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Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. Please consider reading our editorial policy to understand how and why we publish the resources we do.

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Taylor County, Texas

Fort Phantom, Lytle, Kirby and Abilene

When in Abilene, Here's 10 Things You Just Gotta Do!

From an early frontier village to a restored historic theatre-from The Grace Museum to a sampling of western culture-Abilene offers an unexpected array of adventures

1. Frontier Texas!

In the same way that Texas' early frontier forts established a protective gateway at the edge of western civilization, Frontier Texas! establishes itself as a welcoming gateway at the limits of downtown Abilene where visitors can relive the Old West with the help of state-of-the-art technology in a 14,000-square-foot facility on 6.4 acres. Frontier Texas! brings the frontier to life by introducing visitors to people who played out their lives on the Texas frontier. Life-sized holographic spirit guides tell dramatic first-hand stories about the hardships of settling this region. A multimedia circular theatre recreates life on the early frontier--from Indian attacks to buffalo stampedes, saloon shoot-outs and even the wild fury of a prairie thunderstorm. Frontier Texas! serves as a visitor's center for the City of Abilene and the Texas Forts Trail region, a 650-mile heritage tourism loop that starts and ends in Abilene.

625 North First Street
325-437-2800

2. Abilene Zoo

Go really, really wild at the Abilene Zoo! Visitor's can stroll through the wilds and compare animals that utilize grasslands from North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia and cares for more than 800 animals representing more than 200 species. The zoo maintains three species of primates, African, Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras and several aquariums and provides an enriching environment in which plants and animals offer an ever-changing, exciting, educational and recreational experience. Visitors are encouraged to explore the zoo's Discovery Center through a "Habitrek," learning how West Texas is similar to Africa with several exhibits, including the Hyena and Black Bear. The Zoo's education department provides an abundance of programs throughout the year. Don't forget to buy crackers to feed the giraffes!

2070 Zoo Lane in Nelson Park (across from Taylor County Expo Center)
325-673-9453

3. The Grace Museum

The Grace Museum houses three museums in the historic Grace Hotel the Art Museum, the History Museum and the Children's Museum. The four story, 55,000-square-foot, missions-revival style building represents the hopes of the western frontier. The museum enriches the cultural life of Abilene and the West Texas region through its permanent collections, special exhibits, classes, seminars and special events. The elegant marble ballroom, glass loggia, large enclosed brick courtyard, restored lobby and open-air rooftop terrace provide a memorable setting for weddings and special events.

102 Cypress Street
325-673-4587

4. Buffalo Gap Historic Village

In ancient days, great herds of buffalo favored the gap in the Callahan Divide, a few miles south of present-day Abilene, and it soon became a favored camping place for native peoples. The site of the original settlement in Taylor County, Buffalo Gap Historic Village features the first county courthouse, jail and 17 buildings with Western and Indian artifacts and originated as a historical site in 1956. The village today preserves and presents the history and heritage of the Texas frontier. Featured are rotating exhibits on special historic items and events, with living history demonstrations given on weekends.

133 N. William Street
Buffalo Gap, TX
325-572-3365

5. The Center for Contemporary Arts

The mission for the Center for Contemporary Arts is to provide enriching and educational experiences for the region's communities through the promotion and support of artists. It envisions a future where regional communities are enriched by greater exposure to the arts, and is a valuable asset to the Abilene community. The Center preserves and strengthens cultural heritage while showcasing and promoting regional art and artists. Located in Historic Downtown Abilene, the center is home to more than 75 artist members, with four galleries and 10 studios.

220 Cypress
325-677-8389

6. Paramount Theatre

One of Abilene's most interesting features is the historic Paramount Theatre, located in the heart of downtown. Built in 1930, this magnificent movie palace is a monument to a by-gone era in America, when movie-going was prime entertainment. Restored in 1986, it features arched columns, two grand staircases, hand-blown glass chandeliers, Pueblo-Deco artwork ceilings and a 1,200-seat auditorium with twin-domed turrets, and a velvet blue ceiling with drifting clouds and twinkling stars. The Paramount now offers the periodic showing of classic films, concerts, live theatre and touring shows.

352 Cypress St.
325-676-9620

7. 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

In the short span of five months, the 12th Armored Division became one of the most feared fighting machines of World War II. The memorial museum houses the Division's historical collection, serves as a teaching museum for the study of WWII and its impact on the American people, offers academic access to historical material, and provides educational programs for children.

1289 N. 2nd
325-677-6515

8. National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature

The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) is a non-profit organization committed to children and literacy. Located in a beautifully renovated 1920-style building, the NCCIL provides recognition of the artistic achievements of child illustrators, and designs educational programming that relates to illustrations in children's literature in order to stimulate creativity, promote literacy and increase appreciation for art. A bronze statue, Childhood's Great Adventure, welcomes children to climb aboard the sculpture and sail off on imaginary adventures in their canoe, which rests on a large book.

North First and Cedar St.
325-673-4586

9. Performing Arts

Abilene Ballet Theatre

Founded in 1985, The Abilene Ballet Theatre is the only regional ballet company in Abilene's history. The company holds performances twice yearly, in the historic Paramount Theatre under the artistic direction of Nancy Gore and Mary Milstead.

Broadway in Abilene

Broadway in Abilene has entertained more than 30,000 people with shows and musicals in past seasons that include Stomp, South Pacific, Grease and David Copperfield. Performances are held in the newly remodeled Abilene Civic Center auditorium.

Abilene Opera Association

The Opera Association presents periodic productions in the historic Paramount Theatre.

Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra

For more than 50 years, this professional orchestra has performed classical and pops concerts featuring world renowned guest artists and conductors.

10. Shopping, Western Style

When cowboys want to shop, they head for Abilene!  Western heritage runs strong when it comes to shopping, with a variety of western-themed stores to tempt the unsuspecting. A dying art thrives at James Leddy Boots, where hand-crafted western boots begin with a custom fitting and finish with a perfect fit. Visitors are welcome to stop in and watch this superb craftsman at work. Once fitted for boots, a cowboy needs a saddle. Art Reed has been making custom saddles, chaps and belts for more than 33 years in his small, unique shop. At 5D custom Hats and Leather, owner Damon Albus stocks a wide selection of cowboy accessories and crafts custom hats. It doesn't stop there! A cowboy needs so much more, and Abilene has it all- from fine leather goods to perfect-fitting hats; from custom belts and buckles to a made-to-order pair of spurs. Abilene, Western style!

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