Abilene, Kansas is mostly known for being the hometown of President Eisenhower, but this small town has plenty more to offer than just a visit to his historic home and library.
I know you are thinking, what in the heck is there to do in this middle of this nowhere Kansas town. I thought the same thing until I had the chance to spend a weekend in Abilene. It was absolutely charming and with only being a couple hours away from Wichita or Kansas City, makes it a fun getaway from life in the big city.
I had the chance to visit in early December and enjoyed the Night of Christmas Magic. I loved watching the hustle and bustle of the families enjoying activities and the children’s faces when santa arrived. It was wholesome and some what nostalgic. Something I think many cities are missing these days.
I also went on the Homes for the Holidays Tour, which features beautifully decorated historic homes. Abilene features many activities throughout the year, so there is a reason to visit every season! Keep reading to see what season you will want to plan your visit!
Starting with spring, visitors can enjoy watching or participating in the Eisenhower Marathon in early April. Awards are presented by members of the Eisenhower family at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home Visitors Center.
The Saturday of Easter weekend, Washington D.C. has the White House Easter Egg Roll and Abilene does too! Thousands of eggs are placed on the lawn of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home and children rush to find them.
Reitz & Rust Vintage Market & Vintage Camper Show. This event held in late April, features more than 200 vendors and dozens of vintage campers. It is labeled a must see event by Southern Living magazine.
In June, summer brings the opening of the Great Plains Theatre which was established in 1995. It is the only live professional theatre between Denver and Kansas City on I-70. The theatre features comedians, magicians, chart topping musicians and Pulitzer winning Broadway shows.
Celebrate Independence Day with an Old Fashioned 4th of July celebration. Activities include a variety of fun runs, pedal power tractor pull, sports tournaments, mud and sand volleyball, baby beauty contest, frog and turtle races, band performances and of course, a stellar fireworks display! Abilene is named one of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Top 20 Best Small Towns to Visit.”
October brings Heritage Days complete with historic reenactments, activities for kids, farm machinery demonstrations as more! It is also your last chance of the season to catch the Excursion Train. This 10-mile excursion train ride through the Smoky River Hill Valley features a 100 year old wooden coach dining car and other vintage equipment.
December brings the Annual Homes for the Holidays Tour, where you can tour a number historic beautifully decorated homes though out the town. Along with homes tour is the Night of Christmas magic, usually the first weekend in December and is fun for the whole family. Activities include Santa’s workshop, craft fair, lighted Christmas parade, games, lighting of the historic Union Pacific Depot and more.
For Valentines Day in February, couples can plan a romantic getaway and stay at one of Abilene’s quaint bed and breakfasts. The Victorian Inn allows you to step back in time while still having access to all 21st century conveniences. Or you can pamper yourself at the Windmill Inn which offers in room massages.
Year around visitors can enjoy the variety of museums, including the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Abilene is full of history and 21 structures in town are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Seelye Mansion.
The Dickinson County Heritage Center depicts life on the plains during the American pioneer movement and westward expansion periods. It also houses the Museum of Independent Technology which shows the telephone system history through exhibits of antique telephones. It also tells the story of The United Telephone Company, which is now Sprint, that was formed in Abilene by C. L. Brown in 1922.
Children and parents both will enjoy a ride on the original 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel which is located at the Heritage Center as well.
Abilene is also home to the worlds biggest spur!
If you are a foodie or just a tired traveler along I- 70 looking for a bite to eat, Abilene offers plenty of great choices. The Brookville Hotel which traces back to the 1870’s became famous for serving family style fried chicken dinners, which still continue to this day. Reservations are highly recommended.
Another hot spot in town is Three one one and is labeled the “Key West of the Midwest.” This spot is family owned by Chef John Shaft from Florida and gets rave reviews about his fish tacos.
Downtown Abilene offers quaint shops such as Cypress Bridge, where you can pick up a hand poured custom scented candle, home decor items, homemade potpourri, scented oils, bath and body products for him or her and more. RHV, is a little hardware store that will have anything you need including unique products tailored just for that area. Antique lovers will enjoy browsing the many antique stores and for the Chocoholics, a visit to the Russell Stover 10,000 sq. ft. outlet store is a must. Visitors can purchase ice cream delights, along with the many other types of candies and homemade chocolate delicacies.
Lodging includes quaint bed and breakfasts, hotels and campgrounds.
For more information on planning your trip, visit the Abilene visitors website. Photos are courtesy of Abilene visitor center and myself. I wish to thank the city of Abilene for hosting my visit.
For those who have visited Abilene, please feel free to comment below on your favorite thing about Abilene.