10 Amazing Events to Experience in Abilene
Taste beers from dedicated hops artisans, listen to Country legends perform and watch colorful hot air balloons float into the wide-open West Texas sky.
This is just a taste of what you can do at the biggest (and coolest) annual events and festivals in Abilene. This West Texas town’s calendar is full of action-packed goings-on that you won’t want to miss. Check out some of the best below and plan your next adventure to the Key City of Texas. Get a brochure!
Outlaws & Legends Music Fest
Gather up your crew and head on over to The Back Porch of Texas for two days of live country music performed by some of the best artists around. To mark its 10th year, Outlaws & Legends Music Fest lineup is bigger and better than ever, with Texas royalty Willie Nelson headlining. Other musicians performing throughout the weekend: Randy Houser, Mark Powell, Kevin Fowler, Deana Carter, Radney Foster, Charley Crockett, The Great Divide, Cooder Graw, Jamie Richards, Mike & The Moonpies. Get your general admission tickets here and you’ll have access to both days of the festival, or opt for the VIP All-Access option that includes, drinks, dinner and finger foods, access to the artists, and views from the upper-deck balcony. You can even stay onsite in your own RV, which just may be the best option if you don’t want the party to stop.
Cowboys competeing at Western Heritage Classic. Western Heritage Classic
Western Heritage Classic
May 7 – 10
When you want to see cowboys doing what they do best, look no further than the Western Heritage Classic. Watch as teams of actual working cowboys from some of the largest ranches in the country compete in such events as wild cow milking, bronc riding, and doctoring. Then marvel at the skill and agility of the riders in the Ranch Horse Association of America Working Ranch Horse Competition as they vie to be named among the top ranch cowboys in the world.
While the contests are a big draw, they aren’t the only thing going on. Catch the parade through downtown Abilene on the first night and stick around for the street dances, check out the world’s largest bit and spur show and displays of Western art, and get your fill at the chuckwagon cook-off. Packed with all sorts of family-friendly fun, the Western Heritage Classic serves up all the charm of the Old West.
Watch downtown transforms into a magical storybook land during the annual Children’s Art and Literacy Festival. Abilene Cultural Affairs Council
Children’s Art & Literacy Festival
June 11 – 13
What do dramatic readings of timeless children’s stories, costumed characters and magic shows have in common? They’re all part of the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival, an annual jubilee fit for the Storybook Capital of America. In 2020, the festival will celebrate award-winning illustrator and author Loren Long. The fun kicks off with a storybook parade followed by an artist talk, both of which set the stage for the next two days of joy for kids of all ages. Book readings, art activities, animals, skits and movies, and you’ll find a special art exhibit on display at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Enjoying all the whimsical storybook fun with your family is a must, and you can only do so in Abilene, the Storybook Capital of America.
Come downtown to celebrate July 4th at the Stars & Stripes Parade.
Abilene Freedom Festival
July 3 – 4
It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without a fireworks show, but the Abilene Freedom Festival is so much more than that. Start with the patriotic Stars & Stripes Parade that rolls through the downtown area July 3, and kick up your heels at the concert and street dance. Then get an early start to the day so you can check out the car and motorcycle shows and browse the food and merchandise vendors. Kick back and enjoy an evening of live music and let your kids run wild in the children’s area complete with plenty of games. It all ends exactly how it should, with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Lone Star State. As the lights illuminate the night sky with flashes of red, white and blue, you’ll be glad you’re in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Funnel cake, rides, pig racing, petting zoo and more.
West Texas Fair & Rodeo
For you rodeo fans out there, it doesn’t get any better than the West Texas Fair & Rodeo. For 10 days in early September, the best of the best compete in a Professional Ranch Cowboys Association rodeo that’ll have you on the edge of your seat. Yet that’s not all. This old-fashioned county fair is full of things to see and do. Check out the livestock and horse shows, enjoy all the live music and entertainment, and catch the parade.
The fair’s sprawling carnival, with its abundance of midway games and rides, serves up heart-pounding thrills and fun for all ages. Like any true county fair, the West Texas Fair & Rodeo also has plenty of traditional and inventive food for you to sink your teeth into. Whether you prefer funnel cakes, roasted corn or Cajun seafood, you’ll find all your favorites (and a few surprises too). All you need to do is follow your nose.
Say cheers at Abilene Beer Summit! Abilene Beer Summit
Abilene Beer Summit
Abilene Beer Summit is a one-day craft brew experience that features more than 125 beer flavors from more than 40 breweries. The event has grown so popular that it is moving to the trendy SoDA District Courtyard, a booming area just south of the downtown railroad tracks. A general pass to the summit gets guests 10 beer samples chosen from all participating brew masters, along with camaraderie and live music all afternoon. VIP passes give beer lovers an extra hour to start their day-drinking, access to a special VIP area, more sampling, along with exclusive brews to taste, party swag, and catered food to nibble. All proceeds from the event benefit New Horizons, a home for children. Check out Abilene’s craft beer culture.
Enjoy entertainment in the park all day with pony rides, rock wall climbing, quad jump, and food, craft and entertainment.
Big Country Balloon Fest
September 25 – 27
Seeing just one colorful hot air balloon is already an impressive sight but watching as several fill the vast West Texan sky is something else entirely. The only way you can have this experience for yourself is during the Big Country Balloon Fest, which takes over Abilene’s Red Bud Park in late September. Along with the hot air balloons, the festival has plenty of live entertainment, children’s games and inflatable rides, food and craft vendors, and even a silent auction. Don’t miss the balloon glows on Friday and Saturday night, when the hot air balloons illuminate the evening sky like giant floating nightlights.
West Texas Book Festival
October 2 - 4
If you love the written word, visiting Abilene for the West Texas Book Festival is a must. This two-day, mid-October event celebrates Texas literature by bringing some of the best authors from around the state to the Key City. Rub elbows with prominent writers, attend presentations to understand how they work and hone your own craft in workshops. Beyond meeting other bibliophiles, the festival raises funds for the Abilene Public Library and raises awareness for its programs. If you ask us, that’s a win-win.
24fps International Short Film Festival
November 6 – 7
What’s innovative, inventive and, well, short? All the films that are part of the annual 24fps International Short Film Festival. A must for movie fans, the festival screens independent short films from around the world at the historic Paramount Theatre. The juried competition encourages entries from filmmakers with any level of experience, so you may see a few surprises here and there. Make sure to attend both days of the festival, as each of the 30 entries are shown only once to the public. Once the final credits roll, enjoy something delicious from one of the many nearby pubs and restaurants, a fitting epilogue for a day at the movie theater.
See Christmas sparkles in downtown Abilene during City Sidewalks.
City Sidewalks & Christmas Lights Parade
November 29-December 5
Behold the largest artificial Christmas tree in the country, sing your favorite holiday songs over pints of craft beer and take in the festive spirit of the season as you cross gifts off your shopping list. These are just a few ways you can get jolly in Abilene, where yuletide joy is just about everywhere you look throughout the week after Thanksgiving.
Explore the downtown area on the first day to see the Christmas decorations and lighting of the tree, then come back on Tuesday for the festive Christmas Lights Parade. The rest of the week holds even more holiday fun, including sidewalk caroling, the Belsnickel Beer Stroll, and the Reindeer Run 5K. It all concludes with a performance of traditional holiday tunes by the Abilene Philharmonic that will certainly have you feeling the festive spirit of the season.
All these events are more than worth the trip out here to Abilene. Spend any time here and you’ll quickly see we’ve got a lot more going on that’ll have you coming back for more. Discover some of the possibilities and plan your stay here.