Check out Abilene!
What to Do in Abilene, Texas
Home to Dyess Air Force Base and McMurry University, Abilene is set in north-central Texas – and it’s the 27th most populous city in the Lone Star State, Abilene certainly has come a long way in recent years.
Whether you’re visiting some family or just passing through Big Bend Country, here are some suggested things to do during your time in Abilene:
If you’d like to know what this part of Texas was like from 1875 to 1925, then the Buffalo Gap Historic Village should be your first stop. This living museum offers more than 20 historic buildings from the frontier days, a vast collection of Native American artifacts, historic maps, Old West firearms, and an art gallery exhibiting works from local artists. There’s also an interactive audio tour so visitors make sure they don’t miss a detail.
Abilene features a whopping 1,200 acres of parkland, pieced out into 29 different and beautiful parks – including Vera Hall Minter Park and Play Faire Park.
If you’re into family outings under the sun, the Abilene Zoological Gardens – featuring 500 animals over 13 acres – is the ideal spot. Be sure to visit the Giraffe Habitat, where you can hand-feed the giraffes from a high bridge in the middle of the Abilene Zoo. Take home your own plush long-necked friend from the Adventure Center and gift shop.
Explore Beautiful Outdoor Abilene
This city is busting with shopping opportunities thanks to its many antique stores, downtown boutiques, malls, and shopping centers. Downtown is teeming with antiques, women’s clothing, florists and gifts shops, and plenty of places for Old West clothing, décor, and souvenirs.
And there’s always the Mall of Abilene for recognizable stores, plus the Chimney Plaza, Crossroads, the Plaza at Park Central, and the Shops at Abilene.
Find a Festival
Abilene isn’t known as a party town, but it sure knows how to a couple times a year. Don’t miss the 10-day West Texas Fair & Rodeo in mid-September – yielding exhibits, rides, food, and the history of western Texas. A similar event for spring visitors is the Western Heritage Classic each May, boasting food, live cowboy poetry readings, a Western art showcase, and of course, a rodeo.
Other events in Abilene include the Abilene Gem & Mineral Show, the West Texas Book & Music Festival, the Abilene Gun & Knife Show, and the monthly Abilene Artwalk on the second Thursday of the month.
Catch a Show
Found on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Paramount Theatre was opened in 1930 in what is now downtown Abilene. The 1,200-capacity theater features films, theater, and performing arts – including the Abilene Ballet Theatre, the Abilene Opera association, the Abilene Performing Arts Company, the Chameleon Performing Arts Company, and so many more.
Other great opportunities for culture in Abilene include performances by the Abilene Philharmonic, and many an event found within the Center for Contemporary Arts and the Taylor County Coliseum.
Abilene Offers Many Historic Sites
This being Texas, high school football is a big deal – a really big deal. Be sure to catch the annual football faceoff between the Abilene High School Eagles and the Cooper High School Bulldogs – otherwise known as the Crosstown Showdown – held in late October. Some action from previous years’ games has been seen in the movie Friday Night Lights.
Abilene features an impressive array of museums and cultural centers within its city limits. This is Texas, so a visit to a 14,000-square-foot museum of the American West – better known as Frontier Texas! – is a must during your time in downtown Abilene.
Other fantastic museums in Texas include the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum for the military history fans, the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature for those with the family in tow, and the Grace Museum – a collection of five art galleries accredited by the American Alliance of Museum.