Galveston beaches in February?
January 5, 2011 4:51 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are considering driving from Chicago to Galveston, TX next month for a few-days-on-the-beach-getaway. I'm researching a little but found a few beaches aren't even open at that time of year. Too cold/wrong season? Is this a bad plan? Do you have a better one?

We do NOT want to fly anywhere. Driving is part of the adventure for us, and flying stinks. We're not able to stay anywhere terribly expensive - thinking a cheapo hotel near a beach. Is Texas a bad idea for February? Would it be smarter to head to Florida or somewhere like that? We have little experience in the southern states so any advice or recommendations for a sunny trip would be welcome, thanks!
posted by agregoli to Travel & Transportation around Galveston, TX (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
February in Texas tends to not be what one would typically think of as "beach weather", no. even though it's "the south", they still have winter and that's barely cracking spring.
posted by radiosilents at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Miami Florida, however, looks warmer.
posted by germdisco at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2011

Thanks, I didn't know there was climate infographics like that on Wikipedia.
posted by agregoli at 5:04 PM on January 5, 2011

Yeah, what radiosilents said. I'm in Houston, which is just over the bridge from Galveston, and we're supposed to have a hard freeze next week. It will be a little warmer in February, but not really beach weather. However, it may be Mardi Gras, depending on when it falls this year. Galveston is a mini New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:05 PM on January 5, 2011

To echo what other people've said, our weather here in Houston's supposed to be not-beach-friendly for a while.
Also, driving 1,100 miles to Galveston... ... I would suggest South Padre Island, or somewhere on the Southern Florida coastline instead - - much as I love the region, Galveston's not the most picturesque or relaxing beach, unless you go at night where the greyish water appears dark blue. (Don't get me wrong - it's 45 minutes from Houston, which makes it great... because it's close. For a longer journey, I'd steer y'all to a nicer section of coastline). :^)
posted by Seeba at 5:11 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Southern Florida would be great if it wasn't a 23 hour drive or I out of luck for this fantasy trip in Feb?
posted by agregoli at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2011

Quite a few short cruises leave out of Galveston, and you can get some pretty decent last minute deals if you are willing to stay in an inside cabin.
posted by smalls at 5:21 PM on January 5, 2011

Maybe a suggestion to check out Austin? It's a few hours shorter than Galveston, I'd imagine and Lake Austin's beautiful - - if it's warm enough, you can swim in the Lake, if not, you can kayak, canoe, or enjoy both the city nearby or the Hill Country.
posted by Seeba at 5:24 PM on January 5, 2011

You don't have to go to Southern Florida; Pensacola in the Panhandle has lovely, lovely beaches.

Galveston, from my memory, was...sludgy. The beaches were more grey than white when I visited in May one year, and I can imagine it is still chilly in February.
posted by misha at 5:26 PM on January 5, 2011

Uh, I wouldn't go swimming anywhere in Texas in February except maybe, maybe, maybe South Padre unless you want to freeze your whatsit off. We do have winter here. It sometimes even snows in February. Two years ago, it snowed in March. We aren't having as cold a winter as last year, but no swimming going on for sure. Galveston will most likely be cold, drizzly, and windy.
posted by tamitang at 5:40 PM on January 5, 2011

Galveston is a mini New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Yeah... not so much. I've been to Galveston at Mardi Gras (by accident, seriously) two years ago and not only was it cold (especially at night) but the 'Mardi Gras' was about 75 yards of drunken students and throwing beads from a couple of balconies to try and get chest shots. It looked like it may have been a bit bigger during the day, but the evening was (even for the resident perve that went with us) distinctly lacking in much in the way of interest for the over-20's.

I'd say head further south - Florida is a better bet - if you actually want a beach holiday of any sort.
posted by Brockles at 5:41 PM on January 5, 2011

"Southern Florida would be great if it wasn't a 23 hour drive or I out of luck for this fantasy trip in Feb?"
posted by agregoli at 8:17 PM on January 5

You could drive the 700 miles to Washington, D.C. in about 12 hours, and then catch the AutoTrain to Orlando, maybe booking sleeper accomodations on the train. The AutoTrain isn't particularly fast (17 hours and 30 minutes, from D.C. to Orlando, by schedule), mind you, but you are, generally, moving through the countryside, and you can sleep, stretch out, eat, read, talk and walk all the time you are on it. Meals are included in AutoTrain fares, and you're not burning gas in your car while on the train.
posted by paulsc at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2011

Panhandle Florida is pretty cold in winter, Tallahassee has seen record breaking lows this season. I am west of Gainesville, Fl and we see an average of 10 freezes a year. South Florida, or Padre Island South is where it is mostly likely gonna be warm enough for the beach. Both places are pretty crowded in the winter.
posted by misspat at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2011

Yep, get it everyone! Galveston is not in for beaches. Starting to look at Pensacola, thanks, misha!
posted by agregoli at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2011

Even at Spring Break, Galveston can be too chilly/windy make the water enjoyable. There are some things you could do at this time of year - there's a decent aquarium (not as good as Shedd) and a rainforest room at Moody Gardens as well as some nature tours you can do on adjoining islands.

Galveston is not Florida-esque, even in the best of weather. The sand is brown/grey, and the undertow can be pretty rough, which stirs up the water and makes it brown. At some times of year, the beach is covered in seaweed.

What about New Orleans? I don't think the weather would be much better, but it's a better tourist destination and about 5 hrs farther.
posted by asphericalcow at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2011

Ack, getting discouraged. Maybe Feb. is the wrong time to be able to drive to somewhere warm in a few days.
posted by agregoli at 5:49 PM on January 5, 2011

Google says it's 19 hours from Chicago to Galveston and 21 hours from Chicago to Vero Beach, Florida. I don't think the 2 hour difference should dissuade you--you'll be going to a much, much nicer place. If the driving is the adventure, though, I'd say go all the way to Key West. I mean, why not? Flapping around in the water in one place isn't actually that much fun for long. Seeing everything along the way is a lot more fun.

When you hit I-10, go on over to Jacksonville and Amelia Island for a chilly but nice walk at the state park and just take a slow ride down A1A all the way down. Stop at St. Augustine and the Alligator Farm. Stop for dinner someplace nice in Daytona. Visit the space center at Cape Canaveral. Stop for actual beach stuff at Vero Beach and points south. Make it all the way to Key West if you can.

I dunno about hotel availability--it's probably not great--but the drive down A1A is great.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:16 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could see about places like Gulf Shores, Alabama or Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Many people in New Orleans who are looking for inexpensive beach getaways during Mardi Gras, etc., drive to the Panhandle beaches. There are lots of rentals all along the Gulf Coast and by late February, it's getting warm.
posted by Anitanola at 6:18 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cruise Cruise Cruise. You can leave out of Galveston, Mobile or New Orleans for not a lot of money and they will take you somewhere where it is 80 degrees and has a beach. We've done this a bunch of times and like you, love the drive.
posted by sandra_s at 6:19 PM on January 5, 2011

Sorry, cruises are out for many reasons, both personal and medical. Loving all the suggestions though!
posted by agregoli at 6:29 PM on January 5, 2011

I'm in Chicago and I've made the drive to Key West in Florida a few times. If what you are looking for is a great sunny Caribbean feel without the flying, it'stotally worth it. Go to Bahia Honda State Park beach. It is seriously beautiful.

If you are looking for another great place to go that will be considerably warmer than Chicago in Feb. also consider Savannah, GA. It has a great beach on Tybee Island and if you just want city stuff you can wander the streets of Savannah for days without getting bored.

Have fun!
posted by yfatah at 6:47 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Houston native and current Austinite here. It's not as bad as some people are saying: although we do get occasional freezing weather, we also get days where it's in the 70s and 80s (today it got into the low 70s in Austin, in fact). The thing is that the night temperatures are still in the 50s or lower almost every night, and that means wherever you go, it's going to be too cold to swim for very long.

And I agree that Galveston is not a great beach, so it may not be what you want anyway. But you can still get sun somewhere; I just wouldn't necessarily go for a beach.
posted by immlass at 7:12 PM on January 5, 2011

Today was about as warm as winter gets in the Houston/Galveston area, with temps around 72. Also consider that the water temperature in February is around 55 F.

Unless Key West is nicer than I thought, it's a stretch to say that any beach in the continental US is nice in February.

As far as the driving goes, I can make the St. Louis to Houston drive in about 14 hours when I'm doing over 80 on the interstate. Add an hour to Galveston on one end and 5 to Chicago on the other, plus a little extra rest time, and yeah, you're looking at a little over 20 hours. So if Southern FL is really only 23, then you should go that route. Galveston is nothing special.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:22 PM on January 5, 2011

I know nothing about Galveston, but the Florida panhandle would actually be a shorter drive by a few hours according to Google Maps and the beaches between Pensacola and Mexico Beach (approximately) are probably some of the most beautiful beaches in the continental US. I would not want to swim in the ocean in February, but you might get lucky and have warm enough weather to enjoy laying in the sun. Or you might not get lucky and end up there during a cold snap. Florida in the winter is just unpredictable. By March, your odds of having warm weather go up, but if you wait until April you will be on the Gulf during the best time of year. The air and water are warm, spring break is over, and summer hasn't started yet so the weather is nice and the crowds are small. I grew up in Tallahassee and we always spent the most time at the beach in April and May. If you do go to Florida, I highly recommend Grayton Beach.
posted by horses, of courses at 8:21 PM on January 5, 2011

Just got back from passing the New Year in Galveston. I agree that it's not really swimming weather, though I did see more than a few surfers.

That said, though, it's a nice town, and a nice stroll up and down the beach. The main drag was crowded with joggers, tourists, families, dog-walkers, etc. Not exactly the beach vacation you might be envisioning, but it was a nice time.

Oh, yeah. I believe the Schliterbahn water park has a heated section, so you could definitely get your swim on there.
posted by Gilbert at 8:29 PM on January 5, 2011

Galveston could surely use the tourism, but it's 1) decidedly not beach weather and won't be reliably so at all until March at least and 2) is not a great place to visit since the hurricane. Lots of stuff is gone as are a lot of the people. I'd find it hard to believe that Mardi Gras is even remotely comparable to New Orleans (or any decent-sized city) nowadays. 3) The beaches are not that nice, not even compared to other Texas beaches like Port Aransas/Mustang Island and especially South Padre.

And as much as I love Schlitterbahn, I surely wouldn't travel that far for any of their parks.
posted by elpea at 9:48 PM on January 5, 2011

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