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November 1, 2022

Galveston Sand Castle Competition 2021

The beaches of Galveston are famous for lots of things— gentle surf, warm offshore breezes, and of course the soft, golden sand. With over 32 miles of unspoiled coastline, picturesque piers, and dozens of coastal parks, the beaches of Galveston are among some of the best in the world. 

And if there’s one thing that Galveston beaches do better than most— it’s sandcastles. 

Sandcastle building enthusiasts discovered over 30 years ago that the sand on Galveston beaches had a distinct consistency that allowed them to build larger and more impressive sculptures than they could at other beaches. So they started holding annual events to showcase their creativity— and the AIA Sandcastle Competition was born.

Competing for the Golden Bucket Award

AIA stands for American Institute of Architects— a fitting organization to judge these intricate entries. Each year, it seems that the sand sculptures get more and more impressive. Every summer, teams of engineers, contractors, and designers swarm to Galveston to compete to win the “Golden Bucket” and “Silver Shovel” and “Bronze Shovel” awards. According to the AIA website, the sandcastles are judged on “originality of concept, artistic execution of the concept, technical difficulty, carving technique, and utilization of the site.”

Previous years have seen some truly remarkable, albeit temporary, entries. There’s been a full sushi dinner carved from sand, a life-size dragon guarding his sandcastle, and a tribute to the movie Kung Fu “Sand-ah.” There are a number of different creative categories that receive awards, and this year some of them include:

  • Best Traditional Castle
  • Nursery Rhymes
  • Go For the Gold
  • Pop Culture: Video Games
  • Greatest Feat of Structural Ingenuity 
  • Architectural Icon
  • Best Costume

The competition is an important fundraiser for the Houston chapter of AIA, as well as the ArCH Foundation. It’s also a big-time moneymaker for the City of Galveston— breaking the top five of their revenue-generating events.

Make a Day Of It

This year, the competition will be held on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at RA Apffel East Beach Park, 1923 Boddeker Drive in Galveston. Admission is free, but there is a $15 parking fee if you’ll be driving. You can also bring your own picnic lunch— check out our guide to the best grocery stores in Galveston— and consuming alcohol is permitted inside the park, so bottoms up! They’ll also be food tents and trucks, too. 

The park opens at 6:30 AM on the day of the event, with teams competing and building from 10 AM to 3 PM. Judging takes place from 3 PM to 4:30 PM, with prizes being rewarded at 4:30 PM. As a spectator, you’ll also have the opportunity to vote for the “Most Popular” sculpture from 1 PM to 3:30 PM. Throughout the day, there will be live music and entertainment on the main stage. 

The sculptures are protected overnight so that they can be enjoyed on Sunday as well.

Make a Week Of It

If you’re in the mood for a Galveston beach getaway— and honestly, when aren’t you?— the AIA Sandcastle Competition is the perfect time to visit. You can enjoy all that Galveston has to offer in the summertime, then head over to East Beach to catch the competition and festivities.  

We even have the perfect home to make your own for the week of the sandcastle competition— Sea La Vie (pictured above). Located inside The Preserve at Grand Beach, this breathtaking four-story oasis has space for 22 people, so you can bring your whole crew. With views of the Galveston skyline and the turquoise Gulf of Mexico, Sea La Vie will also place you close to the competition action at Apffel East Beach Park— you’ll be able to ride your bike to get there with ease. And when you aren’t at the competition, you can relax at the community beach access point. 

Smaller homes that still have availability for this event include Little Buena Vista (pictured above) and Beachfront Bungalow (pictured below). 

As always, the local Galveston experts at BeachBox are here to help. If you have any questions about this year’s sandcastle competition, give us a call or drop us a line anytime. We’re here to answer any questions you have about the Texas Gulf Coast— and to make your next trip to the shore your best one yet. 

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