Abilene Texas: Storybook characters and the Old West
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Storybook CapitalConsidered to be the largest public collection of storybook sculptures in any city, Abilene's status as Storybook Capital of Texas has beloved characters throughout the town. Perhaps the most famous are the six iconic Dr. Seuss sculptures all clustered together in the aptly named Everyman Park. Created by artist Leo Rijn, the statues include Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, Horton, and the Cat in the Hat.
Another series was inspired by the Guardians of Childhood books by William Joyce, reimagining famous characters such as the Man in the Moon, and Santa Claus as protectors of children.
Embracing its love of children’s literature, Abilene is also home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature which mounts special exhibits of the original artwork of illustrators of children’s books. Rounding out the trio of child-focused literature experiences, Abilene offers the yearly Children's Art & Literacy Festival that celebrates children's illustrated literature.
Abilene Frontier History: Frontier Texas and Buffalo GapAbilene also embraces its rough-and-ready frontier history -- home to both Fort Phantom Hill and Frontier Texas! Fort Phantom Hill, established by the U.S. Army in 1851, was an active fort until it closed only three years later. Although now in ruins, visitors can walk among the remnant of the buildings and foundations.
Frontier Texas!That exclamation point is well-deserved. Exploring the history of the Texas frontier has never been more fascinating. Frontier Texas! uses life-like holograms to tell the history of real people, videos in the round draw viewers in to see some of the small and large moments in history. Outlaws and lawmen, Indian leaders and settlers, hunters and haulers all have stories to share. And interspersed are exhibits that add depth and complexity to the story of the West.
It’s also the visitor center for Abilene and the Texas Forts Trail.
Buffalo GapToday Abilene is the county seat. But at one time it was the town of Buffalo Gap that held the title -- until the Texas and Pacific Railway townsite locator was convinced to run the railroad through privately owned land where a new, soon-to-be platted townsite (called Abilene) could be established.
Buffalo Gap still exists. People live there, and a couple of businesses are open, but now it's more as a museum. Buffalo Gap Historic Village is a collection of buildings in various states of disrepair. Funding, or rather the lack of funding, has hampered efforts to stabilize and restore the buildings. Even diminished, this is a fascinating place to visit with the guides telling the stories of the buildings, their origins, and the people who lived there. Arranged in chronological, the sections show how the town changed over the decades.
If You GoFor lunch or dinner Perini’s Ranch is a must eat. Located in Buffalo Gap, this working ranch raises prize long horns but opens its doors to hungry diners. You’ve never had chicken fried steak this tender, or baked ham so deliciously smoked. From the potatoes to the biscuits there is nothing that isn’t truly lip-smackin’ good. If you can make it, absolutely do their Sunday brunch. For appetizers pop their delicious jalapenos like candy. The surprisingly mild peppers are stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and cooked to crispy perfection. Not only delicious but for a good cause -- they are handmade with the help of Disability Resources, Inc.
Enjoy an evening drink and snacks at the innovative The Mill Wine Bar which offers a wide variety of great wines, along with a rotating selection of craft beer, appetizers and desserts. Their frozen sangria is possibly the best anywhere. The repurposed setting is quirky and inviting.
Sayles Landmark is the B&B you won’t ever want to leave. Decorated by Terry Bowder in comfortable Victorian fusion (with elements of just about everything and anything that appealed to his eclectic vision) and highlighted by the gardens and an outdoor inviting pool. Stellar isn’t always an adjective applied to a B&B, but this one deserves it.
Catch a performance at the Paramount Theatre. The 3-story theatre opened in 1930 with stunning Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Art Deco light fixtures and stars and clouds that move across its ceiling. Free self-guided tours are available Noon to 5 p.m., weekdays
Learn more about visiting at Abilene Tourism
Read more about Texas towns and attractions
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Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author