Hand feed a giraffe, explore the ruins of a frontier army fort, play on one of the best golf courses in Texas, and go on a scavenger hunt for eccentric characters from classic children’s tales. These adventures are just a few of the many amazing things to do in Abilene, where the pioneering spirit of West Texas lives on. Located just two hours west of Fort Worth, Abilene is a mid-sized community boasting a bit of something for everyone. One-of-a-kind museums, fantastic public golf courses, and other attractions give you plenty to see and do while you’re here. Oh, and did we mention that Abilene is the “Official Storybook Capital of Texas?” Read on to discover why, and learn more about what there is to see and do in Abilene.
This is all part of the experience in the Giraffe Safari, home to such animals as Aldabra tortoises, Angolan colobus monkeys, and blue duikers (a small member of the antelope family). These are just a few of the more than 1,000 animals at the Abilene Zoo, including alligators, bears, lions, tigers, and zebras.
Along with all the exotic critters, you can see birds, mammals, and reptiles native to Texas in the Elm Creek Backyard area. With so many animals, a trip to the Abilene Zoo is like going on a wildlife safari around the world.
If you’re in Abilene in June, don’t miss the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival, which features a parade, hands-on activities for you and your little ones, and art exhibits. The event and the sculptures of timeless characters created by legendary writers such as Dr. Seuss, David Shannon, and Walter Wick, help make downtown Abilene a place that will enchant and entertain folks of all ages.
There’s more about the Old West to be seen at the Taylor County History Center, a mini-town made up of more than 20 buildings, a gallery with historic maps, and a vast collection of firearms and Native American artifacts.
Fort Phantom Hill, with its ghostly chimneys that tower over a flat expanse, was a prominent U.S. Army base when travelers and settlers were pushing farther west into the Texas frontier. Walk the ruins of the old fort and check out the three only remaining stone buildings: the powder magazine, guardhouse, and commissary. The serenity of the grounds, combined with the unusual site of rows of solitary chimneys, makes the fort one of the most unique places to visit in Texas.
Much of the unit’s history is showcased at the 12th Armored Division Museum. Three floors of exhibits of photographs, artifacts, and personal testimonies from unit veterans make up the museum, providing a rare glimpse of what the pivotal moments of the war were like from the people who experienced them first-hand.
Designed and operated by 1971 Masters Champion Charles Coody, the course is full of strategically placed bunkers and hazards that will challenge experienced players while also being accessible for novices.
The gorgeous scenery and pristine playing conditions are part of why the course ranked 91st in the Dallas Morning News’ listing of the top 100 golf courses in Texas.
Diamondback Golf Club might be known across the Lone Star State, but it’s not the only game in town. One of the two other public golf courses in Abilene, Maxwell Golf Course, serves up 18 holes of gently sloping tree-lined fairways that are part of a layout designed for the average player. Your other option, Mesquite Grove Golf Course located on Dyess Air Force Base, offers an additional 18 holes of golf that rewards strategic play. You’ll need to complete a form granting you civilian access to the air force base, which is available on the course’s website. Both golf centers feature driving ranges and fully stocked pro shops, just in case you get a bit too ambitious and lose all your balls.
The craft beer movement is thriving all across Texas, and Abilene is no exception. Head to downtown Abilene and you’ll find a small craft brewery and a brew pub. Pappy Slokum Brewing Co. crafts easy-drinking ales like the Local Yella Cream Ale and the Uber Weiss Hefeweizen, as well as the robust Caddo Peak Porter imbued with the flavors of coffee, caramel, and chocolate. Try all of these for yourself at Pappy Slokum’s rustic tasting room, which is open throughout the day on Saturdays. Your other option is Sockdolager Brewing Company. Purveyors of craft beer made with the best ingredients, the serves everything from a dark and roasty oatmeal sout to a hoppy IPA. Get the handcrafted vertical flight rack, an innovation unique to Sockdolager, to try all of the brewery's creative beers.
If you’re more of a wine person, Abilene has you covered. Trek on down to the south side of town and you'll encounter The Winery at Willow Creek, a winery that produces a staggering array of traditional, sweet, and specialty wines. Order a glass (or bottle) of Moscato or a pomegranate zinfandel and settle in on the patio to enjoy the scenic view of Willow Creek. Pair your red or white with a cheese, sausage, and cracker platter or any other palate-pleasing item from the snack menu. Is your mouth watering yet? The Winery at Willow Creek is open Tuesday through Saturday, giving you plenty of time to stop by while you're in Abilene. The Mill Wine Bar & Event Center, on the other hand, boasts a large selection of wines both domestic and international, as well as an enticing selection of food and beer that'll keep everyone happy.
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