So, you want to take the kids to see some real history, but you want to stay within driving distance. That’s where our friends Davey Crockett, General Sam Houston, and William Moody come in. There are some notable landmarks within easy access to San Antonio and Houston, and a lot to be learned about not only Texas history, but about the people who lived here in centuries past. Here are some stops to be sure and include.
Obviously, this list begins with by far the most iconic of all Texas landmarks, and the site of a battle so memorable that it’s been depicted numerous times by Hollywood. Founded in the 18th century as a Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, The Alamo has been incredibly well preserved in the heart of beautiful San Antonio and is one of the most visited attractions in the Lone Star State. Stand where the defenders bravely fought in the siege, and read letters by Colonel William Barret Travis and other documents from this dramatic episode in history.
San Antonio Missions
While in the neighborhood, visit the lovely missions San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion. Built in the 17th through 19th centuries, these four well maintained historical sites are open to the public as part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park — part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site preserving these Spanish frontier missions. It’s a great way to see the Texas of past centuries, and take in some gorgeous architecture.
San Jacinto Monument
Over in the Houston area is a revered historical site with close ties to the Alamo. The culmination of military hostilities in the war for Texas was the Battle of San Jacinto, where General Sam Houston’s ragtag troops — shouting “Remember the Alamo!” — routed General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican army. Today, the battlefield is marked by the San Jacinto Monument and Museum — on the very spot where Texas gained its independence.
Conveniently adjacent to the battlefield and monument is the state’s namesake battleship. Launched in 1914, the Texas was the first ship to be fitted with anti-aircraft guns, and eventually was chosen to escort the German fleet to its surrender anchorage. Later, in World War II, she was among the fleet that shelled the enemy during the Normandy invasion. The venerable Battleship Texas is now moored at the San Jacinto Historical Site, where it is open for tours to the public.
Roughly 30 minutes south, Galveston Island is a thriving city and beach community, boasting world-class resorts, terrific restaurants & bars, a cruise ship port, and unique, 19th-century architecture. Foremost among the latter is the spectacular Bishop’s Palace — one of the few buildings to have survived the hurricane of 1900, which nearly wiped Galveston off the map and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. Now part of Galveston’s Historic Homes Tour, visitors to the grand home are able to get a sense of historic Galveston, which was once one of the nation’s busiest ports and Texas’ largest city.
What’s a ‘Moody Mansion’? It’s a big, cool, turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian edifice that was home to the powerful Moody family. Like the Bishop’s Palace, the Moody Mansion, completed in 1895, survived the 1900 hurricane and now has been restored and is open for tours. The thirty-one room Romanesque mansion is the archetype of Victorian design and architecture, and really captures the unique combination of majesty and life on the Gulf Coast more than 120 years ago.
The tall ship Elissa is a three-masted barque. No that’s not a mythical creature — it’s a classic 19th-century sailing vessel originally launched on October 27, 1877, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Since then, the Elissa has been all over the world. She is currently moored in Galveston, Texas, and is one of the oldest ships sailing today. When she’s not sailing, Elissa is at the Texas Seaport Museum at Pier 21. Public tours are available year-round-provided she is not out sailing. So stop by and say hello to Elissa when you get a chance.
These are just some of the great spots to show the kids and learn about the people and events of centuries past. Why not plan a road trip to see some of the best history Texas has to offer, or make these a part of a family fun outing? This region, as with the rest of the state, was the setting for many iconic events in US history. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience it first-hand. But as always, have fun!