Are you dreaming of a White Christmas? Maybe this year is the time to trade your dreams of snow for that of sand — a gorgeous 32-mile stretch of it — in Galveston.
From November through January, the barrier island transforms from a vibrant seaside getaway to a unique holiday destination filled with festive, family fun.
Dickens On the Strand, now in its 46th year, is the island's signature holiday event. Originally intended to spotlight Galveston’s collection of Victorian Architecture, one of the largest in the country, the festival draws over 30,000 for a weekend filled with the sights and sounds of Charles Dickens' work.
Dressed in period pieces, performers roam throughout historic downtown Galveston. Strand Street, in particular, is flanked with vendors offering holiday food and drink while peddling their wares from street carts.
Strolling carolers, jugglers, and bagpipers help to complete the transformation to Victorian London.
Descendants of Charles Dickens travel from England each year to attend the festival; even though Charles Dickens never set foot in Galveston.
The festival, run by the Galveston Historical Society, is held the first weekend in December.
For a closer look at the magnificent Victorian architecture, consider the East End Historic District’s Victorian Homes Tour. Visit several private residences in the historic district that are adorned in their holiday finest. This tour is offered during the Dickens on the Strand festival weekend only.
Don't fret if you can't make it that weekend. You can still visit the 1895 Moody Mansion Museum. Daily tours are available, complete with festive trimmings and elaborately adorned Christmas trees throughout the home.
The Polar Express Train Ride makes its debut this year. Board one of six train cars pulled by vintage locomotives from the Galveston Railroad Museum’s Collection at the historic depot.
Enjoy hot chocolate served by dancing chefs, a reading of the classic Chris Van Allsburg story, and receive the first gift of Christmas after Santa boards the train on this magical one-hour ride.
Wearing pajamas is highly encouraged, but not required.
Take a trip around the world in only one night — just like Santa — at Ice Land. The magnificent 28,000-acre crystal wonderland carved from ice is part of the festivities at Moody Gardens.
Travel from Russia to Egypt to China and beyond amid stunning ice sculptures, some reaching heights up to thirty feet, and see how other cultures celebrate the season.
How does one stay warm amid 2 million pounds of ice? Courtesy parkas are provided to offset the chilly 9-degree temperature. It is highly recommended to bring jackets, gloves, and hats, especially for the little ones. They will likely want to go down the Ice Slide more than once, and you definitely won't want to rush through this unique venue.
Back outside, stroll through the Festival of Lights. This mile-long trail features more than a million lights and animated light displays. Stop along the way to grab some hot cocoa, go ice skating or “snow tubing” (yes, they make snow), listen to carolers, even visit with Santa.
The trail wraps around the iconic Moody Gardens pyramids and along Offatts Bayou, providing a beautiful waterfront view.
The opportunity to consume heaps of fresh seafood in Galveston is a given, but be sure and save room for dessert. Pecan pie is synonymous with the season, and no one does it better than Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant.
Operating in Galveston for more than 100 years, its famous pie, made from a secret family recipe is a must-eat. A warm slice with its all-pecan crust, creamy center full of gooey deliciousness, topped off with vanilla ice cream is tough to beat.
Located just 50 miles southeast of Houston makes Galveston an easy trip from East Texas. For event details, hours of operation, and ticket sales visit Galveston.com.
Tami Brooks is a freelance writer based in East Texas.