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A wave of authenticity in Galveston

Across the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa lies the United State’s other southern extremity, Texas. The Lone Star State offers a wide array of entertainment possibilities from live rodeos, where President Bush has been known to appear, to beaches like those of Clearwater.

Galveston Island, a 17-hour drive from Tampa, offers not only historical findings, but also a new atmosphere, one that differs from the same old Florida beaches. For residents who are tired of the crowded Florida beaches and need to escape to another coast, Texas may be the best alternative. With a booming metropolis like Houston just 45 minutes away, Galveston Island is far enough away to avoid commercialization but close enough to remain connected and up-to-date with the outside world.

There are plenty of proprietors ready to please beach bums, as it has maintained its authentic beach feel. Surf shops, ice cream stands, and bars line the seashore for beachgoers to get all they need for a memorably successful day.

Although not a major tourist attraction, Galveston still brings in visitors from all over.

“We are down here from Nebraska in our timeshare across from the beach,” said a vacationer. “We come down every year to escape our work schedule. And Galveston always does the trick.”

Surfers and skim-boarders can be spotted in and along the waters of the Galveston coastline. The waves are not the largest in the area, but they are the most friendly. For those new to recreational water activities, the limited exposure of large swells is perfect for learning the basics. The smooth, clean waves along with the friendly locals make Galveston the perfect easy-going surf spot.

Visitors have a wide variety of cuisine to choose from when dining on the beach, whether they are wearing sandy flip-flops or dress shoes.

The local shops can keep any type of shopper busy for hours — there are shops in Galveston offering everything from antiques to tacky tourist gifts. And nearly anything can be rented for the day’s activities — including surfboards, fishing gear, and lounge chairs. For transportation, one can choose a beach-cruising bike, a street-legal golf cart and everything in between. With so many things to offer, it is astonishing there are not more people on the beach.

“It seems like I come out here whenever I get the chance. It’s not crowded and there is always something to do,” said Lorne Cooper, a local college student.

Galveston offers much more than just a beach. A popular diversion among sightseers is Harbour Tours, a boat ride with a 90-minute narrated history of the harbor and offers up-close and personal experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Best of all, it only costs $12 per person. Galveston also has a cruise port. A cruise to Mexico’s many popular party spots, such as Cozumel and Cancun, is only a few hours.

If historical tours are not the biggest turn-on, maybe a haunted tour would offer enough of an escape to be enjoyable while at the same time learning a little about the area. Two-hour air-conditioned tours start at just $20.

For fishermen, Galveston allows for all kinds of activities. Hiring a local fishing guide can help to find some of those “secret” spots. Guides can help with sharks, reds, or any number of bay fish. Prices vary quite a bit, but usually fall within the range of $250 to $375.

The Strand is another popular destination for visitors offering a wide array of restaurants and bars for patrons to enjoy.

O’Malley’s Stage Door Pub is a local favorite. Not only are most of the ales imported, but they also boast some of the best deli sandwiches on Galveston Island.

Galveston is slowly catching on to the Spring Break craze, offering drink specials and even putting on a Mardi Gras-like celebration during the early spring months. Before long, it may become just another tourist beach. So take the time to visit while it is still an authentic beach and not a vacation stop — Galveston may just be one of the last genuine shorelines still around.