Posted on 5/24/2023

A First-Timer's Guide to The Strand in Galveston

Ask anyone what there is to do on vacation in Galveston other than the beach and they'll tell you that the best taste of the island is found along The Strand Historic District. Located just opposite Galveston Bay on the channel, The Strand is a charming business district full of historical buildings, locally owned shops, entertainment, bars, and restaurants. 

Designated a National Historic Landmark District, you can easily spend a whole afternoon browsing all of the antique shops and souvenir stores, but it's also a great place to go in the evening for happy hour cocktails, dinner, and a stroll along the blocks of Victorian-era buildings.

Our Sand 'N Sea beach house vacation rentals are just a short drive from the Downtown Historic Strand District and, as island locals, we want to share our guide to the can't-miss art, eateries, shops, and museums you'll find there.

About The Strand 

Once called the "Wall Street of the South," Galveston's Strand District thrived in the late 1800s as a gathering point for people and commerce on the Gulf Coast.

The city built its wealth on the cotton industry, with 60% of the state's exports passing through the Galveston Harbor at one point. As a result, banks, markets, factories, and saloons soon cropped up near the port, filling the area with gorgeous Victorian-style buildings and homes. 

Today, the Strand Historic District is a revitalized National Historic Landmark with locally-owned businesses. Some of the Island's best festivals and nightlife opportunities can also be found here.

Where is The Strand

This central business district is located roughly between 20th Street and 25th Street, on either side of the street bearing its name. The shopping, entertainment, and dining spill over onto surrounding blocks, running into the Post Office District to the south, the West Market District to the west, and the Port of Galveston to the north. 

Below we'll break down some of the best places to shop, eat, and be entertained.

Dining and Drinking in the Strand District

La King's Confectionery

La King's Confectionery is a beloved candy shop and ice cream parlor using 19the century candy-making techniques and is loaded with vintage charm. Pop in to watch the saltwater taffy-making demonstration, load up on chocolate confections, and order milkshakes and malts at the soda fountain.

Shark Shack

Seafood and pub grub are on the menu at the Shark Shack. This colorful cafe has casual indoor and outdoor dining for lunch and dinner and is one of our top picks for great seafood in Galveston. Be sure to grab an island #selfie in front of the "I heart Galveston" mural along its 24th Street side, complete with dolphins and larger-than-life seahorses!

Hearsay on The Strand

Located in the 1898 Fadden Building, Hearsay on The Strand is the place to go for happy hour and late-night craft cocktails. Boasting a "chic antique" atmosphere, the restaurant also serves lunch, dinner, and a delicious weekend brunch.

Yaga's Cafe

Yaga's Cafe is a tropical bar and restaurant at Saengerfest Park on The Strand. Open for lunch and dinner; the venue often has live music and dishes out casual eats like pizza and burgers at the patio and indoor tables. Don't miss the fruity island cocktails, perfect for cooling off during hot Texas summers.

Brew's Brothers

Craft brew lovers have their pick of great breweries in Galveston, but when in The Strand District, you should grab a stool at Brew's Brothers opposite the Galveston Railroad Museum. The casual brewpub with burgers and beers is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend nights.

Shopping on The Strand

The Admiralty on The Strand

The Admiralty on The Strand is a Strand staple, stocked with everything nautical. Pop in to find unique home decor and art featuring mermaids and sea creatures. From educational toys to pewter serving trays, fine jewelry and more, it's the perfect spot to find a unique souvenir or gift that's classier than a keychain.

Hendley Market 

You don't want to miss Hendley Market for antiques and eclectic goods from around the world. The emporium has everything from simple kids' toys to vintage postcards and global currency collectibles.

Somewhere in Time Antiques and Estate Sales

Antique lovers will adore the collection at Somewhere in Time. The shop's ever-changing inventory has gems like classic Coke memorabilia, vintage jewelry and clothing, and classic cookware and glassware.


If you're looking for classic souvenirs and island apparel, head to Lapalapa. The shop's colorful and tropical collection includes beachwear and gear you can use on the island or take home as gifts. There's also a tiki bar and patio tables.

The Spice and Tea Exchange of Galveston

You can't beat the aroma you'll find walking into the Spice and Tea Exchange. This local boutique sells all sorts of hand-mixed exotic spice blends, teas, smoked salts, and flavored sugars. Pick up some new flavors to try in the kitchen of your private beach house rental, or make it the unique souvenir you bring home from Galveston. 

Attractions Around The Strand

Downtown Historic Strand Seaport Area 

Only a block off The Strand, the waterfront seaport area has some of the most unique attractions you'll find downtown. Most of the action is around Pier 21, where you'll find the Texas Seaport Museum, 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA and Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, plus harbor boat ride tours, and restaurants with a view.

Galveston Railroad Museum

The Galveston Railroad Museum is a fun place for all ages on the west end of The Strand. Located at the old Santa Fe Railroad Station, the museum displays different passenger cars, freight cars, and locomotives outside, as well as miniature train vignettes, collections of passenger car dishes & glassware, and more inside. 


Ax throwing and arcade games are on the menu at Axecade, an entertainment venue designed to look like a forest inside. A relative newcomer to Galveston, locals & visitors alike can get pub grub and drinks, enjoy views of The Strand from a large balcony, and hit the dance floor for pumping DJ sets most weekends. 

Art on The Strand

Nia Cultural Center and Art Gallery

Outside the Nia Cultural Center, a 5,000-square-foot mural chronicles the emancipation story of Juneteenth on the island. Inside, the gallery displays paintings and sculptures created by local Black artists. 

The Galveston Mural

Don't miss the iconic Greetings from Galveston Mural for the perfect vacation photo op. Located at Saengerfest Park on The Strand, just outside of Yaga's Cafe, the colorful art displays some of the Island's landmarks and makes a perfect backdrop for a vacation memento or your #vacaygram.

Galveston Arts Center

The Galveston Arts Center is one of many great cultural stops on the island and the place to go for contemporary art exhibits and programming. Admission to the venue is free, and you can see changing displays from professional artists. The center also puts on a free art walk every couple of months in partnership with local galleries and studios in Galveston.

Trumpet Sculpture

Located at the old Galveston Square Building on The Strand and 23rd Street, Galveston's giant sculpture "The Stone Trumpet" has an interesting history. Created by a Texas artist for the 1984 World's Fair Expo in New Orleans, it was moved to Galveston a couple of years later for the opening of a local Jazz restaurant. Made from a mixture of steel and concrete, the sculpture measures a massive 14 feet tall and 26 feet wide! 

Fun Fact: While it's known as "The Stone Trumpet," the object actually more closely resembles a cornet!

Festivals on The Strand

Mardi Gras! Galveston

Mardi Gras! Galveston is held annually in February or March, based on the year, and its main activities are centered on The Strand. In fact, the Downtown Entertainment District turns into a whole street party. More than a dozen parades roll down the main strip through the two event weekends, and stages are set up for live musical performances. 

Lone Star Rally

November's Lone Star Rally brings classic cars, trucks, and bikes to The Strand for rodeo games, demo rides, and competitions like the Strongest Biker Worlds and Drive in Car Show. There's also live music, food, and a wide variety of vendors selling bike-related wares.

Dickens on The Strand

A December tradition for nearly 50 years, Dickens on The Strand turns the Historic District into a Victorian holiday dream. Modeled after Victorian London, the event features costumed characters, elegant parades, stage entertainment, old-timey gifts and seasonal decor, and holiday-themed food and beverages.

Enjoy the Heart of Historic Galveston 

The Strand Historic District is the beating heart of Galveston. The neighborhood perfectly encapsulates the Island's historic core and the city's current pulse.So while you may spend most of your vacation relaxing on the sand, you'll want to return to The Strand time and again to drink, dine, and sightsee. Take an easy coastal drive along Seawall Boulevard from your Sand 'N Sea beach house to explore all that The Strand has to offer! 

Previous The Best Boat Tours in Galveston 13 Best Seafood Restaurants in Galveston Next