A few hours west of Fort Worth, Abilene sits in a sweet spot; a four season destination, not too hilly, not too flat, not too far, not too near.
From the placement of the dot on the map, you'd think cattle or oil--and you'd be right--but you might not expect a climate of curiosity in a town of around 120,000 people...or an outdoor sculpture tour with more than 20 stops.
Pink Flamingo by Joe Barrington.
Childhood's Great Adventure by Rick Jackson
Bull Skull by Joe Barrington
If you stop to check out the town, you'll find multiple campuses of higher education, museums clustered around an historic downtown plus performing arts, a restored theater, tasty dining and a mini-brewery.
Grace Museum exhibits include history, hands-on experiences, playfulness and art.
The Frontier Texas! Museum wins my vote for most exciting and engaging museum in the West. Visitors follow a winding path as hologram actors tell real stories of settler's lives. At the end, lightning strikes, thunder claps and animals stampede around you in a 360-degree theater.
Sculptures and games--such as guessing the frontier cost of flour or fabric --bring other experiences to life.
When you're ready to go back outside, take the kids in your party (including yourselves) to the zoo and hand-feed the giraffes.
Next stop, Cypress Street Station, both eatery and mini-brewery, and good at both.
Lunch and a brew sampler at Cypress Street Station and Abilene Brewing Co. Yes, those are house-made potato chips.
Later on, a ride of about 20 minutes south to scenic Buffalo Gap takes food-lovers to iconic eatery Perini Ranch for old-time Texas fare.
After mesquite-grilled steak or quail, and bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce; when you wish you could taste it at home too, you can pick up a cookbook and the special steak seasoning to make it happen.
And you'll remember; a trip to Abilene is real Texas and real fun.
Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.