Locals in this part of Texas, west of the Brazos River, refer to it as “the
Big Country.” It is wide open, high plains territory with lots of sky.
The town of Buffalo Gap, where the Historic Village is located, is a small, friendly community
in the middle of that area. In addition to the Village, it is the home
of the Perini Ranch Steak House,
a nationally-known eating establishment just down the road from the
main residential area. There are a number of restaurants in the town
itself, including Lola’s, which serves Mexican cuisine. Buffalo Gap is
also the venue of a major flea market which brings buyers and sellers
together on the third weekend of the month under the live oaks of the
Old Settlers’ Reunion Grounds. There are also curio and art shops. If
you want to spend the night, you’ll find several comfortable establishments, including our own local guest house, The Parsonage. Other opportunitiesinclude Buffalo Gap Bed and Breakfast, Elm Creek Bed and Breakfast, FairyTale Bed and Breakfasts, and Buffalo Oaks Bed and Breakfast. Perini's now offers lodging as well as steaks. Gateway Getaway, located in nearby Lemon Gap, includes accommodations for horses as well
as for people. The Abilene State Park is a short distance beyond Buffalo Gap, where swimming (in the summer) and overnight camping are
Just north of Buffalo Gap is the city of Abilene, where a lot of activity
takes place. For starters, you won’t want to miss Frontier Texas!, a new, innovative gateway to the history of this whole area. Downtown
Abilene also hosts several distinguished museums. The Grace Museum is always worth a visit; it has a permanent display on West Texas history
and the Texas and Pacific Railroad as well as frequent special exhibitions.
Practically around the corner from The Grace are several other noteworthy
structures: the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Center for Contemporary Arts, and the museum of the 12th Armored Division. Aficionados of art deco will want to time their visit to experience a
movie or other performance at the beautifully restored Paramount Theater. Finally, if you want a break from history and culture, a few minutes’
drive brings you to the Abilene Zoo on the eastern edge of town. Purchase of a Round Up Passport gives you admission to most of these attractions for a single group rate.
Abilene is also home to three institutions of higher education, McMurry University, Hardin-Simmons-University, and Abilene Christian University, which organize many activities open to the public.
A plethora of eating establishments grace the city. Abilene offers restaurants
serving everything from moo goo gai pan to fetticine alfredo to standard
fast food, although the city’s specialties are Tex-Mex, barbecue, and steak.
Also available is a wide range of overnight accommodations. One establishment
which combines both food and lodging is the MCM Eleganté Suites, located across the street from the Mall of Abilene on the southwest side
Western-themed events are standard fare in this part of the world, particularly the West Texas Fair and Rodeo in September and the Western Heritage Classic in May, both in Abilene. Visitors should check the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau webpage for current happenings. The city of Stamford, a nearby town, hosts
the Texas Cowboy Reunion rodeo in July.
Albany is about an hour’s drive from Abilene. In addition to housing the Shackelford
County courthouse, listed in the National Register of Historic Places,
it is also the home of the Old Jail Art Center. In the last two weekends of June, the people of Albany stage a major
frontier heritage musical, Fandangle, using the grounds of nearby Fort Griffin as a backdrop.
The history of the West Texas frontier is documented by the remains of
a number of 19th century military outposts, which can be visited by following
the Texas Forts Trail. Several of these are in the general area of the Village. Fort Phantom is a few miles north of Abilene. Further north, near the town of Albany,
is Fort Griffin. To the south, in the area of Bronte and Winters, you’ll find Fort Chadbourne. Beyond it, the city of San Angelo surrounds one of the better-preserved
frontier outposts, Fort Concho. These sites provide venues for periodic living history demonstrations;
visitors should check these web links for specific dates.
If these aren’t enough things to keep you busy, there are numerous attractions
along the way, at least if you're heading west from Ft. Worth or Dallas.
First of all, right on the edge of Ft. Worth, you can pay a visit to the Texas Civil War Museum. Then, as you continue west along Interstate 20, when you get to Thurber
you’ll find the W.K. Gordon Center for the Industrial History of Texas. If you want to take a more roundabout route to the Buffalo Gap Historic
Village, you can visit the original Dr. Pepper bottling plant in Dublin. This facility still makes the drink using cane sugar for sweetening,
rather than the corn syrup used nowadays in most soft drinks. And during
the summer, Cisco College in Cisco brings in professional performers from
across the country to perform in the Big Country Dinner Theater in the first hotel of what eventually became the famous Hilton Hotel chain.