One of Texas's most popular year-round coastal destinations, Galveston is an island in the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles southeast of Houston, connected to the mainland by a causeway and bridge. The island is a marriage of the best of both worlds: it is both city and seaside resort. It offers historical and cultural attractions, as well as swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. The restored Victorian Strand district, resort hotels, and beachfront businesses give a commercial feel to the north end of the island, while miles of private and rental residences on the southern end offer solitude and open beach access. Once one of the world's great port cities, Galveston was nearly devastated by a hurricane in 1900. More than 6,000 residents were killed by the storm, and many structures were demolished.
The hurricane prompted city officials to raise the island and add a seawall, making Galveston a safe place to visit today. After the 1900 hurricane and the opening of the Houston ship channel, Galveston lost its position as Texas's busiest seaport and the street known as the Strand -- formerly the site of stores, offices, and warehouses -- faded as a bustling center of commerce. In the 1950s, preservationists launched Galveston's renaissance by restoring stately homes and building up commercial districts with modern facilities. The Strand, now on the National Register of Historic Places, has one of the largest collections of historic buildings in the country. A resort city with a southern flair, Galveston is a petite and blended version of New Orleans and Charleston.