by Valerie Wells
HOW TO GET THERE:
Don’t put too much trust into your GPS since some street names have changed, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials suggest. Take a good look at a map before you go. Here are some directions.
From the north:
Take Interstate 45 south or U.S. 59 south to Beltway 8, Sam Houston Tollway or continue south to Highway 610. Take Beltway 8 or Loop 610 east, and then south, crossing the Houston Ship Channel. Exit Highway 225 east, Texas Independence Highway, to La Porte. Exit Independence Parkway (formerly Battleground Road) and turn left. When the road divides into two roads, remain in the left lane, continue through the tall stone park gates, and turn right into the park.
From the south:
Take Interstate 45 north to Beltway 8, Sam Houston Tollway. Take Beltway 8 east, and then north. Exit Highway 225 east, Texas Independence Highway, to La Porte. Exit Independence Parkway (formerly Battleground Road) and turn left. When the road divides into two roads, remain in the left lane, continue through the tall stone park gates, and turn right into the park.
From the east:
Take Interstate 10 west to Independence Parkway North (formerly Crosby-Lynchburg Road). Take the Lynchburg Ferry, follow Independence Parkway past the Battleship Texas and turn left into the park along the Reflection Pool toward the San Jacinto Monument.
From the west
Take Highway 225 east, Texas Independence Highway, to La Porte. Exit Independence Parkway (formerly Battleground Road) and turn left. When the road divides into two roads, remain in the left lane, continue through the tall stone park gates, and turn right into the park.
HOURS AND PRICES:
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
It’s free to enter the grounds, but some features have admission prices. To see the film “Texas Forever!” costs $6 for each adult and teenager, and $5.50 for each child 11 and younger. To go to the observation deck at the top costs $6 for each adult and $4.50 for each child 11 and younger. To the “Big Energy” exhibit is $6 for each adult and $4 for each child 11 and younger.
A combo ticket for those three admissions is available. The cost is $16.50 for adults and $12.50 for children 11 and younger.
Battleship Texas is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
There is no fee to enter the grounds, but there are fees to tour the battleship. The cost is $6 for each adult. Tickets for children ages 5 to 11 cost $3 each. Children 4 years and younger can enter for free.
YOU HAVE TO EAT:
Pack a picnic and take advantage of the grills at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic site. Or pick up some barbeque or some tacos on the way.
The closest restaurant to the site is the Monument Inn Restaurant, 4406 Independence Parkway, La Porte. The casual seafood restaurant is close to the Lynchburg Ferry.
DID YOU KNOW?
The star on the top of the monument is 34 feet high and weighs about 220 tons. The star has nine points and was designed so that five points would be visible from any angle.
The walls of the San Jacinto Monument are made of shell limestone from Central Texas. The holes in the walls are the fossil remnants of those creatures from long, long ago.
The San Jacinto Battlefield received National Historic Landmark designation on December 19, 1960. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The San Jacinto Monument was designated a Historical Civil Engineering Landmark in 1996.
Touch the sky, count the ships and eat your lunch at a place where the world changed.
Sight-seeing bicyclists, budding engineers and history buffs appreciate many features of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte.
This is the spot where the Texas Republic won its war for independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836. The final battle of the revolution took 18 minutes on a marshy peninsula where Buffalo Bayou meets the San Jacinto River.
The Texan soldiers surprised the Mexican army camped at the site, which is part of the reason the battle took less than 20 minutes. The Texans captured Mexican General Santa Anna the next day and forced him to sign a treaty that recognized Texas’ independence.
Stone markers across the battlefield indicate where different camps on both sides waited or attacked. Memorial stones remember fighters who died. Visitors can retrace those steps using maps that Texas Parks and Wildlife officials created.
Pierce the Sky
The San Jacinto Monument is the tallest historical monument in the world and sits at the heart of the park. The 567-foot high obelisk is taller than the 555-foot Washington Monument. Workers built the structure in 1939 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle.
Standing near the base of the monument, a viewer who looks up at the star at the very top can get dizzy. A photographer trying to fit the entire structure in a shot will have to take some creative angles or take quite a few steps back.
Visitors can ride an elevator to the top for amazing views of the greater Houston area. Nearby chemical plants dominate the scenery. Ships are busy moving cargo. On a clear day, you can see as far as you can drive in an hour.
Only a handful of visitors at a time are allowed to take the elevator to the top. The view is worth a little patience.
Base of Operation
The carved mural that surrounds the base of the monument is massive by itself. The art deco images capture the pride Texans of the 1930s had for their history. Craftsmen wrote the story of the battle in the stone, a good synopsis of the entire war.
The monument was a Works Progress Administration project to help people get jobs during the Great Depression and to build infrastructure and significant structures. It took $1.5 million in federal, state and local grants to build the monument.
The San Jacinto Museum of History is inside this base, along with a gift shop and a theater that shows the film “Texas Forever!” every hour on the hour.
A special exhibit, “Big Energy: A Texas Tale of People Powering Progress,” explores the history of the petrochemical industry in the Houston area. The focus is on the interconnected relationship between Shell Oil and the city of Deer Park.
The U.S. Naval vessel Battleship Texas saw action in both World War I and World War II. IT is docked adjacent to the battlefield site. Visitors can either take a tour of the battleship or look around for themselves. Then, they can buy souvenirs and refreshments in the ship store.
Like the San Jacinto Battlefield, going on the grounds of the Battleship Texas site is free. If you want to go onboard the ship and look around, that will cost you.
In January, the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy donated more than 23-acres to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.
The donation continues a series of restoration and enhancement projects aimed at conserving the historic landscape, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials said.
It will add opportunities for more hiking, biking, fishing and spotting wildlife like river otters and beavers. The shallow water and dense woodland, as well as a sand beach and tidal marsh, offer premium habitat for a variety of songbirds during fall and spring migrations.
Picnic tables and grills are already scattered around the battlefield for picnic enthusiasts. A pavilion is also available for large groups.
A casual lunch will allow the children a chance to run and give parents a moment to pause about why historians consider this short battle so pivotal. It resulted not only in the creation of Texas as a nation, it opened the West for settlers and their families.