Head west on Interstate 20 from Fort Worth, Texas for about 150 miles and you will come across the city of Abilene, Texas. In its early days, Abilene was established as a shipping point along the Texas and Pacific Railroad. This tiny outpost grew very quickly into a bustling town and became the county seat of Taylor County, Texas in just one year’s time. Today, Abilene is the twenty-fifth largest city in Texas with an estimated population just over 117,000. It is also home to three four year universities and one junior college. As a result, at any given time of the year, about 10% to 15% of Abilene’s population is comprised of students. In 2011, Forbes.com ranked Abilene number two among small Texas towns for its quality of life and business opportunities. On the national level, Forbes ranked Abilene 48th out of 184 small cities as the best small city for business and for starting a career.
Abilene also offers family-friendly activities at affordable costs. The Abilene Zoo is home to more than 600 animals from around the world. Residents can also check out the Paramount Theatre, a listed landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The theatre features many events including films, concerts, musical production, and operas. Each May, Abilene presents the Western Heritage Classic, a three-day event that celebrates the western lifestyle and values of ranching. Events include the Ranch Rodeo, cowboy poetry and music, and an art show. For outdoor recreation, the city has 26 parks. Nelson Park, the city’s largest park, has a lake, playgrounds, a duck pond, and a festival garden. There are four public golf courses and six softball fields around the city. Finally, for skate boarding enthusiasts, Abilene is home to one of the country’s first municipally-owned concrete skate parks.