“Abi” is also the newly crowned Storybook Capital of America, as well home to a prestigious international short film festival? Here are five fun ways to experience Abilene in 2019.
- Step into a storybook. Everyone you turn in Abilene, you might encounter a character from a favorite children’s book – The Cat In The Hat, Wilbur the Pig, The Three Little Kittens and many more. Abilene boasts the largest public collection of storybook character sculptures in the U.S., and that’s just one of the reasons the U.S. Patents & Trademarks Office recently granted the city the right to call itself “The Storybook Capital of America.” Abilene also hosts the popular Children’s Art & Literacy Festival (C.A.L.F.) each June and is home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. www.storybookcapitalofamerica.com
- Stake out a steak. Abilene is home to some of the Lone Star state’s most elite steakhouses. Chow down on your favorite cut at iconic Perini Ranch, or at The Beehive Saloon. And Thursdays are “steak night” at The Mill – a wine and craft beer bar on the site of an old mill. Just walk up to the grill, place your order (a 12 oz. ribeye with all the fixin’s is $20) and enjoy with a glass of wine or sangria by a fire pit. Groups can even rent their own “silo” for the evening.
- On the short list: Dinner and a movie (or 30) in downtown Abilene. The 24 fps International Short Film Festival will make its 21st annual showing on Nov. 8 and 9, spotlighting short films by established and rising cinematographers from around the world. Each year, the festival receives thousands of submissions but only thirty make the final cut for the juried competition. These entries are screened for the public in three different sessions at The Paramount Theatre, Abilene’s ornately gilded 1920’s movie palace. Between sessions, grab a slice at Vagabond Pizza or enjoy local fare and craft cocktails at Abi Haus. Festival passes are $20 and individual sessions are $10. www.24fpsfest.com.
- Make yourself at home. 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 — features Edwardian décor, including walls “papered” with 3,000 vintage law books If mid-century modern is more your style, you can opt to rent out his Mad Men-inspired guesthouse. www.saylesranch.com
- Be a little bit (or a lot) country at Outlaws & Legends, the country music festival now in its 9th tuneful year at Abilene’s Back Porch of Texas. March 22 – 23. This year’s festival welcomes headliners Kris Kristofferson and recent Grammy nominee Midland. The event organizers are adding several new RV spots, which have sold out every year. www.outlawsandlegends.com.