the Tremont Café, drink at the Toujouse Bar (located in the four-story atrium), and stand on the rooftop terrace to watch the sun set and boats come and go in the port. 2300 Ship Mechanic Row, 409-763-0300, wyndhamtremonthouse.com

7. Antique Warehouse

This is a fabulous spot to hunt down hard-to-find doors, molding, shutters, reclaimed lumber furniture, and various uncategorizable objects (the $1,200 wooden phone booth still has us reeling), but just as thrilling is the literal writing on the walls upstairs. The space used to house a brothel, and the establishment’s going rates, among other things, are scribbled on the bead board of room number fourteen. If you ask, co-owner Scott Hanson might tell you about the time an old man walked into the store and claimed that he had lived upstairs as a child and been raised by prostitutes. 423 25th, 409-762-8620

8. 
Tangerine Boutique

In a neighborhood that sells its share of touristy T-shirts, this newly relocated women’s boutique stands out for specializing in casual elegance. (“West Coast Fashion, Gulf Coast Charm!” says the website.) Colorful scarves, straw fedoras, and thin chain necklaces are displayed alongside beautiful summer dresses, Mother and True Religion jeans, Chan Luu bracelets, and local designer Celeste Stein’s wild tights, which come in electric colors and bold patterns. 2218 Postoffice, 409-763-7113, tangerineboutique.com

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