Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Abilene, TX

  • Published 2023/01/24

Abilene sits between Jones and Taylor counties, Texas.

It was founded in 1881 as a stock shipment location on the Texas and Pacific Railway.

The city was named Abilene after Abilene, Kansas, which served as the Chisholm Trail’s original terminal.

In addition to its rich historical past, Abilene is also known as the Official Story Book Capital of the US due to 24 storybook character sculptures located throughout the city.

Formerly reliant mainly on cattle and agriculture for its economy, Abilene today puts equal emphasis on government, healthcare, manufacturing, education, and petroleum.

There is no shortage of attractions in this charming city, whether you are interested in exploring parks or stopping by a museum.

Below are 15 free things to do in Abilene, Texas.

Beat the Heat at Grover Nelson Park

Waterfowl on the waters of Grover Nelson Park

Richard Lewis Moredoc /

Grover Nelson Park began in 1955 when Mr. Grover Nelson presented his idea to the Abilene Parks Board.

He planned to develop the parkland that had become available when the airport was moved.

The park would include the Abilene Zoo and softball fields.

In honor of Mr. Nelson’s involvement, the park was named after him and opened in 1959.

Families in Abilene have been flocking to the Nelson Splash Pad, a 4,000-square-foot playground bursting with fun streams since 2011.

This excellent play area is made possible due to an impressive collaboration between Abilene and the Together 2011 Initiative!

Every April, the area opens, and families can come together until October, when it closes for the season.

Visit the Historic Fort Phantom Hill

Before modernization re-imagined rural Texas, Fort Phantom Hill was an iconic fort that protected the expanding western frontier.

As part of the second line of forts in the early 1850s and commanded by the US Army, it was known as the “Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos.”

Though time has worn away most of its former identity, Fort Phantom Hill still stands in modern-day Jones County, having been preserved due to its inclusion on the Texas Forts Trail tour.

After its abandonment in 1854, a raging fire destroyed most of its wood walls and thatched roofs.

Still, visitors can explore three original stone structures, such as the nearly intact dining commons or storage facility.

They offer a glimpse of how life was at this site centuries ago.

You can also go to the stone guardhouse and the stone powder magazine room.

Capture the Beauty of the Jacob’s Dream Sculpture

The picturesque Jacob’s Dream Sculpture at Abilene Christian University is a unique and awe-inspiring piece of art.

Designed and created by the school’s professor of art and design, Jack Maxwell, the sculpture stands more than 35 feet tall and illustrates the biblical story from Genesis.

The sculpture draws people in with its four eight-foot-tall bronze angels making their way up and down a staircase leading to heaven.

Filled with vibrant greenery and stone benches, Jacob’s Dream Sculpture provides an ideal atmosphere for people to come together during the day.

It’s a frequent spot for those seeking peaceful reflection or contemplation, as well as classes and photoshoots looking to capture its tranquil vibes.

Whoever visits the sculpture should be moved by its beauty, which has been captured in countless images.

Breath Some Fresh Air at Red Bud Park

Red Bud Park is your perfect destination if you’re looking for a way to break from daily pressures.

Located on 32nd Avenue, the park provides visitors with an array of amenities and activities that cater to everyone.

Red Bud Park is the perfect destination for outdoor thrill-seekers!

Whether you’re looking to take a stroll or enjoy thrilling activities, this park has something for everyone.

Enjoy several benches and picnic areas spread throughout the grounds alongside playground equipment and an impressive prairie dog town.

Why not explore by jogging, biking, or walking in Red Bud Park?

Beat the summer heat with a stop at their interactive splash pad, then embark on a refreshing bike ride through Red Bud’s picturesque loop path, open year round!

Plus, with the Park situated directly on 32nd Ave, there’s no excuse not to visit!

Step into a Fairytale Paradise at the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden

Situated on the Abilene Convention Center grounds, the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden is one of Texas’s most imaginative places to explore.

Located in Abilene Convention Center, the Garden is a place like no other, where visitors can journey through the stories of their childhood.

Featuring some iconic characters from renowned artist Garth Williams’ books, this literary playground comes alive with enormous statues carefully placed amongst ancient oak trees.

Enjoy being surrounded by The Three Little Pigs, Charlotte’s Web, and more, all in one setting that cleverly combines entertainment and education for everyone who visits.

Walking through the garden grants visitors a newfound appreciation of classic literature and its modern adaptation.

Large plaques are placed nearby to share the stories that inspired them.

The Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden has everything if you’re looking for just a bit of fun or an insightful learning experience.

Have a Blast at the Camp Barkeley Dog Park

Camp Barkeley Dog Park is the perfect spot for you and your dog.

From Frisbee Disc Golfing, swinging on playgrounds, and dining at picnic tables, all under covered shelters.

There’s something fun for everyone in this park.

Camp Barkeley Dog Park offers an oasis for pet owners and their pets, with benches to relax on and two bubbling fountains that should quench your pup’s thirst.

This large dog park in front of Grover Nelson Park features two off-leash areas, one designated for dogs under 30 pounds and another larger area for larger breeds.

The park offers obstacles and hydrants in an open, lush setting for those wishing to train their canine companions.

A critical factor in keeping the park at its best is free waste bag dispensers, so everything stays sparkling clean.

Plus, plenty of parking is available, so remember to make this park part of your routine with man’s best friend!

Spot Birds at Lake Kirby Park

If you’re an avid bird watcher, there’s no better place to observe species from all over Texas than the Lake Kirby Nature Park in Maple St.

Developed by the West Texas Science Center, a coalition of bird watchers and environmental protectionists, Lake Kirby is more than just an excellent spot for fishing.

It is a protected preserve where birds from around the country can be safely seen on their yearly migrations.

Resident birds also call Lake Kirby home, like the common Moorehen, which stays year-round.

Whether sparrows soaring gracefully across the sky or cardinals fluttering around in search of food, this unique destination shows birding enthusiasts a good time.

Located on-site are restrooms, playground activities, and baseball/softball diamonds to satisfy all your sports needs with safety in mind.

With stunning landscapes, nature trails, and plentiful wildlife, the park is an excellent spot for an outdoor escape.

Unfortunately, camping and swimming are not allowed at Lake Kirby Nature Park.

Check Out the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature

Located on Cedar St., the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature is an invaluable resource for families to explore the intersection of reading and art.

They offer support by providing literacy activities and promoting artwork through their programming and outreach, encouraging kids of all ages to discover their creative sides.

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature presents free family art activities every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

They also feature a monthly preschool session every last Friday focusing on story readings and hands-on visual arts projects tailored to the level of participating children.

These programs aim to inspire a love for literature, art, and creativity in any young reader or budding artist.

Shoot Hoops at Scarborough Park

Spend a sunny day playing sports at Scarborough Park.

With some of the best outdoor amenities in the city, Scarborough Park has something for every athlete.

The basketball court will give you the perfect challenge as you play with friends, family, or the locals.

There are benches, picnic areas, and tables, so bring lunch or snacks while taking a break from the game.

After a game, cool down at the splash pad to beat the summer heat, or head to the volleyball court and see who can make the highest spike.

Join the Abilene Sculpture Tour

Flamingo sculpture at Abilene

Chris English, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A rich culture of art and sculpture awaits those joining the Sculture Tour in Abilene.

The city hosts the longest-running outdoor sculpture tour in Texas, with 30 permanent contemporary sculptures.

With their quirkiness and captivating designs, these sculptures form a unique feature of the downtown cultural center.

Abilene Cultural Affairs Council adds to this beautiful ambiance by creating around four more sculptures in each two-year exhibition inspired by classic stories and tales.

Immerse yourself in a land of art and music at downtown Abilene’s Cultural Affairs Council, where nearly 40 sculptures inspired by classic stories adorn the streets.

Among them are Kevin Box’s modern rendition of ‘Red Dancing Pony,’ an abstract cast-aluminum horse sculpture, and Dianne Sonnenberg’s ‘Davidians’ mosaic tile Porky Pig pop art on Stuart Simpson’s granite carvings.

Don’t miss “The Singing Ringing Tree,” a wind-powered sound sculpture made with 27 tons of sliding pipes that produce mesmerizing melodies as the winds whistle through its passages.

Join the Abilene Sculpture Tour!

Visit Everman Park

Everman Park is the oldest lot in Abilene today, boasting a unique heritage.

Established in 1880 as part of the original town construction plans, this special place offers visitors insight into Abilene’s fascinating past.

Everman Park has undergone a remarkable transformation, going from a place for cowboy races to a contemporary art showcase with plenty of attractions for visitors of all ages.

It’s even possible to take pictures here, and parents are sure to find that it’s a great place to come and experience something different.

Everman Park is beloved by locals and visitors and continues to inspire continually while preserving its roots as a railroad town.

Explore the Center for Contemporary Arts

Established in 1989, the Center for Contemporary Arts is a prime example of how the power of art can strengthen and inspire communities.

Originally a department store, the center was converted into galleries, schools, and artist studios in 1993 under its first Executive Director.

This inspiring space promotes artistic talent by showcasing modern pieces ranging from various mediums to famous photography.

The Center goes above and beyond with ArtWalk every second Thursday evening, providing a night of fun and creativity for all.

Visitors can explore the area galleries and soak up the work of locals.

With more than 70 artist members and ten active studios available, the Center for Contemporary Arts is an opportunity for learning and connecting through a warm appreciation of art.

Marvel at the World’s Largest Buffalo Skull

Visiting 625 North 1st St is like entering a truly one-of-a-kind museum.

Here you’ll find Joe Barrington’s two-ton, 26-foot sculpture called the World’s Largest Buffalo Skull, made of steel, buffalo skull, and the equally impressive wooden buffalo with a saddle, perfect for photos.

Surrounding these landmarks are around 15 buffalo wind vanes and sculptures that make for an eye-catching display in this unique setting.

The skull has been partially buried in the ground, given it formerly occupied a large buffalo bone graveyard.

The polished metal interior is smooth and safe for children to explore by crawling through its eye sockets and sliding out of its nose.

Marvel at the sheer size and skill that created the world’s largest buffalo skull, and marvel even further at everything around it!

Spend the Day at Arthur Sears Park

Arthur Sears Park is the perfect place to spend quality time outdoors with family and friends.

Nestled in the heart of 2250 Ambler Ave. is Arthur Sears Park, a picturesque retreat sure to leave visitors with lasting memories and entertainment for hours!

The park boasts an expansive array of amenities.

Check out the baseball/softball field, basketball court, and pavilion for gatherings or recreation activities to a picnic area with tables and benches alongside an idyllic creek or lake.

It also has playgrounds equipped with many fun adventures and clean restrooms nearby.

This park has something guaranteed to delight every member of your group.

Plus, you can use the walking path for a stroll or up the pace for an invigorating jog.

Arthur Sears Park is well-maintained and clean, making it an excellent place to relax and have fun.

Go Camping at the Seabee Park

Seabee Park is a great place to go camping and experience the outdoors.

It has several other activities, such as a designated runway for remote-controlled aircraft, scenic trails for observation, and light hiking.

The Seabee Park features wide open space for a game of fetch with your pet or even a game of Frisbee with friends, picnic sites, and barbecue facilities so you can enjoy the fresh air.

The park also offers beautiful sunset views over the creek and lake and five acres designated as wetlands adjacent to the model airplane flying field.

Plenty of amenities are available at Seabee Park, including a large group pavilion, lighting fixtures, and good parking areas to ensure everyone’s time is comfortable and safe.

Final Thoughts

Boasting a variety of free things to do, Abilene has something for everyone.

Whether looking for culture, history, and learning experiences, you can enjoy the museums, parks, and other attractions without breaking the bank.

Enjoy the free things to do in Abilene, Texas!

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