Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 but has since been updated with new information.
When I’m planning to visit a new place, I love to leave a bit of my trip up to chance. Sure, I will always be an over zealous planner. But I also like to build some time into my schedule to explore, follow through on recommendations from locals, and be surprised by my surroundings. Had I not planned some of that time into a recent road trip, I would have never discovered that there are so many amazing things to do in Abilene, Kansas.
If you’re looking for lots of local history and heaps of small town charm, you won’t want to miss this Kansas community. The next time you’re in the area, check out one (or five) of these 10 things to do in Abilene, Kansas.
For a small town, Abilene has a lot of public art. With vibrant murals with nods to the area’s history and a new trail of themed cowboy boot sculptures, there’s no shortage of creative inspiration here. For a full list of public art around town, head to the Visit Abilene, Kansas website.
Go to the Rodeo
If you’ve never been to the rodeo, the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo in Abilene is the perfect opportunity. Experience roping, riding, barrel racing and more at this annual competition between more than 500 cowboys and cowgirls. During our trip to the rodeo we even got to meet the 2022 Miss Rodeo America who was in town for the festivities.
Even if you’re not familiar with this brand of entertainment, the rodeo is definitely a site to see. It was fascinating to watch the talented riding of these PRCA rodeo competitors and see the excitement they drew from the crowd.
Eisenhower Park Fairgrounds, 600 N. Pine Street in Abilene, Kansas
Enjoy a Family-Style Fried Chicken Dinner
If you only have time for one meal in Abilene, make it a family-style fried chicken dinner at Legacy Kansas, formerly the Brookville Hotel. It’s no exaggeration when I say that my meal at the Legacy Kansas was truly one of the best experiences of my entire Kansas road trip. For the fixed price of $23, you can enjoy some true home cooking alongside a phenomenal piece of local history.
Brookville Hotel, 105 E. Lafayette in Abilene, Kansas
Visit the Big Spur
If you know me, you know that I can’t pass up an oversized. So when I heard that Abilene, Kansas was home to the Big Spur (a former “world’s largest”), I knew I’d need to plan a visit.
Located in the parking lot of Rittel’s Western Wear, the 28-foot-tall steel structure leads visitors inside the store. The spur was built by retired master farrier Larry Houston, and has the dimensions of a real spur. Weighing in at 2,000 pounds, the spur originally sat at the end of Houston’s driveway. In fact, the spur is so large that a semi-truck could safely drive through it.
When the Houstons moved from New Mexico to Abilene in 2002 Larry cut the spur into three pieces to move it along with them. The spur sat at the entrance of the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo Arena for a time before coming to reside at Rittel’s Western Wear.
Rittel’s Western Wear, 1810 N. Buckeye Avenue in Abilene, Kansas
Enjoy Breakfast at a Classic
If you’re looking for a delicious way to start your day, look no further than Joe Snuffy’s. There’s a reason this local diner is a local favorite and you definitely won’t leave hungry. Billed as an “old fashioned grill,” Joe Snuffy’s serves a wide array of breakfast and lunch options from hearty omelettes to chicken fried steak and more. On my recent visit, I opted for the Joe Snuffy Skillet, a towering pile of hash browns, eggs, cheese and veggies in a sizzling skillet.
Joe Snuffy’s, 209 W. 1st Street in Abilene, KS
Get to Know the 34th President of the United States
Learn about the life and legacy of the 34th President of the United States at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. From Dwight D. Eisenhower’s boyhood home to a fantastic collection of items from his life, this is an attraction you won’t want to miss.
Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, 200 SE 4th Street in Abilene, Kansas
Shop Small in Downtown Abilene
I’m a sucker for small town Main Streets. During my visits to Abilene, I always spend some time wandering its small downtown and popping into local shops. I was surprised to find so many teeming antique shops, and spent awhile getting lost in the Abilene Downtown Antique Mall. I tried to restrain myself from buying all sorts of yarn in The Shivering Sheep, and browsed the aisles in Rivendell Bookstore.
Experience a Longhorn Cattle Drive
Named one of the best Old Western towns in the country, Old Abilene Town is a fun adventure into the past for travelers of all ages. If you can plan your visit around one of their longhorn cattle drives, I definitely recommend it. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience to see these giant animals amble through the streets and get loaded onto the steam engine, just like they were in Abilene’s cattle heyday.
Old Abilene Town, 201 SE 5th Street in Abilene, Kansas
Say Hi to Ginger & Gary
Any day that I get to meet a new dog is a good day. During my visit to the Greyhound Hall of Fame I was lucky enough to meet the museum’s two live-in residents, Ginger and Gary. Both retired racing greyhounds, Ginger and Gary are adorable stewards of the museum and its collections.
Greyhound Hall of Fame, 407 S. Buckeye Avenue in Abilene, Kansas
Rub the Bison’s Nose for Good Luck
When you stop by the Dickinson County Heritage Center, be sure to keep an eye out for the stuffed buffalo head in the first part of the museum. It’s also good luck to rub his nose — and it makes for a great photo op!
Dickinson County Heritage Center, 412 South Campbell in Abilene, Kansas
Explore the Community’s Historic Homes
One of the things I noticed almost immediately upon arriving in Abilene is its number of gorgeous historic homes. The Kansas community has more than 40 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Grab a walking tour map when you visit the Dickinson County Heritage Center, and take yourself on a tour of some of the city’s most beautiful homes.
Take a Ride on a 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel
One of the most delightful surprises at the Dickinson County Heritage Center is its vintage 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel. Although the Parker Amusement Company moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1911, Parker built the carousel at the heritage center in Abilene in 1901. Today you can still take a ride on this little piece of history. Rides are included in children’s price of admission and are an extra $2 for adult visitors.
Dickinson County Heritage Center, 412 South Campbell in Abilene, Kansas
Bowl on the Same Lanes as Eisenhower
The Seelye Mansion is one of the true jewels of Abilene. Not only is this 1905 Georgian style home immaculately preserved, but it’s also almost entirely accessible to visitors. You won’t find any roped off areas or glass display cases here. This historic home is a truly engaging look at what life was like through the 1900s.
While the home is full of wonders, one of its most captivating is the five pin wooden bowling lane. Purchased at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the bowling lane was a favorite pastime of the home’s residents and visitors (including Dwight D. Eisenhower) alike.
Seelye Mansion, 1105 N. Buckeye Avenue in Abilene, Kansas
Pretend You’re Traveling Cross Country by Train
Now home to the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau, this 1928 Union Pacific Depot is a true beauty. Built in a Spanish Colonial Revival style, the ornate and colorful building was once the passageway for thousands of passengers taking the Union Pacific railway. The building also houses the Visitor Center and Civic Center. Stop in to learn about even more things to do in Abilene and the surrounding area.
201 NW 2nd in Abilene, Kansas
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you been to Abilene, Kansas? What’s your favorite thing to do?