The Lone Star state may not be the oldest state in the country, but it still has a rich history marked with invasions, Roman Catholic missions, and bloody battles fought for independence. Luckily for history buffs, most of that history has been preserved in landmarks that stand tall even today. By visiting these historical landmarks, you can travel back in time and get the gist of how life was during pivotal moments in the state’s history.
Below are the top five historical landmarks you should see on your next visit to Texas.
1. Alamo Mission (San Antonio)
A tour around Texas isn’t complete unless you pay a visit to the site of the historic Battle of Alamo. The Alamo Mission, called by locals the Alamo, has been a crossroads of history since 1718 – when it was built as a home for Roman Catholic missionaries. Over a span of three hundred years, the former Mission San Antonio de Valero has existed under the flags of six independent nations. Having served as a garrison for five different armies, the Alamo has witnessed many battles unfold in its sight.
The Spanish Colonial-style fort is most famous as the site of the 1836 Battle of Alamo, when the Mexican troops laid a legendary 13-day siege around it and quashed 189 Texas rebels fighting for autonomy from Mexico. By visiting the historic landmark, you can pay homage to the American soldiers who relentlessly fought for the nation’s freedom and honor.
Even though most of the original buildings of the complex are in ruins, you can still walk through the historic Alamo Church, which displays battle artifacts like weapons and paintings, and the Long Barrack Museum. The Alamo has a rich history which you can experience and walk through by attending the exhibits organized at the Long Barrack Museum.
You can take a guided tour around the battlefield or listen to a history talk given by an Alamo Interpreter. Visitors can even rent a self-guided audio tour. Admission to the site and museum is free of cost; however, you have to pay for the guided and audio tours.
2. San Jacinto Battleground (La Porte)
Texans had to battle their way through a series of bloody conflicts to achieve independence from Mexico, and their final victory came in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto in Houston. The decisive battle that changed the course of history for the state and its people took place at what we now call the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte.
The 1,200-acre famous park explores a monumental moment in Texas’ history and thus, is a must-see landmark for all proud Texians. You can walk around the battleground and see the granite markers that note crucial moments in the battle, including the locations of both armies’ camps. At the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, visitors not only get to visit the location of the Battle of San Jacinto but can also visit the epic USS Texas museum ship and sight the 567-foot high monument dedicated to the battle.
At the skyscraping monument, you can take an elevator to the 489-foot high observation deck and enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding grounds and the Houston Ship Channel. The monument also has a museum that houses important documents, books, and dioramas about early Texas history.
Lastly, you can also visit the USS Texas, a warship built in 1914. You can take a self-guided tour through the ship to view all its chambers, including the engine room and the sleeping quarters – even its guns and anchors are on display now.
Though you can visit the historic site any day of the year and feel like you are walking in the Texian soldiers’ footsteps, visiting the park on the annual San Jacinto Day makes for an exceptional experience. On San Jacinto Day, celebrated every April, living history reenactments of the Battle of San Jacinto are held on the site.
1. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (Dallas)
Scoring third place on our list is the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza – one of Texas’ most visited historic sites. It is a museum dedicated to the life, legacy, and untimely death of the 35th U.S President John F. Kennedy. It is on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository building – the same floor from where an assassin shot and killed President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, as he drove past in his motorcade.
The museum preserves the memory and legacy of John F. Kennedy with exhibits that detail the tragic day and the week that followed in artifacts, photos, documentary film footage, and more. Highlights include the original teletype machine that first transmitted the unfortunate news of the president’s death and an FBI model used by the Warren Commission. You can even see the exact spot near the sixth-floor window from where the assassin fired his shots. The area, enclosed by Plexiglas, remains the way it was when the building was a school book depository.
The museum overlooks the Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy’s motorcade was driving when he got shot. You can see a huge red ‘X’ marked at the exact spot on the street where he was fatally shot. You can visit the museum all year, except on Christmas and Thanksgiving. When you visit the museum, you get an audio guide – available in eight languages, including ASL.
2. Johnson Space Center (Houston)
Named after the 36th U.S. president, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the pride of every Texian. More popularly known by its radio calls ‘Mission Control’ and ‘Huston’, the space center, located south of Houston, is spread over 1,620 acres.
JSC has been the hub of human spaceflight activity for the past fifty years. It is a training base and home to NASA’s astronaut corps. It is also home to the famous Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, which provided the flight control function for various NASA human flights.
The Center also houses one of the most entertaining attractions in the Lone Star state: the Starship Gallery. With its remarkable multi-media exhibitions that feature artifacts and hardware like the Apollo 17 Command Module and the Mercury-Atlas 9 capsule, the gallery allows its visitors to undergo an unparalleled educational experience. You can also see actual spacesuits worn by astronauts during NASA programs in the Astronaut Gallery.
Admission to the Space Centre also includes the NASA Tram Tour, through which you can visit multiple iconic locations, such as the astronaut training facility and the Mission Control Center.
3. Texas State Capitol (Austin)
Can you guess the last feature on our list of top historical landmarks to see on your next visit to Texas? Hint: it’s America’s favorite state capitol.
Well, it’s none other than the Texas State Capitol. Built from limestone, this architectural majesty is a spectacle of Texas’s might. With a whopping height of about 302 feet, the capitol building was the seventh-largest building in the world at the time of its construction. Today, it is the sixth-tallest state capitol, surpassing even the Capitol in D.C in both height and glory.
From viewing the recreations of its former Christian missions to reenacting the battle that won the state its independence, there are many ways you can explore the past of the Lone Star state. Even though we could not witness the state’s history unfold with our own eyes, we can still peek a few glances into its past by visiting these historical landmarks.