We enjoy visiting destinations that can be reached in just a couple of hours. Living in the Midwest, we tend to space our cities a little farther apart than what is found on the coasts. Fortunately, the miles between are filled with some beautiful landscape. Abilene, Kansas makes a perfect day trip from the Kansas City area, but on our visit we spent the night. This allowed us to add a couple more stops to our itinerary. Being the northern end of the Chisholm Trail meant that the rowdy and rambunctious cowboys couldn’t wait to arrive. Much like them, we were ready to see all the sights of Abilene when we pulled into town.
We want to thank Abilene Visitors Bureau for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Our first stop was the Dickinson Heritage Center, which is a multi-subject museum. Here we had the opportunity to learn more about how Abilene became a city. From its earliest days through more modern times, this place highlighted the notable moments and people who helped form the city. We especially enjoyed the Wild West aspect of the cow town days, and the lawmen who helped rein in the rowdy cowboys. Be sure to step out back to see the additional exhibits. You will also want to take a ride on the C.W. Parker carousel that is found there. Check out the short video we included in our more detailed article. (Read more about Dickinson Heritage here.)
Watch Your Step
Within walking distance of the Heritage Center, we came upon Old Abilene Town. This recreation of the Wild West days was a perfect accent to our trip. Here we explored the buildings that shed light on the life of early settlers to the region. We can’t imagine what it would have been like to live without some of the creature comforts we have nowadays. During our visit we were able to catch one of their performances. A group of rowdy characters entertained the assembled crowd with a show filled with comedy, action, and even some educational material. This all ages feature is fun for the whole family, and you can even meet the actors after their performance. (Read more about Old Abilene here.)
The Man Of The Hour
Abilene’s most notable resident was Dwight D. Eisenhower, so we couldn’t pass up a visit to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Boyhood Home. The 34th President of the United States may not have been born here, but being raised in the breadbasket of the country taught him his down-to-earth values. The Eisenhower Museum is under renovation until late Spring of 2019, but staff has assembled a memorable informational exhibit in the library. It is filled with artifacts and memorabilia from Ike and Mamie’s lives before, during, and after the presidency. Be sure to save your tickets, as they are good for a return visit to see the newly renovated space when it reopens.(Read more about Ike’s Library here.)
Riding The Rails
By extending our stay to include a second day, we were able to increase the number of sights we were able to enjoy. This gave us plenty of time to really deep dive into the museums and attractions we had on our schedule. A chance to ride the rails on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad had us pretty pumped. With very little train riding experience, we were looking forward to this attraction. We didn’t realize they had a small museum on-site, so we were happy that we had some extra time to explore it. (Read more about the railroad here.)
One thing we always try to leave time for is to explore the downtown area of our destinations. Each town and city has something unique to offer, so we try to uncover their hidden gems. Along Buckeye Avenue, the main drag heading north and south, we found a grouping of retail shops. There were others that radiated out from this street between 2nd and 5th Streets. It made for a pleasant walking tour with short rests as we explored the shop interiors. This was a great way to meet some of the locals, who were friendly and quite helpful with meal suggestions.
On Island Time
Speaking of eats, there were a couple of especially notable dining establishments that we visited. Three-One-One is named for its street address, but the food is far from the Midwest. Here we found a taste of the coastal life, as we dined on fish tacos and island chicken. The owners have created an oasis of fun with their vibrant interior and relaxed atmosphere. This is a “must try” when you visit Abilene, Kansas. (Read more about 3-1-1 here.)
A home-style family meal is exactly what you would expect to find in the heart of Kansas. Have no fear, they serve these up daily at the Brookville Hotel. No need for a menu, since they have perfected the full service chicken dinner over the past 100+ years. Yes, you read that right. This place may have moved from their original location, but have no fear. They brought their recipes with them. Be sure to take a few moments to check out the other spaces in the building before or after dinner. (Read more about Brookville Hotel here.)
With so much to see and do, why not start planning your visit to Abilene, Kansas. This family friendly city will have you cheering for cowboys, learning about famous Kansans, and dining on delectable dishes. What more could you ask for in the heart of the country? So what do you have on your Abilene itinerary? We’d love to hear what we missed, so we can add it to our return trip. Leave us a note in the comments section below. Thanks!
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