How to Spend a Day Exploring the San Jacinto Battleground
With a new school year starting in just a couple of weeks, we decided to ease our kids back into the learning game with a fun and informative trip to the San Jacinto Battleground. Filled to the brim with Texas history, this state historic site is home to the iconic San Jacinto Monument and museum, the USS Texas Battleship, and tons of green space to explore with historical markers and informative plaques. It's often challenging to find a family activity that all four of our kids (ages 3, 5, 8 and 11) will enjoy, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see and do at the battleground.
They were in absolute awe of the mammoth monument towering over their tiny heads.
The exterior of the San Jacinto Monument has the story of the Battle of San Jacinto, complete with picturesque battle scenes, inscribed into the limestone base. We spent some time walking around each side of the base while our two oldest read the story out loud. Our 11-year-old was especially interested to recount the story and help it come alive to the little ones because she had learned about the 1836 battle, in which Texas gaining its independence from Mexico, during a Texas history unit at school last year.
Many of the displays feature low shelves to help get little historians in on the action.
Inside the museum, a plethora of historical artifacts are displayed inside glass cases. A room filled with oil paintings displays the battle in picture form above displays of miniature wood-carved replicas of the battle and of the area in the late 1800s. The permanent exhibits boast artifacts from the battle itself including cannon balls, uniforms, swords, knives and rifles. These were among the most intriguing to our kids. I definitely questioned how our 3-year-old would do in a museum setting but was pleasantly surprised to see many other families with younger kids exploring the museum and enjoying the exhibits. The main museum hall is free and has a lot of great displays, but certain areas do require an admission fee. You can also pay to see the 35-minute movie, "Texas Forever", playing in the monument's theater once each hour throughout the day. You can find more details on specific exhibit pricing on the museum's website.
Viewfinders located on the observation floor gives a unique view of the historical site.
The definite highlight of our trip for me was taking our two oldest kids up to the observation floor of the monument. The monument itself stands 570 feet tall, which the kids were surprised to learn is 265 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty! We rode the elevator up 489 feet to the observation floor and the views were absolutely worth paying the admission to that part of the monument. From that height, we could see the entire battlefield site, USS Texas Battleship, and all of the boats going up and down the Houston Ship Channel.
A spectacular view of the San Jacinto Monument's reflection pool, USS Texas Battleship, and Houston Ship Channel.
Sadly, we did not visit the USS Texas Battleship on this particular trip. The massive battleship has been undergoing repairs throughout recent months due to flooding caused by leaks from erosion that are now being patched. The USS Texas is the only remaining American vessel to have fought in both World Wars and has been in the water since the 1940s. The ongoing repairs are expected to last for approximately the next year and a half, causing different areas of the ship to close periodically. Ship tours are still occurring, but be sure to check with the battleship's website before you go for up-to-date information on repairs and closures.
The impressive monument can be seen towering above the grounds from miles away.
Spending the day at the San Jacinto Battleground gave us an opportunity to help history come to life for our kids. Giving them a tangible reference for Texas history and culture is something that I hope sticks with them for years to come. Exploring the site's green space, touring the museum, and looking out over the sweeping views from the observation floor of the monument is a must-do for Texans big and small!
All photos by Ashley Jones