During the 1920s through the 1940s, Sam Maceo’s famous Galveston nightclubs, the Balinese Room and the Hollywood Dinner Club, were host to such performers as Phil Harris, Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, Freddy Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Jimmy Dorsey. Galveston attracted people from all over the nation with great dining, big name entertainment, roulette, blackjack, craps tables and slot machines. This era ended in 1957 when the Texas Rangers raided the city and closed all the illegal gambling spots.
The Balinese Room has since been restored and reopened as a nightclub, and the long pier that leads to it now features shops and services, including a massage therapist whose treatment room features a glass floor that allows you to watch the waves while you relax).
When it comes to dancing, dining and shopping, Galveston does not disappoint. You’ll find no shortage of good restaurants within walking distance of the cruise terminals — and particularly along the waterfront. Fried and grilled seafood are a treat, and so are Gulf oysters, but there is a wide variety of restaurants with a range of offerings — from fast food and snacks to gourmet.
A few other restaurants worth mentioning: Mediterranean Chef Restaurant (Greek), at 2402 Strand; Yaga’s Tropical Cafe (Southwestern), 2314 Strand; and Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano (Italian), 2328 Strand.
Fullen’s Waterwall Restaurant (burgers), 2110 Strand; JuJu’s Hangout and Bar (American), 2408 Strand, are other delectable choices. Speculoos Patisserie & Cafe, at the 216 23rd street address, is a perfect spot for breakfast or lunch.
The selection continues on Postoffice Street with Rudy and Paco’s, 2028 Postoffice and The Saltwater Grill (said to have the best seafood in town), 2017 Postoffice.
Don’t miss 21, an upscale wine and martini bar at 2102 Postoffice and Sky Bar, a metropolitan chic sushi restaurant and bar. Plus there’s O’Malley’s, Molly’s Pub and Old Cellar Bar, all in the 2000 block of Postoffice.
Properly nourished, you’re ready for shopping, and while the pirate Jean Lafitte’s legendary buried treasure may have never been found, shoppers will find treasure aplenty in the 36-block historic district.
The Historic Downtown Shopping District, more commonly as “The Strand” after a street with the same name in London, offers a variety of unique shops and even factory outlets. Most of the shops are within walking distance, providing a relaxing atmosphere to browse and enjoy Galveston’s beautiful weather.
Three blocks from the Historic Downtown Shopping District, you’ll find Postoffice Street Arts & Entertainment District. Postoffice offers additional shops, art galleries and restaurants, all housed in brightly colored historic buildings.
If your interest is in antique shops, don’t miss the Peanut Butter Warehouse, 102 20th Street, where you can venture through three floors of antiques, collectibles and gifts. Next door, Somewhere In Time, 124 20th Street, features an assortment of collectibles, pottery, toys and soda memorabilia.
Looking for the latest trends in upscale fashion? Head for the boutiques on Postoffice Street. Stop in The Firm and Haba’s if you need to acquire sense of style. Then pop into The Nest, a small store filled with modern housewares and accessories.
Bargain hunters should head for the Bass Outlet at 2314 Harborside Drive. Other stores include the New York Dress Outlet at 2228 Mechanic and Big Dogs at 2326 Strand.
With more than 80 shops throughout the district offering everything from apparel, jewelry and gifts to collector’s items, there’s something for everyone. Visit The Atrium Boutique, 2313 Strand, the Admiralty Marine Model, 2221 Strand and Chico’s, 2215 Strand.
Guys will appreciate Col. Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Center, 2202 Strand, offering surplus military clothing and supplies. Stop in one of the area’s oldest shops, La King’s Confectionery, 2323 Strand, for an old-fashioned soda and homemade candy.
Enjoy browsing through area art galleries? Visit Don Rouse’s Wildlife Gallery, 2314 Strand; and the Galveston Arts Center, 2127 Strand.
Allow a few days to take in all the diversions, because Galveston Island is nothing short of paradise for diners and shoppers.