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By John Parks
Located in the heart of Texas, Abilene is charming and progressive city of 120,000 people which carries the nickname, “the Friendly Frontier,” a homage to the Western heritage of the area. Abilene was founded in the 1880s as cattle shipping site on the Texas and Pacific railway, but grew steadily over the years to become a mid-size metropolitan area offering many cultural and educational opportunities for residents and visitors.
Abilene has several festivals each year which highlight the frontier history of Abilene, including the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, which is held the second weekend of March; the Western Heritage Classic Rodeo held on the second weekend in June; the West Texas Rodeo, which begins the Friday after Labor Day, and the Spirit of the Frontier Festival, which occurs on the first Saturday in October each year. Some of the interesting sites to visit include the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, which features numerous historical buildings, a reenactment of frontier life in the late 1800s, as well as exhibits featuring numerous Indian artifacts and frontier rifles. For those visitors who have an interest in military history, the nearby Fort Phantom Hill offers the ruins of an 1851 Army post for tourists to explore. Frontier Texas is a museum dedicated to the early history of Abilene and features interactive exhibits which give visitors the opportunity to experience simulated buffalo stampedes, Wild West shootouts and prairie thunderstorms.
Other interesting attractions include the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Abilene Zoo, the Abilene Children’s Museum, the Paramount Theatre, and the 12th Armored Division Military Museum. Abilene is also home to the Dyess Air Force Base, which is the area’s largest employer, and it also has an aviation museum that is open for tours. For those visitors interested in the performing arts, Abilene also has a well respected orchestra and ballet company.
A variety of lodging is available for visitors to Abilene. Most major hotel chains provide lodging in the area at a wide range of prices. There are also several quaint bed and breakfasts that offer accomodations with a Western theme. Excellent restaurants abound in the area, offering genuine Texas barbeque, top rated steakhouses, and authentic Mexican cuisine.
Education is a very important factor in Abilene’s economy and culture. In addition to having the highest rated public school system in Texas, and the 17th highest rated school system in the United States, Abilene is also home to several institutions of higher learning including, Abilene Christian University, Hardin-Simmons University, McMurray University, and the Texas Tech University School of Pharmacy.
For those who are interested in turning a visit into a long term stay, real estate is offered at a wide range of prices in Abilene. The average home price as of October 2008, was $168,000, which will buy a comfortable 3 bedroom family home and is an excellent value for the money compared to other similar sized cities across the Southwest and South. In addition, there are many luxury homes available in the Abilene real estate market priced from $500,000 to $1,500,000.
Overall, Abilene is a community that is rich in heritage, but progressing into a 21st century city that is large enough to offer a wide range of interesting attractions and educational opportunities, but small enough to retain its unique identity.
About the Author: For more information on Abilene, Texas visit abilenemicroblog.com
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