The Greater Houston Area and surrounding areas are rich in Texas history and culture, boasting a variety of historic sites and attractions. From stunning landmarks to quaint buildings meticulously restored, each site tells a story of Texas.
Ok, here we go! Remember to pack a bagged lunch:
A good chunk of native Houstonians visited the San Jacinto Monument on at least one of their school field trips and, honestly, it’s bigger than Houston. It’s kind of a Texas essential so if you or your kiddos haven’t seen it yet, you’d really better skedaddle on down and soon. Located on the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto Monument is a 567.31-foot-high obelisk celebrating Sam Houston’s victory over Santa Anna in 1836 and honoring all those who fought to win Texas its independence. Enjoy the views from the observation deck (at an altitude of around 480 feet) before moseying on down to the The San Jacinto Museum of History located inside the base of the monument. The museum, chartered in 1938 to “preserve and revisualize the history of early Texas,” spans more than four centuries of early Texas history, from the beginnings of European activity in the New World through Texas’ history as a state in the United States. The San Jacinto Day Festival takes place each April and includes historical reenactments and living history demonstrations.
Fun fact: As you likely know, everything’s bigger in Texas, and the San Jacinto Monument is no exception: The monument is the tallest masonry column in the world and it’s more than 12 feet taller that the Washington Monument.
One Monument Circle, La Porte; (281) 479-2421
George Ranch Historical Park is located in Fort Bend County, about 25 miles southwest of Houston. This is a superb option for parents weary of traveling too far with their tots in tow. The Fort Bend Museum Association operates this 480-acre living history museum in partnership with The George Foundation.
The Park is divided into four time periods (1830s, 1860s, 1890s and 1930s) and features four historic home sites, costumed interpreters who lead guided tours and provide living history demonstrations, livestock and hands-on activities. The visitor center houses artifacts and exhibits detailing the ranch’s history, including its African-American-cowboy history.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of Texas history, stretch your legs and burn some energy with a walk on the George Ranch Heritage Trail, which meanders in a half-mile loop along some of the picturesque sections of Dry Creek.
Pro tip: Bring a bagged lunch and blanket then find a shady spot for a picnic.
Fun fact: The park is located on a 20,000-acre working ranch.
10215 FM 762 Rd, Richmond; (281) 343-0218
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is seven miles southwest of Navasota in Washington County. The 293-acre park resides on the site of the old town of Washington, which served as the capital of the Republic of Texas. It was at this site that Texas declared its independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836.
Facilities on site include picnicking areas, two pavilions, restrooms, a visitor center, and the Star of the Republic Museum. Kids and kids at heart will enjoy the Barrington Living History Farm, also at the park. It features living history demonstrations by interpreters in period costume. Here, visitors can learn about farm chores like plowing, feeding the chickens, working in the garden, cooking on an open hearth or picking cotton. Life at Barrington changes with the seasons so there’s always something new to see. Another must-see attraction at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is Independence Hall, where the Convention of 1836 took place. Your kids will gawk in wonder at the tiny, single room structure that played such a large role in the state’s history.
Fun fact: Washington-on-the-Brazos is known as “the birthplace of Texas” because it is where 59 delegates gathered to of the Convention of 1836, where the signing of the the Texas Declaration of Independence took place.
23400 Park Rd 12, Washington; (936) 878-2214
Independence is an unincorporated community some twelve miles northeast of Brenham in Washington County. Flashback to its heyday in 1845 and the town was considered the wealthiest community in Texas and a Baptist stronghold, according to the town.
Founded in 1835, the community prospered and within a decade became a significant religious and educational center for the Republic of Texas, according to the Texas State Historical Association. In 1846 Baylor University began operating as a coeducational school with twenty-four pupils and by the 1850s the town also had a hotel, a stagecoach depot, a jail, a Masonic lodge, a cemetery, and a small commercial district, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Independence was incorporated in 1952.
The Santa Fe railroad wanted to serve Independence, but city leaders and Baylor administrators refused to grant the right-of-way. By the 1880s most of the railway lines in the area had bypassed Independence, and much of the trade was going to competing towns, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Because students had difficulty finding transportation to the city, Baylor officials relocated Baylor Female College (now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor) to Belton and Baylor University to Waco, in 1885, further contributing to the city’s decline, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
Nowadays, visitors to Independence will find numerous historical sites, including the Independence Baptist Church, the Texas Baptist Historical Center, the home of Judge Coles, Baylor College Park, Old Independence Cemetery and the Margaret Houston House and Houston-Lea Family Cemetery. History buffs big and small will enjoy the array of self-guided and guided walking tours, biking tours and driving tours are available (Bikers: Don’t forget to wear a helmet!)
Fun facts: 1) Sam Houston and his family lived in Independence for a time. 2) Judge John P. Coles, Sam Houston, Jr., Moses Austin Bryan, T. T. Clay, and other prominent Texas citizens are buried at the town’s Old Independence Cemetery and Margaret M. L. Houston and her mother are interred at the Houston-Lea Family Cemetery. 3) It is the first site of of Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. 4) The town possesses the state’s oldest Baptist Church, continuously in service since 1839.
Independence; (713) 626-8050
Sound off: What would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments below.
Don’t get caught off guard. Before venturing off on your adventure, familiarize yourself with adjusted hours and follow guidelines around social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures required by the destinations you visit.