San Jacinto is about 30-60 minutes away from downtown depending on traffic. Depending on what website you look at San Jacinto State Park is in Houston or La Porta, so I've posted them in both.
I had a blast visiting the park and the museum. When we arrived we were greeted by a very friendly woman in a brown building leading into the tallest monument in the US (that would be on the right). We paid our dollar ea. entrance fee and were giving maps of the state park. On the map are numbered significant posts. Each post is made on stone around the park that give key points in the battle of Texas Independence (including Santa Anna's camp, where Houston gets wounded, etc. We decided to drive around before we visited the monument. It was fun. There were even picnic areas and bathroom available if you bring the kids.
Around the monument the history of Texas is written. VERY awesome! It is 15 feet taller than the Washington monument! (EVERYTHING'S BIGGER IN TEXAS!) It's in my TRAVELOGUE. Inside the monument is a small, free museum showing artifacts of Houston, Travis, Santa Anna, etc. Inside you can also view a video Texas about the San Jacinto battle as well as buy tickets to go up the monument. Oh, and there is a gift shop but....not that good!
Outdoors there is the reflection pond and the six flags that flew over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, State of Texas, and the United States.
Across the way the Battleship of Texas exists. You can find this in my next tip as it is completely different from the Texas monument!
San Jacinto Museum of History
Monument Open Daily 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day
San Jacinto Battleground
Park Open Daily 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
From the website:
In March of 1836, things were not going well for Texas revolutionaries. Having declared independence from the official Mexican government, they were now running from the Mexican army, being run from their homes.
Since January 1836, Texas settlers had been abandoning their homes and the lives they’d created on the Texas frontier. Known as the Runaway Scrape, this retreat began as the Mexican government initiated military reoccupation of the newly settled land. The event was marked by sickness, freezing weather, hunger and panic among the citizenry.
On the morning of April 21st, General Houston held a council of war. The majority of his officers voted to await Santa Anna’s attack in order to leverage their position. General Houston let each man in the council plead his case. Then he made a decision, which he kept to himself until that afternoon: they would attack.
Around 4:30 p.m., the Mexican soldiers awoke from their afternoon siestas to the smell of gunpowder and cries of vengeance. Flushed with victory from the siege of the Alamo, Santa Anna had failed to post sentries to monitor the Texans’ activities.
In eighteen minutes the Texians were in control of the Mexican camp.
The Mexican soldiers were far more trained in martial field tactics and strategy than their Texian opponents. But they were unable to organize under the feverish surprise attack. And the short-range unorthodox brawling of frontiersmen with long knives and clenched fists did not work in their favor.
Over 600 Mexican soldiers were killed, and over 700 were allowed to surrender; nine Texians were killed or mortally wounded. Sam Houston was shot in the ankle. Santa Anna was found the next day hiding in the grass and dressed as a common foot soldier.
In the end, the United States would gain not only Texas but also New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.
As a result of the Battle of San Jacinto, almost a third of what is now the United States of America changed ownership.
Here you can see more of the markers, monument, museum, and the Battleship.
From the website:
The TEXAS is the last of the battleships, patterned after HMS Dreadnought, that participated in World War (WW) I and II. She was launched on May 18, 1912 from Newport News, Virginia. When the USS TEXAS was commissioned on March 12,1914, she was the most powerful weapon in the world, the most complex product of an industrial nation just beginning to become a force in global events.
In 1916, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to mount antiaircraft guns and the first to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, analog forerunners of today's computers. In 1919, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft.
In 1925, the TEXAS underwent major modifications. She was converted to oil-fired boilers, tripod masts and a single stack were added to the main deck, and the 5" guns that bristled from her sides were reduced in number and moved to the main deck to minimize problems with heavy weather and high seas. Blisters were also added as protection against torpedo attack.
The TEXAS received the first commercial radar in the US Navy in 1939. New antiaircraft batteries, fire control and communication equipment allowed the ship to remain an aging but powerful unit in the US naval fleet. In 1940, Texas was designated flagship of US Atlantic Fleet. The First Marine Division was founded aboard the TEXAS early in 1941. April 21, 1948 the Texas was decommissioned.
The TEXAS holds the distinguished designation of a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
While pulling into the left side of the San Jacinto State Park you will see different monuments and a small cemetary. The roads lead to the battleship that you can't possibly miss. It is HUGE. My friend and I decided not to get on the ship although for about $10 you can do so. If you have children I would HIGHLY recommend it as it's like a huge playground. There are different levels and stairs to climb. I believe you can go down below but the stairs are very steep if I remember well from my childhood visit.
Remember that Texas summers are HOT and so will the ship be. So, be careful when touring the area.
*They have a good gift shop!!
Here you can see more of the markers, monument, museum, and the Battleship.
Kemah Boardwalk is about an hour from Houston (including traffic). It is a miniature version, however, so if you are expecting the works don't get that excited. However, for a day/night away from the city it's a great solution. There are rides for children (even a new roller coaster), fun restaurants, shopping, and all while listening to (and smelling) the gulf. Most of the restaurants have live music, too, on the weekends. Kemah also have a few hotels available if you want to make a weekend trip out of it!
I would definitely recommend it for a family trip!
I would also recommend looking at their calendar of events on the website while planning your trip to Houston because they often have celebrations (usually towards each holiday), concerts, and special occassions which you can have fun with. Most are centered towards kids but others focus on guys (Houston Texans, race car days, etc).
*When you first find your way there you will see some cheap parking prices. My advice would be to go directly to Kemah's parking. It is free and we have always been able to park there. Some people assume there aren't any paces and then end up paying $5-$10USD when they could have parked a whole lot closer and cheaper. Save that money for a pina colada! :)
If you're looking for a beach around the La Porte area, you're not going to find one. There are several signs directing travelers to Sylvan Beach, but don't bother going there unless you just want to look at the ships going down the Houston Ship Channel. There is no beach...
If you are interested in going to the beach, Texas City is only 15 miles south of La Porte, and Galveston is another 12 to 15 from there. My favorite place to go when I'm looking for a beach in the area is San Luis Pass, which is located on the South end of Galveston Island.
The monument is dedicated to the "Heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto as well as all others who dedicated themselves to the independence of Texas." This limestone shaft stands 570ft high and has a 34ft star on the top which symbolises the Lone Star Republic. It weighs in at 220 ton. There is an observation floor 489ft up which gives a great view. The area surrounding the monument is where, in 1836, General Sam Houston and his invincible army battled to "Remember the Alamo!," and brought an end to the revolution against Mexico's rule.
The monument was built over 100 years ago and is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest monument column in the world.
The reflection pool stretches out in front of the monument but it wasn't reflecting much the day we were there. It is uncertain as to when it was actually built but probably around 1937/38. It covers about 8.4 acres with its length of 1,800 ft and width 200ft.
The Battleship Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the U.S in 1948. It was then presented to the State of Texas on the anniversary of Texas Independence. In 1983 it was placed under the care of the Texas parks and Wildlife and permanently moored on the Buffalo Bayou and Houston Ship Channel.
When the Texas was commissioned in March 1914, it was sent almost straight away to Mexican waters where she then united the Special Service Squadron following the “Vera Cruz Incident”. As soon as the incident was resolved, the Texas then returned in 1914 to Atlantic Fleet operations.
The Battleship Texas, in 1916, became the first battleship in the U.S. to mount anti-aircraft guns. It was also the first to control its gunfire with range-keepers and directors.
The ship earned earned 5 battlestars for her contribution and service during World War II. The Texas also played a part in the Invasion of North Africa in 1942 and the Invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945.
The Aft 14" guns.
The U.S.S. Texas is the only ship to have fought for the US Navy in both World War I and World War II and it is the last of the American "dreadnoughts" which was thought to be the most powerful warship afloat because of her 14”/45 guns in five twin turrets.
3" Anti Aircraft Gun - The gun was a dual-purpose piece of equipment. It could be also used against surface targets. The guns fired 13.1 lb shells with a surface range of 7 miles and an antiaircraft maximum of 29,800 ft at 85' elevation. The guns provide relatively ineffective against high speed aircraft that the Texas encountered during World War II.
The ships forward tripod mast and superstructure is said to be the brain of every dreadnought - the command and control system. The ships course and manoeuvring were determined on the navigation bridge or in the armoured conning tower. You can climb to the various levels and feel yourself as Admiral of the fleet. The Texas did not begin its life with tripod masts but after the cage design was proved unsteady, all American dreadnoughts were converted to sturdier tripod masts.
Space was always at a premium on warships especially during war time when the crew was expanded. The pipe frame bunks or 'spring racks', were hung in this manner in virtually every open area on and above deck 3. Originally hammocks had been the usual bedding of naval seamen but reported back problems caused the navy to bring in spring racks. Enlisted men were usually berthed as near to their assigned stations as possible.
The cafeteria use to feed more than 1800 men. They later install a new cafeteria on deck 2, beneath the main gallery when the ship underwent a refit in 1944. A dumbwaiter was used to transfer the food from the galley to the cafeteria. Commissioned officers, warrant officers and chief petty officers had their meals in a separate mess area.
The Forward Wardroom used to serve the senior officers as a mess. Today there are glass cabinets displaying artefacts of the ships history as well as silver service that was presented by the school children of Texas in 1914. Except for two pieces, all the silver carries the star of Texas.