Driving over the causeway, you can almost feel the stresses and concerns of the city melting away. The beach breeze lets you know that once you arrive in Galveston, you’re on island time. At least that’s what many local residents enjoyed before Hurricane Ike. What might surprise you is that although there are still signs that the big storm caused major damage, Galveston Island is well on its way to recovery and is ready to welcome you back with open arms.
Recently, former president George H.W. Bush visited Galveston as part of his work with the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund. “Galveston has been an important part of our life ever since I went into the offshore oil business 50 years ago,” said former President Bush. “But even more important than my business relationship with Galveston are the many happy times Barbara and I have spent there over the years.
“That would include, by the way, our trip down there just a few weeks ago to watch the Oak Ridge Boys at the Old Opera House and eat lunch at Gaido’s. Galveston is truly one of Texas’ great cities, and we must do all we can to bring her back to her full glory.”
Like the Bushes, vacation homeowners Stef and Jay Levy are also ready to enjoy Galveston again. Fortunately, their Pirates Cove property sustained minimal damage and is almost back to normal. “We’re looking forward to getting back down there,” Stef said.
Their house is on a canal and Galveston agencies are in the process of dredging to pull out whatever storm debris is left.
“The boys like to swim, fish, kayak, and jump off the deck,” she said. Peyton and Sellars also spend time knee boarding and crabbing on the gulf side. The Levys have enjoyed getting to know their neighbors in Pirates Cove and have all pulled together to clean up the area.
At their home on Palm Beach, Amy and Blake Rasmussen are still working to get things repaired. Amy feels fortunate that they will be able to enjoy their home again soon, but acknowledges that many people weren’t so lucky. “Everyone in our neighborhood is just trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next,” she said.
The Rasmussens have been impressed with the restoration efforts Galveston has made so far. “Things are reopening slowly, and this summer should be great,” said Amy. Their children plan to enjoy Ohana Surf Camp as they have in past summers. “It’s one of our favorite things to do,” she said. “We’ll settle in for the month of June and make Galveston our home,” Amy says.
Julie and Brett Treadwell have already settled back into their family vacation home on Pirates Beach. Julie grew up spending time on Bolivar Peninsula with her extended family and she looks forward to continuing the Galveston tradition with her own children. “We’re down there about once a month right now, and will spend about every other week there in the summer,” Julie said.
Many of the Treadwell’s favorite restaurants and shops are back up and running, and most important, the beach is in good condition. Children Katelyn, Courtney, and Austin have been busy building sandcastles this spring with their parents and grandmother, Jane Parks. “The attitude in Galveston is great and we need people to come back and help the economy,” Julie said.
In addition to the work of former President Bush, the reason Galveston has made great progress so quickly is in large part due to the work of vacation homeowners like Sidney S. McClendon III. He and his wife, Bunny, have owned their current bay home for 15 years and are involved in civic organizations to restore Galveston. Working with various groups, Sid is ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to restore and preserve the island.
When they’re not busy working on getting things back to normal, Sid and Bunny enjoy sightseeing around Galveston. “Ike cleaned out a lot of things that really needed it, and to that extent, the storm did Galveston a favor,” said Sid. “Things are being rebuilt nicer, fresher, cleaner, and stronger.”
Most of the tourist attractions have reopened, including the Elissa, the official tall ship of Texas, built in 1877. The McClendons know that Houstonians will be back on the island this summer. “The beach is better than ever, the fish are biting, the breeze is blowing, and the ferry is running. What could be better?”
Galveston – Open for Business
With most everything in Galveston receiving a “freshening up,” now is the perfect time to visit your old favorites and discover some new places to enjoy.
Restaurants and clubs
Chances are your favorite Galveston restaurant is back up and running. Things are reopening gradually, and the majority of restaurants are cooking again. “Most everything is open and guest counts are up from what they were one year ago,” said Dennis Byrd, owner of The Spot Restaurant and president of the Galveston Restaurant Association.
Here are just a few of the popular places that are open for business.
• Gaido’s Restaurant – 3828 Seawall Boulevard, www.gaidos.com
• The Spot Restaurant and Tiki Bar – 3204 Seawall Blvd., www.thespotgalveston.com
• Joe’s Crab Shack – 3502 Seawall Blvd., www.joescrabshack.com
• Café Michael Burger – 11150 Termini San Luis Pass Road, 409-740-3639
• Mario’s Ristorante – 2202 61st St., www.marios-ristorante.com
• Nate’s West End – 17575 San Luis Pass Road, 409-737-9530
• Mosquito Cafe – 628 14th St., www.mosquitocafe.com
• Shrimp N Stuff – 3901 Avenue O, www.shrimpnstuff.com
Galveston nightlife has reopened as well. “The Pelican Club has been completely remodeled and is better than ever,” says manager Josh Wilson. The historic members-only club in Gaido’s Restaurant has been a favorite for years. “The hurricane gave us an opportunity to give the club a whole new look.”
Another hotspot is H20 at the San Luis. The recently opened poolside lounge brings an upscale nightlife to Galveston, inspired by clubs in Los Angeles and South Beach.
If you plan to settle in for a while this summer, children have many options for day camps.
• Ohana Surf and Skate offers Surf Camp for children ages 6-17 (www.ohanasurfandskate.com).
• Moody Gardens offers day camps for children ages 4-14. Learn about animals and the ocean, and explore the rainforest and aquarium (www.moodygardens.com).
• Texas A&M University at Galveston offers Sea Camp, a weeklong adventure exploring the wonders of the marine environment. Day camps are for children ages 6-11 and overnight camp for those ages 10-18 (www.tamug.edu).
Since the storm, most attractions are open again, and many have been remodeled to be even better than before. One of the favorite events on the island, the Historic Homes Tour, is scheduled for May 2, 3, 9, and 10. Visit www.galvestonhistory.org for more information.
• Schlitterbahn Water Park – 2026 Lockheed Drive, www.schlitterbahn.com
• Moody Gardens – 1 Hope Blvd., www.moodygardens.com
• Bishop’s Palace – 1402 Broadway, 409-762-2475
• The Grand 1894 Opera House – 2020 Postoffice St., www.thegrand.com
• Lone Star Flight Museum – 2002 Terminal Drive, www.lsfm.org
• Elissa – Pier 21, www.galvestonhistory.org
A multi-million dollar beach nourishment project is underway and the results are already visible along the seawall. The project, which slows erosion and provides more shallow water for wading, has already added about 100 more feet of sand than was there before Ike.
The first phase was completed at the end of March, in time for sea turtle nesting season. The next phase is planned to extend the project beyond the seawall to the less populated beach areas. According to the Galveston County Health District, the ocean is safe for swimming throughout Galveston. “The water is regularly monitored and has been safe for some time now,” says Melody Smith, director of marketing with the Galveston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
If you plan on renting a house or condo this spring and summer, be sure to do your homework before your vacation. Fortunately, many of the rental properties have been repaired and are ready for visitors. On the West End, Claire Reiswerg with Sand ‘N Sea Properties estimates that 75 percent of its properties will be available this summer.
Hotels and condos
Many of the favorites have taken the opportunity to remodel and upgrade, and are ready for you to check in.
• The San Luis Resort – 5222 Seawall Blvd., www.sanluisresort.com
• Hotel Galvez – 2024 Seawall Blvd., www.wyndham.com
• Casa del Mar Beachfront Suites – 6102 Seawall Blvd., www.casadelmartx.com
• The Commodore on the Beach – 3618 Seawall Blvd., www.commodoreonthebeach.com