Located 155 mi/240 km west of Dallas, Abilene, Texas, is no-nonsense and conservative, but it's capable of having a good time. The economy of this former Texas & Pacific railhead is based primarily on agriculture and oil.
The Abilene Zoo emphasizes animals from Texas, the Southwest and Central America but also includes species from Africa. Highlights include giraffes, African elephants, jaguars and ocelots.
The unique Frontier Texas! Western heritage center has reopened a renovated exhibit that brings the Texas frontier to life. The museum uses state-of-the-art technology to guide visitors through history with hologram "Spirit Guides" of famous Texas pioneers such as Cynthia Ann Parker and Pat Garrett.
Upon entering the museum grounds, guests are received by eight buffalo high above them and a massive weathervane. Inside, they find the exhibit Blood & Treasure on the Frontier, which includes a series of murals painted by local artist H.C. Zachry. Other features of the exhibit include a 37-seat welcome theater, a display of human scalps and newly acquired buffalo hunting artifacts with an interactive display. A Wild Land depicts life in early Texas, and Cowboy 101 features information on cowboys and cattle drives. http://www.frontiertexas.com.
Two historic sites are a short drive from Abilene. Fort Phantom Hill is the lonely, crumbling ruins of an 1850s Army post. Buffalo Gap Historic Village is a group of restored buildings from what was once the county seat. It includes an 1800s doctor's office, a bank and a railroad depot. http://www.buffalogap.com.
Abilene State Recreation Area has a spring-fed pool for swimming or just cooling off.
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