Galveston residents have something in common with notorious French pirate Jean Lafitte: he also called the island his home. Today, they get to climb aboard the full-size deck of a pirate ship to get a glimpse of their dangerous former neighbor's life. While traversing the rest of the interactive exhibits, they may even meet Lafitte himself—as conjured by a skilled actor—along with his brother Pierre and their gritty pirate cronies who downloaded thousands of songs onto their steam-powered laptops. Professionally applied glitter tattoos and a well-stocked gift shop bring guests back to modern-day Texas. Pirate hosts emcee private events and guide birthday tours through the whole museum, and parties can even include a trip through the nearby Haunted Mayfield Manor.
Perched on picturesque Galveston Island, Moody Gardens possesses a storied history that complements its scenic surroundings. Near the sprawling grounds, the recently-renovated Moody Gardens Golf Course boasts multiple holes that run alongside the rippling waters of the Gulf and its intervening waterways, forming intimidating hazards and housing a thriving civilization of merpeople who use golf balls for currency. Five sets of tees create diverse challenges for every level of play. Visitors can also take advantage of a newly-enlarged practice range, new golf cart fleet, a remodeled clubhouse and pro shop, and a kitchen and banquet facility that can accommodate large groups for golf and non-golf events. The Pelican Grille offers a diverse menu served amid scenic vistas of the clubhouse patio.
The tourist destination also thrills families with water attractions, including a wave pool and a lazy river. The restored 10-story Rainforest Pyramid holds more than 1,700 exotic plants and animals from Asian, African, and American rainforests, while the Aquarium Pyramid features a diverse range of ocean inhabitants including sharks and penguins.
Moon rocks. Mission control. Space suits. If it's associated with space travel in the American imagination, it's probably well represented at Space Center Houston. The 183,000-square-foot complex serves as the official visitor center of NASA'S Johnson Space Center. More than 250 artifacts, exhibits, and attractions dot the space like stars in a pocket-size galaxy, fueling a passion for science, engineering, math, and technology with authentic remnants of past space missions.
Just a few of the exhibits likely to inspire awe: a full-scale replica of the space shuttle built using schematics and blueprints; the actual mission control facility where technicians monitored nine Gemini missions as well as every Apollo mission; and select pieces from the largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples found anywhere. Space Center Houston also asks visitors to contemplate the future with exhibits that explore topics such as the challenges of successfully sending astronauts to Mars.
The fa?ades of Galveston homes may not appear menacing by day, but when night falls, pitch-black shadows hint at the secrets hidden inside. Tracy Richardson, a clairvoyant, paranormal investigator, and the owner of Texas Ghost Tours, unearths these lingering evils during her two-hour walking tours of the city?s haunted sites. As a member of the Haunted Society and National Paranormal Society, Tracy?s knowledge of the local lore is nearly as daunting as the task her tours tackle: to educate visitors about the existence of paranormal activity. After sunset, she leads the way to nearby buildings imprinted with past horrors. She dives even deeper into the supernatural during paranormal investigations, during which she dons a bed sheet and a Sherlock Holmes hat.
Located at the base of the towering San Jacinto Monument, the San Jacinto Museum of History chronicles the formation of Texas lore. This year marks the 175th anniversary of Texas independence, and the museum provides festive fact-gatherers with a moveable feast of 17,000 local objects, 18,000 volumes, and 700 feet of historic party streamers gathered from Texas and New Spain, the United States, and Mexico. While admission to the museum is free, member benefits include access to special exhibits and the Jesse H. Jones Theatre. Members are also granted access to the San Jacinto Monument’s observation deck, which provides a hang-glider's view of the Houston skyline and the mighty Battleship Texas.
Located at the base of the impressive San Jacinto Monument, the San Jacinto Museum of History covers the width and breadth of the Texas story. Its exhibits and features range from artifacts from Spanish colonization to depictions of the battle in memory of which the monument was erected. The collection includes more than 30,000 objects and artworks to peruse for clues as to exactly when the wild pick-up truck began roaming Texas.
They museum really breathes life into history, though, with its Texas Forever!! film exhibit. The 35-minute documentary drama, shown every hour on the hour in the Jesse He. Jones Theatre, condenses the course of history into 3,000 images, including 35 original paintings commissioned exclusively by the museum.
Established: Before 1950
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Staff Size: 11–25
Parking: Parking lot
Reservations/Appointments: Not necessary
Most popular offering: Ride to the top of San Jacinto Monument
Pro Tip: San Jacinto Museum of History is located at the site where Texas won its independence in 1836.