Maybe you haven’t considered Abilene for a weekend excursion, but this prairie town has a lot to offer – including some of the best little guesthouses in the state.
Where most people just see an old house, Terry Browder sees the next great boutique hotel alternative. The prominent Abilene innkeeper has transformed multiple historic homes in the Sayles Avenue area into luxury guest lodgings that meld vintage sensibility with modern sense. The latest of these – a Downton Abbey-inspired guesthouse – opened in late 2017. You’ll feel like English aristocracy as you settle in amid the Edwardian décor, including walls “papered” with 3,000 vintage law books.
Not far away is another star in Browder’s constellation: Sayles Landmark, a renovated Queen Anne B & B. It has six uniquely-styled rooms, an antique rose garden, and a Victorian fish pond-style swimming pool. If mid-century modern is more your style, you can opt to rent out his Mad Men-inspired guesthouse.
The Outlaws & Legends country music festival returns to Abilene’s Back Porch for its 8th year on March 23 and 24. It features more acts on one stage in two days than most other fests in Texas, and affords fans an up-close music immersion experience. This year’s headliner is two-time Grammy winner Dwight Yoakam.
Check out the growing giraffe herd at the Abilene Zoo. In 2016, this little gem of a zoo opened its new Giraffe Safari, a habitat with a feeding deck that puts visitors eye-to-eye with the giraffes. And since then, the herd has grown to populate the more than 30,000 square foot space.
Abilene was recently named The Storybook Capital of Texas. It’s the home of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, which will host its famous annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival June 7 through 9. The 2018 honoree is Oliver Jeffers, the author of one of my favorite children’s books: The Day the Crayons Quit. During the Festival, the streets of Abilene turn into a storybook fantasyland with parades, author meet-and-greets, storytelling and more. New sculptures depicting Jeffers’ most beloved characters will be added to downtown Abilene’s fanciful collection of storybook sculptures. In September, Abilene will host the West Texas Book Fair, a celebration of books and authors of all genres with a special tribute to cookbooks.
Abilene is just as crazy for barbecue as it is books, and one could spend a long weekend and then some taste testing through the city’s many barbecue joints. In September, the West Texas Fair & Rodeo will hold a contest where dozens of vendors will vie for bragging rights with creative and classic barbecue dishes that the public can sample during the 11-day fair.
And Abilene’s Frontier Texas is a living history museum, where guests can experience a virtual buffalo stampede, prairie thunderstorm, and saloon shootout, and learn from holographic “spirit guides” about what life was really like on the frontier.
You can learn more about these and other Texas destinations in the travel issue of Texas Lifestyle magazine.