What’s a better history lesson than going to a regular museum? Try visiting a floating museum that was once one of this country’s greatest battleships! The USS Texas is a United States battleship permanently retired and stationed at the San Jacinto Battle Ground, in La Porte, Texas. She is the only surviving ship to have served in both World War I and II and was the first ship to become a museum.

You don’t have to be an historian or military buff to appreciate the grandeur of the USS Texas. This ship, built in 1912 and placed in service in 1914, saw action in World War I in waters off the coast of Mexico and the North Sea. At the cutting edge of technology from the start, she was the first battleship with range keepers, early computers that helped improve firing accuracy. After the war, the ship was converted to run on fuel instead of coal and armaments were added including anti-aircraft guns. The ship received one of the Navy’s first radar systems in 1939.

In World War II, the ship saw more action on D-Day and in the South Pacific. Despite all of this, there was only one fatality aboard, occurring when two German shells hit in 1944. At the end of the war, the ship was used to transport troops home and was retired in 1948.

The Texas has been docked outside of Houston ever since and is now a national landmark and protected by Texas Parks and Wildlife as a State Historic Site. Visitors can board the ship daily between 10am and 5pm for a nominal fee, and young children are free. Self-guided tours are a great way to explore the ship at your own pace, walking through restored areas such as the mess hall (kitchen), sleeping quarters, medical facilities, engine room and flag bridge, among others.

A special hard-hat guided tour provides over three hours of history as you travel the unrestored areas of the ship with a docent, learning more than you could imagine about the ship’s construction, adventures and its service during Wars. With a minimum donation of $50 per person, your group must book this private tour in advance.

School-aged children can participate in the ship’s Overnight Education Program where boys and girls along with chaperones and knowledgeable docents spend the night in the ship’s sleeping quarters. This amazing experience is only $45 per child during the summer months and will be a night not soon forgotten. The “sailors” will learn about life onboard a ship and will get to see the normally restricted gun turret interior and the Pilot House, where the captain steered the ship.

Your entire family will enjoy visiting and learning about the Battleship Texas, so plan your day (or night!) trip today!