By James Waterson
Settled between Houston and Corpus Christi along the banks of the beautiful Guadalupe River, Victoria is full of surprises. From birding and kayaking to touring a zoo, you’ll find a spectacular array of things to see and do here. Oh, and we didn’t even mention the barbecue and all the casual and upscale restaurants, and other treasures to uncover in what is one of the Lone Star State’s oldest towns. Read on to see why you should already be planning your next road trip out to Victoria.
Art of All Kinds Can Be Found Here
Admire the works of local artists, enjoy a night out at the theater, and take in an awe-inspiring performance of the professional virtuosos of a symphony orchestra. These are a few of the ways you can indulge in the arts in Victoria. The Nave Museum, located in a gorgeous Greek revival temple built in 1932, features works by Texas artists in as many as eight rotating exhibits throughout the year. More works of art are displayed at the Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art, host of numerous diverse exhibits throughout the year. To show off your own creative side, or learn a new skill, take one of the pottery, painting, photography, or sculpture classes at The Victoria Art League.
While it’s always fun to check out the kind of art you’d find in a gallery, that’s not all Victoria has to offer. In fact, the town is home to some show-stopping entertainment you’d expect to find in the big city. Laugh, cry, and everything in between when you check out one of the shows by Theatre Victoria, a community theater that puts on musicals and plays at the Leo. J. Welder Center in downtown Victoria. There’s also the Victoria Ballet Theatre, which showcases the talents of Victoria’s youth and adult dancers in performances with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, on occasion. Speaking of the symphony, you can catch a performance by the orchestra at the Victoria Fine Arts Center, a two-tiered auditorium with first-rate acoustics where you can feel and appreciate the music.
Escape to Nature on the Victoria Paddling Trail
With the sun shining overhead, you float at a leisurely pace down the peaceful Guadalupe River. Herons and egrets stalk the shallow waters near banks shaded by cypress, oak, and pecan trees. Take a second to feel the breeze and you’ll probably feel as if you’re somewhere in the tranquil Texas wilderness. Instead, you’re on the Victoria Paddling Trail. This 25-mile route follows the Guadalupe River from about 10 miles northwest of Victoria to six miles south. With four drop-in points in town, including two in Victoria’s popular Riverside Park, you can choose to have an epic all-day adventure on the water or a relaxing afternoon paddle.
If you don’t have your own kayak, rent one from Flow Paddle Co., located right in Riverside Park. When you’re all paddled out, find a spot on the riverside patio at The PumpHouse Restaurant. With such entrees as shrimp, tuna, ribeye, and pecan chicken, along with burgers, salads, and sandwiches, the restaurant serves up a delicious way to end a day on the Guadalupe River.
Photo Credit: Mark Oberle
Victoria is a Top Gulf Coast Birding Destination
Victoria is the kind of place you’ll want to bring your binoculars. Located in the East Guadalupe Loop of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, the town’s parks attract hundreds of varieties of birds throughout the year. Keep a keen eye out when you visit Riverside Park or Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir for a chance to see herons, egrets, bald eagles, warblers, woodpeckers, and more. For even more birding, make the 55-mile drive to the sprawling Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to view as many as 400 species of birds, including the rare whooping crane.
Pictured: A painted bunting, which can be seen in Riverside Park in the spring and summer.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Johnson Photography
Throw an Atlatl & Discover Texas History
Yes, you read that right. Feel just like an ancient hunter as you use an atlatl to chuck a spear at a target shaped like a wooly mammoth. While you’re unlikely to find this experience anywhere else, it’s only one of the things you can do at the Museum of the Coastal Bend. Embark on a tour of 13,000 years of history as you examine the tools, personal effects, and other artifacts from the Native American, Spanish, and French people that once called this corner of Texas home.
There are many other historical wonders to behold throughout Victoria, one of the oldest towns in the Lone Star State. No matter whatever else you see, you must start at the 1892 Victoria County Courthouse. A true masterpiece of a historical structure, the courthouse is a remarkable example of Romanesque-Revival architecture. Snap a few photos, then follow the signs for Victoria’s Trail Through Time to see displays that showcase the events that shaped the town into what is today.
Then hop in your car for the self-guided Old Victoria Driving Tour is another great way to uncover the town’s past. Cruise along this route and you'll stop by captivating homes and other sites, including a bandstand built in 1885, the 1904 St. Mary's Catholic Church, and the magnificent D.H. Regan House (pictured), a stunning Italianate house built in Indianola in 1883 and transported to Victoria after the hurricane of 1886. The tour also passes Fossati's Delicatessen, the oldest deli in Texas and a fantastic place to stop for lunch during your journey through the past.
There’s Fun for the Whole Family
If your kids are your road-tripping companions, they’ll have just as much fun in Victoria as you will. Take them for a walk on the wild side at the Texas Zoo, home to alligators, barn owls, ocelots, and other animals from around the world. You’ll find even more kid-friendly entertainment at the Outlaw Pass Family Fun Center. Play a round on the 18-hole miniature golf course, show off your racing skills on the go-kart track, climb the rock wall, and go for a ride on the pint-sized El Paso Train.
To mix in a bit of education into your road trip, let your youngsters expand their minds with the interactive exhibits at the Children’s Discovery Museum. Your kids will learn scientific concepts by doing in the Discovery Lab and how to express their creativity in the Art Place, and toddlers can develop their motor skills in the Circus Tot area. Finally, for some quiality time outdoors, play your way through one of Victoria's three 18-hole disc golf courses. Riverside Park's two courses (Riverside Disc Golf Course and Fox's Bend Course) run along the beautiful Guadalupe River, while the newest course in town (Patriot Park) offers plenty of views of the Saxet Lakes. Don't have your own discs? Rent a set from Flow Paddle Co.
With so many places to go, there’s something for kids of all ages in Victoria.
Photo Credit: Larry Ditto
Given its art scene, abundance of fantastic dining, and all the ways you can enjoy the outdoors, Victoria is an all-in-one destination with something for everyone. Discover everything else Victoria has to offer here.
About the Author: James Waterson is the head writer and content specialist for Tour Texas. When he isn’t writing about the many great places in the state of Texas, he’s planning his next epic adventure in the Lone Star State.