Nestled in the heart of the Sunflower State, Abilene, Kansas, is a charming and historic town that offers visitors a delightful blend of rich history, cultural experiences, and small-town charm. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful getaway, Abilene has something to offer for everyone. In this guide, we’ll explore the top things to do in Abilene, uncovering the unique attractions that make this town a hidden gem in the Midwest.
- Visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum: Abilene is the hometown of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Start your journey by exploring the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, which provides a comprehensive look at the life and legacy of this influential leader. The museum houses exhibits showcasing Eisenhower’s military career, his presidency, and personal artifacts, providing a fascinating glimpse into American history.
- Tour the Historic Seelye Mansion: Step back in time with a visit to the Seelye Mansion, an architectural gem that reflects the opulence of the Victorian era. Built in 1905, this stunning mansion offers guided tours, allowing visitors to explore the meticulously preserved rooms, intricate woodwork, and exquisite furnishings. The Seelye Mansion provides a captivating look into the affluent lifestyle of the early 20th century.
- Discover Old Abilene Town: For a taste of the Old West, head to Old Abilene Town, a reconstructed frontier town that transports visitors to the days of cowboys and pioneers. Stroll along dirt streets lined with authentic 19th-century buildings, including a general store, saloon, and blacksmith shop. During the summer months, you can catch live performances at the Old Abilene Town’s reenactment events, bringing the Old West back to life.
- Explore the Greyhound Hall of Fame: Animal lovers and racing enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Located in Abilene, this unique museum celebrates the history and achievements of greyhounds in the world of racing. Exhibits showcase the athleticism and agility of these remarkable dogs, honoring their contributions to the sport.
- Wander Through the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad: All aboard! Take a scenic ride through the Kansas prairie on the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad. This vintage train offers visitors a nostalgic journey, complete with historic coaches and breathtaking views. Check the schedule for special events, such as dinner trains and holiday-themed rides, for a memorable experience.
- Enjoy Nature at Eisenhower State Park: Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the natural beauty surrounding Abilene at Eisenhower State Park. Located on the shores of Melvern Lake, the park offers hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and picturesque picnic spots. It’s a great place to unwind and connect with nature, making it an ideal destination for families and nature lovers alike.
- Experience Culture at the Greyhound Hall of Fame: The Greyhound Hall of Fame not only celebrates the athleticism of greyhounds but also delves into the history of greyhound racing. Visitors can explore exhibits featuring memorabilia, photographs, and stories about these incredible dogs. The Hall of Fame is a must-visit for those interested in the intersection of sports and animal history.
- Shop and Dine in Historic Downtown Abilene: Take a leisurely stroll through Historic Downtown Abilene, where you’ll find charming boutiques, antique shops, and local eateries. The downtown area retains its historic charm with brick-paved streets and well-preserved architecture. Explore unique shops for one-of-a-kind finds and savor local flavors at cozy cafes and restaurants.
- Attend Events at the Great Plains Theatre: Check the schedule at the Great Plains Theatre, a local venue hosting a variety of live performances throughout the year. From Broadway-style productions to community plays, the theater provides entertainment for all ages. Attending a show here is a fantastic way to support local arts and immerse yourself in Abilene’s cultural scene.
- Marvel at the Russell Stover Candies Outlet: Indulge your sweet tooth at the Russell Stover Candies Outlet, where you can explore a vast selection of chocolates and confections at discounted prices. Treat yourself to a delightful assortment of handcrafted chocolates and candies, making it a perfect stop for gifts or personal indulgence.
- Learn about Cowboys at the Cowboy Hall of Fame: For a deeper understanding of cowboy culture, visit the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, also known as the Cowboy Hall of Fame. This museum pays homage to the contributions of diverse individuals in the development of the American West. Exhibits showcase the lives of cowboys, Native Americans, and pioneers, providing a comprehensive perspective on the region’s history.
- Celebrate the Spirit of the Chisholm Trail: Abilene is steeped in the history of the Chisholm Trail, which was a vital cattle-driving route in the late 19th century. Explore the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center to learn about the trail’s impact on the region’s development. Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia presentations offer a captivating journey through the cowboy era.
- Attend the Central Kansas Free Fair: If your visit coincides with the Central Kansas Free Fair, you’re in for a treat. This annual event features livestock exhibits, carnival rides, live entertainment, and a variety of food vendors. It’s a celebration of community spirit and a fantastic opportunity to experience the lively atmosphere of a traditional American fair.
Conclusion: Abilene, Kansas, may be a small town, but its rich history, cultural attractions, and natural beauty make it a destination worth exploring. From presidential history to Old West charm, Abilene offers a diverse range of experiences for visitors of all interests. So, whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking a tranquil getaway, Abilene welcomes you with open arms and a warm Midwestern hospitality that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.