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New to the Island? If so, then first, get oriented with a trip to the Galveston Island Visitors Center. Operated by the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Center offers a wealth of brochures, free maps of the Island, and friendly guides ready to point you in the direction of whatever fun you have in mind ... and maybe even some fun you didn't know existed.

Other than the beach, the top destination for Galveston visitors is the 242-acre Moody Gardens. Part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden, Moody Gardens is a vacation all by itself. Upon entering Moody Gardens, you are instantly wowed by the lush and other worldly environment created by the Moody family. Amidst the profusion of tropical plants gleam three glass pyramids - pink, blue and white - housing a 10-story rainforest, one of the world's largest aquariums, and an educational Discovery Museum. One exhibit quotes a Senegalese conservationist: "In the end, we will conserve only what we love." With 25 naturalists on staff, Moody Gardens lovingly conserves a vast wonderland for the knowledge-thirsty visitor. The complex includes an IMAX 3D, 4D Special FX theater and IMAX Ridefilm theaters; silky-smooth Palm Beach, with white sand and freshwater lagoons; the 19th century style Colonel Paddlewheeler, with onehour narrative cruises (a favorite with birders); the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; and a luxury hotel.

Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is one of the Hottest, Coolest Times in Texas! The park features uphill water coasters, water slides, kid's playgrounds, whitewater rapids, wave pool, hot tubs, plus the Boogie Bahn surf ride. And the exclusive Transportainment river system makes Schlitterbahn Galveston Island the ultimate family destination. The summer season offers more than 32 family-friendly attractions. The coolest way to have the hottest winter vacation is to slide into Schlitterbahn's Wasserfest. The park offers a dozen heated attractions in a warm, tropical oasis featuring four enclosed tube slides, the Torrent Tidal Wave River, three speed slides, three water playgrounds and more.

The best way to connect to Galveston's past is by an excursion through one of its historic districts, or a tour of one of the historic homes that are open to the public. Stroll through the 36-square-block area of downtown Galveston, exploring the enticing shops on The Strand, the waterfront district, and the docks for the cruise lines), and the trendy Postoffice Arts District. Pick up one of Galveston Historical Foundation's excellent brochures.

Museum's abound, whether you fancy land, sea, or air - from the art deco Railroad Museum at the foot of The Strand, to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum on Pier 20, to the Lone Star Flight Museum (next to Moody Gardens), and the Texas Seaport Museum on Pier 21 featuring the Tall Ship Elissa round out the Island's collection.

Galveston has shopping for most everyone's tastes, whether you like upscale, artsy, or beach trendy. With a city this historically minded and individual in its tastes, expect to find wonderful antique and curio stores; look for treasures both downtown and on Broadway.

With all this touring, lucky you, you've worked up an appetite. Dining is a Galveston highpoint. The specialty is fresh-cooked, fresh caught Gulf Coast cuisine - available both in traditional and nouvelle settings - but you'll find restaurants for every mood and palate, from upscale continental, to hip fusion, to authentic Tex-Mex, to down-home barbecue.

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