Abilene, Texas may now be known as the storybook capital of America, but the city is so much more. In 1881 when lots began being sold and cattlemen began shipping cattle on the Texas and Pacific Railway, a thriving city was born. Shortly thereafter, Abilene was named county seat of Taylor County, having won a vote to move it from Buffalo Gap. Today, Abilene is home to three universities, satellite campuses of a junior college and a technical college, as well as Dyess Air Force Base. Located 150 miles west of Fort Worth on I-20, Abilene is a can’t miss stop on a West Texas road trip. We highly recommend staying over for a day or two to experience this wonderful, historic city.
On the beaten path…
Located at 625 N 1st Street. This is a multimedia museum unlike any other we have ever seen, and we loved it. Go to learn about the history of West Texas from the people who settled the area. Exceptional western heritage exhibits, videos, and holograms. Yes, holograms, and they are amazing! Beautiful building, lovely grounds, and a nice gift shop, too. Open Monday – Saturday 9:00 – 6:00 and Sunday 1:00 – 5:00. Adults $10.00, Seniors/Military $7.00, Students/Teachers $6.00, Children (3-12) $5.00, Ages 2 and under are free.
The Grace Museum
The Grace Museum is an art and history museum that includes a hands-on children’s museum area. The building was originally the Hotel Grace, built in 1909. We happened to visit on a free admission day, but we would have gladly paid the $6.00 per adult fee for the art exhibits alone. Located at 102 Cypress Street, The Grace Museum is open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday.
Storybook sculptures can be found all over downtown Abilene. Dr. Seuss characters, among others, can be seen in Everman Park (across the street from The Grace Museum) and more at the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden (1008 N. 6th Street). Kids and adults of all ages will love these whimsical characters! Click here for a Storybook Adventure Guide: Abilene Storybook Adventure. While visiting downtown Abilene, be sure to check out the NCCIL (National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature) located at 102 Cedar Street for weekly children’s activities, an illustration gallery, and a children’s bookstore. The NCCIL (aka the nickel) is open 10:00 – 4:00 Tuesday – Saturday.
Abilene Zoological Park
2070 Zoo Lane. Though smaller than some big city zoos, this is a clean, well-kept zoo with a variety of animals. In addition to the many animal exhibits, there are a couple of kiddie rides, a concession area, and a zoo store. There are picnic tables outside of the zoo in the adjacent Grover Nelson Park. A splash pad, playground, duck pond, walking trail, and dog park are also located in the park. The zoo is open 9:00 – 5:00 daily. Adults – $8.00, Seniors – $7.00, Children 3-12 $5.50, Children under 3 are admitted free.
Other points of interest on the beaten path…
12th Armored Division Memorial Museum – 1289 N. 2nd Street. Open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday.
Center for Contemporary Arts – 220 Cypress Street. Open 11:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday.
Dyess Air Force Base Visitor Center Memorial Park – Arnold Blvd & Military Drive. Open 7:30 – 4:00 weekdays.
Off the beaten path…
Abilene State Park
Not only is Abilene State Park a beautiful park, it is one of our favorite camping spots! Located approximately 30 minutes south of the city of Abilene, this park has a lot to offer in the way of recreation. Primitive campsites, water and electric sites, full hookup sites, playground, hiking and biking trails, swimming pool (summer), picnic areas, yurt rentals, group areas/facilities, fishing, boating, soccer and baseball fields, wildlife and bird watching can all be found at this park.
Taylor County History Center
Approximately 22 minutes southwest of Abilene, the Taylor County History Center is located at 133 N William, Buffalo Gap, Texas. Open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday. Adults $7.00, Seniors/Military $6.00, Students $4.00, Ages 5 and under are free. All buildings are open for visitors to walk through unless it is raining/muddy.
Fort Phantom Hill
Fort Phantom Hill is located about 20 minutes north of Abilene on West Lake Road (aka FM 600) and is open daily from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours. Very interesting, and as one of the highlights of our trip we highly recommend a visit.
Lake Fort Phantom Hill
Lake Fort Phantom Hill is approximately 20 minutes north of Abilene, and is accessible from West Lake Road (aka FM 600) or from East Lake Road (aka FM 2833). Camping, boat ramps, picnic/barbecue areas, sand volleyball court, and a disc golf course are some of the recreational activities available at Lake Fort Phantom Hill.
Other points of interest off the beaten path…
Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene -7457 West Lake Road. Open daily 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Perini Ranch Restaurant – 3002 FM 89, Buffalo Gap. Make a dinner reservation! Here’s the website: Perini Ranch
Eating and sleeping…
Cypress Street Station – 158 Cypress Street (downtown). We recommend for lunch.
Lytle Land and Cattle Company – 1150 E South 11th Street. We recommend for dinner.
Hampton Inn – two locations to choose from. See our Places/Links tab above for website. Many other hotels along I-20, on the south side of town, and near downtown.
Nearby points of interest…
Sweetwater, Texas: National WASP World War II Museum at Avenger Field
Approximately 1,800 women served as WASPs during WWII. These unsung heroes worked long hours and performed dangerous jobs for very little pay. They did not receive veteran status or benefits until 1977. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Located 35 minutes west of Abilene off of I-20, this free museum is definitely worth a stop for some interesting WWII history. Open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday and 1:00 – 5:00 on Sunday. Donations are appreciated.
→While in Sweetwater, stop by Allen’s Family Style Meals for the best fried chicken and other mouth-watering home cooked food you’ll find anywhere. This is an all-you-can-eat, sit-with-your-neighbors, no-menu, eat-what’s-served, Sunday dinner-type restaurant. (How’s that for a description?) Located at 1301 E Broadway Street in the original Allen family home. Open 11:00 am – 2:00 pm Tuesday – Sunday.
Albany, Texas: Fort Griffin State Historic Site
Fort Griffin was a US military site from 1876 – 1881, during the Indian Wars. The fort housed both federal troops and buffalo soldiers. Some of Fort Griffin’s troops fought Comanche Indians at Palo Duro Canyon during the Red River Wars. The town of Fort Griffin, also called the Flat, was located just north of the fort, and was once the largest town between Dallas and El Paso. Famous locals included Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. During the mid-1870s as many as 1,500 buffalo hunters called the Flat their headquarters. As a side note, the Flat was a rambunctious town that included 21 saloons and 22 houses of ill repute. By 1949, the Flat was no more than a ghost town.
Located approximately 50 minutes northeast of Abilene via Texas Hwy 351 and US Hwy 180. Open daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Adults $4.00, Seniors/Students $3.00, Ages 5 and under are admitted free.
The visitor center has an interesting museum and also a gift shop. Golf carts are available for those who want to ride rather than walk through the ruins of the fort. A recreation area is located across the highway, and offers a fabulous campground with water and electric sites as well as full hookups and tent sites. There is also an equestrian campground, hiking trails, access to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, a playground, and a dump station. Fishing is allowed from the river bank without a license.
That’s going to do it for our Abilene, Texas road trip. Please come back to our site each week for another great tip, trick, or trip. Become a follower so you never miss a post, and follow us on Facebook. Thank you for reading and for joining us on our journeys! We will close this post with a picture of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that we saw near Fort Griffin.
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.