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The History of Moody Gardens & Galveston

How We Became The Premier Getaway in Galveston

Moody Gardens is a public, nonprofit educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research. Moody Gardens’ history begins back in 1986, when it first opened as a horse barn and riding area, facilitating a hippotherapy riding program for people with head injuries. Today, Moody Gardens is one of the premier educational and recreational facilities in the South.

Learn more about the rich history of Moody Gardens and our Galveston hotel below.

The 1980s

1986: The Moody Gardens convention center, originally title the Hope Arena, opens its doors as a horse barn.

1988: Florida sand is barged in from across the Gulf of Mexico to create an exotic family beach and featured an ADA accessible yellow submarine for kids.

The 1990s

1990: The Production Area is built and includes two greenhouses used to propagate most of the plants seen on our grounds and for our Medicinal Plant Program.

1993: The Rainforest Pyramid, one of the most authentic rainforest recreations in the world, opens and features more than 1,000 species of exotic plants and animals.

1994: Moody Gardens introduces an authentic replica of an 1800s-style Paddlewheeler, known as the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. The 800-passenger boat takes guests on year-round cruises in the Offatts Bayou.

1997: The Discovery Pyramid opens with its debut NASA-inspired exhibit, “Living in the Stars.”

1998: Moody Gardens Hotel and Spa opens, featuring 418 guest rooms, 23 suites, and 23,000 feet of flexible meeting space.

1999: The Aquarium Pyramid opens, featuring, 1.5 million gallons of aquatic attractions and 10,000 marine animals.


2004: The newly renovated Moody Gardens Convention Center reopens, showcasing an expanded 60,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, and quickly became Galveston’s premier meeting and event venue.

2008: The Moody Gardens Golf Course—formerly known as the Galveston Municipal Golf Course—reopens after a substantial redesign.

2010s - Today

2011: The Rainforest Pyramid and Palm Beach reopen after extensive enhancement projects. Palm Beach welcomes a family-friendly water park, which features a lazy river, water slides, wave pool, and splash pad.

2015:  Moody Garden Hotel and Spa undergoes a full renovation.

Today, Moody Gardens remains an important facet of Galveston culture, and our Moody Gardens Hotel and Spa allows visitors from near and far to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience on the Gulf. Reserve your stay with us today!

History of Galveston

Beyond the Moody Gardens story, Galveston history is rich and impressive and nearby attractions exist to tell the tale. In the 18th century leading into the 19th century, Galveston became a prominent North American port city. But before that, the area had a strong Native American population consisting of Akokisa and Karankawa Indians before Europeans arrived in the early 16th century.

Land of Pirates

The attraction Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast displays the life of Galveston’s first true settler, the pirate Jean Lafitte of the early 19th century.

Historic Homes

The Menard House, built in 1838, and the Samuel May Williams House, built in 1839, remain today and are among the island’s oldest homes.

First in the State

Galveston is an emblem for ambition as it was home to the state's first opera house, first hospital, first golf course, first post office and more.

Stormy Weather

The great storm of 1900 nearly obliterated Galveston, but failed. The film The Great Storm is shown daily at nearby Pier 21. The storm of 1900 also led to the building of the famous Seawall, which is home to Galveston's best dining, shopping, and entertainment. 

A Closer Look

Head to the Bryan Museum for a closer look at Galveston's history as well as the history of Texas in one of the world's largest collections of historical artifacts, documents, and artwork relating to Texas and the American West.