Once a small Texas frontier settlement, Abilene is a modern, thriving city where the past is celebrated and remembered in unique museums such as Frontier Texas! and the Grace Museum. Abilene Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, including giraffes, white tigers, and snakes. The 19th century Fort Phantom Hill is part of the Texas Forts Trail, connecting various West Texas frontier landmarks.
We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
1.12th Armored Division Memorial Museum, Abilene, TX
© 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum is located in Abilene, Texas, near former Camp Barkeley, where the division came for training before travelling to Europe to join the European Theater of Operations. This three-story military museum has artifacts belonging to the 12th Armored Division, extensive World War II archives, various memorabilia, oral histories, and diverse equipment and materials. The goal of the museum is to preserve the contribution of the 12th Armored Division for future generations and to be used as a teaching resource for World War II study. The museum provides innovative educational activities for children and academics. Known as the "Hellcat Division," the 12th Armored Division was crucial in capturing over 72,000 German soldiers and taking part in liberating prisoners from Nazi death camps.
1289 North 2nd, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-677-6515
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2.Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden
© Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden
Kids and imaginative adults will love walking through the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden. Aptly named, the garden is home to sculptures of several iconic characters from children’s books such as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Good Night Dinosaur. The garden is located in the southwest lawn of the Abilene Convention Center, and has been welcoming the public free of charge since 2017. New sculptures of beloved characters have continuously been added through the years by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, and more to are expected to be installed in the near future. The garden and its sculptures are well illuminated, allowing families to tour the garden day or night. Even fury family members are welcome on leash.
1008-1098 N 6th Street, Abilene, Texas 79601; Phone: 325-677-1161
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3.Abilene Zoo, Abilene, Texas
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For a small zoo covering only 16 acres, Abilene Zoological Gardens has a large, diverse animal population. With more than 1,000 animals from over 250 species, Abilene Zoo offers visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals from all over the world. You can feed giraffes at the giraffe safari or visit a number of other animals such as lions, a rare white tiger, camels, and a black rhino. The reptile house is home to a king cobra and more than 70 other kinds of reptiles, while Caribbean Cove introduces species that live in warm tropical jungles of the Caribbean and Elm Creek Backyard is home to many native Texas animals. The Watering Hole is the place to replenish energy with some snacks and soft drinks or pick up a souvenir. You can also take a tour of the zoo on the fun Safari Express train or hop onboard the Wildlife Carousel.
2070 Zoo Lane, Abilene, TX 79602, Phone: 325-676-6085
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4.Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Abilene, Texas
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Located in the town of Buffalo Gap, Texas, the Taylor County History Center, previously known as the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, is a living museum that tells the nostalgic story of the last half century of the West Texas wild frontier. The museum includes interactive exhibits, historic interpretation, and educational programming, bringing to life the times when the Wild West became civilized settlements. The original structures of the village, such as the original Taylor County Courthouse, show the lifestyle on the slowly changing frontier. Besides the courthouse, the history center has 15 other historical structures, some from Buffalo Gap and some brought from other places in the region. There are also more than 10,000 historical artifacts that represent the culture of West Texas.
133 N. William Street, Buffalo Gap, TX 79508, Phone: 325-572-3365
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5.Things to Do Near Me: Fort Phantom Hill, Abilene, TX
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Located in what is today Jones County, Fort Phantom Hill was built in the early 1850s as one of the forts that were to protect the frontier settlements of Texas. It is one of the best preserved historic sites in the State of Texas and is part of the Texas Forts Trail, a 650-mile-long tour of Texas historic forts. The fort was originally called the “Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos,” and from 1851 until 1854 was occupied by the U.S. Army. After the army abandoned the fort, most of the thatched roofs and log walls were destroyed in a fire. Fortunately, there is still a big part of the old fort left for visitors to explore, including a stone powder magazine, an almost undamaged commissary, and a stone guardhouse. A dozen stone chimneys as well as the original fort’s stone foundations are also still standing.
10818 FM600, Abilene, TX 79601, USA, Phone: 325-677-1309
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6.Things to Do Near Me: Frontier Texas, Abilene
© Frontier Texas
You can learn about the history of Texas without having to stroll through a dusty museum. Located in downtown Abilene, the hugely popular Frontier Texas! is an entertaining and educational heritage center that helps visitors imagine life in the Old West using the latest technology. The 90-minute-long interactive Old West adventure movie called Blood & Treasure on the Frontier brings to life the frontier and the Wild West days and introduces people who lived their lives in the area during those exciting times. The video allows visitors to relive a Bee Hive Saloon shootout, buffalo stampedes, a wolf attack, and other typical happenings of the times. The heritage center is also Abilene’s official visitors center and the information center for the Texas Forts Trail Region. The General Store offers Texas souvenirs, books, jewelry, and items created by local artisans.
625 N. 1st Street, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-437-2800
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7.Morgan Jones Planetarium, Abilene, Texas
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Located about half an hour from Abilene State Park, the Morgan Jones Planetarium is one of the very few planetariums in Texas and an absolute delight to visit. School kids go on field trips to enjoy a range of programs and shows, but the planetarium is open to everyone and there is no shame in admitting that you enjoy looking at the stars, comets, and constellations, just as you did when you were a kid. The fun starts at the planetarium’s foyer, where there is a small exhibition on all things astronomical, such as moon rocks, a real space suit, and a range of telescopes. The auditorium is a large, round room with comfortable lounge chairs, and when the light is off you feel like you are under the real dark night sky full of stars. The planetarium has a regular series of shows and lectures that are as informative and educational as they are fun.
700 N Mockingbird Ln, Abilene, TX 79605-3057, Phone: 325-671-4637
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8.National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, TX
© National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
Illustrations in children’s books have a huge impact on young readers and play an important role in their future love for reading. The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature is an unusual museum that focuses on illustrations in literature for children and exhibits artwork created by renowned illustrators of children’s books. The museum was established in 2000 and, besides featuring original artwork, offers educational programs that aim to promote appreciation of the arts, stimulate creativity, and promote literacy. There are regular weekly art activities for kids and their families. The museum works with award-winning artists to create exhibitions of their artwork. Each exhibition then travels to various other museums, galleries, and public libraries all over the country.
102 Cedar Street, Abilene, TX 79601
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9.The Grace Museum, Abilene, TX
© The Grace Museum
The Grace Museum was founded in 1937 under the name the Abilene Fine Arts Museum. It was established by the Art League of the Abilene Woman’s Club and changed its location several times until it settled in today’s location in a historic former hotel built in 1909. The museum is home to five art galleries that offer rotating art exhibitions as well as artwork from its permanent collection. It also houses a history gallery featuring artifacts from Abilene, Taylor County, and West Texas. An art library, an interactive gallery for children and families, and an education center are also part of the Grace Museum.
102 Cypress St, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-673-4587
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10.Pappy Slokum Brewery, Abilene, Texas
© Pappy Slokum Brewery
Pappy Slokum Brewery is a small Abilene production brewery that has a very simple goal: To make beers that are “well-crafted and very flavorful.” They have certainly succeeded. The only craft brewery in Abilene, their tap room is always full and the only complaint the customers have is that it is opened only once a week. The brewery is owned and operated by three very passionate and experienced brewers with 37 years of combined experience crafting beers. The beer experts describe their beers as being of high quality, ranging from fairly simple to truly sophisticated, so there is something for everyone. The tap room is down to earth and unpretentious, the food comes from food trucks parked out front, and the clients are perfectly happy to come for beers and enjoy a game of dominoes or cards with friends. You can bring your dog too.
409 South Treadaway, Abilene, TX 79602, Phone: 325-201-4112
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11.Paramount Theatre, Abilene, TX
© Paramount Theatre
Built in 1930 by H. O. Wooten next to his Hotel Wooten, the Paramount Theatre opened its door with the movie Safety in Numbers with Carole Lombard. The beautiful 1,199-seat theater features an intricate domed ceiling with glitter and moving clouds and exotic Spanish-Moorish interior décor. It has been brought back to its original glory with a meticulous renovation in 1986. The upgraded technical equipment allows the Paramount to today accommodate live theater, concerts, musicals, film, opera, and dance performances. It also hosts business meetings, parties, dinners, seminars, receptions, weddings, and worship services. The theatre is a regular home for the performances of the Abilene Ballet Theatre, Celebration Singers, Abilene Opera Association, Abilene Community Theatre, Chameleon Performing Arts Company, Abilene Community Band, Abilene Performing Arts Company, Abilene Repertory Theatre, and many other performance art groups from Abilene.
352 Cypress St, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-676-9620
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12.Things to Do Near Me: The Mill, Abilene, Texas
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The Mill Wine Bar & Event Center is a popular Abilene spot for wine lovers, located next to the historical mill tower that once worked under the Texas Mill & Elevator Company, and is surrounded by flourishing grapevines. The Mill offers an excellent wine selection, rotating craft beers as well as delicious appetizers and desserts. The food comes from their own food truck. The Mill is also a popular venue for parties and events, both for its fantastic location as well as its great selection of drinks. There is an outdoor space with a firepit for those who enjoy sitting under the stars, and a regular live music concerts by local musicians.
239 Locust Street, Abilene, TX 79602, Phone: 325-788-0360
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13.Winery at Willow Creek, Abilene, Texas
© Winery at Willow Creek
With a lovely outdoor space located next to a burbling creek, the Winery at Willow Creek is a popular Abilene winery that opened its doors in 2012. They make their wine from the grapes grown by local and regional growers and produce about 1,900 cases per year. Their bestsellers are Pomegranate Zinfandel, Raspberry Dragon Fruit White Shiraz, and Peach Chardonnay. Whether you are sampling their wines in the indoor tap room or in the outdoor garden, you can also get some delicious snacks to go with the wine, such as a cheese and salami platter, bagel chips and hummus, or cream cheese with raspberry chipotle on crackers. If you want to try one of their cigars, you will have to sit outside. There are regular fun events such as live music, a catfish boil, or a grape stomp.
4353 S Treadaway Blvd, Abilene, TX 79602, Phone: 325-690-9463
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14.Things to Do Near Me: McKay's Bakery, Abilene, Texas
© McKay's Bakery
For the last 15 years, McKay’s Bakery has been the place Abilene folks went for their coffee cakes, birthday cakes, wedding cakes, or cakes for any other special occasion. This family bakery uses recipes that have been handed down from one generation to another, making delicious pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, breads, and much more, all by hand, from scratch, from the best possible ingredients. Their two Abilene locations are also a popular spot to meet for breakfast or lunch, for a chat with a friend, or to come and sample what new sweet delight they have. If you did not know, their cake balls are actually samples of their large cakes, a perfect way to try them all.
266 Cypress St., Abilene, TX 79605, Phone: 325-672-9737
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15.Monks Coffee Shop, Abilene, Texas
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It all started with a very good coffee and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Then the word got out that Monks Coffee Shop in downtown Abilene is a cool spot to relax with friends with your favorite java, check your email, or just unwind after a hard work day. Today it is one of the most popular coffee shops in town, spacious and cozy, with comfy sofas, small scattered tables, mismatched chairs, and a great selection of cold and hot drinks. There are also live music concerts, poetry evenings, and other events, so check their weekly programs.
233 Cypress Street, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-437-2984
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16.Things to Do Near Me: Play Faire Park
© Play Faire Park
Located just a short walk from downtown Abilene, Play Faire Park offers visitors loads of fun activities and games. Play a round on miniature golf on one of their two 18-hole courses, which happen to be the longest-running miniature golf courses in the state, or stop by the play museum to learn classic outdoor games such as tetherball, hopscotch, and beanbag toss. And for those looking to sit back, the park often hosts live musical concerts. Whether going for an afternoon of bonding with the family, a hangout with friends, or even a date, Play Fair Park is a great stop for a simple and enjoyable time. In fact, the park has been voted as one of the best date spots in the city.
2300 N 2nd Street, Abiline Texas 79601; Phone: 325-672-2977
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17.Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: The Mill Winery
© The Mill Winery
Family-owned and operated, The Mill Winery is heavily shaped by their core values of faith, celebration, and unique experience. They try to share these values with every visitor through their comforting, laid back environment and great selection of food and drinks. The family-friendly winery serves up a variety of wines including mill wine on tap and several kinds of sparkling, white, red, and rosé wines. They also have a rotating selection of domestically and locally-brewed craft beers as well as other drinks such as Irish hot chocolate, hot spiked cider, hard seltzers, and many other non-alcoholic beverages. For food, The Mill Winery has a menu featuring dishes such as white bean hummus, bruschetta, sliders, charcuterie boards, and more.
239 Locust Street, Abilene, Texas 79602; Phone: 325-788-0360
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18.Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Sockdolager Brewing Company
© Sockdolager Brewing Company
A great love and passion for brewing is palpable at the Sockdolager Brewing Company. Clearly seen through their name, which means “a forceful blow” or “an exceptional thing”, the brewing company seeks to be exceptional in their craft and provide high quality beers that customers won’t soon forget. Their beers are brewed using only the finest ingredients, offering unique flavors that inspire great conversation and are worthy of gathering around. Located in Abilene’s soda district, their comfortable and easy-going tap room welcomes visitors to try their selection of beers.
833 S. 1st Street, Abilene, Texas 79602; Phone: 325-261-3247
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19.Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Center for Contemporary Arts
© Center for Contemporary Arts
Founded in 1989, the Center for Contemporary Arts hosts an impressive collection of exhibits aiming to enrich, encourage, and inspire the neighboring community and every guest that steps through its doors. The center believes in the transformative power of art, which makes them passionate about supporting artists as well as educating all ages and backgrounds about the world of art. Visitors will find over 20 exhibits in the center featuring regional art, award-winning short films, international photography, and more. Every year, the center welcomes thousands of visitors to view their exhibits—admission free. In addition to exhibits, the center is also home to ten art studios available for rent.
220 Cypress Street, Abilene, Texas 79601; Phone: 325-677-8389
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20.Things to Do Near Me: Abilene Splash Pads
Kids will have a blast as they play around in Abilene’s splash pads. Located next door to other big attractions like Abilene Zoo and Fort Imagination playground, the Grover Nelson Park Splash Pad offers a small, colorful water park filled with imaginative water sprays and fountains. Four other splash pads can be found throughout Abilene in Redbud Park, Arthur Sears Park, Scarborough Park, and Stevenson Park. The splash pads are all home to over a dozen water features—some of which include water slides and giant dumping buckets for twice the fun. All splash pads are also equipped with drinking fountains and restroom facilities, and most offer shaded seating and picnic areas.
E.S. 11th & Loop 322, Abilene, Texas 79602; Phone: 325-676-6217
21.Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Prime Time Family Entertainment Center
Endless fun awaits at Prime Time Family Entertainment Center, and with such a wide selection of activities available, every member of the family will easily find something they’ll enjoy. One of the center’s attractions includes multiple escape rooms where players will have to solve puzzles as they try to break out in under 60 minutes. Visitors can also enjoy a game of miniature golf or go bowling on one of the 24 bowling lanes. For something a little more exciting, visitors may want to take a ride in a go-kart or bumper car, play adrenaline-pumping virtual reality games, or even test their skills in axe throwing. Other activities include a 4D theater, modern and retro arcade games, batting cages, and an imaginative playground for young kids.
4541 Loop 322, Abilene, Texas 79602; Phone: 325-690-5555
22.Abilene KOA Journey
No matter where you're headed on your next camping trip or RV tour of the United States, you can always trust Kampgrounds of America (KOA). With countless locations all around the country, KOA stands out for offering the best service and the most amenities at each of its locations, with the Abilene KOA Journey RV park and campground being a prime example. Located just on the outskirts of the city, with easy access to all the big restaurants, stores, and landmarks of Abilene, this RV park is a great option for both short and long term stays in the area.
Abilene KOA Journey is an all year RV park and campground that has received a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 average star rating from hundreds of past guests. With RV sites capable of catering to motorhomes up to 90 feet in length, this RV park can welcome everyone and make you feel right at home. On-site amenities include 50-amp service, high speed Wi-Fi hotspots all around the park, lots of cable TV channels to keep guests entertained, propane and firewood sales, a seasonal pool, and a snack bar selling plenty of treats and drinks to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
4851 W Stamford St, Abilene, TX 79603, Phone: 325-672-3681
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23.Whistle Stop RV Resort
Another excellent RV park just on the northeastern outskirts of the city, Whistle Stop RV Resort is a great place to stay on your next trip to Abilene, TX. You can be in the city in a matter of minutes, enjoying all of the main amenities, landmarks, and restaurants, able to retreat back to the quiet comfort and picturesque setting of the RV park, which enjoys beautiful tree-lined views in every direction. The RV sites at Whistle Stop RV Resort are very spacious, with paved roads and grassy areas separating each one and offering a nice little patch of land for games or picnics.
This is actually one of the most recent additions to the RV scene in Abilene, TX, but it has already established itself as one of the city's top RV destinations, with plenty of useful and enjoyable amenities like a convenience store selling essential supplies, a covered pavilion, a swimming pool, a huge clubhouse for fun and games of all kinds, and a communal kitchen area. If you need a safe, family-friendly place to stay in Abilene, this is the one for you.
695 E Stamford St, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-704-5252
24.Abilene RV Park
© Andrey Armyagov/stock.adobe.com
Out on the eastern side of the city, easily accessed right off Highway 80, Abilene RV Park is another excellent place to spend a few days or weeks in this Texas city. Offering a very friendly welcome to all guests, this authentic Texas RV park really stands out for its superior levels of service. If you want to be treated with a lot of care and special attention, made to feel truly welcome, and looked after for every single step of your stay, this is definitely one of the best RV parks to choose in all of Abilene.
Fitted out with 30/50 amp, full hook-up sites, this RV park offers free wireless internet to all guests, along with private lights and picnic tables at most sites. You'll also find a spacious club house at Abilene RV Park to hang out with other travelers or members of your group, and the park is also fitted with laundry machines, spotless restrooms, great quality showers, a huge swimming pool, a gazebo, and more.
6195 E Hwy 80, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-672-2212
25 Best Things to Do in Abilene, Texas
- 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum, Abilene, TX, Photo: 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
- Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden, Photo: Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden
- Abilene Zoo, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of serkan52 - Fotolia.com
- Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of Alexandre - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do Near Me: Fort Phantom Hill, Abilene, TX, Photo: Courtesy of carmelod - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do Near Me: Frontier Texas, Abilene, Photo: Frontier Texas
- Morgan Jones Planetarium, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of 4Max - Fotolia.com
- National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, TX, Photo: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
- The Grace Museum, Abilene, TX, Photo: The Grace Museum
- Pappy Slokum Brewery, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Pappy Slokum Brewery
- Paramount Theatre, Abilene, TX, Photo: Paramount Theatre
- Things to Do Near Me: The Mill, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of Kristen - Fotolia.com
- Winery at Willow Creek, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Winery at Willow Creek
- Things to Do Near Me: McKay's Bakery, Abilene, Texas, Photo: McKay's Bakery
- Monks Coffee Shop, Abilene, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of princerko - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do Near Me: Play Faire Park, Photo: Play Faire Park
- Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: The Mill Winery, Photo: The Mill Winery
- Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Sockdolager Brewing Company, Photo: Sockdolager Brewing Company
- Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Center for Contemporary Arts, Photo: Center for Contemporary Arts
- Things to Do Near Me: Abilene Splash Pads, Photo: fotoyou/stock.adobe.com
- Things to Do in Abilene, Texas: Prime Time Family Entertainment Center, Photo: tarasov_vl/stock.adobe.com
- Abilene KOA Journey, Photo: inapf/stock.adobe.com
- Whistle Stop RV Resort, Photo: Jordan/stock.adobe.com
- Abilene RV Park, Photo: Andrey Armyagov/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Alexandre - Fotolia.com
Abilene State Park
About 16 miles from Abilene, on the banks of Elm Creek and surrounded by huge old elms, Abilene State Park is a popular local green space that offers a lot of fun for everyone regardless of age. There is a lake, a fishing pond, a famous swimming pool, lots of trails, great camping grounds, a horseshoe pit, sand volleyball and basketball courts, and a large open area for picnics. A 1-mile-long trail is great for a leisurely stroll and birdwatching. There is a historical swimming pool, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s. Lake Abilene and Buffalo Wallow Pond are popular fishing spots and kids love splashing in the pond.
150 Park Road 32, Tuscola, TX 79562, Phone: 325-572-3204
Attraction Spotlight: The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, TX
Located in Abilene, Texas, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature is a family museum dedicated to the artwork of famous children’s literature and its noted illustrators. The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, commonly shortened to NCCIL, was the vision of former Abilene Mayor Dr. Gary McCaleb, who visited a local elementary school in 1993 as part of his tenure in office for a reading of children’s author William Joyce’s story Santa Calls, fictionally set in the city of Abilene.
McCaleb reached out to Joyce after the reading, and the two developed a close friendship, with Joyce traveling to the city soon thereafter to attend and speak at a Cultural Affairs Council event. At the event, the two men conceived the idea of creating a family museum dedicated to the artwork of children’s book illustrators. The NCCIL was established as a nonprofit organization in 1997, and a statue commissioned by sculptor Rick Jackson, titled “Childhood’s Great Adventure” and depicting characters from Santa Falls, was erected in the city’s downtown in anticipation of the creation of a new museum facility.
The city’s former Rhodes Building was chosen for the site of the museum, originally opened in the city as a commercial store in the 1920s. As a listed cultural heritage site, the building became a cultural institution in the city’s downtown throughout the 20th century, noted for its proximity to the city’s railroad and its unique architecture. Funding for the museum project was secured through the sponsorship of the Junior League of Abilene, and in 2000, the renovated Rhodes Building facility was opened to the public as the permanent home of the new museum.
Today, the NCCIL is operated and overseen by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature nonprofit organization, which strives to present educational exhibits and programming for families and visitors of all ages. The museum is open throughout the year from Tuesday through Saturday, with free visitor admission at all times, including public special events. As a public art museum, the NCCIL works with national and international children’s book illustrators to create custom exhibitions of their artwork for public display at the museum and national touring to museums, libraries, and art galleries throughout the country. As part of the museum’s development and renovation throughout its operation, the Rhodes Building has been returned to its original early-2oth century condition, with restoration of its original roof structure and interior elements and redevelopment of its doors, windows, and canopies, earning the building approval through the federal government’s Standards of Rehabilitation for historic property renovation.
Due to the structure of exhibit touring, all exhibits are presented at the museum on a limited rotating basis, with each exhibit embarking on a national or international tour following its tenure at the museum. Past artists highlighted in individual museum exhibits include museum founder William Joyce, along with David Diaz, Mary Azarian, Leo and Diane Dillon, Denise Fleming, Gerald McDermott, Peter Sís, Robert Sabuda, and Deborah Nourse Lattimore. Many exhibits also focus on retrospectives of artists grouped by time period or industry status, such as the museum’s Our Voice exhibit, which celebrated past winners of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Other exhibits focus on special topics within the field of illustration, such as BAM! It’s A Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels, or on famous illustrated characters within the genre of children’s literature, such as the cartoon characters of Doctor Seuss.
Ongoing Programs and Education
As an educational community resource, the NCCIL presents an extensive slate of programming for children, students, and families within the Abilene area. Hourlong curriculum-incorporated group tours are available for elementary school students on Tuesday and Thursday mornings by appointment, with all tours featuring guided showcases of the museum’s current exhibits led by docents and activities for students to emphasize key art and literature education concepts. Self-guided touring materials are also available upon request for families and small groups, including exhibition family guides that may be picked up from the museum’s information desk. The museum’s weekly Come-N-Go Family Fun events are held on Saturday afternoons, offering open studio time for family art activities within the museum’s art studio space. A monthly Art Adventure event is held on the first Friday of every month for preschoolers and their families, with advance reservations required for all participants. Summer art camps and public art workshops are also offered periodically, and ticketed gala opening events are offered for each new exhibit presented at the museum. A number of past exhibits may be rented out to schools, events, and educational groups by contacting the museum directly via phone or email.
102 Cedar Street , Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-673-4586
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Attraction Spotlight: Historic Fort Phantom Hill
Located in Jones County, Texas, Fort Phantom Hill preserves a historic second-line fortress located along the Texas Forts Trail, open to the public as a living history museum site. Fort Phantom Hill was created as part of the second line of forts constructed in Texas during the westward expansion of the 1850s to protect the new state settlement.
The fortress was established in November of 1851, with construction overseen by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John Joseph Abercrombie and initial command by Henry Hopkins Sibley. Initial conditions at the fort proved difficult, and as a result, the fort was only operated during its first use until April of 1854, shortly after which much of the fort was destroyed by fire. Following the abandonment, the remaining property was used as a way station for the Southern Overland Mail route and Butterfield Stagecoach until the American Civil War, when the Confederate Frontier Battalion occupied the fort for military operations.
The fort was used for military operations again during the later part of the 19th century in relation to conflicts with indigenous groups and was integrated as a subpost of Fort Griffin in 1871. A town area sprung up near the fort in the late 19th century, eventually serving as a home for more than 500 residents and becoming a trading post for buffalo hide, but by the 1890s, the fort and its town area had been largely abandoned. In 1928, the fort property was purchased by Abilene resident John Guitar. Guitar’s grandson, Jim Alexander, deeded the property in 1997 to be used as a living history museum site under the care of the Fort Phantom Foundation, ensuring its long-term preservation as a historic site in the Abilene area.
Today, Fort Phantom Hill is operated as a living history museum site, open to the public for self-guided exploration. The fortress is a part of the 650-mile Texas Forts Trail, which preserves a large number of historic forts connected by highways within the Texas area. Originally referred to as the “Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos,” the 22-acre fortress site overlooks the Brazos River and stands as one of the most well-preserved historic sites within the state, showcasing the complete intact remains of the fort in their original 19th-century condition.
Following the 1854 fire, many of the fort buildings’ original log walls and thatched roofs were destroyed, but much of the original fort structure remains, including three stone buildings that formerly housed a guardhouse, a powder magazine, and a commissary warehouse. Over a dozen stone chimneys are also preserved, along with the original stone foundations of the fort space. Visitors may explore the fort site at their leisure and examine all structures within the site. A number of trails offer access to the site’s ruins, and a visitor’s pavilion area provides exploration materials that elaborate on the site’s history and roles in the conflicts and commerce of 19th-century Texas. Restrooms are also provided at the visitor pavilion. While some areas of the site are handicap-accessible, visitors should exercise caution due to the site’s rustic nature. The site is free and open to the public during daylight hours every day of the year.
In addition to the historic fortress site, the nearby Fort Phantom Hill Lake offers fishing and recreation opportunities through Texas Parks and Wildlife Services. The lake was impounded in 1938 and spans a surface area of 4,213 acres, reaching a maximum depth of 66 feet. A variety of fish species are found in the lake, including largemouth, white, and hybrid striped bass, freshwater drum, white crappie, and blue and flathead catfish. Fishing laws adhere to state regulations, and contour maps of the lake and its surrounding region are available through the Abilene Fisheries Office.
Ongoing Programs and Events
The Fort Phantom Hill site has been the site of a number of notable archaeological digs, including a 1998 excavation designed as part of a larger plan to uncover the history of the fort and its development and use. A topographic survey was conducted of the site, along with a comprehensive architectural survey of the remaining structures at the site. The site has also been the host of a number of special events, including the Fort Phantom Rendezvous, a living history reenactment event that ran from 1999 to 2003 featuring a variety of American Old West reenactments and demonstrations. The site has also appeared in a number of local films and media pieces, including a music video for Mississippi rock band Saving Abel.
10818 FM600, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-677-1309
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