Are you PCSing or visiting Houston, Texas? Well, congratulations! Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is known for its great food, family fun, and low cost of living–not to mention that famous Texas hospitality. Texans love military families, so much so that the state has a Governor’s Committee to Support the Military (GCSM) whose sole purpose is for the betterment of military families stationed in Texas.
Although there are not many major military bases in the Houston area, there are Reserve and National Guard bases near the city. Houston is also a great day trip from the San Antonio bases like Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, and Randolph AFB. Houston is about 3 hours from San Antonio, and also 3 hours from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. If you are visiting Texas A&M at College Station, you are less than 2 hours from Houston. While in Houston, there are some truly Texan experiences that should not be missed.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo – What started in 1932 as the Houston Fat Stock show is now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, currently the largest rodeo event in the world. What can be more “Texas” than cowboys, horses, and BBQ? This event is the perfect family fun event. The two week-long, annual festivity has concerts, sports, kids events, agriculture contests, educational sessions and of course, the rodeo. Don’t forget to inquire about their Armed Forces Appreciation Day, when all active duty service people and their families are invited to enter NRG Park for free. Your attendance at this event supports local scholarships, further education, and the study of agriculture and livestock needs. Of course, it also helps keep the Western ways alive in Texas.
Houston Astros Game – Who can forget the 2017 World Series where the Houston Astros won their first national championship against the L.A. Dodgers? Texans beamed with pride as one of their home teams achieved the big win. The City of Houston, especially, rallied around their team in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that ravaged their city in August of that year. The win by their home team was a welcomed symbolism to the strength and the determination of the community to persevere. Attending a Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park is a must-do when visiting Houston. Don’t forget to ask for the MLB’s military discount. More information can be found here.
Space Center Houston – “Houston, the Eagle has landed!” were the first words uttered on the moon’s surface by Neil Armstrong hours before descending the ladder and being the first man to step on the moon. Ever since that moment, NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston has been a staple for international visitors in Texas, and a sense of great pride for Texans themselves. When the Space Center Houston was being constructed at JSC, they brought in Disney Imagineers (engineering and creative wing of the Walt Disney Company) to help with the design and planning. Focus was placed not just on the historical but also on the inspirational education of space travel. Since its opening in 1992, it has hosted more than 22 million visitors. Don’t forget to show your military ID at the ticket counter for a $5 discount.
San Jacinto Monument and Museum – Texas’ version of superheroes is the story of the Battle of San Jacinto outside of Houston. It was where the Texian army became Avengers in their own right. You could hear the cries to “Remember the Alamo, remember Goliad!” as they charged Santa Anna’s army in their fight for Independence from Mexico. At the Battle of San Jacinto, Texians were outnumbered almost two to one but the battle only lasted 18 minutes. 9 Texians were killed or mortally wounded. In Santa Anna’s army, 630 were killed and over 700 captured. The Texians won their independence and avenged the slaughter of their fellow Texians at the Battles of the Alamo and Goliad the month prior.
The San Jacinto Monument and museum stands as a reminder of one of the most consequential battles in the history of the United States. It opened the door for the annexation of Texas to the United States a decade later which ultimately led to the Mexican-American War where the United States would gain not only Texas but also New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. The United States would fulfill its “manifest destiny” to extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean all because 900 Texians fought and won at San Jacinto.
Houston BBQ Festival – BBQ might be different throughout the United States, but no one can deny that Texas has some of the best (although Texans will say it’s the very best). The Houston BBQ Festival features live music and an abundance of flavorful BBQ. Although the event was canceled due to Covid-19 in 2020, organizers are hopeful that it will take place later in 2021. If you like great BBQ and fun, this event shouldn’t be missed.
The best thing about Texas is that it is a stay-cationers paradise. There is so much to do in the area and a lot to explore. Whether you are passing through during a PCS move, or just exploring your new state of Texas, enjoy all that Houston has to offer!
Erica I. Pena-Vest is a subject matter expert on military leisure travel and has had a very popular discount site for military families for over 10 years. Erica is a tourism industry veteran, public relations pro, social media strategist and recently launched the podcast and blog The Endless Search. She completes her Masters of Art in Professional Communications this summer and starts the coveted UC Berkeley Graduate Certificate Program in Podcasting shortly after. She has been married to her active-duty Naval Aviator husband for 17 years and has two kids, two dogs and a mischievous caique parrot named Queso. You can reach her at www.TheEndlessSearch.com.