Historic Sites In Texas. More Than Just Parks has 10 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 10 Historic Sites in Texas that you’ll want to see. These are our top 10 sites which we will provide in reverse order. We’ve got amazing monuments, fascinating exhibits, historic museums, legendary battlefields and so much more.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks.
The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You So Why Not Take A Deeper Dive With These Great Books
To learn more about the Lone Star State before visiting, I recommend reading the following books:
- The Great Book of Texas: The Crazy History of Texas with Amazing Random Facts & Trivia by Bill O’Neill.
- History of Texas: A Captivating Guide to Texas History, Starting from the Arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in North America through the Texas Revolution to the Present (Captivating History) by Captivating History.
- Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our top 10 list of historical sites in Texas.
Historic Sites In Texas
#10. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
We begin our top 10 countdown of best historic sites in Texas with the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.
As a retired history teacher, I can’t get enough of Texas history. Not to mention all of the incredible places where nature comes to life as the Great Southwest puts on its best face for visitors from across the world.
A great place to start your “Texas Adventure” is at the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. What makes this place so special you might ask? Well, it all begins with the flint.
As an old history teacher, I’m always thrilled with interesting old stories. And they don’t get much older than 13,000 years ago when this site was well-known by mammoth hunters as a source of flint for tools.
If you love rocks then you’re in for a real treat. Alibates Flint is agatized dolomite, or silicified dolomite. Many archeologists refer to it as Alibates chert because of its vibrant colors.
The colors in this type of flint include red, orange and yellow. They’re created by iron; blues and deep greens are usually created by manganese. At this national monument, you’ll have the opportunity to explore these magnificent rocks. (Source: NPS)
Visitor Center at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
If you’re a first-timer then I always recommend beginning your visit at the Visitors Center. The Alibates Visitor Center is open Saturday through Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
The Visitors Center offers a variety of different activities. These include: Museum Exhibits, Ranger-guided quarry tours, an award winning film about Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Jr. Ranger Program\Activities and access to the Mesquite Trail which is a self-guided trail.
While you’re there, I also recommend taking the self guided tour of the Alibates Gardens and visiting the Monarch Butterfly Waystation.
Historic Sites In Texas
#9. Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | Historic Sites In Texas
At #9 on our list of Historic Sites In Texas is the The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail It extends 404 miles between El Paso, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico At one time, the historic trail extended all the way to Mexico City.
This trail tells that story of 300 years of conflict, cooperation, and cultural exchange between a variety of empires—European and non-European alike.
There are a variety of wonderful activities for you to choose from along this trail. They include:
- A variety of hiking opportunities across the full length of the trail.
- A visit to the missions along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
- Museums along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro featuring interpretive exhibits, information, and programs.
- Historic sites along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
For specific information pertaining to sites in New Mexico, please check out this interactive map provided by the National Park Service.
Historic Sites In Texas
#8. Historical Fredericksburg | Historic Sites In Georgia
Coming in at #8 on our list of the best historic sites in Texas is Historical Fredericksburg. Not to be confused with the town of the same name located in Virginia, this Fredericksburg was founded on May 8, 1846 by German immigrants under the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas.
John O. Meusebach chose the location for the second of the Society’s colonies four miles north of the Pedernales River between two creeks. He named the settlement Friedrichsburg (later changed to Fredericksburg) to honor Prince Frederick of Prussia. Settlers received lots in town with an additional 10 acre lot outside of town.
The colonists planted corn, built storehouses to protect their provisions and trade goods, and prepared for the arrival of more immigrants, who came throughout the summer. By 1850, census records stated that the town had 754 residents, and Gillespie County had 1,235 residents. (Source: City of Fredericksburg, Texas)
Things To Do
The Pioneer Museum located in downtown Fredericksburg offers a glimpse into the nineteenth and twentieth century settling of this region of Texas by German immigrants.
The museum complex covers a little over three acres and houses multiple buildings to tour. The grounds contain a historic homestead, an old schoolhouse, a barn, a bathhouse, and a smokehouse.
Historic Sites In Texas
#7. Fort Davis National Historic Site | Historic Sites In Texas
At lucky #7, Fort Davis is one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest. From 1854 to 1891, it was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail.
This national historic site offers some wonderful hiking trails. These include:
- Photographers Trail-This is the only trail on Sleeping Lion Mountain, a short hike offers great photographic opportunities without the commitment of a long hike.
- Tall Grass Loop Trail-This hike is steep and strenuous along the trail switchbacks of the trail there are stairs on certain portions. Along the northern route of the trail, can become slick after precipitation. This trail is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) long one way.
- Scenic Overlook Trail-This hike is steep and strenuous along the switchback portion of the trail utilizing stairs with rails. The trail offers panoramic views of Fort Davis NHS. The trail is 0.4 miles (0.6km) long one way.
- Hospital Canyon Trail-This trail is strenuous along the switchback portions and there are sections without shade.
- North Ridge Trail-This hike allows you to walk between Rhyolite boulders and experience the 360° views of the Davis Mountains.
- Cemetery Trail-The Cemetery Trail is .2mi (.3km) long one way, this short hike takes you to the location of the post-Civil War Cemetery. (Source: NPS)
Historic Sites In Texas
#6. Waco Mammoth National Monument
We conclude the bottom 5 of our top 10 historic sites in Texas with Waco Mammoth National Monument.
Now if you love history as much as I do than imagine a history before humans roamed the earth. At the Waco Mammoth National Monument, you can walk in the footsteps of creatures as tall as 14 feet and weighing 20,000 pounds.
Columbian mammoths roamed across what is present-day Texas thousands of years ago. Today, the fossil specimens represent the nation’s first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths.
This monument sits within 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River. It’s surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees. There you can forget about the modern world and reflect upon the lives and habitat of Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals.
The Work Into Unearthing The Past Continues
Since the discovery of the site in 1978, museum staff, students and volunteers have spent thousands of hours excavating and working to preserve the fossil material.
While the remains excavated through 1990 are now housed at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex, most of the fossil specimens excavated since then remain in situ (still in their original position within the bone bed).
These specimens have been protected in recent years by a climate-controlled Dig Shelter, allowing for both public viewing and further scientific study. (Source: NPS)
RELATED: 5 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Indiana
And Now The Top 5 Historic Sites In Texas . . .
#5. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
Kicking off our list of the top 5 historic sites in Texas is the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.
I spent almost 30 years teaching high school students about the history of America and the world. One of the topics we covered was the Mexican American War which became part of America’s Manifest Destiny. This war helped the United States to expand its territorial holdings from sea to shining sea.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park is the site of the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. Visitors can experience a landscape almost as it existed on the day of the battle.
The park enjoys the unique distinction of being the only National Park Service unit to interpret the U.S.-Mexican War. (Source: NPS)
Step Back In Time At Palo Alto
I recommend that you begin your visit at the Visitor Center and pick up a park brochure and trail guide. From there you will discover outdoor adventures which include:
- Hiking the battlefield trail which is a half-mile walk. Along the way you will see a landscape very much like the one experienced by soldiers in 1846.
- From Palo Alto you can also explore the Brownsville Historical Trail which includes historic sites and attractions.
- Bird watching is highly recommended too. All you have to do is bring a pair of binoculars with you and keep a watchful eye out as you traverse the trail.
- Visit the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield which features a half-mile circular trail with interpretive waysides.
Historic Sites In Texas
#4. The San Jacinto Monument
We’re on to the final four historic sites in Texas with the San Jacinto Monument.
The Battle of San Jacinto was the concluding military event of the Texas War for Independence. On April 21, 1836, the Texas militia under Sam Houston (1793-1863) launched a surprise attack against the forces of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (1794-1876) at the Battle of San Jacinto, near present-day Houston, Texas.
The Mexicans were thoroughly routed, and hundreds were taken prisoner, including Santa Anna. In exchange for his freedom, Santa Anna signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.
To learn more about this conflict I recommend The Mexican-American War: A Captivating Guide to the Armed Conflict between the United States of America and Mexico Along with the Impact of the Texas Revolution by Captivating History.
RELATED: 5 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Ohio
Things To Do
The San Jacinto Monument, located in Deer Park along the banks of the San Jacinto River, commemorates the final battle in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico.
The star topped monument commemorating this even stands 570 feet tall, taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
The Jesse H. Jones Theater at the base of the monument tells Texas’ story along with the evolution of its history as part of the wild west. The monument has several permanent exhibits as well as rotating and online exhibits.
Historic Sites In Texas
#3. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park | Historic Sites In Texas
At #3 on our top ten list of historic sites in Texas is the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
The Spanish influence has gone a long way to shape the culture, customs and traditions of the American Southwest. The Conquistadors came in search of glory and gold. They were followed by the Church with its message of salvation.
In the early 1700s, many Native people of South Texas foreswore their traditional life to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and agrarian lifestyle in hopes of survival.
Today you can visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and learn the fascinating stories of the mission’s descendants while you’re there. Four missions make up the park and help visitors better understand the history of the Spanish missions and colonization of Texas.
The preservation of these missions began during the last half of the twentieth century.
Historic Sites In Texas
#2. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Coming in at #2 on our lit of the best historic sites in Texas is one of the most influential politicians of the twentieth century.
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park celebrates the life and legacy of America’s 36th President of the United States.
While America’s 36th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is often associated with the Great Society, landmark Civil Rights legislation and the Vietnam War, his administration also passed an unprecedented amount of legislation designed to protect the nation’s land, air, water, wilderness, and quality of life.
Author Adrian Benepe believes the U.S. president with the strongest environmental track record is President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In his article, How the White House Went Green, Benepe writes, “Lyndon Johnson signed more than 300 conservation measures into law. These measures established the legal foundations for how we protect the nation’s land, water and air.”
Things To Do At The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park tells the story of our 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch. This entire “circle of life” gives the visitor a unique perspective into one of America’s most noteworthy citizens by providing the most complete picture of an American president.
Things to see in the park include the Visitor Center, President Johnson’s Boyhood Home, Sam Johnson Sr.’s Cabin, and the Texas White House.
As a retired history teacher who’s fascinating with the life and times of America’s 36th President, I would recommend what I (and a lot of other folks) consider to be the best biographical series written on LBJ.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power; Means of Ascent; Master of the Senate; The Passage of Power by Robert Caro is a four volume collection which won the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
The #1 Historic Site In Texas
#1. The Alamo
I think it’s possible to disagree over which ten historical sites offer the very best of Texas history and impact on America. That having been said, is it possible to disagree over which site is #1? I don’t think so.
Remember the Alamo? Few Texans will ever forget it! The Alamo is to Texans what the Statue of Liberty is to Americans. It’s a historical landmark which symbolizes the struggle for liberty.
The Battle of the Alamo during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico lasted thirteen days, from February 23, 1836-March 6, 1836. In December of 1835, a group of Texan volunteer soldiers had occupied the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission located near the present-day city of San Antonio.
While the Mexican Army under the leadership of Santa Anna prevailed slaughtering all of the soldiers inside of the fort, it was an important event in the Texas Revolution and American History because it rallied the rest of Texas to fight against the Mexican army eventually leading to a victory over Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto.
To learn more about this important conflict I recommend H.W. Brands Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Courageous Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence.
Things To Do At The Alamo
The Alamo complex houses a museum and artifacts from the revolution. The chapel houses the national or state flags of all the defenders, along with personal artifacts and memorabilia.
Visitors can explore the walls inside and outside the chapel which still bear witness to the shots fired during the battle.
What once was the barracks for priests and troops now houses a museum telling the story of Texas’ history from the original colonial settlement through the Texians’ battle for independence and victory.
List Of Historic Sites In Texas
- The Alamo
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
- The San Jacinto Monument
- Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
- Waco Mammoth National Monument
- Fort Davis National Historic Site
- Historical Fredericksburg
- Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
- Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Map Of Texas Historic Sites
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for the More Than Just Parks website. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!
To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
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