Texas’ Hidden Gem, Abilene
Moving to Abilene, Texas from Central New Jersey was a bit of a culture shock – and when I say “a bit”, I actually mean a major one. Between the ubiquitous Texas flag, and people fashioning cowboy hats and boots with spurs, I felt like a tourist in a faraway place more than a new resident of the “Big Country,” as Abilene is affectionately called.
However, despite how much I may have viewed myself as an outsider, the people of Abilene openly welcomed me to my new home. Southern hospitality is real Y’all, especially in Abilene.
I made it my mission to find the best things this town has to offer, and I’m excited to share some of the reasons why you should visit Abilene.
I will never forget driving near Lake Fort Phantom; I have never seen so many stars in my life. The sky was crystal clear and I was lucky enough to even part of the Milky Way for the first time; it took my breath away. Lake Fort Phantom also offers some of the most beautiful sunsets.
Abilene’s night scene is full of entertainment and great options for dining, cocktails and relaxing. I encourage a stop at a few of my favorite places including:
- Public Haus is a Speakeasy-style bar hidden downtown that features a generous and very unique cocktail menu. You can find drinks mixed with everything from guava juice to actual tobacco smoke. Definitely check out the Bourbon Renewal, which is a favorite among my friends. It is also one of the few bars downtown that features an outdoor seating area for those perfectly temperate West Texas nights.
- Guitars and Cadillac is one of the first places where I take my friends and family when they come to visit. Guitars and Cadillacs is a country dance hall for everyone 18 and older. Trust me, you will not want to leave before you have mastered the Texas Two Step. It is never hard to find a dance partner and they have amazing drink specials like .25 cent well drinks on Thursday nights. Don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes!
- The Paramount Theatre is a nonprofit theatre that is also a Spanish-Moorish architectural dream. It features a ceiling that is stunningly painted like a night sky, complete with dreamy lights that twinkling stars. Beyond the unexpected and grand interior design, the Paramount also hosts some really awesome events, including my personal favorite- the 24 FPS International Short Film Festival.
Of course, enjoying great food is a huge inspiration for travel and Abilene offers a variety of dining choices to please your palate.
- El Pulgarcito De America– a hole in the wall, El Salvadorian restaurant owned and operated by a very sweet family is one of my favorites. The food alone is worth a trip to Abilene. Definitely, try the zucchini Pupusa (a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and zucchini). The papusas are so good they could stand alone as their own meal.
- Szechuan – A really eclectic, nationally award-winning, Chinese restaurant. Their most famous unique dish is called “Three Crowns in Bird’s Nest” which includes “Large shrimp, fresh scallops, and chicken slices stir-fried with broccoli, snow peas and other vegetables, cooked in a special brown sauce, served in a crispy potato bird’s nest.” (Yes it actually looks like you’re eating out of a nest!) This is by far my favorite Chinese restaurant I’ve ever dined in.
The people you will meet in Abilene are a large part of what makes this little-big-town so great. I have traveled a lot, both in the United States and abroad, and I can genuinely say the people here are some of the warmest and most diverse people I’ve ever met. They support their community by heavily campaigning to support local business and support dozens of charities.
Abilene is a place where nobody is a stranger. Whether you’re stopping here in between a long drive or trying to get away for the weekend. Take it from me, the Jersey girl in Texas, when I say that Abilene is sure to work its southern charm on you.