It's easy to picture what life was like in centuries past at Matagorda County Museum. That's because the museum highlights the county's most memorable events with both detailed recreations and actual artifacts. Guests can absorb the county's nautical history by viewing a cannon and other artifacts recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of Matagorda Bay. They can also learn about indigenous family life or discover the charms and hardships of life in a covered wagon thanks to exhibits on those topics.
For an even more immersive experience, families need only step in to the award-winning children's section of the museum. There, kids can discover what life was really like more than 100 years ago in a recreation of a late 19th-century town. Newly minted citizens can swing by the town's O.K. Corral to drop off their horses, stop into the barber shop for a shave and a haircut, or head to the one-room schoolhouse to look over education primers. Other places of interest include an opera house, a post office, and, in case anyone at the post office gets caught opening letters not addressed to them, a jail.
Feet patter across three information-packed floors stacked inside the Ocean Star, a former drilling rig that spends its retirement as a museum and education center on Galveston's Pier 19. After two decades drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the rig has since been revamped and outfitted with interactive models and displays that illustrate the story of offshore oil, gas, and the energies that lurk beneath the world's oceans. Visitors can tap into videos for explanations of drilling, geology, and seismic topics, or stand next to scale models of production platforms. In addition to its lineup of eye-popping sites, Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center harbors ongoing exhibits showcasing the industry's careers, history, and safety measures. Self-guided tours seven days a week enable guests to explore the rig's nooks at their own pace, while an onboard staff stands by to answer questions and courteously laugh at all petroleum-related knock-knock jokes.
George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history?it?s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park?s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm?a cattle operation circa 1830?where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park?s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
If it weren’t for the railroad, there would be no Rosenberg. In 1880 the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Company extended their tracks across those of another railway, creating a junction that they named after the railway’s president, Henry von Rosenberg. All that remains of this junction’s original depot, from which the town of Rosenberg grew, is the signal tower, which is now the centerpiece of Rosenberg Railroad Museum’s collection of historic railcars and other railway paraphernalia.
Representing the full spectrum of passenger railcars, the collection includes a caboose—the living quarters of a train conductor—and a Canadian government business car, which in the 1920s had been appointed to transport dignitaries and prime ministers in comfort. At the museum’s education center, an HO-gauge model train gives visitors a macro view of a rail network, and, up in the signal tower, an interlocking machine lets visitors play at train traffic control, using the same switches the towerman flipped back in 1903 to make sure only one train was routed through a junction at a time and no trains were routed down the tracks that just led straight off the edge of the world.
Located at the base of the towering San Jacinto Monument, the San Jacinto Museum of History chronicles the formation of Texas lore. This year marks the 175th anniversary of Texas independence, and the museum provides festive fact-gatherers with a moveable feast of 17,000 local objects, 18,000 volumes, and 700 feet of historic party streamers gathered from Texas and New Spain, the United States, and Mexico. While admission to the museum is free, member benefits include access to special exhibits and the Jesse H. Jones Theatre. Members are also granted access to the San Jacinto Monument’s observation deck, which provides a hang-glider's view of the Houston skyline and the mighty Battleship Texas.
What makes your business stand out?
The Battleship Texas is located next to the San Jacinto Battleground, so visitors get an opportunity to experience two great historical sites in one location. Have a picnic under wonderful trees. Bring your camera and capture some great photographs.
What inspired you (or the owner) to start or run this business?
The Battleship Texas is the last remaining U.S. ship to serve in both WWI and WWII. It is also the last of the Dreadnought-style ships. We work hard to maintain her, and nothing makes us happier than when people come to visit The Might T.
What is your most popular offering?
Our Hard Hat Tours are offered five times each year. They occur in January, March, May, October, and November. You can make a reservation on on our website. We also offer an Overnight Education Program and we have hosted 40,000 children at our overnight camp.
Anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
Visitors of all ages have visited The Texas since 1948 and continue to do so. Come walk the same decks where the heroes of yesterday answered our nation's call to protect America.
What is the best reaction you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
Visiting [The] Texas can be deeply moving for many people. It is also highly educational for visitors of all ages. In 1914, The Texas was considered the most powerful weapon on the planet. To walk her decks provides memories for years to come.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Meeting visitors and having the opportunity to see their reactions to the experience of being on The Might T.
Established: Before 1950
Handicap Accessible: No
Staff Size: 25–50
Parking: Parking lot
Reservations/Appointments: Not necessary
Most popular offering: Tour the Last Dreadnought—100 years old
Pro Tip: Bring a camera. The Texas is located next to The San Jacinto Monument and Battleground.