Kemah Boardwalk

This old-school boardwalk on Galveston Bay is a dining, shopping and amusement park paradise.

Kemah Boardwalk is a bustling destination with a charming yesteryear atmosphere. Hop aboard an old-fashioned wooden roller coasters or carousels, and then check out the many arcade games. Both tourists and locals come here at night to take in the Texas BBQ and a wide selection of other cuisines. There are live bands both in the bars and restaurants as well as on an outdoor stage. All of this overlooks Galveston Bay, just a short drive south of Houston.

Constructed in the 1990s, the 42-acre (17-hectare) complex is full of trendy restaurants and boutique shopping, and a broad variety of rides. Thrill seekers will want to try The Inverter, Fireball and Drop Zone. For families, there’s a Ferris wheel, miniature train, airplane ride and double-decker carousel. Cool off under the Dancing Water Fountains where dozens of holes in the ground randomly shoot up water. When you’re ready to take a breather, stroll along the peaceful waterfront walkway and take in the view.

There are restaurants of all kinds, but the specialty here is seafood, including crab cakes and fresh Cajun-style shrimp. A strip of shops provides everything from beachwear to a year-round Christmas store.

This idyllic waterfront setting is a popular tourist destination. Weekdays tend to be less crowded, which can be a plus for families with small children. But there’s an exciting carnival atmosphere on weekends, particularly in the evenings, when the boardwalk fills with families and young people, and street performers fill the air with live music. 

The Kemah Boardwalk is 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Houston. There is parking available nearby with a free shuttle boat transfer, or there are lots nearby with reasonably priced parking.

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