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3 Texas Gulf Coast Destinations That Shine for Meetings and Events

Photo of a sunset and a pier in South Padre Island, Texas.

Stretching nearly 400 miles, the Texas Gulf Coast offers a wealth of meetings experiences that take advantage of the region’s ample beaches, wildlife areas and history.

The three primary destinations on the Texas Gulf, South Padre Island, Corpus Christi and Galveston, provide fun and sun at an agreeable price point with fewer crowds than some of their beachy Southern competitors.

Following is a look at what these three Texas Gulf Coast destinations offer groups, including Gulf-side event options, historical lures and new hotels and venues that are ready to make their mark.

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Galveston Island

Galveston Island has an advantage over most destinations because of its fascinating history. The destination also offers two sizable convention centers and a wealth of attractions that draw millions of visitors.

“We’re a town of 50,000 but we get over 8 million visitors a year, and the same things that make us an attractive leisure destination are the things that make us an attractive destination for meetings and events,” said Bryan Kunz, director of sales and services for Visit Galveston.

Photo of Bishop's Palace at night.
Bishop's Palace. Credit: Visit Galveston.

“At one time, we were one of the wealthiest cities in the country,” he added. “We were second to Ellis Island as a port of immigration—and a gateway to the West—so lots and lots of different cultures came through here. That’s part of what makes it special, that diversity of culture.” 

Galveston’s biggest claim to fame, however, is the massive hurricane known as The Great Storm that virtually wiped out the hugely successful city in 1900. But when the waters receded, the storm was soon overshadowed by the can-do spirit of the townsfolk who rebuilt the city.

“There’s also a spirit of resiliency, of course—we’ve been through hurricanes and every manner of natural disaster you can make up,” Kunz said, referencing the 1900 Galveston hurricane that still ranks as the worst weather natural disaster in U.S. history. “But it’s really built us a culture of community here that is unlike a lot of places that I’ve been.”

[Related: 5 Outdoor Teambuilding Activities in Galveston, Texas]

Galveston boasts a beachfront convention center in addition to the truly unique 433-room Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center, which is built on a 240-acre botanical garden with attractions such as an aquarium and other wildlife exhibits in its iconic pyramids—one containing a rainforest atmosphere—as part of the offering.

Photo of Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center's pyramid.
Pyramid, Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center: Credit: Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center.

“We’ve done a ton of opening and closing events in the aquarium, specifically, which has great meeting space in there among the sharks and fish and rays swimming over your head,” Kunz said. “And they’ve done them in the rainforest, but it’s a little different, because you’ve got all the animals in there, so there are restrictions in there with food and stuff.”

Moody Gardens’ 103,000-square-foot convention center features a 60,000-square-foot ballroom that is often used as an exhibit floor.

Galveston Island Convention Center at The San Luis Resort offers 140,000 square feet of Gulf-front event space right on the city’s famed Seawall Boulevard. Property features include a 43,100-square-foot exhibition hall, 15,500-square foot grand ballroom and 700 guest rooms adjacent to the facility, with another 1,400 within two miles.

Galveston Hotel Happenings

On the hotel side, Galveston has the Grand Galvez, a Marriott Autograph Collection property that was built in 1911 as a symbol of the city’s resilience following The Great Storm. Known as the “Queen of the Gulf,” the Galvez can host meetings and events of up to 500 in its indoor and outdoor venues and recently wrapped a major renovation that celebrates the property’s historic ambience.

Another historic property, The Tremont House, an Art Deco grande dame holding court in the East End Historic district that boasts one of the largest concentrations of Victorian-era architecture in the country, also recently wrapped a massive renovation. The Marriott Tribute Portfolio property completed a major remodel of its interiors and rooms and is still working on a complete renovation of its rooftop bar.

The new downtown 61-room Hotel Lucine is a courtyard-style property with a pool and gathering places in the middle and a rooftop bar on top. Transformed from a property that fell into disrepair, the Houston Chronicle described its aesthetic as “Wes-Anderson-meets-the-Mediterranean.” Although it lacks a large amount of meeting space, events such as board meetings will find a design-forward home here.

According to Kunz, a beachfront Margaritaville resort was just announced but no details on a possible groundbreaking or opening date are available yet.

Galveston Island’s 32 miles of beach open up a lot of options for group events, including the public Seawall Boulevard beach and other locales, such as beach property controlled by hotels.

Photo of Galveston's East Beach Park.
East Beach Park. Credit: Visit Galveston.

On the eastern tip of Galveston Island is East Beach Park, which is managed by the same organization that runs Visit Galveston, so it is available for private events and includes a raised open-air pavilion with a capacity for approximately 150 seated. Its raised boardwalk area is a great option for opening receptions and has even been used for outdoor meetings, with a sunrise and sunset that can’t be beat.

“You can have your band playing down on the ground level and have your bar and food stations up in the pavilion, which makes for a really nice event,” Kunz said, adding that because the beach is governed by the Visit Galveston Board of Trustees, booking is relatively seamless.

Another popular Galveston Island attraction is Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which can host events such as corporate buyouts for large groups who want to have the park to themselves. Leisure and group travelers alike will also want to check out Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, a waterfront amusement park on a pier jutting out into the Gulf and featuring a towering Ferris wheel.

Photo of couple walking on beach in front of alveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Credit: Visit Galveston.

Corpus Christi

Dubbed the “Gulf Coast Capital,” Corpus Christi shares one major asset with its Gulf Coast cohorts: massive bleisure appeal.

“Being on the Texas coast, we’re a great business and leisure destination. Visitors come along with their families with them and add some pre- or post-dates,” said Nicole Olivares, vice president of sales for Visit Corpus Christi. “It’s pretty unique with the attraction offerings but also the meeting facility offerings. We have quite a few hotel venues right on the beach; you’re in a meeting room and coming out and having that beachfront experience that is very unique—you don’t get that just anywhere.”

Olivares takes particular pride in Visit Corpus Christi’s destination services team, which works with groups to make sure their experience leverages all the area has to offer.

“We have a whole entire program that we call our Signature Experiences,” she said. “There’s a sailing adventure, Behind the Scenes of the Texas State Aquarium. There’s escape rooms on the USS Lexington, which is a World War II aircraft carrier. [Signature Experiences is] tailored toward spouses or families and we have these programs already in place.”

Photo of group of people posing in front of dolphins in their tank at Texas State Aquarium.
Behind the Scenes of the Texas State Aquarium. Credit: Visit Corpus Christi.

Other options include:

  • A chartered sailboat cruise on Corpus Christi Bay
  • A private oyster shucking class overlooking the picturesque Laguna Madre, followed by drinks
  • A tour of the Art Museum of South Texas before a private “pinch pot” ceramics class
  • A mixology cocktail crafting class
  • Classes ranging from cookie decorating to jewelry making with members of the local crafts community

The programs are available on the DMO’s website: 
Olivares said Corpus Christi typically counts the Texas association market as its biggest segment, but regional associations are starting to figure larger in the mix as well as government groups that can take advantage of lower slow-season per diem rates at many hotels.

Photo of American Bank Center, Corpus Christi.
American Bank Center. Credit: American Bank Center.

The military reunion segment is also a big part of Corpus Christi’s client base, with the USS Lexington being a popular destination not only because of its three escape rooms but also its meeting room and theater that are available for rental. Right next door is the Texas State Aquarium—the largest in the Lone Star State—which frequently is used as a closing-night venue.

American Bank Center offers more than 138,000 square feet of meetings and conventions space, with about 74,000 of it available for exhibiting.

Corpus Christi Beach Events

Groups wanting to use a beach for an event are also facilitated by the DMO’s destination services team, which can arrange for the proper permits and offer F&B vendor options. 

“We have an entire vendor toolkit already all laid out, so it’s pretty turnkey as far as resources go,” Olivares said, adding that a popular option is McGee Beach, located about a mile—or two-minute shuttle ride—from Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, a headquarters hotel for American Bank Center.

Photo of people sitting at banquet rounds on beach in Corpus Christi.
Event on beach in Corpus Christi. Credit: Visit Corpus Christi.

“We have a real coastal vibe and we immerse everybody into it, even though you’re right on the outskirts of downtown,” she said. “Some other unique beach offerings that we’ve done for groups are a shrimp boil and a bonfire. And literally, you just have to show up and everything is set up there for you.”

A new 127-room Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel, set for a 2025 opening in the heart of downtown, will feature an outdoor grill and entertainment area, fitness and business centers, Topgolf Swing suites for corporate and social events, a rooftop terrace bar and streetfront retail and restaurant spaces with outdoor patio seating.

One of the main things that sets Corpus Christi apart from other Gulf coast destinations, according to Olivares, is the size of its convention center as well as its easy access, being only a 12-minute drive from Corpus Christi International Airport.

South Padre Island

Laying claim to being “the only tropical island in Texas,” South Padre embodies that superlative with its 34 miles of white-sand beaches and clear Gulf waters.

"The destination has the perfect tropical backdrop for any meeting or conference," said Harmony Heard, director of sales for Visit South Padre Island. "Meeting planners are offered a unique and world-class experience to present to their attendees. South Padre Island's renowned hospitality has resulted in it being awarded the No. 1 Destination in Texas for two consecutive years by Texas Travel Awards, and our island is beyond honored to receive this recognition as it is a testament to our community's commitment and dedication to pleasing our guests every day."

The waters surrounding this tropical isle team with wildlife such as bottlenose and spinner dolphins, which groups can check out on eco-tours and sunset cruises via The Original Dolphin Watch.

Aerial photo of South Padre Island.
South Padre Island

The South Padre Island Convention Center, with Laguna Madre Bay as a backdrop, offers 45,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a 22,500-square-foot exhibit hall, nine meeting rooms and 9,000 square feet of breakout space. A highlight of the center is its Sunset Terrace, which is often used as an outdoor reception venue. A recent $1.2 million renovation of the convention center featured sustainability upgrades such as solar lighting.

In total, the destination offers more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and event space island wide.

The convention center is served by approximately 1,200 hotel rooms in the destination, with standout meetings properties that include:

  • Courtyard by Marriott South Padre Island, with 224 rooms, 12,000 square feet of meeting space and located a half-mile from the convention center
  • Hilton Garden Inn, with 156 rooms and which offers nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space located just under a half-mile from the convention center
  • Holiday Inn Resort, with 216 rooms (and 20 suites) and which offers 14,266 square feet of meeting space located just under a half-mile from the convention center
  • Isla Grand Beach Resort, with 191 rooms (and 62 suites) and which offers 10,792 square feet of meeting space located just under four miles from the convention center
  • Margaritaville Beach Resort, with 256 rooms (and 63 suites) and which offers 7,326 square feet of meeting space located 4.5 miles from the convention center.

One of South Padre Island's more recent claims to fame is its status as the launch site for SpaceX rockets, which draws visitors from around the world to see the blast-offs.

Photo of a crowd watching the lift-off of a SpaceX rocket in South Padre Island.
SpaceX rocket launch in South Padre Island. Credit: Harmony Heard.


South Padre Island CVB

Visit Corpus Christi

Visit Galveston

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.