Once a small Texas frontier settlement, Abilene is today a modern, thriving city where the past is celebrated and remembered in unique museums such as Frontier Texas! and the Grace Museum, which features local art, photographs, and historical artifacts from Texas. 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. The Buffalo Gap Historic Village is a living museum with original historical structures. The Discovery Center features three exhibits: The Classic Creation, The Titanic Remembered and The Miracle of Israel. The Morgan Jones Planetarium is one of the few planetariums in Texas and offers regular space-themed shows. Photo: Alexandre/Fotolia
1.12th 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
Photo: 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
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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3.Buffalo Gap Historic Village
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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4.Fort Phantom Hill
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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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
Photo: Frontier Texas
6.Morgan Jones Planetarium
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
7.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
Photo: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
8.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
Photo: The Grace Museum
9.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
Photo: Pappy Slokum Brewery
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
Photo: Paramount Theatre
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
12.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
Photo: Winery at Willow Creek
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
Photo: McKay's Bakery
14.Monks Coffee Shop
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
More things to Do in Abilene: The Discovery Center, located at 810 Butternut St, features three exhibits: The Classic Creation, The Titanic Remembered and The Miracle of Israel. Phone: 325-673-5050
15 Best Things to Do in Abilene, TX
- 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum, Photo: 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
- Abilene Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of serkan52 - Fotolia.com
- Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Photo: Courtesy of Alexandre - Fotolia.com
- Fort Phantom Hill, Photo: Courtesy of carmelod - Fotolia.com
- Frontier Texas, Photo: Frontier Texas
- Morgan Jones Planetarium, Photo: Courtesy of 4Max - Fotolia.com
- National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Photo: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
- The Grace Museum, Photo: The Grace Museum
- Pappy Slokum Brewery, Photo: Pappy Slokum Brewery
- Paramount Theatre, Photo: Paramount Theatre
- The Mill, Photo: Courtesy of Kristen - Fotolia.com
- Winery at Willow Creek, Photo: Winery at Willow Creek
- McKay's Bakery, Photo: McKay's Bakery
- Monks Coffee Shop, Photo: Courtesy of princerko - Fotolia.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