Houston is a large city, full of sites to see and things to do. Houston has everything from natural attractions to modern museums to historic sites. In fact, one of the most historic sites in Texas is located just a short drive outside Houston—the San Jacinto Battleground where Texas won its independence from Mexico. Berthed just a short stroll from the San Jacinto Battleground is another piece of Texas history: the Battleship Texas. This historic ship was moved to the San Jacinto Battleground in April 1948. Today, it is open to the public as the Battleship Texas State Historic Site.
Commissioned to be built over a century ago—in June 1910—the USS Texas is one of the longest-serving Naval vessels in United States history. Today it is the only surviving vessel to have served in both World War I and World War II. Since it is open to public tours, visiting the Battleship Texas is a great way to get a feel for the history of the two "great wars" that secured the United States' place as a world superpower.
Battleship Texas is classified as a "New York Class Battleship," which means it was part of the fifth series of super-dreadnought battleships built for service in the U.S. Navy that eventually served in World War I and World War II. There were two "New York Class Battleships"—the USS New York and the USS Texas. This pair of ships was the first to use 14-inch guns. These battleships were commissioned in 1910 and launched in 1912. Following service, the USS New York was used as an atomic weapons target and, ultimately, sunk. The USS Texas, however, was donated, refurbished, and preserved as a public historic site.
After launching in 1912, the USS Texas was commissioned in 1914. The first action the battleship saw was in the Gulf of Mexico following the "Tampico Incident," which was a disagreement between the United States and Mexico that resulted in the United States' occupation of Veracruz. Beginning in 1916, the USS Texas began service in World War I. The ship and crew were on hand in 1918 for the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet. In 1941 the Battleship Texas entered service in World War II. Among the highlights of the USS Texas' service in WWII include transmitting General Eisenhower's first "Voice of Freedom" broadcast, transporting Walter Cronkite to assault on Morocco where he began his war correspondence, taking part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy, and providing gunfire support at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After World War II, the USS Texas returned to Norfolk, Virginia; was briefly relocated to Baltimore, Maryland; and finally towed to the San Jacinto State Park and Historic Site where she was decommissioned in April 1948. From that time on, Battleship Texas has served as a permanent public memorial and historic site. Battleship Texas underwent major restoration from 1988–1990 and a smaller restoration in 2005.
Today, visitors to the Battleship Texas State Historic Site are allowed to board and tour the ship. The Battleship Texas is open daily seven days a week. The site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. It's also available for conference use for either half-day or full-day use. Children 4 and under as well as active and retired military are free. Group rates are also available. Overnight stays can also be arranged for groups of 15 or more people.
If you're a history buff, you should check out the USS Wisconsin in Virginia as well.