25+ Best Things to Do in Abilene, Texas (unique!) - Happy To Be Texas (2024)

What do beer summits, storybook sculptures and the rodeo all have in common?

You can find them all in Abilene, Texas!

Once the home of a frontier settlement, Abilene is now a thriving city hub of history, culture, and entertainment in West Texas.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy food and fun at a festival, reconnect with the great outdoors, be immersed in the fine arts or dive into the history of the West Texas frontier, Abilene has it all!

Read on to discover the best things to do in Abilene, one of the best places to visit in Texas!

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With 71 pages of helpful travel tips and the “best of” Texas lists, this is your ad-free key to your Texas trip.

How to get around Abilene

Like most of Texas, the best way to get around Abilene is to explore on your own by car!

If you’re visiting and need to rent a car, we highly recommend Discover Cars where they find you the best car rental deals from all of the competitors (has saved us so much money!).

Where to Stay in Abilene

From renovated VRBOS to boutique hotels, here are the best places to stay in Abilene Island on every budget!

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1. Downtown Abilene

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What better way to start your exploration of this thriving city than downtown Abilene!

Serving as a shopping, dining and cultural hub in West Texas, downtown Abilene has recently undergone an exciting revitalization, preserving its history and heritage in museums and cultural centers, and drawing in people of all ages with its annual festivals.

Meander through the streets of downtown and discover many of the best Abilene attractions, like the historic Paramount Theater and the enchanting Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden, home to Abilene’s famous literary character sculptures!

Boasting a variety of restaurants, from authentic BBQ, mouthwatering steakhouses, and Mexican and Asian cuisine, there’s something to tempt anyone’s taste buds in downtown Abilene!

Enjoy 1.3 acres of green space and check out the 15 murals scattered throughout downtown as you get a feel for this vibrant community!

2. Frontier Texas

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Uncover the history of this great city at Frontier Texas!

Serving as the visitor center for Abilene, Frontier Texas isn’t just a history museum, it’s an interactive learning adventure!

Watch as The Old West is brought to life through state-of-the-art technology worthy of a big city museum, including dynamic video presentations in a 360-degree theater featuring hologram characters!

Interactive, engaging exhibits recount the struggle of Native Americans during westward expansion and chronicle how people lived life on the frontier.

Far from being boring, this small museum packs a punch of fun with a heavy dose of West Texas history!

Don’t skip the general store where you can find unique items made by local artisans and take home some Frontier Texas BBQ or even canned goods!

Make sure to get your selfie in front of the giant buffalo skull sculpture, certain to be a hit with the kids!

3. Abilene Zoo

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If there’s an animal lover in your crew, head on over to the Abilene Zoo!

With 127 species of animals, behind-the-scenes tours and animal feedings, Abilene Zoo will satisfy your desire for furry friends!

A train ride, carousel and swan paddle boats offer even more fun to keep adults and kids alike entertained!

Located inside Nelson Park, the fun continues even after leaving the zoo and helps to make this a great Texas day trip.

Enjoy 2 playgrounds, a splash pad in the summertime, a baseball field and biking or walking around the lake.

It’s impossible to be bored with all this outdoor fun!

4. Abilene State Park

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Unplug from the phone and plug into nature at Abilene State Park!

Situated 16 miles southwest of Abilene, this state park offers an abundance of outdoor activities for every type of nature lover.

Camp under the great Texas skies at one of the tent and RV sites, or go fancy with a yurt rental!

Canoe or kayak in the lake (rentals can be found near the park!) or swim in the historic swimming pool built in 1930!

Hike and bike on the trails, play sand volleyball and horseshoe, geocache or bird watch!

With so much to do, reconnecting to nature and to each other is easy to do!

5. 25 (and counting!) Storybook Sculptures Hunt

Of all the Abilene things to do, storybook sculpture hunting may just be the most delightful!

With 25 storybook character sculptures scattered throughout downtown Abilene (and more added each year!), it’s no wonder Abilene was named the Storybook Capital of America in 2018!

You don’t have to be a child to relish in the nostalgia of your favorite childhood stories.

Roam through downtown and make it your mission to spot all 25 characters from some of your favorite children’s books!

The Cat in the Hat, Stuart Little, the Three Little Pigs – you’ll find them all and more right here in downtown Abilene!

Whether or not the kids are tagging along, this storybook sculpture hunt is a great way to do something uniquely Abilene!

6. Paramount Theatre

Be transported back in time to a bygone era when visiting the theater was a magical experience meant to whisk you away to another time and place!

Marvel at the ambiance of this 1200 seat auditorium, with its glass chandeliers, blue velvet curtain ceiling, grand staircases, arched columns, and art-deco light fixtures.

Originally designed to invoke the feeling of a Spanish courtyard at night, Paramount Theater is known for the passing clouds and twinkling stars projected onto its ceiling.

Ballet, film, concerts, orchestra, live theater and art shows are all featured here.

This 3-story theater is an historic landmark of downtown Abilene and a gem of the city!

No visit to Abilene is complete without walking through the doors of this breathtaking theater!

7. Center for Contemporary Arts

Would you love to watch an artist creating a masterpiece right before your eyes?

You just might have that chance at the Center for Contemporary Arts in downtown Abilene!

Home to ten artist studios, the Center for Contemporary Arts features the work of over 70 locally, regionally, and nationally recognized artists.

With rotating exhibits featuring photography and contemporary art, there’s always something new and interesting to inspire you!

Don’t miss the ArtWalk every second Thursday from 5pm-8pm!

Bringing art to life, this biweekly, family friendly event features live art performances, hands on art activities, food, drink, live music and even a parade!

Young and old alike can find something to love at the Center for Contemporary Arts!

8. The Grace Museum

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Treat the art lover in your crew to a visit to the Grace Museum!

Residing in the former Hotel Grace built in 1909, the Grace Museum features 3 stories of the best of Texas art by American artists with connections to Texas.

2,500 works of art fill 8 galleries, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, watercolors and more!

Check out the changing art exhibits on the first floor, exhibits dedicated to female artists on the second floor, or make your way to the third floor where period rooms such as a kitchen and family room depict what life was like between 1909 and 1928.

A highlight is the array of period wedding dresses, giving a glimpse into the fashion of The Roaring Twenties!

What makes The Grace Museum extra special is the children’s museum on the 2nd floor.

Interactive and colorful exhibits will delight little ones who may need a break from all that serious art viewing!

9. Philharmonic Orchestra

If classical music is more your style, delight yourself with a performance at the Philharmonic Orchestra, Abilene’s oldest fine arts organization.

Recently completing its 70th year performing, the Philharmonic Orchestra is made of up of musicians from all over the state of Texas.

In addition to classical music, performances are offered in a variety of musical styles, including pop and Broadway!

After a day on your feet exploring Abilene, enjoy a serene evening relaxing to the sounds of the Philharmonic Orchestra!

10. 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

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Have you heard the story of the “Hellcats,” the brave soldiers who helped liberate a German prisoner-of-war camp during WWII?

Explore the remarkable history of the 11,000 soldiers of the 12th Armored Division at this 3-story museum full of photographs, oral histories, weapons, uniforms, vehicles and other artifacts.

Catch a glimpse into the daily life of these WWII soldiers and honor the sacrifices they made for their nation.

Well laid out and organized, history buffs will appreciate this small but meaningful memorial museum.

11. SoDa District

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After a day spent perusing museums or enjoying Abilene’s parks, unwind and feel the buzzing energy of the Abilene brewery scene in the SoDa District!

The SoDa District – an acronym for South of downtown Abilene – is known for its bars, wineries and venues.

Rustic-chic is the vibe you’ll get at The Mill, a family friendly wine bar and event center in the SoDa district.

Serving wine, a selection of rotating craft beers, and shareable plates and desserts, The Mill is a great place to hang out with friends or family!

Enjoy the fire pit and the outdoor patio on a beautiful, Texas evening!

The Winery at Willow Creek is another excellent stop in the SoDa District.

Relax in the outdoor seating at this “cute little winery on the creek.”

Try a variety of wines with a wine tasting and complement it with a meat and cheese or pretzel and hummus platter (Yum!)

On select nights, live music and special events – like comedy shows and trivia nights – make The Winery at Willow Creek in the SoDa District a great spot for couples and groups!

12. National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature

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There’s lots of family friendly fun to be had in Abilene, too!

Start at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, a small but unique center showcasing the work of featured children’s book authors and illustrators.

I mean, it’s not every day that you get to see original sketches and early ideas for some of your favorite children’s books!

Literary heaven is right next door in the well-stocked bookstore attached to the center!

Kids art classes are also offered.

Get a jump start on your storybook sculpture hunt, finding your first 2 storybook characters right in front of the building!

13. Children’s Art and Literacy Festival

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Watch your child’s imagination blossom as they experience their favorite stories and characters coming to life!

Over 2 ½ days each June, downtown Abilene transforms into a hub of celebration for this annual festival featuring a different children’s author and/or illustrator each year.

With over 20 participating venues, children can enjoy dramatic readings, musicals, art exhibits, face painting, train rides, costume contests, parades and more!

Delight your child with a weekend of artistic and literary events made just for them, right here in the Storybook Capital of America!

14. Town and Country Drive-In Theatre

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The kids will love this “retro” blast from the past!

Harken back to simpler times before state-of-the-art technology and enjoy a low-key drive-in theatre family experience.

Lay out in the back of your pickup truck, throw down the top on the jeep or just roll down the windows of the family sedan for an evening of old-fashioned entertainment!

Just because it’s old-fashioned doesn’t mean you’ll find outdated movie selections.

Choose from the newest and hottest films, and enjoy concessions, too!

The pre-film “old timey” shorts add a fun, authentic touch!

15. Play Faire Park

Disconnect from your phone screen for some laid-back family fun at Play Faire Park, the oldest miniature golf course in the state of Texas!

With an emphasis on outdoor play (almost a relic these days, right?!), Play Faire Park operates a play museum, offering the types of games you played as a kid – like tetherball, hopscotch, bean bag toss and hula hoops!

On Friday and Saturday nights, you can shop local vendors and enjoy live music and a BYOB atmosphere (as long as it stays family friendly!)

And make sure to grab one of their signature Howlin’ Dyes tie-dye t-shirts in the renovated Marketplace!

16. Dyess Linear Air Park

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If you grew up watching the movie “Top Gun,” a visit to the Dyess Linear Air Park will reignite your love of air and speed and just might have you feeling like a maverick!

Showcasing 34 historic aircraft, including fighter and cargo planes, this air park is the largest of its kind in the United States Air Force.

Enhance your experience with a knowledgeable tour guide who can fill you in on the history of the aircraft and bring their stories as well as interesting facts about Texas to life!

Located on the Dyess Air Force Base, you can browse the Dyess Memorial Center before or after your tour and learn about the history of the base and the life of Lt. Col. Dyess.

Pay homage to the heroes of Dyess Air Force Base at the outdoor Dyess Memorial Park.

17. West Texas Fair and Rodeo

Cowboys, rodeos, and a Texas fair!

One of the best places to go in Abilene for quintessential Texas culture, the West Texas Fair and Rodeo has everything you’d expect from a county fair – delicious food, live music and carnival rides!

Housed in the Expo Center of Taylor County, this 10-day event in early September features real-life cowboys and cowgirls competing in the rodeo, tractor pull competitions, and livestock exhibits featuring some of the finest animals from the state of Texas!

Thrilling entertainment with a Texas twist, the West Texas Fair and Rodeo is a must-do in Abilene!

18. Beer Summit

Few things go together better than the hot Texas sun and a cold beer!

Drink the day away at the annual Beer Summit in Abilene’s SoDa district!

Visit Abilene in late September and you can enjoy a day of craft beer and live music!

With over 125 craft beers to try from more than 40 different breweries, you’re sure to find your new favorite beer!

Enjoy a 10-beer sample with a general pass, or upgrade to a VIP pass giving you an extra hour to get your day drinking started even earlier!

There’s no better way to bid farewell to summer than this Abilene beer summit!

19. The Axe Throwing Company

Of all the stuff to do in Abilene, axe throwing may just be one of the quirkiest experiences you can find!

Located in the SoDa District, the Axe Throwing Company provides 3,500 square feet of axe throwing fun for people 12 and older!

Younger kids can also get in on the fun in the dedicated kids’ zone with suction cup axes!

While no food or drink is served, you can head next door to KAO Lounge for drinks and bar food.

Grab your friends and family and have a blast testing your target skills!

20. Belle’s Chicken Dinner House

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From family-styled fried chicken to mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, cream corn and deep-fried catfish, Belle’s Chicken Dinner House is the absolute must-do when you’re looking for some Southern home cooking.

The atmosphere, in a rustic old barn, makes you feel incredibly relaxed and casual and like you’re there to meet old friends and family rather than try a new restaurant.

Dig into the green beans, drench everything in massive amounts of gravy, and enjoy this family-owned restaurant in Abilene.

21. Catfish Corner

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For some of the best seafood in Abilene, head over to Catfish Corner!

From fried shrimp to catfish to crab cakes to giant seafood platters so you can try it all, this family-owned restaurant has small town charm in spades.

Try something new like frog legs or hush puppies, and if you encounter a small wait, don’t worry: it’s just a ringing endorsem*nt of how much locals love Catfish Corner.

22. Texas Cowboy BBQ

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There’s absolutely no denying that Texas is all about the BBQ, and one of the best places in Abilene to chow down is Texas Cowboy BBQ.

The brisket and pork ribs will have you talking about them for days, and the cowboy beans are the perfect side.

You’ll even get to be a bit “fancy” here with real silverware and plates (the food quality deserves it!).

Down as many glasses as you want of refreshing iced tea, and if you’re really into it, check out their episode on “Restaurant Impossible” to see how they reworked, renovated, and reopened the restaurant!

23. Eat Breakfast at the Dixie Pig

Whether you’re into perfectly cooked Americana breakfasts or a lot of pig knick knacks (we won’t judge you), the Dixie Pig is for you!

This is a beloved breakfast and lunch restaurant in Abilene, open since the 1930s!

From biscuits and gravy to hashbrowns to the bacon egg and cheese burrito, everyone will find something to love to start off your day in Abilene.

It’s classic, it’s friendly, and it’s waiting for you to “pig out”!

24. Blue Sky Restaurant

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Dine on juicy burgers, perfectly cooked tater tots, and plenty of unique menu options at Blue Sky in Abilene.

There’s nothing like their homecooked onion rings, crisp veggies, and golden brown fries fresh from the fryer.

It’s clean, family-friendly, and rated incredibly highly by both visitors and locals alike.

25. Taqueria Nuestro Mexico

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If you’re looking for a Mexican meal to rival them all, Taqueria Nuestro Mexico in Abilene is just the place for you.

The salsa, spicy but not too spicy, is perfectly paired with the tortilla chips, the breakfast tacos are worth starting your day with, and the Nachos Supreme are a must-order.

Their hot sauce is a favorite among locals, the customer service is top notch, and the experience is authentic!

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25+ Best Things to Do in Abilene, Texas (unique!) - Happy To Be Texas (2024)


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