Setting: Founded in 1838, Galveston occupies most of anarrow, 30-mile-long barrier island. Houston is 47 miles north viaI-45. A 17-foot-high, 10.4-mile-long concrete seawall protectsagainst storms. Population: 57,247.
Attractions: It's close to Houston's urban diversions yetfar enough away to have a distinctive, history-steeped personalityand small-town feel. The weather is temperate (although hot andhumid in summer), making water sports, including fishing andboating, enjoyable most of the year. Festivals such as Dickens onthe Strand at Christmas and Mardi Gras in February or March keepwinter months active.
Drawbacks: Tourists in summer and raucous revelers duringspring break line the seawall. Hurricane season runs June throughNovember. Despite current growth, sections of the city remain poor,and the drug trade thrives in some areas.
Housing Options: The East End Historic District is largelysettled, although properties can be found. The middle parts of theisland have more options, as do the Moody Gardens and Offatts Bayouareas. Condos are readily available along the seawall.
Your Next-door Neighbors: Lots of lawyers, businessexecutives, artists, and doctors. The island is a long-standingweekend and summer retreat for big players from Houston.
What It Costs: "A fixer-upper in the East End HistoricDistrict recently went for $80,000 but took another $125,000 torefurbish. Older homes in mid-island have asking prices in the$100,000 to $200,000 range, and sometimes higher. In the newerLafitte's Cove estates off Bayside, on the western side, pricesstart at about $300,000. Lofts in the Strand are almost all rentalrather than purchase, at about $1 per square foot.
Where You'd Spend Free Time: Along the seawall, joining orwatching skaters, joggers, bikers, and strollers. Dining on freshshrimp, snapper, or other seafood at such restaurants as Gaido'sand Clary's. Or lingering at DiBella's Italian Restaurant, a localinstitution. You'll visit the Strand often, to cruise the shops andadmire ships along the docks, including the 1877-vintage Elissa atthe Texas Seaport Museum. Children love Moody Gardens, with an IMAXtheater and aquarium.