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JUL-AUG 2016

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selecttraveler.com 27 J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 seals, rays, seahorses, eels, jelly- fi sh and thousands of fi sh from the north Pacifi c, Caribbean, tropical Pacifi c and south At- lantic oceans, which can be seen swimming above and around you in a large acrylic tunnel. One of the most popular pro- grams is the penguin encounter, where groups of up to 16 can meet and interact with Marley or one of the other six species of tropical penguins showcased in an exhibit that replicates South Georgia Island, complete with seasonal lighting. ISLAND HISTORY I next headed downtown for a stroll along the historic and busy Strand, lined with restored 19th-century buildings that house restaurants and shops. A block away, Pier 21 has be- come an entertainment district with restaurants, shops and museums, such as the Texas Seaport Museum and the 1877 tall ship Elissa. An informative movie at Pier 21 provides background about the Great Storm of 1900 — this was before they named hurricanes — which killed more than 6,000 and is considered the most devastating natural disaster in United States his- tory. It also altered the course of Galveston history. "Before the Storm of 1900, Galveston was one of the big- gest metropolises in Texas," said Mary Beth Bassett, public relations coordinator for the Galveston Convention and Visi- tors Bureau. "It was called the Wall Street of the South." Despite the extensive dam- age of the 1900 hurricane and 2008's Hurricane Ike, which left eight feet of water on the Strand, many Victorian-era structures survived and have been restored, spurred by the active Galveston Historical Foundation, which buys threatened buildings, stabi- lizes them and sells them to buy- ers who agree to restore them. "Historic tours are a major selling point," said the histori- cal foundation's Jami Durham. "We have the largest Victorian district in Texas." A pleasant walk along tree- lined trees in the city's six his- toric districts takes you by hous- es of all shapes, sizes and colors. Diamond-shaped plaques mark survivors of the 1900 hurricane, while trunks of trees destroyed by Ike have been turned into in- teresting pieces of sculpture. You can also tour huge Vic- torian mansions such as the Bishop's Palace, Moody Man- sion and Ashton Villa along Broadway and the ornate Grand 1894 Opera House on Postoffi ce Street, another thoroughfare with great shopping and dining. IMMERSIVE MUSEUMS Another large historic building, home to the local orphanage from 1895 to 1984, now houses Galves- ton's newest museum. e Bryan Museum, which opened in June 2015, has maintained much of the building's interior woodwork and features such as a built-in bench that children would sit on while waiting to be interviewed by pro- spective adoptive parents. e museum houses a com- prehensive collection of artifacts, documents and artwork, all col- lected by one man, J.P. Bryan. ere are saddles, spurs, antique fi rearms, rare maps, books and other artifacts ranging from a pre-Colombian stone mortar and pestle to items from the Mexican Revolution of the 1920s. "It all tells about the history of the southwest United States," said Rebecca Diaz-Arrastia, the muse- um's docent coordinator. "All you see are part of his collection." e Ocean Star Off shore Drill- ing Rig and Museum at Pier 20 provides an informative look at the technology of drilling for oil in hundreds of feet of water and what life is like on an off shore oil Courtesy Galveston CVB G A LV E S T O N H O U S T O N

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