Galveston is an island city on the Gulf Coast of Texas. It’s known for Moody Gardens, where giant glass pyramids house sharks, monkeys and other animals. Amusement rides and restaurants line Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier on the south shore. West is bird-rich Galveston Island State Park, with its trails, kayak launches and fishing spots. Stewart Beach and East Beach are on the island’s eastern end.
During the 19th century, Galveston became a major U.S. commercial center and one of the largest ports in the United States. It was for a time, Texas' largest city, known as the "Queen City of the Gulf". It was devastated by the unexpected Galveston Hurricane of 1900, whose effects included massive flooding and a storm surge which nearly wiped out the town. The natural disaster on the exposed barrier island is still ranked today as the deadliest in United States history, with an estimated death toll of 6,000 to 12,000 people. The city subsequently reemerged during the Prohibition era of 1919–1933 as a leading tourist hub and a center of illegal gambling, nicknamed the Free State of Galveston until this era ended in the 1950s with subsequent other economic and social development.
Much of Galveston's economy is centered in the tourism, health care, shipping, and financial industries. The 84-acre (34 ha) University of Texas Medical Branch campus with an enrollment of more than 2,500 students is a major economic force of the city. Galveston is home to six historic districts containing one of the largest and historically significant collections of 19th-century buildings in the U.S., with over 60 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, maintained by the National Park Service in the United States Department of the Interior.