Galveston is a Texas Gulf Coast city with a semitropical climate and natural harbor, making it long favored as a tourist resort and port. With a population approaching 65,000, it is well known for its community events, seasonal festivals and as the site of the extensive health science resources of The University of Texas Medical Branch.
The city is situated on Galveston Island, a Gulf of Mexico barrier island approximately 32 miles long and two miles at its greatest width. Located some 50 miles south-southeast of Houston, it lies two miles off the Texas mainland and is connected to it by causeways and public ferries.
Due to a coastal location and relatively low latitude, cold fronts are infrequent and seldom severe. Normal monthly maximum temperatures range from about 60 degrees in January to near 88 degrees in August, while minimums range from 48 degrees in January to the upper 70s throughout the summer. Average rainfall is about 46 inches a year.
With its natural harbor, Galveston developed into a thriving port and business community. The city piled up a number of “firsts” in its history. Included are claims for Texas’ first customs house, post office, daily newspaper, telephone, chamber of commerce and orphanage.
In the 1850s, Galveston was the major city in the state with its shipping facilities, banks, building, real estate and trading institutions. Much of the commercial activity was centered in Galveston’s Strand area, known as the Wall Street of the Southwest. During the last 15 years, the Strand has undergone a major restoration, and today offers a variety of shops, museums and restaurants.
The Galveston economy is centered on UTMB, Port of Galveston, financial institutions and tourism. The Medical Branch is the island’s largest single employer and also draws employees from the nearby mainland. UTMB has an annual payroll of more than $530 million and about 12,635 employees.
The Port of Galveston is the only city-owned port in the state. Financial institutions have an enormous impact on Galveston’s economy, with insurance, banking and real estate activities forming the nucleus. Tourism is also a major contributing factor to the economy, with about 6.5 million visitors per year. Tourism in Galveston focuses largely on the 32 miles of public beaches and the wealth of historical architecture in the city.
Galveston bridges the old and new in its cultural life. The Rosenberg Library was established in 1900. The Grand 1894 Opera House, once a theater for the finest musicians and actors, has been revitalized. Other cultural activities in Galveston include summer musical dramas by the Lone Star Historical Drama Association, Galveston College’s Upper Deck Theatre, Strand Street Theatre, and a series of films, lectures and musical programs presented by various organizations. Galveston’s four-masted tall ship, Elissa, built in 1887, and now completely renovated and seaworthy is open to the public and is adjacent to the Seaport Museum.
Galveston youths receive free public education through the Galveston Independent School District. In addition, there are four private elementary schools, one parochial middle school, and one parochial senior high school.
Advanced education facilities include UTMB, Galveston College and Texas A&M University at Galveston. Galveston College is a community college offering two-year transfer programs and associate degrees, diploma and certificate programs, and noncredit continuing education classes. The college offers a number of health-related programs in conjunction with UTMB. Texas A&M at Galveston offers degrees in a number of marine-related disciplines, as well as providing other education services through Texas A&M University.
Housing on Galveston Island ranges from the ultra modern to nostalgic historical homes. One can find a beach house perched on stilts as well as a loft tucked away in a renovated commercial building.
Galveston Island is the perfect year-round resort destination blending temperate weather and rich history. Escape and explore a tropical island paradise, full of exciting entertainment, captivating museums, even bird watching, and other incredible attractions.
In North America, there are over 850 species of birds. Texas can boast having more bird species, nearly 600, than any other state or provence in North America. Some birds sighted in Texas occur nowhere else in the nation, and birdwatchers from around the world flock to see them. Galveston Island, and its checklist of over 320 species, is part of the Great Texas Birding Trail. Here you will find Roseate Spoonbills, with their bizarre spatulate beaks, Reddish Egrets that prance about in the surf in search of small fish and crustaceans, and Magnificent Frigatebirds that sail over bays and beaches on seven-foot wings. Not only do many warm-weather species nest on Galveston Island, but northern ones also pass through on their long migration flights. Many remain for the winter. When autumn approaches and some birds leave for Central and South America, others arrive to take their places. Even the hardiest birds from the far North turn up occasionally when ice and snow make food impossible to find at higher latitudes. Texas birds change with the seasons, but they are plentiful at any time of the year.