Road Trip, We’re Heading Even More South!!!
One of my favorite places to head out of town is to Galveston. It’s close, it’s easy, and there are tons of options for a day trip. So, no need to try to do it all in one day!
We’ve been hitting our southern sister city pretty regularly lately, so we took this trip really easy. We let everyone sleep in, eat breakfast (all that fun stuff), and then walked out the door around 11 am. Even though, it was a weekday it was a Monday between Sunday and a holiday (July 4th), so we were expecting lighter than usual traffic on the road and fairly high in Galveston. We were pretty spot on.
The drive was a breeze. I don’t think I’ve made it to Galveston this quickly since 1997. It was awesome. We pulled up to lunch just off The Strand around 12:15 pm. We chose a small sandwich shop called Eat Cetera. It’s about five blocks off The Strand and there is Free two-hour parking directly in front of the shop.
The place is adorable but small. If you are a family of more than four I would suggest something else or going at an off-time, because when we walked in every table was full. And, there are only 10 tables inside (most are two tops), 4-6 seats at the bar, and a few bistro tables out front. The other downside of walking into their lunch rush was I had no idea if we were to seat ourselves or wait. It was unclear. And, though, they nicely greeted us I still didn’t know what to do except stand there awkwardly. So, I did, because there weren’t any tables that would have seated all four of us available anyway.
Fortunately, a nice couple was just finishing up and their table became available and my children seated themselves, as children are wont to do. Even though it’s a small cutesy sandwich shop it is a good kid option because it is also nice and loud. We got menus, Googled the word “taleggio” – it’s cheese, and ordered. The sodas come in cans so don’t count on free refills (which is fine, there’s too much sugar available everywhere anyway! – do I sound like a mom?).
I ordered the Taleggio Panini, the hubs got the Cuban style Panini, and the kids ordered a ham and cheese and grilled cheese. Then we played with Snapchat filters. For awhile. Thankfully, just when the children’s grumbles of starvation peaked they brought toasted bread slices and a cheese spread. Within 10 minutes our order came out. Everything was picture perfect and delicious! P.S. Bathrooms were clean – just in case you were wondering.
After lunch, we scooted the car up the street, but stayed on 25th and parked in another bank of Free 2-hour parking. Parking is pretty easy on The Strand but it’s all for pay. I can certainly walk around a corner and save a few bucks! We made a quick stop at LA King’s Confectionary. Here we found all the people.
If you haven’t been to La King’s it is always worth a stop. Even if it’s busy. It’s a classic soda shop, complete with the old-style uniforms and a working candy-making kitchen in the back. The store is very large so there is plenty of room for crowds. Check the sandwich board out front and it will tell you when the next taffy pulling will be. On a busy day, you may want to stake out a spot 20 minutes in advance if you want a front row spot. The pull takes awhile and kids will be interested but they will drift so don’t feel bad if you loose your front row spot because your kiddos want to look at the cases, and cases, and cases of candy. Just make sure you’re in the vicinity when it’s over because they will throw free pieces of the freshly pulled taffy out to the audience. And, no need to stress they throw a generous amount.
If you don’t want to be used as a balancer for climbing children don’t pick a spot on the end where they have two coin-operated ride-on toys. If you want your kids to stay with you the whole time, then do. There is a boat and a horse and they have been there forever. The kids love them. They do work, but all the kids seem perfectly happy to climb on them without them being in motion. And, during the candy-pull, those things are like life rafts!
Don’t be discouraged by the crowds, there are tables and turn over is pretty frequent so if you want to sit and get a malt you may have to wait a bit (and stalk a bit) but you should be able to snag one.
After, the sugar rush The Strand is a nice place to stroll. It is full of tourist traps but if you want to shop there’s a little for everyone. They have the regular t-shirt shops as well as art galleries and a jerky outlet. It’s also within walking distance of several “things to do.” We are big fans of the train museum located at the West end. But, today, we decided to let the kids run around Saengerfest Park.
Saengerfest Park is not a park with play structures and the like, but a public square. It is a great photo op. There is a huge wall mural, a big chair, a floating frame, a random red telephone booth, and giant chess. Along the north side is a Pirate Museum & Haunted House, they usually set out a photo board for you to stick your face in and take pictures with as well.
By the time we meandered and photographed our children being adorable (or fighting over giant chess) we had made it to 2:15 pm and decided to head over to Schlitterbahn, which is about a 15-minute drive away.
One of the reasons we decided on the laid back day in Galveston is that Schlitterbahn has reduced rates if you enter after 3 pm. Current online rates can be found here, at the gate prices are about $2 higher per ticket, but after 3 pm it’s $10 less. Since we weren’t in a hurry and were expecting it to be pretty crowded we tried the late arrival. During our stay the park closed at 8 pm, so five hours was plenty of fun for this family.
Schlitterbahn is in the same area as Moody Gardens and the sign is marked pretty well for the turn-off. Parking is free and ample. Since we came later we were able to get one that did not include a hike.
As expected, it was pretty crowded. The after 3 pm crowd wasn’t too bad. They had all the ticket booths open and after we changed into our bathing suits, slathered up with sunscreen (at the car), and headed up to the ticket booth at about 5 till (after 3pm tickets can only be purchased in person) we were only the second person in our line.
We went ahead and rented a locker so we would have somewhere to stash cameras and wallets etc. We kept one bag with us (the cooler – you can bring in your own food, which makes the sticker shock a little better). We also kept our water shoes and a towel. There are three sizes of lockers Medium, Large, and XL. The medium fit our two reusable-size grocery bags full of our change of clothes, toiletries, and towels. It was a good shove, but it worked. We found a table to drop the rest of our stuff on. I could see where earlier in the day finding a table or chair would be a problem, but at this time of the day there were plenty throughout the park. Also, they do have an option to get a free wrist band in the gift shop to pre-load money onto so you don’t have to worry about going back and forth for your wallet. We didn’t do it, but it’s a nice option…very Disney.
The park is laid out in three sections Surfenburg, Blastenhoff, and Wasserfest (if you come when it’s colder and only part of the park is open it will be Wasserfest and the main wave pool). The section house different types of rides and attractions. Also, each section has a kids play area. They are pretty easy to navigate through and rivers connect the entire park.
You will note I said rivers not river. Do not make the mistake of thinking a lazy river will drift you about the park. This is not the case. The different parts have different themes. Do not let your young kids go by themselves or without a life jacket – particularly on the Wasserfest section, Torrent River.
Torrent river is like a wave pool in a tube. The big kids love it, the little kids love it, but as a parent it can surprise you. The main issue comes from the corner where the “torrents” start. It is a bit of an elbow so it naturally gets a bit jammed, however, the bigger kids wait there to catch the big wave so it gets extra jammed.
The river is not really the problem either, but the other tubes. The big wave can easily make several things happen: other tubes will be pushed on top of you, it can pop a little person off a tube, and/or it can flip the tube over. Hence the life jacket suggestion, even if they can swim. It can be a big surprise and with as quickly as the river flows they can get washed away from you. Stand in the Wasserfest Kid’s Area it overlooks this corner. It’s a show.
If a lazy river is what you are looking for take the Torrent River exit just before the corner and it will shoot you out into the main wave pool. You can pass through to Surfenburg and you will then be in a typical lazy river. Theirs is called Kristal River.
If you want somewhere in between enter the Blastenhoff section of the river, which is called Whitewater River. You need to be in your tube for this as it consists of sections of little rapids. The water is shallow, but there are “rocks” that make the rapids, and it is quite fast moving. There are lifeguards in the water at the beginning of each section of rapids. This one is really fun – fast with little to no chance of flipping. And, the way you enter means you aren’t crammed next to a hundred people.
Aside from being the indoor portion of the park, Wasserfest is home to two tube slides, Guada Loopy and Loopy Luge (entrance is the same), and two body slides, Rohr! and Faust Und Furious (entrance is the same). The children’s area here is warm when it’s cool outside (the water is heated), but pleasantly cool when it’s hot out (since it stays shaded).
Surfenburg’s main attractions are the family tube slides Thunder Tub & Wolfpack. You enter these at the same place. Thunder Tub seats up to 3, Wolfpack seats up to 4. Here you’ll also find another tube ride, Dragon Blaster. As well as, Boogie Bahn and Bhanzai Pipeline.
The children’s area here looked a little sad. The big tub didn’t pour. It had what may have once been a palm tree but was now just a tall brown stick. The last attraction here is the zip line, Soaring Eagle, it is the only thing that requires extra payment.
The last section is Blastenhoff. Treasure Island Kid’s Area is conveniently located in the middle of everything so families with littles can divide and conquer pretty easily. It’s also right next to a swim up bar…so, if you do wait for someone who is gone forever, I guess you’ve got options.
There are two body slides, Screaming Serpents & Cliffhanger, and one tube ride, Massiv. The newest ride, Massiv, is also the tallest in the world. It also had the longest wait time. The queue begins just over a bridge next to Treasure Island. First, you line up to get a tube, then you proceed to the line up to the top.
The main reason it had such a long wait was that there are some uphill sections requiring an extra jet to propel you up. Unfortunately, many people still got stuck (probably 7-9 in the hour we waited in line). Which meant the ride shut down to unload the people and then a lifeguard would bring those people back up to re-ride. It is a known spot as they do have stairs leading right to it, but they don’t have a lifeguard stationed there. So, each time someone was stuck they had to send a lifeguard up to get them.
On a side note, if you happened to hear about the tragedy on the last “world’s tallest coaster,” Verrückt, just know this slide is 82 feet shorter and the layout is completely different. Not that I’m one of those crazy moms who researches waterpark disasters or anything…
After you have ridden the rides and done the things you should have tired happy people. The crowds had thinned out considerably by 5 pm and by 8pm it was very pleasant. However, it seems that those who are in until 8 pm are serious about 8 pm. The bathrooms were a mad house. Well, the women’s any way. The boys didn’t seem to have any trouble getting in and out. The ladies’ was in-sahn (and hot). I just went up to the changing rooms by the entrance and it was easy peasy to get one of those.
There was a little traffic out of the park. If you are picking up people I would have them meet you in the parking lot because the drive up area was flood with a stream of people exiting and the cars were waiting a long time to get up there.
And, like that we were done…but were we? Oh no, because there’s a Cracker Barrel on the way home. And, the only thing better than Cracker Barrel Blueberry Pancakes is Cracker Barrel Blueberry Pancakes at 9 pm when you are happy and exhausted.
Then we were done!