Abilene is in Central Kansas.
Abilene was first settled in 1857 and later given its name from Luke 3:1 in the Bible, befitting the sleepy settlement on the grassy plains. It became the first “cow town” of the west in 1867 when entrepreneur Joseph McCoy built The Great Western Stockyards from which Texas Longhorn cattle driven up the Chisholm Trail were shipped to markets in the East. From 1867 to 1872, more than 1.7 million head of cattle passed through Abilene, which earned a wild reputation for its gambling places, saloons and dance halls competing for the cowboy’s earnings. Hired to keep the peace were Marshals Wild Bill Hickok, who accidently killed his own deputy here, and Tom “Bear River” Smith, who used his fists, not guns, to bring law and order but became the first recorded police chief killed while on duty.
Experience the Old West at Old Abilene Town where there are gunfights in the street and can-can dancers at the Alamo Saloon. Step aboard the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad Excursion Train pulled by a steam locomotive and ride through the peaceful, scenic river valley.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower grew up here and in 1945 proclaimed, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.” Through programs, videos, and exhibits, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home complex tells the extraordinary life and legacy of the only 5-Star General to become President of the United States.
At the Heritage Center, ride a hand-carved carousel manufactured in Abilene by the C.W. Parker Amusement Company, and try the interactive telephone exhibits reflecting the entrepreneurship of Cleyson Brown, the founder of a local telephone company that later became Sprint.
Roll a wooden ball down the century-old bowling alley inside the Seelye Mansion, built by Dr. A.B. Seelye who founded the A.B. Seelye Medical Company in 1890 and developed over 100 products. Pet a real racing greyhound at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. There's plenty to see and do in Abilene.
Traveling by car is the easiest way to reach Abilene, although those who pilot their own small planes can fly into Abilene Municipal Airport.
Interstate 70 provides access from both the east and west, as does Old U.S. 40.
Kansas Highway 15 offers north and south access.
The beauty of a small town is that many attractions are within easy walking distance of one another. The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau provides self-guided walking tours of the city’s historic mansions, businesses and sites, several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, 200 S.E. 5th. Ride in a wooden dining car on this excursion train pulled by a steam locomotive or a diesel engine through the scenic river valley.
- C.W. Parker Carousel (Carry-Us-All), 412 S Campbell. Take a spin on this National Landmark, an early day merry-go-round with hand-carved wooden horses built here by the C.W. Parker Amusement Company.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, 200 S.E. Fourth. Discover the extraordinary life of President Dwight D. Eisenhower starting with his humble beginnings through his military career and presidency as explained through changing exhibits and programs, and pay homage at his burial site.
- Great Plains Theatre, 401 Cottage Avenue. Enjoy the live performances at the only regional professional theater between Kansas City and Denver.
- Greyhound Hall of Fame, 407 S. Buckeye. Pet retired racing greyhounds, watch a movie, and view exhibits to learn more about this unique breed and greyhound racing history.
- Heritage Center, 412 S. Campbell. Discover life on the plains during the pioneer movement and westward expansion through programs and exhibits, including an original pioneer log cabin and blacksmith shop behind the museum.
- Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum, 321 N. Broadway. View the life, events and people of Abilene and Dickinson County over several decades through photographs taken by the Jeffcoat family, who operated this historic Jeffcoat Photography Studio and camera shop.
- Museum of Independent Telephony, 412 S. Campbell. Learn the early history of independent telephone companies through exhibits of antique telephones, switchboards and pay stations.
- Old Abilene Town, 100 S.E. Fifth. Walk the boardwalk, then step inside a log church, jail and one-room schoolhouse, before watching a gunfight in the street and can-can dancers in the Alamo saloon where you can sip sarsaparilla at the antique bar.
- Patent Medicine Museum, 1105 N. Buckeye. See artifacts from the A.B. Seelye Medical Company, founded in 1890, which produced more than 100 patented medicines sold over a 14-state area.
- Seelye Mansion, 1105 N. Buckeye. Tour this unique 25-room, Georgian-style home, built in 1905, that features original Thomas Edison light fixtures, a Tiffany-designed fireplace, a Steinway grand piano, and original furniture. Try the century-old bowling alley in the basement.
- World’s Largest Spur, Eisenhower Park, N.W. 4th and Pine. See what the Guinness World Records lists as the world’s largest cowboy spur.
- Trails, Rails and Tales, Labor Day Weekend, celebrates Abilene's beginnings as the railhead for the Chisholm Trail, which marks its sesquicentennial in 2017.
- Aksent Jewelry Boutique, 309 N. Buckeye. Original jewelry as well as clothing and accessories.
- Antiques. Browse our antiquer's paradise and items from the past.
- Burning Tree Art, 200 S.E. Fifth. Internationally known artist Jo Schwartz burns art on wood.
- Cypress Bridge, 110 N.E. Third. Handmade, custom-scented candles and lotions as well as home accents.
- Hairtiques, the Gift Parlor & Whatever, 318 N. Broadway. Inspirational and Christian home décor.
- Material Girls Quilt Shop, 306 N. Buckeye, and Praise Works Quilting, 1216 NW Third. Quilting fabric, supplies and classes.
- Picture This Plus, 212 N. Broadway. Hand-dyed fabrics, cross-stitch patterns and accessories.
- Rittel's Western Wear, 1810 N. Buckeye. Western hats, boots, clothing, accessories and home décor.
- Rivendell Bookstore, 212 N. Broadway. New and used books, puzzles, toys and more.
- Russell Stover Candies, 1993 Caramel Blvd. Ice cream, candies and homemade chocolate delicacies.
- Shivering Sheep, 308 N. Buckeye. Knitting and crochet items, imported and domestic yarns.
- Treasures by Tracine, 300 N. Broadway. Handcrafted jewelry as well as home décor and gifts.
- Amanda's Bakery and Bistro, 302 N. Broadway. Gourmet coffee, sandwiches and desserts.
- Auburn Pharmacy Old Fashioned Soda Fountain, 304 N. Broadway. Tasty treats from the past like the Green River served at the seven-stool soda fountain establishment.
- Brookville Hotel, 105 E. Lafayette. Nationally famous family-style fried chicken dinners served since 1870. A Kansas tradition and a 2007 recipient of the James Beard Award.
- Hitching Post, 100 S.E. Fifth. Yummy homemade cinnamon rolls, daily specials and steak dinners in historic Old Abilene Town.
- Ike’s Place Bar & Grill, 100 N.W. 14th. Favorites like Mamie’s Chicken Salad and family fun with big screen televisions, pool table, and Pop-A-Shot basketball game, full bar and outdoor patio.
- Joe Snuffy’s Old Fashioned Grill, 209 W. First. From tasty biscuits and gravy to the Chisholm Trail Steak.
- M&R Grill, 1720 N. Buckeye. Famous locally for barbecue ribs, steaks and salads.
- Mr. K’s Farmhouse, 407 S. Van Buren. Traditional home cooking in a country atmosphere. Formerly known as Lena's Restaurant, Ike's favorite place to eat.
- Sips Expresso Bar, 2000 N. Buckeye. Gourmet coffee and delicious breakfast and lunch items.
- Three One One, 311 N. Spruce. Fresh American, farm-inspired cuisine, craft beer, wine and spirits.
- Tossed ‘n Sauced Pizza, 306 N.W. Third. Specialty pizza, pasta and more.
Rest in our one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast establishments:
- Abilene's Victorian Inn & Gift Shop, 820 N.W. Third. Relax in a historic Victorian home.
- Engle House, 102 Highland Drive. Enjoy this 1909 Mission-style home built by J.L. Kruger, who also built the Seelye Mansion.
- Windmill Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1787 Rain Road. Sleep peacefully in this 1917 Prairie-style four-square home in a country setting.
- Brown’s Park,1935 Avenue. About three miles south of Abilene on Highway 15, this park offers Frisbee Golf, nature trails, and picnic sites.
Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau, 201 Northwest Second Street, (785) 263-2231, abilenekansas.org