Southeast of San Antonio, centered between Houston and Corpus Christi and just a stone’s throw from the Gulf, you’ll discover the charming little town of Victoria. Laced with historic architecture, a diverse culture, and tasty food, Victoria celebrates plenty of festivals and hosts a wealth of local shopping to keep you busy.
Martin de Leon founded the town in 1824 when he settled 41 Mexican families here. De Leon named the town Guadalupe Victoria, honoring the Republic of Mexico’s first president (not the Queen of England.) After Texas gained independence, citizens renamed the settlement Victoria, and it’s one of the oldest towns in Texas.
1. Explore Victoria Visitors Center
Make the Victoria Visitors Center your first stop to pick up the Explore brochure and visitors guide. Get local advice and all your questions answered by the friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Pro Tip: While you are learning about Victoria’s history, take selfies at three locations that you visit, post them, and earn a free “I Explored Victoria” t-shirt. Click for details.
2. The Old Victoria Driving Tour
I could spend all day looking at historic homes. The Old Victoria Driving Tour is a self-guided excursion through Victoria’s landmark neighborhoods featuring over 115 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pick up the brochure and map at the Visitor Center.
3. Victoria County Courthouse
The stunning 1892 Victoria County Courthouse, constructed of Texas granite and Indiana limestone, fits the part with Romanesque Revival architecture by J. Riely Gordon. The 2001 restored courthouse appears on several lists as one of Texas’s most beautiful courthouses.
4. Evergreen Cemetery
Another thing I love is exploring old cemeteries with antique gravestones. Evergreen Cemetery is home to many pioneers’ graves, including members of the founding de Leon family. Also buried here are veterans of the Texas Revolution, Mexican War, and Civil War. Researchers say Victoria may be one of the most haunted Texas cities.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the Annual Cemetery Tour in April, where historians come from the grave and dress up as memorable characters buried in the cemetery.
Editor’s Note: If you, too, are captivated by cemeteries, don’t miss our picks for 6 Most Interesting Cemeteries To Visit In The U.S. and 7 Most Fascinating Cemeteries To Visit Around The World.
5. Museum Of The Coastal Bend
The Museum of the Coastal Bend displays 13,000 years of Texas history from the first inhabitants to the French, Spanish, and Mexican colonial settlements. You’ll see the Fort St. Louis exhibition, LaSalle’s small French village near Matagorda Bay. By 1687, Karankawas had killed or captured the last settlers, and LaSalle’s men had murdered him. See the eight cannons that defended the colony.
6. Victoria Trail Through Time
Learn about the fascinating history of Victoria as you explore the Trail Through Time. Begin in 1725 with Presidio La Bahia‘s settlement, a Spanish fort, and Mission Espiritu Santo, a beautifully restored Catholic mission along the Tejas National Historic Trail. Learn about Fannin and the Texas Revolution, with Victoria among the 23 counties established by the Republic of Texas on March 17, 1836.
7. Historic Homes Tour
An almost 40-year tradition, Victoria Preservation provides guided tours of various historic homes each spring, including craftsman-style bungalows and Victorian and Queen Anne landmark homes. Experience an exceptional opportunity to view the interiors of some of the most historic houses in Victoria.
8. Annual Festivals And Events
DeLeon Plaza downtown is a popular setting for festivals and special events.
Bootfest hosts some of Texas’ best country music artists, and it’s free. During the event, visit a car, truck, and motorcycle show, eat the best barbecue in Texas, run (or cheer on) a 5K, and watch fireworks.
Attend the annual Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival, VTXIFF, held annually for almost 10 years, drawing independent artists and filmmakers from all over the world. VTXIFF is rated one of the Top 50 Film Festivals by MovieMaker magazine.
Other annual events include the Riverside Bike Ride, Polo at McFaddin Ranch, Downtown Rhythms with the Victoria Symphony, Memorial Weekend Bash hosting the biggest Tejano music names, plus the Riverside Food Truck Fest. Or pencil in the Art Car Parade with the Five Points Museum, Czech Heritage Festival, Lighted Christmas Parade, Christmas on the Square, and The Nutcracker.
9. Victoria Educational Gardens
Victoria’s best-kept secrets, visit the Victoria Educational Gardens, created by Victoria’s Master Gardeners, across from the airport control tower. You’ll find 19 different gardens here, each with unique flowers and foliage. Find plants that survive and thrive in Texas weather including the Laura Bush petunia, New Gold Lantana, and other superstars. My grandchildren loved the Butterfly Haven featuring plants that attract butterflies, including blue plumbago, red bottlebrush, and firebush plants.
10. Leo J Welder Center For The Performing Arts
The Leo J Welder Center for the Performing Arts honors a prominent local rancher, businessman, and philanthropist who died in 1996. Dedicated to bringing the arts to downtown Victoria, the center has revitalized the historical district and improved its quality of life.
Every June, the Victoria Bach Festival features a mix of classical and contemporary music. Professional performances by the Victoria Ballet, Victoria Symphony, and Theatre Victoria are held in the venue.
11. Five Points Museum Of Contemporary Art
Three galleries comprise the Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art, founded by Ann Harithas. The main gallery, nicknamed The Fishbowl, features 22 windows looking out on the five-way Crossroads intersection. A perfect spot for art cars from the annual parade, videos, murals, and sculptures, the gallery was originally a 1940s Lincoln and Mercury Dealership.
12. Nave Museum
In Victoria’s oldest art museum, you’ll see six to eight art exhibits annually, ranging in styles from landscape to portraiture by famous artist Royston Nave (1886-1931) and other renowned area artists.
13. Riverside Park
This 600-acre woodland park offers hike and bike trails, the Memorial Rose Garden, Riverside Golf Course, a disc golf course, and more. The Athey Nature Sanctuary and trail boasts abundant birds and wildlife. Spend an afternoon kayaking on the Guadalupe River. You can find the Texas Zoo here, plus multiple playgrounds and sports fields.
14. Coleto Creek Park And Reservoir
Park your RV at Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir when you visit Victoria. Located halfway between Victoria and Goliad, Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir cover 3,100 acres with 61 miles of shoreline. The reservoir is fed through four major creeks and serves as a cooling pond for the coal-fired power plant. The park offers camping with hook-ups, cabins, and primitive camping. You’ll enjoy picnic areas with picnic tables, pavilions, grills, a swimming area, a sandy beach, and sand volleyball courts. Plus, the park offers a four-lane boat ramp and a 200-foot lighted fishing pier. There’s plenty of room for water skiing, swimming, fishing, and hiking.
15. Fossati’s Delicatessen
Founded in 1882, Fossati’s Delicatessen (feh-SEH-tee) is the oldest deli in Texas where you can still get an Italian po’boy, a Reuben, or the chicken salad melt. Open weekdays only. Fossati’s is one of the oldest restaurants in the U.S. still run by the same family.
Pro Tip: Try the Old Family Recipe, the Dutch Lunch with cheese, cold-cuts, and bread with spicy mustard.
16. Texas Barbecue Trail In The Coastal Bend
The Texas Coastal Bend Barbecue Trail is one of the best in the country.
Aunt Jo’s BBQ, located in a family’s restored 1920s grocery store with a landmark painted pig out front, is home to mesquite roasted slow-cooked brisket with a flavor all its own. Try the three-meat Trucker’s Special with Aunt Jo’s brisket, sausage, and ribs. The sauce has a unique, sweet flavor and the potato salad is spectacular.
Pro Tip: Save room for the mini pecan pie or peach cobbler.
McMillans Bar-B-Que opened near the Coleto Creek Power Station in the 1980s. Louis has grown his business over the past 30+ years to include serving three presidents and quarterback Troy Aikman, plus he put two daughters through college. He cooks low and slow using fruitwoods and a combination of mesquite, pecan, and oak.
Pro Tip: Order the rib eye steak, or the fall-apart-in-your-mouth brisket, and his ranch-style beans.
17. Seafood In Victoria
Victoria is close to the Gulf, so finding fresh seafood isn’t tricky. Check out Baytown Seafood Restaurant or Dockside Boiling Pot, sourced from Seadrift, directly from their crab boats. Savor Louisiana-style crab, shrimp, and crawfish at this food trailer called Southern Select Crawfish. Texas Seafood features fried seafood baskets, shrimp boils, and authentic Vietnamese dishes. Next to the Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir, the Cracked Crab specializes in Cajun seafood boils, bisque, fried seafood, casseroles, and cobblers.
18. Inn On Main
Stay at the Inn on Main in Victoria, initially constructed in 1875 as a residence for an established Victoria family. Restored and opened in September 1998, the Inn is a showcase of fine craftsmanship and Victorian elegance. Choose from seven suites, each with a bedroom, sitting room, and bath. All reservations include a continental serve-yourself breakfast.