A TX road trip to Kansas & top things to do in Abilene, KS.
Known for its friendly people and its rich history, Abilene, KS, has been voted the #1 Friendliest & Favorite U.S. Small Town in 2023. Here is my Texas road trip to Abilene and the top things to do in Abilene, KS.
Take a virtual drive with me from the Dallas Fort Worth area to Abilene, KS. More and more of us are taking to the road in and beyond Texas. I love a good road trip and would rather drive than fly if it’s not too far. Texas is a good road trip in its state, but sometimes we want to go north. Where I live, going north would put me in another state fast. So Abilene, Kansas, is a great place to visit, as it’s only a 6-hour drive from North Texas. This time, I went north to Central Kansas. I hope you enjoy all the fun activities on my Texas road trip to Abilene, KS.
Disclosure: Visit Abilene, Kansas, sponsored my road trip. All opinions are my own.
Top Things To Do In Abilene, KS: A Texas Road Trip
Upon arrival, pick up brochures at the Abilene Travel Information Center. It’s your best bet not to miss anything. Or, if you know in advance you are going, order your brochures and visitor’s guide in advance at Visit Abilene, Kansas.
Texas Road Trip To Abilene, KS
I drove to a travel conference in Kansas City, KS, and met some excellent connections from the Midwest, including Julie Roller Weeks from Visit Abilene Visitors Bureau. Conversations sparked, and I told her how much I thought the Fort Worth Stockyards reminded me of her small town – it must be the Wild West and the Cowboys. Somehow, we got on the subject of the Legendary Chisholm Trail. Then, I thought the trail started in Forth Worth, so I told her that. She then said, well, do you know where the Chisholm Trail ended? I said no, and she said, “Abilene, KS.” From there, I said I would love to do a Texas road trip to Abilene, KS, taking the Chisholm Trail route …and I did. Read it here – Texas Road Trip On The Chisholm Trail.
Did you know that Abilene, Texas, was named after Abilene, Kansas, in 1881?
19 Top Things To Do In Abilene, Kansas
First, let me tell you what’s so special about this small town in Central Kansas.
- Top 10 True Western Town of the Year by True West Magazine (2023).
- #2 Best Historic Small Town by USA Today (2022 & 2023).
- Abilene, KS, was home to our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE).
- #1 Friendliest & Favorite U.S. Small Town by TravelAwaits (2022).
That was just recently. More awards like these went on from 2021-2017.
From seeing the world’s largest belt buckle to learning about the rich history in Abilene, KS, and seeing this little piggy, it was all it took for me to fall in love with this small town in Kansas.
In no particular order, these tourist attractions make the town of Abilene, KS, the best small town in America.
1. Eisenhower Park & Rose Garden
The most beautiful park and flower garden I’ve ever seen. Even in the heat of the summer, the flowers were blooming and thriving. The volunteer taking care of the flowers the day I was there told me that the last week was at its peak. To me, it’s at the top of magnificent. The best part is this park is free. You can walk around the park, marvel at all the flowers, and stay as long as you want.
2. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum
The Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum and his boyhood home are all on the same property, so there is a lot to cover, and you will do some walking. I don’t know if a tour guide is available, but I had the best-guided tour from one of the employees. I would have never known all that I learned if he hadn’t walked with me and told me all the good stuff about President Eisenhower’s life and his wife’s. My motto is always …”Book a guided tour whenever possible!”
“The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.” by Dwight Eisenhower
Start at the Visitors Center and work your way around the 22-acre campus. Figure on spending at least 2-3 hours here, more if you want to do some research in the library. When I was there, the boyhood home wasn’t open.
3. Dickenson County Heritage Center
So much history inside the Heritage Center. And the fun doesn’t end there. Many historic buildings outside in the village, and a 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel is also out back …and you can ride it! I did. I won’t pass up a carousel ride! But, before heading outside, you’ll want to check out the 100 Years of Telephone History and all the cool telephones back in the day. Also, a wall is dedicated to the Chisholm Trail and Wild Bill Hickok.
4. Historic Old Abilene Town
Old Abilene Town offers replicas of how it looked back in the day—only open May through August on weekends. See gunfights and can-can dancers on Saturdays.
5. Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad
Enjoy a ride on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad excursion train in an open-air car or board inside with air conditioning—the only operating steam locomotive in Kansas. Operates on certain days of the week.
Note: 3, 4 & 5 above are in the same area (within walking distance for some), so plan accordingly.
6. Visit Hoffman Grist Mill
Hoffman’s flour, dating back to the 1800s, is a staple in these parts. There are two ways to get there. One is on 1-70 Exit 281 – 4 minutes from Abilene, or if you take the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad ride, this is a stop along the way. Restrooms are available at this stop as well. Almost everyone there bought their flour. There were several kinds.
7. Tour The 25-room Seelye Mansion
Your tour at the Seelye Mansion will include the mansion, outdoor gardens, and the Patent Medicine Museum – everything is real – no replicas. You’ll hear the story of the Seelye family and why the Seelye sisters lived in the house after it was sold. My favorite part of the house was the basement and the Box Ball game there. It’s an old game, sort of like air hockey. The Seelye family home is one of the finest historic homes in the state.
8. Shop The Antique Stores
Abilene has many gift shops, antique stores, and boutiques on Broadway and the Abilene Downtown Antique Mall at 313 N. Buckeye Ave.
One reason I like to drive instead of fly when I can is that I like antiques and I like to shop. I found an old stool, the cutest sign (large) for my sunroom, and a few other things. No way could I have taken all that home if I flew.
9. Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum
Bill Jeffcoat was the last of the three generations of the Jeffcoat family, and he left all his photos and his studio to the city of Abilene.
Some photos depicted the Chisholm Trail, which I found interesting, but that wasn’t all. There are 100 years of photography in there about the town of Abilene.
Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum
321 N Broadway
10. See The Murals In Town
- Longhorn Mural – 500 NW 14th St
- Wild Bill Hickok Mural – 201 N Buckeye Ave.
- Longhorn Mural – 610 S. Buckeye Ave.
- Abilene Mural
- *The town’s newest Mural in town is by Mindy’s Murals.
Be sure to pick up a brochure of the murals and addresses from the information center.
11. Cowboy Art Trail
There are 10 Cowboy Boots on the Cowboy Art Trail scattered all over town. Instead of me telling you where they all are, it’s best to go by the Information Center to pick up a brochure with all ten addresses. That way, you can mark off the ones you’ve visited. These boots are very colorful, and each has a story to tell.
12. Greyhound Hall Of Fame
Greyhounds have a pedigree of 4,000 years. I’m a dog lover but have never thought about owning one of these dogs. I do find them interesting, and when I was there, I’m not sure what I liked more, the history of the Greyhound or petting the real Greyhounds that roam the museum. The Greyhound Hall of Fame is a very big deal for Abilene, KS.
Abilene, Kansas, is known as the Greyhound Capital of the World.
13. See The World’s Largest Belt Buckle
You’ll find the BIG BELT BUCKLE in the Eisenhower Park Rose Garden, where the rodeo is held. There are stairs to climb to get to the top. Make sure someone is standing below with your camera to take a picture of you. It’s a scream!
Address: 400 N Pine St.
14. Attend A Rodeo
If you’re lucky to be in town during the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo (August), you should go, especially if you’ve never been to one. It’s exciting; people are riding wild horses and getting bucked off. The Free Fair is also at this time. Everyone in town was there!
15. Experience Dinner At Legacy Kansas Restaurant
A dining experience you’ll love. Be prepared – it’s a lot of food, so go hungry!
There is a story behind the Historic Brookville Hotel, and you should let your server tell you all about it. If they don’t, ask. After dinner, be sure to tour the hotel. There are just a few rooms open that you can see. Oh, and the hotel is not a hotel anymore – it’s the Legacy Kansas Restaurant!
16. Visit The Russell Stover Candy Store
It was on my list to visit, but I didn’t realize it was THE Russell Stover Candy Store where they make the candy. Actually, there are three in the US, 2 in Kansas, and I’m standing in one of them. The 3rd one, believe it or not, is in Corsicana, TX, but I’m not sure that one has a store where you can buy the candy. Though it’s a candy store, I ordered an ice cream. My two-scoop ice cream in a waffle cone was the best $7 I spent that day!
Address: 1993 Caramel Blvd.
PS. After stopping here, go across the street to Wilkens Acres – a gift shop full of handmade gifts, decor & souvenirs from Kansas. It’s where I found my large sign that says walk. bark. wag. It’s made from reclaimed wood – so heavy the owner’s husband had to carry it to my car.
Address: 2323 Fair Rd.
17. Tour Historic Homes & Mansions
Take a self-guided driving tour to see over 130 historic homes and mansions in Abilene, KS. I really was in awe of all the homes I saw with their manicured lawns and charming porches. I told Julie and her husband that I wanted to live in one. Everywhere you go, there is an incredible historic home on every street.
With all the historic houses and historic sites, I can see why Abilene, KS, was voted the best historic small town.
Again, visit the Information center and pick up a brochure about the homes and their addresses. I bet you’ll fall in love with them as I did.
18. Great Plains Theatre
The Great Plains Theatre produces performing arts, and you may even know a few songs from your past. I did not go here, but it is something nice to do with the family.
Address: 215 N. Campbell St.
19. Take A Texas Road Trip to Abilene, KS
Grab the family and take a road trip like I did. You don’t have to follow the Chisholm Trail as I did, just head straight north on I-35 for about 6 hours, and then you’ll be able to experience these top things to do in Abilene, KS, like me!
Restaurants In Abilene, Kansas
Amanda’s Bakery & Bistro
A local favorite bistro. Amanda’s Bakery was mentioned to me more than once and was the first restaurant I visited. The service was great, and my onion soup was perfecto!
Hitching Post Restaurant & Saloon
Quite a few restaurants and businesses closed early because of the fair. This was one of them. They were probably in the parade. The Hitching Post is another local favorite place to eat and is in or near Old Abilene Town. I didn’t get to go.
During Fair Week in August, they offer their famous alcoholic drink – Raspberry Summer Beer, for only $5.50 (known all over town). It’s made up of raspberry, lemonade, Vodka, & Bud Light. I had to have one, and it was so good. The waitress did tell me they would make it any other time if someone asked, but it’s not on the menu, and it will probably cost more.
Hapisoul Cafe & Juicery
I told the owner I’d eat here daily if I lived here! It’s in an old historic building across from the information center.
Ike’s Place Bar & Grill
Grilled catfish, steamed broccoli, and salad (not shown) at the bar because it was just me and the tables were full. They were so busy that night, but I’m guessing it was fair & rodeo people in town. The meal was good, but it did not fill me up.
A restaurant inside the Brookville Hotel. Remember, I said to Go Hungry! You’ll have two choices of meat: Munson beef or skillet fried chicken and all the fixings you can eat. This place is a big deal in town. Each email is around $24 and comes with dessert – not shown because I ate it!! They also offer beer and wine for extra.
After dinner, walk up the stairs to see the rooms and how they once looked when the hotel was open.
Dizzy Donkey Saloon
I went here and ordered their special – hamburger and fries and a beer. It was nice, and the burger was huge.
So many other places to eat in town. Choose wisely!
Where To Stay In Abilene, Kansas
- Holiday Inn Express with complimentary breakfast is where I stayed. There is also Sips Espresso Bar across the parking lot if you want a great cup of coffee and a homemade breakfast.
- Victorian Inn in the Historic District
- Engle House BnB is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- A few more Hotel & Motels
- A variety of Airbnbs
- RV Hook up at several places in town.
So, you have many options for lodging and many things to do in Abilene, KS!