Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.
- Charles Dickens
As the 19th century reached its closing years, the bustling Texas Port of Galveston became a well known and favorite landing area throughout much of the world. A hub of commerce and immigration, the City became a favorite landing area for world goods and anxious immigrants who favored the many opportunities the region offered.
Particularly popular with French and English immigrants, Galveston offered not only promising opportunities as the Gateway to the American West but it provided culture and social opportunity. The City was known for its influence and social flair and sported theatres, opera houses, and art museums that served as a focal point for the affluent and the abundant money handlers that paved the way for aspiring opportunists.
Before long the City's central business district took on an architecture and flavor that rivaled Old World cities. By the time the deadly Hurricane of the early 20th Century destroyed most of the city, Galveston had made its mark as the premiere entry port of the West.
In years following the great Hurricane, the city struggled to regain its former greatness. Most of the grand buildings had been ravaged and destroyed and rebuilding was at first slow and difficult.
Yet the Spirit of Galveston refused to die, and through years of setbacks and challenges the community endured.
Dickens on The Strand began 36 years ago with a mission: save The Strand’s historic buildings from demolition. A group of Galvestonians, along with GHF, understood the historical significance of the endangered structures and took action. In December of 1974, a potluck supper was organized in The Strand to gain public awareness about the potential destruction of what is now a National Historic Landmark District.
Dickens on The Strand was born and Galveston Island became a pioneer in preservation. Dickens on The Strand’s original mission was realized, and today The Strand is at the center of a National Historic Landmark District.
The event so captured the imagination of Galveston’s residents and visitors that it has grown to become one of the most popular festivals in America, and GHF’s single largest fundraising event. The hard work of hundreds of volunteers and support of dozens of sponsors each year produces an event that is enjoyed by all, and allows GHF to continue its efforts to “preserve, revitalize and celebrate the architectural, cultural and maritime heritage of Galveston Island.”
Dickens on The Strand will take you and your family on an enchanted journey through history as a bustling 19th Century cityscape comes to life. For an entire weekend, hundreds of costumed vendors and performers will provide a look at the pomp and pageantry of the British Empire, at a time when commercial and cultural ties provided a strong connection between London and Texas’ largest and richest city.
Centered in Galveston’s The Strand National Historic Landmark District, located approximately one hour south of downtown Houston, the family festival will include parades, non-stop entertainment on the festival’s stages, plus strolling carolers and roving street musicians, bagpipers and entertainers. Additionally, costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with tasty culinary delights and Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gift items.
This holiday season take a step back in time and experience Texas as it existed in the Golden Days of Charles Dickens. Dickens on the Strand runs Saturday and Sunday December 4th & 5th.
The Queen's Parades
2pm Saturday & 2pm Sunday
Her Majesty Queen Victoria, escorted by a colorful guard of Beefeaters in her own royal parade, greets her subjects both festival days from an elegant horse-drawn carriage draped with garlands. Others joining the procession through historic downtown Galveston include skirling bagpipe bands, a host of costumed characters and Victorian attired ladies and gentlemen, on foot and riding in decorated carriages and on horseback.
Dickens Book Signing
12:00 pm – 1:30pm Saturday / 3 pm – 4pm Sunday
Tremont House Hotel
Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens, will sign copies of Dickens’ literary works. Books will be available for purchase.
Living History Encampment
All day Saturday & Sunday
Courtesy of the 1st Texas Brigade, visit with the Confederate soldiers that once roamed the streets of Victorian Galveston and learn more about the 1863 Battle of Galveston.
Pickwick’s Lanternlight Parade
7:00 pm Saturday
The glow of lanterns fills the streets during this delightful evening parade. Lantern carrying escorts accompany carriages and wagons while the melody of holiday carols and bagpipes echo through the crowd.
Dickens Costume Contest
3:30 pm Saturday
23rd and Strand
Ladies and gentlemen showcase their finest Victorian costumes at the Westminster Abbey stage at 23rd Street and The Strand. Categories include Loveliest Ladies, Most Dapper Gents and Best Dressed Families. Winners of this annual event are featured in Saturday’s Pickwick’s Lanternlight Parade. Interested contestants may register at the Costume & Whisker booth at 23rd and Strand the day of the contest.
All day Saturday & Sunday
Piccadilly Circus, 21st Street and The Strand
Frolic and play the Victorian way! Children of all ages can participate in a number of activities including an elephant or pony ride, painting a monster mural or joining Scrooge’s Scavenger hunt! Be sure to pick up your scavenger hunt card at any entry gate.
London Wharf and the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa
10am to 6pm Saturday
Pier 22 (21st Street at Harborside Drive)
Reflecting Back on times when the sun never set on the British Empire, London Wharf presents the jaunty tunes of a concertina as “old salts” share tall tales of life at sea. Don't miss this opportunity to see demonstrations of traditional maritime skills and purchase unique nautical crafts made by volunteer crew members of the 1877 tall ship Elissa, a National Historic Landmark. Free admission to those with a Dickens on The Strand festival ticket, including tours of the Elissa.
Continuous Entertainment & Holiday Shopping
All day Saturday & Sunday
There's no shortage of entertainment for royal revelers when magicians, musicians, hypnotists, acrobats and performers of all types take to the festival's stages for non-stop entertainment throughout the festival site.
Love to shop? A vast array of costumed vendors peddling their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with tasty culinary delights and Victorian inspired crafts clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gift items just in time for the holidays.
Want a great place to take pictures with your family and friends? The Queen's Christmas Tree at the Westminster Abbey stage located on 23rd Street and The Strand is the perfect setting.