Dickens on The Strand

When we stopped in at the Galveston, Texas, visitor center, the first thing the gal asked is, “Have you been to The Strand?”  “Ah, no”, I said totally perplexed.  From there the information started flowing from this enthusiastic gal along with accompanying brochures. For anyone visiting Galveston Island for the first time, I highly recommend the first stop be to the visitor center.  There really is a lot to see and do on this island.Charles Dickens

Victorian festivalThe Strand is the name of the main street in Galveston’s historic district.  Situated on the east end of the island and along the bay side and harbor, the street is lined with quaint shops and beautifully restored turn of the century buildings.

Forty years ago, nearly all the Victorian-era buildings that lined the streets were vacant and run down.  The area was shunned by residents and viewed as a place frequented by drunks and derelicts.

In an attempt to draw attention to the Victorian architecture and revitalize this part of Galveston, the Galveston Historical Foundation organized a call to action and Dickens on the Strand was founded.

Dickens on the Strand is an annual Christmas festival occurring the first weekend in December.  Participants come to witness and relive the Charles Dickens era.Charles DickensCharles Dickens

This 19th century Victorian London festival features parades, entertainment, strolling carolers, roving entertainers, and costumed food and shop vendors.  In 1973 the first faux Queen Victoria and Prince Albert presided over Galveston’s first Dickens on the Strand festival and the faux royalty continue to make their presence.Victorian festivals

Forty-one years later the festival is going strong.  Al and I found ourselves in the midst of this years revelry.  I’m not usually fond of large crowds, but this was a very enjoyable and entertaining event.

Galveston TexasAttendees are encouraged to dress the part.  For their efforts, they receive half off admittance.  I did find it somewhat humorous watching the use of iPhones by the costumed attendees …. not exactly from the Dickens era, huh!festivals in Texas

holiday festivalsIt was obvious, regular attendees look forward to this yearly event and some of the outfits were absolutely gorgeous.

Charles DickensThe food and shop vendors were definitely different from what you’d find at your typical festival.

The Scotch Eggs came highly recommended and Al couldn’t wait to give one a try ….. hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage dipped in bread crumbs then deep-fried.

Al loved it and ended up eating a second one before leaving the festival.

As for the vendor shop tents; there were the usual vendors you’d find at other festival and then there were ones geared more towards the Dickens on The Strand festival…. dresses, hats, boots, and accessories. Some of the items seemed a little more modern or rather risqué for the Dickens era.Holiday festivalsfestivals in TexasObviously Dickens on The Strand is a very successful festival that helped revitalize this historic downtown area.  The Strand District is now a thriving commercial area filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, and museums. During our stay in Galveston, we found ourselves frequenting the area.  I’m drawn to the beautiful buildings and their history.  I admire the resilience of not only the structures but the people.holiday festivals

Our admittance ticket to Dickens on The Strand also included a tour of The Elissa.  This majestic tall ship is moored at the Texas Seaport Museum located in the historic port of Galveston.  Elissa is not a replica, but a survivor.Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on the StrandShe was rescued from a scrap yard in Greece in 1975 by the Galveston Historical Foundation.  This three-masted, iron-hulled ship was built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

She carries nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area.  From her stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet and her height is over 99 feet tall.

During her commercial history she carried a variety of cargos to ports around the world.  Although retired and now a museum, she is a fully functional vessel that continues to sail annually.

historic shipsElissa shipMore information including a video on Elissa’s dramatic rescue and meticulous restoration can be viewed at the Texas Seaport Museum.Galveston festivals

Dickens on the StrandWe had a fabulous time spending our day at the festival.  Young, old, white, black it just didn’t matter, folks engaged each other as if we were all neighbors or long time friends.

We saw absolutely nothing negative, only polite, respectful behavior even though alcohol flowed freely.

In the photo to the right, the guy at the window was ordering some adult beverages.  No problem walking around with an open beer.

festivals in Texas

antique bicyclesThis delightful couple has attended Dickens on the Strand for the past 40 years.  They eagerly shared these special turn of the century bicycle’s and their story with Al and me.   Since it wasn’t lady like to ride a regular bike, this style was designed so gals could enjoy this new invention in a proper manner.  A regular bicycle might have cost $75 and these would sell for around $200. Thus this style bicycle was ridden only by daughters of wealthy business men.

Al and I enjoyed Dickens on The Strand so much we would even consider a future trip planned around the date. And I assure you, we’ll be in costume next time.

Women's suffrageGalveston Texas

Amazon.com Gift Card with Greeting Card – $50 (Classic)

Major Works of Charles Dickens (Great Expectations / Hard Times / Oliver Twist / A Christmas Carol / Bleak House / A Tale of Two Cities)






62 thoughts on “Dickens on The Strand

  1. What a fabulous and fun event, Ingrid, and so lucky that you happened to be there to witness it. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos. I love Scotch eggs. Haven’t made them in ages, but I just might have to make a few soon.:)

    • We had never heard of Scotch eggs. Hubby loved them. I know, we couldn’t have planned our stay any better for all the fun events. We had a wonderful stay 🙂

    • Get your friends together, dress up, and snap away…. a fun ladies outing for sure. We had a great time. The next day they were racing beds down the Strand, but the weather turned nasty and thus we sadly didn’t go. Next time I attend, I will be properly attired 🙂

    • I would so have worn that dress when I was younger…. loved it. Alas, there comes a point in life when one needs to acknowledge ones age and best to leave the flirty frock to the youngens 😉

  2. We brought the weather with us so you can have more fun in Galveston. I know we missed a lot of activities so glad you were still there to share with them with us. But I was expecting you to be in one of those costumes 🙂

    • My closet isn’t big enough to house one of these beautiful ensembles or I definitely would ‘ve dressed the part. Fun event .I wish you guys could’ve joined us.

  3. I was looking through these photos Ingrid, yet again! It must have been amazing walking up to this festival. With so many costumed participants, I imagine it would be hard not to feel transported back in time…

    • It was fabulous, but then again I’ve always been drawn to the Victorian era. At one point, Al and I found a street side little table and chairs to sit and relax. We people watched for over an hour 🙂

  4. A month on the island…. That really did you guys a while to thoroughly check out what Galveston has to offer. Your photos of the beautiful costumes are wonderful. I would love to arrive for this festival sometime!

    • Thank you Holly. I think this is an event you would really enjoy and yes the costumes were great. A month allowed us to really settle in and enjoy the island with plenty of down time. And we needed the month because half the time the weather was yucky.

  5. This was so fun to read! During part of my childhood mu grandparents lived on the strand. It was always so fun going for a visit and we especially looked forward to Dickens! This post brought back so many lovely memories. Thank you for sharing!

    • I’m sure that had to be tons of fun visiting your grandparents. I love all the Victorian homes around the area and the festival was more enjoyable than we imagined. Glad I could share 🙂

  6. Loved seeing all of your great photos, and glad you enjoyed it. I had a friend there in costume, and I saw her pictures on Facebook. Looks like so much fun!

    • It really was very enjoyable and we lucked out with perfect weather on Saturday. Some of the costumes were fabulous and folks go all out for this event. I would put this on a ‘must do’ at least once list 🙂

  7. How lucky you are to be in Galveston for the Dickens festival. I just love how so many people participate. The costumes are gorgeous & the festival unique. We too saw Elissa while visiting there. She’s still as lovely as ever.

  8. What a great festival! Isn’t it good to see a community that cherishes its past, rather than bulldoze it down. 40 years ago, Galveston made their choice and look at how everyone benefitted.

    • It was such a joy to visit and see the community renovated. There’s still signs of devastation here and there from Ike but in time it’ll continue to improve. I do love the fact they cherish their history 🙂

  9. What a fun and interesting festival—the costumes are so authentic! Makes me want to try to fit it in our way to Florida next winter. I’d love to see the Elissa, too—what a beautiful ship! I love when we come across festivals in our travels. It adds so much to the experience of a place. You’ve been finding some good ones!

    • I think you’d enjoy staying at the Galveston Island State Park and from there exploring the rest of the island including historic downtown Galveston. Kayaking around here is also popular with several mapped out water trails.

  10. Ingrid, that looks like such a fun and interesting festival! Makes me want to plan to be there next year on our way to Florida. I’d love to see the Elissa, too. What a beautiful ship!

    • We found Galveston in general very enjoyable with a little something for everyone. So if you’re passing through the Houston area anyway, I’d recommend a stop. I know we’ll return 🙂

    • Oh, thank you so much Sue. I was so engrossed in the festival, I basically just pointed and clicked without much thought to composition or what I was photographing. So I’m glad at least some of the photos turned out blog acceptable. Me mischievous? Never….. wink, wink!

  11. How great that you were there to see all the activity. What a wonderful idea! Love all the costumes! So glad the ship was rescued. What a beauty! So glad you shared:)

    • I had been looking forward to this festival from the moment I heard about it. I love all things “Victorian” so this was right up my alley. Beautiful dresses, hats, horses, carriages, and a ship…. perfect 🙂

    • If you get a chance to visit Galveston in early December, I highly recommend attending the festival. It just seemed to top off my week filled with Victorian architecture 🙂

  12. Sounds like a brilliant festival, hopefully we will make it down to Galveston one of these winters. Loved the bit about Scotch Eggs, a favourite snack, but difficult to find good ones in US & Canada. Best washed down with a good ale or single Malt Whisky.

    • Hubby loved the Scotch Eggs. This particular vendor only makes them once a year at this festival and hubby is already talking about returning next year LOL. And the ale was flowing feely 🙂

  13. What a great time to be in Galveston. I want to pedal one of those bikes around! Getting funny mental images of John and me all dressed up – that would NEVER happen! Great post. Thanks.

    • That couple are 80 years old and they had to switch to this style trike 5 years ago as they were no longer comfortable with their balance on the large two wheel turn of the century bike. He personally restored these and insisted on sit on the one. Lovely people 🙂

  14. Totally would love to see that!.I love dressing up, so the Dickens period would be really fun. I think you and Al s should definitely plan on it next year!!!! Dennis and I planned one of our Texas trips around Oysterfest in Fulton…We didn’t have to dress up like an oyster, but we ate lots..and had a few beers at the beer tent!

    • I’m already designing my outfit LOL. However, I’m at odds with myself with a great desire to explore the west next winter but at the same time wanting to return to the Gulf Coast. Ah, for now I’ll focus on enjoying my time here and making summer plans 🙂

    • We lucked out the day of the festival with perfect weather making it a very fun and entertaining day. If we were to go again, I’d definitely dress up 🙂

  15. Looks like you had a wonderful time something to put in my Diary for next year
    Thanks for a great report

    • By spending a month on the island, we were able to take in a lot of the sights in a leisurely manner. I’m so glad we allowed ourselves ample time and weren’t rushed 🙂

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