If you’ve ever spent a weekend in Abilene searching for charming, small-town finds but ended up resorting to yet another movie night, try following everyone else and leave Abilene for the weekend. Abilene is great, but you have all week here. You have all week here for four years – so get out of here.
You’ll probably end up in one of the three most popular surrounding cities to visit: Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin or San Antonio.
Dallas, about a three-hour drive on Interstate 20 and home to many ACU students, boasts the Galleria Dallas, a colossal upscale mall with stores that the Mall of Abilene only dreams of; Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington; the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which boasts 2,800 plant specimens; and the House of Blues, a coffee processing plant-turned-trendy music venue, with tickets rarely reaching more than $40.
Fort Worth, the other half of the Metroplex, is a slightly shorter drive down I-20 and features Sundance Square, a warmly lit downtown area with a vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants and boutiques, live music and art galleries.
After a six-minute drive down North Main Street, you’ll find yourself at the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, a former livestock market and the last standing stockyards in the U.S., now home to Billy Bob’s Texas country and western dance hall, also known as “the world’s largest honky tonk,” historic saloons, rodeos, lodging, and of course, shopping. However, if shopping is your main concern, stop by South Lake Town Square, an outdoor mall with more than 90 stores.
Our state capital needs no introduction, and if you find yourself bored in Austin, you’re probably doing something wrong. Let loose and stroll down Sixth Street – that is, as long as you’re of age. Stop by the Oasis Restaurant, the Sunset Capital of Texas, and watch the sun set on Lake Travis.
If you’ve got oodles of money to spend, stop by the Domain, go for an easy hike up the 99 steps to Mount Bonnell overlooking Lake Austin, then finish your day with a stop by the Capitol building.
About an hour and a half down I-35 South will take you through San Marcos and New Braunfels where you can float the Blanco or Guadalupe rivers before you reach your final destination of San Antonio. Visit the Alamo, eat an overpriced meal on the River Walk, then walk it off and spend even more at The Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio’s outdoor mall.
Embrace the beautiful outdoors and take a hike through Friedrich Wilderness Park. If you can run the whole thing, you’re in pretty good shape and deserve a delicious meal at Sushihana, San Antonio’s contemporary and most delicious sushi restaurant.
I hope you’ll wear yourself out in one of the cities. I hope you’ll do all the things you wished you could in Abilene that simply aren’t feasible. I hope you come back to Abilene on Sunday afternoon, maybe with a few weekend stories you wouldn’t be allowed to share in Chapel, and have the energy to make it through another week in this charming, small town.