I’ve always thought of myself as the southern hospitality type. Not necessarily a southern belle because I’m not always put together; I don’t wear makeup unless I’m leaving the house; I live in sweatpants and my house is not always company-ready. But what The South, or in this case, The Southwest, does really well, is the perfect welcome that makes you never want to leave…and take notes on how to be a great hostess.
When I first arrived on easy breezy Galveston Island, I was greeted by a beautiful welcome at the Hotel Galvez, complete with a wine and cheese welcome after my long flight.
With brie and a crisp chardonnay in hand, I felt just like I imagine their rumored guests (Duke Ellington, Howard Hughes, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Stewart to name a few) must have felt. There’s something thrilling about staying in a hotel that has been deigned worthy of presidents, celebrities, and ghost stories!
One must-see at this hotel–the hotel lobby, which oozes with Southwest charm and history. My particular favorite feature, is the hand-carved bar that was added to preserve a piece of the last speakeasy, the Old Galveston Club.
Originally, the plan for my all-girl trip was to go sailing. And wow was I excited to go sailing! But things don’t always go according to plan—even on vacation. Instead, we were greeted with rain and everything that comes with it; the most fragrant arbors of jasmine blossoms throughout the city made it worth staying ashore. The rain was like a super-powered diffuser for those jasmines.
The thing I love about cities is that even when you go for a beach vacation, there are still things to do on cloudy days. Most noteworthy: Moe the penguin at the Moody Gardens Aquarium and The Kitchen Chick.
Awwww…Moe. He’s just the cutest little penguin I ever did see! I’m sure I’m slightly biased meeting a penguin without glass between us, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for cuties. And visiting Moe has other perks, like, you could spend two days in the Moody Gardens and still not do everything: the aquarium, the gardens, zip lining, the rainforest pyramid, etc.
If you’re visiting Galveston and love great cooking, The Kitchen Chick is so good even The Travel Channel knows about it. It isn’t optional. It’s a must-see and must-do.
Many cooking classes like to get you salivating for the aromas, and after you’ve done the work, divide it into small sample portions. That’s not how they do things at The Kitchen Chick. Bring your jeans a size up! Not only will you overeat because you can, but you’ll also overeat because it’s just that good. I was lucky enough to go when Head Chef, Mary Bass, was cooking up a storm and giving us her best tips and tricks.
I learned a lot about the local cuisine through Bass. Since this is, after all, a port city, the two important lessons were:
Rumor has it, if you bring baked goods to the docks, they’ll debone, descale or anything else you need done before cooking.
If you go to any restaurant in Galveston and order fish, it’ll come with a tag on top that is connected to an app on your phone telling you everything you want to know about that fish–possibly even if your fish’s name is Fred, but don’t quote me.
We had red snapper baked till velvety and flakey. We also had brussel sprouts—everyone went back for second portions, and banana foster parfaits for dessert made with molasses rum. The things I learned from this cooking class were well worth the trip, but add on the delicious, well-portioned food, and this is a memory that will last a lifetime for me and my friends. You can view their cooking calendar on their site.
Lastly, since I’m a foodie at heart, there is another celeb spot you shouldn’t miss! I cannot rave Rudy and Paco enough. If you appreciate fine dining but crave the personal touch and mouth-watering flavors reminiscent of childhood dreams, you will now dream about Paco’s like I do. Paco’s has served Tommy Lee Jones, Gloria Estefan, Debbie Reynolds, Lyle Lovett, The Property Brothers, Steve Martin, James Earl Jones and many more celebrities, and it’s no wonder since it’s likely their personal wine collections are stored in personal wine lockers here. If you come hungry, plantains will be waiting for you with a Cuban-style black bean dip, however, most of the menu is South American fusion. I had a beautiful two-tiered display of fresh shrimp ceviche and crab legs and multiple sauce options as my appetizer. Not surprising, the seafood quality is bar none. My favorite dish was the dinner special of lamb with a cherry jalapeño drizzle, Brussel sprouts with in-season vegetables and a balsamic reduction, and scalloped potatoes thinly sliced and stacked like baklava.
Even if it hadn’t rained, there are too many things to do here for just a 3-day excursion. From visiting the Elissa during the Tall Ships Festival in the Spring, to city-sponsored vow renewals in June, to Ice Land and the Festival of Lights during the holiday season’s Ice Festival, this warm, friendly treasure is like a big hug you will want to have again and again.
My Top Itinerary Suggestions
Family destination Moody Gardens has a variety of exciting attractions from an aquarium to a live tropical rainforest. The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid unveiled a $37 million in May 2017, offering new exhibits including the addition of jellyfish and tropical penguins. With waterfront views and gorgeous botanical gardens, the Moody Gardens complex also features a Discovery Museum, 3-D and 4- D theaters, a golf course, water park, ropes course and zip line, historic paddlewheel boat and the Moody Gardens Hotel. In the Rainforest Pyramid you’ll find free-roaming rainforest animals, tropical plants and hundreds of endangered species.
The Rooftop Bar offers a sophisticated, modern lounge atmosphere located four stories above street level on the roof of The Tremont House. The only rooftop bar in Galveston, the venue offers a spectacular view of Galveston’s historic downtown and harbor. The Tremont House is a sister property to Hotel Galvez.
The Sunflower Bakery & Café is located in the heart of Galveston’s East End Historical District. This charming family-owned restaurant and bakery serves delicious breads and pastries made from scratch, fresh seafood and a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Not only is the architecture amazing, but many of the surviving oaks from Hurricane Ike have been carved into stunning sculptures. Taking a bicycle tour is a great way to see the wonders of Galveston.
This charming boutique kitchen shop offers specialty gourmet kitchenware and accessories, plus a hearty schedule of tantalizing cooking classes and camps. Kitchen Chick first opened its doors in 2012, but recently was featured on National Geographic’s Big Fish Texas.