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Everything’s Bigger in Texas… Especially This Road Trip From Houston to San Antonio!

We’re Taking On Texas with the Ultimate Lone Star State Road Trip (Stops Include Galveston, Corpus Christi, Padre Island, and More!)

Houston and San Antonio are two of Texas’s best-known major cities, and what better way to celebrate the Lone Star State than by doing a little exploring on your way from Magnolia City to Alamo City? The drive from Houston to San Antonio is a little under four hours, but you know us—we’re all about taking the long way! Instead of heading directly west from Houston, we’re going to go slightly south first, hitting some of the can’t-miss cities along the Texas coastline… Let’s get started! 

Space Center Houston

📍 Houston 

An Attraction That’s Out of This World! 

1601 E. NASA Parkway | Nassau Bay | www.spacecenter.org

Houston is called “Space City” for a reason—it’s the location of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, a central facility for the nation’s space program. The Johnson Space Center is about 30 minutes southeast of Downtown Houston, and its visitor center, Space Center Houston, is an unforgettable first stop to make on your drive to San Antonio. A Smithsonian Affiliate and one of Houston’s top attractions, Space Center Houston boasts more than 400 space artifacts, including the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples on public display. 

Host to permanent and traveling exhibits, the space center is among the best places in the country to learn about NASA, its history, and space travel in general. From spacecraft and spacesuits to meteorites and Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center, general admission to the space center includes a number of extraordinary experiences and learning opportunities. Admission is $25.95 for adults, $27.95 for seniors, $24.95 for kids ages 4 to 11, and free for children ages 3 and under. (Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for space-themed souvenirs and NASA merchandise!) 

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier 

📍Galveston 

Rides, Amusements, Food, Shops, and More!

2501 Seawall Boulevard | East End | www.pleasurepier.com

Galveston is about an hour southeast of Houston, and whether you’re looking to sink your toes in the sand or indulge in some culture, this island city an attraction-filled destination that you don’t want to miss on the way to San Antonio. Some of the most popular places to visit in Galveston are Moody Gardens, the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, Moody Mansion, The Bryan Museum, and the Texas Seaport Museum. But, no visit to Galveston is complete without a trip to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, a city hotspot and iconic landmark on the Gulf of Mexico. 

The original pier was built in the 1940s but, sadly, was destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1961. Fortunately, the city was finally able to restore it to its former glory in 2012, and now, the pier is once again a symbol of Galveston, not to mention a testament to the city’s spirit. A boardwalk amusement park that resembles Chicago’s Navy Pier or the Santa Monica Pier, Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier is a timeless attraction that’s fun for all ages. With thrill rides, carnival games, souvenir stores, and plenty of places to grab food, the pier has tons of entertainment—plus unbeatable seaside views. 

Sea Center Texas

📍 Lake Jackson 

Hands-On Education and No Admission Charge

302 Medical Drive | Southwest of Lake Jackson | www.tpwd.texas.gov 

Lake Jackson is close to an hour south of Houston, and a few of the best places to go in the city are the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, the Lake Jackson Historical Museum, and MacLean Park. Another cool spot to stop by while in Lake Jackson is Sea Center Texas, a multifaceted facility that’s dedicated to marine biology and environmental education. The center has a range of aquarium exhibits where visitors can view animals native to the Gulf of Mexico and other nearby bodies of water. Also located within the center is a fish hatchery, where the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department breeds and hatches fish to supplement the populations in surrounding waters. 

Though not as big as a commercial aquarium, Sea Center Texas is a fascinating place where you can get an up-close look at marine life and the work that the local and state governments do to protect the ecosystems in the area. Outside of the center, you’ll find a wetlands boardwalk that crosses over both a freshwater marsh and a saltwater marsh. The accompanying exhibits showcase native plants, many of which attract hummingbirds and other wildlife. Sea Center Texas is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm and on Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm. While admission to the center is free, donations are greatly appreciated. (Please note that if you want to tour the hatchery, a reservation is needed.) 

The Texas Zoo

📍 Victoria 

Over 100 Species, Both Native and Exotic 

110 Memorial Drive | Victoria City Park | www.texaszoo.org

The city of Victoria is a little over two hours southwest of Houston and about two hours southeast of San Antonio, making it an ideal half-way point to stop at during the drive. Founded in 1894 by Martín De León, Victoria is one of Texas’s oldest cities, and as such, it is brimming with state history and Texas heritage. Some of Victoria’s biggest attractions include the Children’s Discovery Museum, De Leon Plaza, the Nave Museum, and the Museum of the Coastal Bend. But, while you’re in Victoria, you don’t want to pass up a chance to visit The Texas Zoo, a nonprofit zoo whose mission is to connect members of the public to wildlife.  

While many of the animals at The Texas Zoo are native to the state—including coyotes, ocelots, white-nosed coatis, and javelinas—there are a number of exotic animals who call the zoo home as well, like zebras, lemurs, and peacocks. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, The Texas Zoo is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for children ages 3 to 12, $5.50 for seniors, and $4.50 for military personnel. 

Texas Maritime Museum 

📍 Rockport

The Official Maritime Museum of the State of Texas

1202 Navigation Circle | Rockport Harbor | www.texasmaritimemuseum.org

A coastal city on the edge of Aransas Bay, Rockport is around two-and-a-half southeast of San Antonio. Rockport’s most-visited points of interest include the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary, the Bay Education Center, and Rockport Beach. Another leading attraction in Rocksport is the Texas Maritime Museum, the state’s official maritime museum. Here, you’ll find exhibits, displays, and artifacts revolved around four central themes: offshore petroleum production and transportation, the development of seaports and maritime-based communities along the Gulf of Mexico, the exploration and settlement of the Texas Gulf Coast, and the state’s fishing and seafood industries. 

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm (and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm), the Texas Maritime Museum will lead you through Texas Gulf Coast history, offering unique insights into the region’s roots in maritime commerce and trade. Though it might be relatively modest in size, the museum covers an array of topics, including the Spanish and French colonists that settled in the area in the 1500s. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and military personnel, and $3 for children ages 3 to 12. 

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center

📍 Corpus Christi 

Nearly 200 Acres of Natural Beauty

8545 S Staples Street | Oso Creek | www.stxbot.org

Corpus Christi lies around two hours southeast of Houston, and bordered by Corpus Christi Bay, Nueces Bay, and Oso Bay, the city is known for its beautiful beaches and breathtaking natural beauty, as well as its rich arts and culture scene. Some of the best-known attractions in Corpus are the Texas State Aquarium, the Art Museum of South Texas, Mirador de la Flor (a memorial to Selena Quintanilla), and the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay. But, if you’re looking to infuse your trip with an added dose of life and color, be sure to stop by the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center—2,600 square feet of flora, trails, and all-around stunning scenery.

From display gardens and floral exhibits to wetlands and a birding tower, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center invites visitors to admire the natural side of coastal Texas and appreciate just how diverse the state truly is from an environmental standpoint. In addition to the traditional types of plant life found in most botanical gardens, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center also has parrots, reptiles, and butterflies, distinguishing it from other horticultural institutions that you might have visited before. While you’re at the gardens, don’t forget to check out the Joan Batman Nature’s Boutique, a gift shop with delightful souvenirs and beautiful-crafted decor and home goods. 

Padre Island National Seashore

📍 Padre Island 

The Biggest Strip of Undeveloped Barrier Island in the World 

20420 Park Road 22 | North Padre Island | www.nps.gov

Before making your way back north to San Antonio, there’s one last place in this portion of the Texas Gulf Coast that you’re going to want to see: Padre Island, just about a half-hour southeast of Corpus Christi. A barrier island that stretches along the Gulf of Mexico, Padre Island is Texas’s only tropical island and a wayside destination that you don’t want to bypass as you’re driving from Houston to San Antonio. Padre Island’s most popular spots include Mustang Island State Park, Bob Hall Pier and Padre Balli Park, Whitecap Beach, and the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Yet, while the island in its entirety is undeniably beautiful, there’s one place, in particular, that simply can’t fail to blow your mind—and that’s Padre Island National Seashore

Separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre and spanning 70 miles of coastline, Padre Island National Seashore encompasses sandy beaches, a dune ridge, grasslands, marshes, mudflats, and ponds. But, the shoreline park is perhaps best known for being the most important nesting beach in the US for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, a critically endangered species that’s considered to be the rarest type of sea turtle. During hatching season, which typically takes place in early May to late June, the National Parks Service allows members of the public to watch as sea turtle hatchlings are released and the baby sea turtles crawl toward the ocean. (Public releases occur irregularly, as park officials cannot control when the protected eggs will hatch, though the releases do always occur early in the morning around sunrise.)

Say “Hello” to Say Town!

San Antonio is the second-biggest city in the state of Texas, and trust us when we say, it does not disappoint! Known for its rich history, action-packed attractions, and eclectic cultural patchwork, San Antonio is a travel destination that you’re sure to fall in love with. Some of River City’s top attractions include San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Tower of the Americas, Morgan’s Wonderland, Natural Bridge Caverns, the Riverwalk, the Witte Museum, and, of course, the Alamo. And with more than 250 days of sunshine a year, San Antonio is the perfect city to wander around, sample the local cuisine, and immerse yourself in what the town has to offer—which, as you can see, is quite a lot.

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Albion Skeldon

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