Cover Story: In Search of Spring Break on Galveston Island

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Earlier this year, Coed magazine cobbled together a listicle of America's ten trashiest Spring Break locales.

Among the criteria: the number of liquor stores, tattoo parlors and Hooter's in a given town, and the number of visits from the Girls Gone Wild bus. (And it should be noted that "trashy" is meant as compliment by the editors of Coed.)

Clocking in at number three, behind only Vegas and Key West, was Texas's seaside pride n' joy, South Padre Island.

Padre? Trashy? I had to chuckle when I read that because back in my day (late '80s, early '90s), Padre's Spring Break seemed as fancy and hightone as St. Kitts or Saint-Tropez compared to Galveston. Sure it was raunchy in Padre, but at least the water was greenish and the sand had some sparkle. And there was some organization, in the form of big corporate bashes. Galveston was brown sand, browner water, and disorganized mayhem on the beaches, riots and brawls on the Seawall, underage drinking and bonfires for miles along the car-strewn West End beaches, not to mention occasional tragic beach-house deck collapses.

To put it bluntly, Galveston was where the people who either couldn't afford or lacked the wherewithal to get a room in Padre went. Slackers. Underachievers. Soon-to-be-dropouts.

But that Galveston seems to be gone now. Over the last 20 years the island has transformed itself from a city where families live that attracts hedonistic visitors, to a city where hedonists live that attracts family visitors.

Or at least that was what photographer Daniel Kramer and I found when we visited Galveston during the early part of Texas Week.

Though we sought it high and low, East Beach to West End and in to The Strand time and time again, we found precious little of what I remembered the city's Spring Break to be.

Instead, we found thousands and thousands of often chubby families meandering the streets of the venerable old town between visits to Moody Gardens and the Schlitterbahn.

And what Springtime mayhem we did find came courtesy of the locals, a few dozen of whom decked themselves out in emerald green, hopped on similarly-adorned bicycles, and got dangerously drunk while pedaling from bar to bar one brilliantly sunny afternoon.

These were the people we saw making out in public, falling on the ground, urinating in public, and having tearful lovers' quarrels for all the world to see.

As for Galveston's Spring Break visitors? They were riding carriages and eating ice cream and trying to choose whether Joe's Crab Shack or Fisherman's Wharf had the better deal on a child's plate. Which is not a bad thing. Just different from what I remember.

And you can read more at "In Search of Spring Break," this week's cover story.

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