Have you ever dreamed of sailing away on an old-fashioned tall ship? Or perhaps enjoying the sunset aboard the deck of a historic vessel? Then, the Tall Ships Galveston festival is the maritime event you don’t want to miss!
Docking at Galveston Island, this nautical event invites landlubbers to climb aboard a collection of vessels, including historic tall ships and modern replicas. The ships dock for a weekend of fun events in Galveston, which include boat parades, tall ship tours, live entertainment, and evening soirees on the harbor.
Grab a ticket and book a stay at one of our Galveston vacation rentals to experience the nautical side of the island’s activities.
The History of the Tall Ships Festival
During the event, a fleet of ships will make their way to the Galveston Historic Seaport for a weekend of boat tours, sailing trips, evening parties, music, and entertainment at the landside festival grounds.
The TALL SHIPS® CHALLENGE series has captivated audiences since 2001 when ships from six countries first set sail on the Great Lakes. Spanning two nations and dozens of cities over its 19-year history, the event brings millions of visitors to the waterfronts that host the tall ships.
Galveston is honored to be one of the host communities of these stunning ships. The Galveston stop is a great weekend activity to plan a vacation around, as it’s certainly one of the best times to visit.
We’ve created a guide to everything you need to know to get the most out of the TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON festival. From location to events, we’ve got you covered.
The event takes place at the Galveston Historic Seaport on the Galveston Channel. The port is the home base of the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA and is just steps away from all the shopping and dining options in Galveston’s Downtown Strand Historic District.
There are paid parking lots available along the Port of Galveston and the Strand Historic District, just a few blocks away.
There are a few things you should leave behind at your vacation rental.
- Ice chests, glass containers, cans, and outside food and drink are not allowed on the festival grounds.
- Recreational wheels, including scooters, rollerblades, and bicycles, are prohibited.
- Strollers are fine to use on the grounds but not on the ships.
- Guests dressed in costume with toy weapons and props will have to go through extra security and have their items secured.
TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON Activities
While the ships are the main point of interest, the TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON festival also brings plenty of fun family activities.
Take a Ship Tour
One of the most exciting parts of the festival is the chance to hop aboard the ships for tours.
Each participating ship offers educational programs and a tour of the vessel. Some boats date to the 19th century, while others are more modern. During the tour, you’ll get to see the inner workings of different types of tall ships and view exhibits about them on the docks.
For these tours, you’ll need a special ship access ticket, which also includes fairground admission.
Tip: The boats are not handicapped or stroller accessible, but the piers are.
Explore the Festival Grounds
While the TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON festival is all about the glorious ships, the fun doesn’t stop when you disembark from the deck. The festival grounds at Pier 21 also play host to an array of activities and entertainment in view of the ships docked in the harbor.
You can listen to live music during the event, shop for locally-made crafts and souvenirs, and sample local cuisine from food trucks. Your ticket allows all-day access to the grounds, so you can spend as much time here as you like to soak up the festive sights, sounds, and tastes.
Take a Sailing Excursion
If you want to spend a little more time aboard the tall ships than the tours allow, there are additional special events you can sign up for, like a sailing excursion.
The first sailing opportunity is during the festival opening for the Parade of Sail. With a reservation and ticket, you can hop aboard one of the participating ships to sail along the coastline of Galveston and kick off this unique island event.
During the TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON festival, some vessels offer day and evening sailing excursions to get up close and personal with what it’s like aboard a tall ship. On the excursion, you’ll float around Galveston Bay with the wind in your hair and the sails hoisted above. The outings typically last 1.5 to 2 hours and are not included in the general admission ticket.
For a different sort of view, you can also book a spot on the boat rides offered by the Galveston Historical Foundation to see the ships from the water. These tours leave from Galveston Harbor by pontoon boat. The water offers a great vantage point to view the tall ships lined up in all their glory.
Enjoy a Salute to Sunset Party
While there are plenty of good options to watch the sunset on Galveston Island, the Salute to Sunset Party offers one of the best.
While most of the Tall Ships events take place during the day, you can keep the festivities going by signing up for one of the Salute to Sunset parties. These docked, evening gatherings take place on board one of the participating ships around twilight.
On board the tall ships, guests will be treated to complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres while watching the sun go down, and the sky turn pink over the water.
Tip: You’ll need a separate reservation and ticket to attend this event.
2023 TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON Festival
The 2023 festival is not far away! Here are all the details for this year’s festival.
The festival will run from Friday, April 13, to Sunday, April 16, 2023. Ship tours and most activities take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The final ship tours each day start at 5 p.m.
General admission allows entry to the grounds during the event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The admission cost is $15 for adults and $10 for kids aged 7 to 12. Children 6 and under are free.
Boarding and Admission
The second ticket type includes admission and entrance onto each tall ship at the festival for a tour. This option is $25 for teens and adults and $15 for kids.
A special Fast Pass ticket option allows guests to skip the general boarding line for boat tours, costing $75 for adults and $25 for kids.
Notes on admission:
- All tickets are good for a single day during the festival and can be booked ahead online.
- You must select which day you plan to visit while purchasing the tickets.
- Tickets are nonrefundable, and the festival will take place even if it rains.
- Special activities like the Salute to Sunset parties carry an additional charge.
The Galveston festival will feature five visiting ships and one with a home base in Galveston (1877 Tall Ship ELISSA). All masted boats will be open for tours during the event, and you can also see them and chat with the crews on the festival grounds.
1877 Tall Ship ELISSA
The 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA docks at Pier 21 in Galveston and is a National Historic Landmark as well as the Official Tall Ship of Texas. The Galveston Historical Foundation purchased the vessel from a scrapyard in Greece in the 1970s and restored it into a floating museum.
The ship docks at the Galveston Historic Seaport and welcomes visitors for self-guided tours at the Texas Seaport Museum throughout the year.
Visiting ships in 2023
The guest ships that will be docking in Galveston this year include:
- The 1894 Ernestina-Morrissey from Massachusetts.
- The replica Biloxi schooner Glenn L. Swetman from Mississippi.
- The Nao Trinidad from Huelva, Spain.
- The ambassador ship, Pride of Baltimore II, from Maryland.
- The When and If, a 1939 yacht from Key West, Florida.
Stay in Galveston and Enjoy the Tall Ship Festival
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pirate or sailing along the coast under the swaying sails of a massive sea vessel, the TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON festival is the event of a lifetime.
Our breezy Galveston vacation rentals make the perfect base for your visit to the nautical fete and the beaches of Galveston Island.