Texas Has 49 National Historic Landmarks… But These 5 Are the Coolest

Texas State Sign
© miroslav_1/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Marisa Higgins

Updated: October 11, 2023

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American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin

The United States Flag and Texas State Flag wave outside the Texas State Capitol.

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As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” While this statement might be true, Texas is also known for its legendary cowboy culture, diverse landscapes and cities, and tasty Tex-Mex cuisine. Everything is bigger in Texas, with the state measuring 268,596 square miles. The state is also home to approximately 30 million people, as of 2023.

Of course, Texas’s size is preceded by its pride. Citizens of Texas are proud that everything is bigger and presumably, better.

Texas’s 49 National Historic Landmarks point to a complex and intriguing history. Since Texas is quite large, and time is precious, let’s narrow the list down to the best landmarks worth visiting. If you’re ready to trek across the second-largest state in the United States, don your 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots and check out the five coolest landmarks in Texas.

5. The Alamo

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

The Alamo is located in the Alamo Plaza Historic District in San Antonio.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

In San Antonio, you can find The Alamo, one of the sites from the Texas Revolution. The Battle of the Alamo lasted from February until March of 1836. Following a thirteen-day siege, President General Antonio López de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission, a historic Spanish mission. On the morning of March 6, 1836, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After a brutal battle, the Mexican Army gained victory over the Texans, reclaiming the Alamo.

The Alamo is located within the Alamo Plaza Historic District in San Antonio. The Alamo Chapel and corresponding complex are reflective of the plaza’s history, conveying how the area has transformed from a religious area to a military headquarters to an area of commerce and tourism. 

On December 19, 1960, The Alamo was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1968, the building became a museum. Today, visitors can reserve tickets for a guided tour or a self-guided audio tour. 

Why You Should Visit The Alamo

Before you visit, be sure to make a reservation for one of the tour options. While visiting, you can check out the Alamo Church, Long Barrack (a surviving cannon from The Battle of the Alamo), and a living history encampment, which showcases what life was like in the seventeenth century. You can also check out the Alamo Exhibit, a new collection that includes an Alamo Diorama narrated by Phil Collins.

4. Majestic Theatre

Snow Day at the Majestic Theater in San antonio, Texas. Snowy winter weather after a blizzard snow storm in Winter

After you visit The Alamo, head down to the Majestic Theatre, an atmospheric theatre from the 1920s.

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The Majestic Theatre, located in San Antonio, opened its doors on June 14, 1929. It is one of the largest atmospheric theatres, a type of movie palace design popularized in the 1920s. An atmospheric theater makes patrons feel as though they are an active participant in the theatre experience.

The $3 million theatre was the first of its kind to offer air-conditioning, and the building has an auditorium that seats a little over 3,700 patrons. The theatre reaches over 14 stories high, and there is a penthouse at the very top. Designed in the Spanish Mediterranean style, the Majestic Theatre received National Historic Landmark status in 1993. 

Why You Should Visit the Majestic Theatre

Of course, you should visit the Majestic Theatre and catch a concert or performance. But entering the theatre is an experience in itself. The beautiful interior blends Spanish Mediterranean style with Baroque. Many of the antique furnishings were purchased from Tuscany. You will also find many, many stuffed birds, ranging from white doves, pigeons, parrots, and Texas turkeys. These birds are perched throughout the theatre on gables. Plan your visit and bask in the colorful architecture while immersed in the atmospheric theatre experience.

3. Apollo Mission Control Center

Apollo 1960s mission control equipment on display in Kennedy Space Center

The Apollo Mission Control has been restored to look identical to its setup in 1969.

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On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong declared, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Capsule communicator (CAPCOM) Charlie Duke felt immediate relief after awaiting word from Armstrong in the Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston. 

This facility monitored nine Gemini and Apollo lunar missions, including the Apollo 11 trip to the Moon, which Armstrong was on. The Apollo Mission Control Center is located in Building 30 of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Mission Control is also a Smithsonian affiliate museum. The Space Center itself has two primary components: a self-guided Space Center Museum that includes a variety of space exploration exhibits and a tram tour that transports you to the main NASA Johnson Space Center. 

In 1985 Apollo Mission Control Center was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Becoming a place worthy of preservation and historical significance warranted the restoration of the control center. The restoration process included featuring the authentication consoles which were used to monitor Apollo 11, amongst other space shuttle missions. The Apollo Mission Center is also the location of the Apollo 13 mission, which experienced an in-flight emergency.

Why You Should Visit Apollo Mission Control Center

The historic Apollo Mission Control Center, which is also called The Mission Operations Control Room 2, can be accessed via the tram tour. The control room underwent an extensive restoration process in 2017 to make the room look exactly as it did the moment the Moon landing took place in 1969.  

Extensive research was conducted to accomplish this task. Interviews were conducted to determine what items should be placed at each console. The restoration team took care of the tiniest details by replicating ashtrays, binders, pencils, and headsets, to name a few. 

The historical accuracies of the Apollo Mission Control Center ensure that the visitor experience feels like a step back in time. The momentous occasion of Apollo 11 is memorialized for visitors to encounter daily. But the control center is just one part of the Space Center Houston experience. 

General admission tickets can be paired with a Mission Control tour. There is also a NASA VIP Tour and Breakfast with an Astronaut. So, if you have dreams of becoming an astronaut, Space Center Houston is a great place to do some career research.

2. East End Historic District

Historic homes in Galveston, TX

The East End Historic District in Galveston is home to colorful Victorian architecture.

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Galveston, Texas sits on the Gulf Coast, and is considered an island city. Galveston became a city in 1839, and it was the principal port city during the 19th century. It boasted millionaire mansions, and in those days, it was one of the first places with telephone poles and electricity. 

The East End was the first residential neighborhood in Galveston, and during the fire of 1885, the area was destroyed. By 1886, famous architects Nicholas Clayton, Alfred Muller, and George Stowe had led the area’s reconstruction, designing stunning Victorian homes. 

The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900

In 1900, Galveston experienced a massive hurricane. As a result, Galveston was no longer used as a port city, sufficiently destroying its economic prosperity. The storm was documented as the worst hurricane in U.S. history, and it’s expected that between 6,000-12,000 people died as a result.

After the 1900 Galveston hurricane, people questioned if the city would ever recover and many anticipated that the island would be abandoned. Before the hurricane, Galveston was known as the place to be in Texas, which made many question if the city could appropriately rebound after suffering so much loss. However, despite the horrible devastation, the Galveston community banded together and rebuilt the city. The resulting buildings were more resilient to impending future storms. 

Galveston, like many cities that have experienced intense natural disasters, displayed dedication to rebounding and moving forward. In the 1960s, many of the city’s historical buildings fell into disrepair, but the Galveston City Council fought to designate the city a National Historic Landmark in 1976. That same year, the city was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Why You Should Visit the East End Historic District

Although the 1900 Galveston Hurricane decimated much of the island, the East End managed to persevere. Today, you can find a variety of unique neighborhoods spread throughout the East End Historic District. 

Galveston’s East End is home to an array of historic neighborhoods, the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve, and East Beach. The 50 city blocks feature a variety of colorful architecture and styles, spanning Victorian and Greek Revival style buildings. 

Depending on the season, you might be able to catch a Fall Garden Tour or the East End Holidays Homes Tour. There is also a Great Storm Residential Walking Tour, a Historic Galveston Ghost Tour, and a Galveston Mansions and Murder Walking Tour. This lovely district will give you a glimpse of the past.

1. Texas State Capitol

Austin State Capitol with beautiful yellow sunset

The Texas State Capitol sits on top of a hill overlooking the city of Austin.

©jdross75/Shutterstock.com

Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? Well, the Texas State Capitol further proves this sentiment. The construction of the capitol began on February 1, 1882, following a groundbreaking ceremony. Covering over three acres of ground, the Texas capitol is approximately 192,374 square feet. The building itself is 566 feet long, 288 feet wide, and 302.64 feet from the ground to the peak of the star at the very top of the dome. In comparison to the National Capitol in Washington D.C., the Texas State Capitol is approximately 14.64 feet taller. 

The building opened for the first time on April 21, 1888, which is San Jacinto Day. The Texas State Capitol also has a Capitol Extension, which is an underground tunnel addition. The underground tunnels were opened to the public on January 11, 1993, and these tunnels connect the main Capitol to four other state buildings within the vicinity. Located in Austin, the Texas State Capitol is the sixth-tallest state capitol in the nation, behind Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee, and Indiana. 

Why You Should Visit the Texas State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol adds another layer of history and culture to the Austin area. The building is located atop a hill, which overlooks downtown Austin. The northern edge of the capitol is approximately four blocks south of the University of Texas at Austin. 

The capitol offers free tours Monday-Friday. Even if you don’t step foot inside the building—which you should– the lovely exterior architecture and grounds are worthy of a visit themselves.

Visit the 5 Coolest Historic Landmarks in Texas

Have you booked your trip yet? There are 49 historic landmarks in Texas, but the five listed above are the coolest. These landmarks will take you to San Antonio, Houston, Galveston, and Austin, cities that offer exciting history, fun shops, interesting architecture, and tasty Tex-Mex food. 

Whether you’re strolling through the Alamo Plaza Historic District or riding the tram to the Apollo Mission Center, these historic landmarks transport you back in time to experience the past of an exceptionally intriguing state. Book your trip to Texas and check out these coolest historic landmarks!

Summary of the 5 Coolest National Historic Landmarks in Texas

RankLandmarkLocation
1Texas State CapitolAustin, Texas
2East End Historic DistrictGalveston, Texas
3Apollo Mission Control CenterHouston, Texas
4Majestic TheatreSan Antonio, Texas
5The AlamoSan Antonio, Texas


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About the Author

Dr. Marisa Higgins is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on travel, places to visit, and fun activities. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French, a Master of Arts in English, and a Ph.D. in English, and she's spent the past decade teaching, writing, and researching. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband, and their Beagle-Chihuahua, Rumi, and cat, Rory.

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