For most middle and high school students in the Houston area, two things are certain in regards to field trips:
- All will be subject to an eastern excursion to La Porte's many holdings in the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
- One of these is a tall, old-looking monument like the one destroyed in that 2012 movie. The other is an honest-to-God battleship.
Texas enjoys boasting about how much larger than life it is compared to the Union's other 49 states and affiliated territories. During these outs, one of the go-to items of discussion is the Battleship Texas. A National Historic Landmark, National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, and—most importantly—State Historic Site rolled into one, the 104-year-old naval vessel rests deep within the recesses of the Houston Ship Channel.
For kids whose only experience with the words “battle” and “ship” stems from that terrible Rihanna movie with the guy from the Taken series and aliens, seeing this New York Class behemoth in the flesh is a thing of wonder. Like boys and girls making the “swoosh” sounds with their toy lightsabers, everyone on the school trip will go “boom” when they see the destroyer's array of 45 and 51-caliber guns. Kids will be kids, after all.
Since renovations to the USS Texas in the '80s, the battleship has become a staple of the rich historical and cultural landscape of Houston. With tours in both World Wars and participation in other military exercises, the ship's berthing in the Buffalo Bayou isn't just an appropriate one. It's a requirement. The USS Lexington in Corpus Christi is nice, but the heavy commercialization and perilous Spring Break-savvy location prove distracting during visits. Plus, it was produced in Quincy, Massachusetts.
“Quincy, Massachusetts!?” (same tone as the Pace Picante commercials from the '90s)
The Battleship Texas, meanwhile, was made and christened in Virginia, and while Virginia still isn't Texas, it's definitely not Massachusetts.
Most of the schoolchildren who visit the ship don't understand the significance of these facts, nor will they really appreciate their importance until much later in life. But when they grow into adulthood and decide to chaperone their own kids, nieces or nephews during school trips or family outings, they will know it then. They will know just how important the vessel is to the country and the state's history, and they will relish in the awesomeness that is having a freakin' battleship in their city's backyard.
So whether you choose to take a self-guided tour along the armaments or below deck, a hard hat guided tour with the Battleship Texas Foundation or any number of other options, make sure to visit Houston's very own war-worn piece of history. You don't even have to take any kids with you if you don't want to.
Besides, the sudden temptation to ride one of the gigantic gun barrels a la Major “King” Kong's fateful ride in Dr. Strangelove will prove childlike enough for your experience. You might even mouth a few “pew pew” sounds before an attendant calmly asks you to dismount the turret.