ABILENE, Texas (Big Country Homepage) – It’s no secret that Abilene is rapidly developing, and on any given day there are tons to do in and around town. I searched high and wide for the best places around to get that perfect shot for the ‘gram.
Abilene’s development over the last few years has been astounding to see. I grew up here, then left for a few years for college and work. Returning, the city is completely different, with so much more to do and see- and take some great photos to post.
Check out some of KTAB/KRBC’s coverage on Abilene development:
In recent years, Instagram has become more popular than Facebook, even though the two social media platforms are owned by the same parent company, Meta.
With its media-only approach, it’s easier to see what your loved ones (and favorite celebrities, as well as cute animals) are up to, without all those pesky, often long-winded status updates. There is even a feature called “Instagram Stories,” where a post is only available to followers for 24 hours- a more informal feature because it disappears. Not to worry, though, because you can still see your past stories with the “Instagram Archives” feature.
Getting down to the reason you’re here:
I highly recommend you follow the list and take a weekend tour of the best places around town to take a great shot for the ‘gram. If you do, please share it with me by clicking here!
Coming in first on the list, with more than 6,300 hashtags on Instagram: The Abilene Zoo.
The zoo being the number one tagged place for photos in Abilene was no shocker. Lots of families across West Texas and beyond travel to Abilene to visit the zoo and take a great family photo. My family did, too, before we moved here!
Since 1966, our zoo has consistently brought new levels of entertainment and sights on a daily basis. Across 16 acres of land, more than 1,100 animals are cared for and appreciated.
You can visit the Abilene Zoo most days from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at 2070 Zoo Lane.
Thank you, photo contributors: Sonia Lopez (@SoniaLopez8291), Ashleigh Martinez (@AshleighElizabethM), Cody Miller (@CodyMillerBMX), Dani Clemons (@DClemons8), Joshua Hockett (@MusclesNMorsels) and Elyse Lewis (@ElyseLewie).
Number two on the list: Jacob’s Dream sculpture garden at Abilene Christian University (ACU), with more than 1,400 hashtags on Instagram.
Jacob’s Dream was erected on the university lawn in September of 2006, to celebrate ACU’s centennial birthday.
Since then, it’s become a must-see for visitors and locals alike.
Sally D. and Samantha J.’s Instagram posts are excellent examples of the ethereal-like mood the sculpture garden creates in photos.
Samantha, from Colorado, looked at her time at Jacob’s Dream as a homecoming. The ACU student captioned her post, “I found my home.”
Visit Jacob’s Dream at ACU, located at 1600 Campus Court.
Tying with ACU’s Jacob’s Dream sculpture garden, is the Abilene State Park.
The Abilene State Park, which is technically in Tuscola, has a lot to offer in the way of exciting action shots for the ‘gram.
Alexa, an Abilene local, can be seen taking in the fresh Texas air on her hikes at the Abilene State Park- located at 150 Park Road 32, in Tuscola, TX.
The original park was constructed in the early 1930’s, according to Texas State Parks, and has more than 500 acres of land.
Other picturesque locations within the park include the red sandstone concession building, Buffalo Wallow pond, a playground and more.
Photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife
With more than 1,200 tags on Instagram, Frontier Texas is a main stopping point for most visitors.
Brooke C., from New York, stopped by the famous giant buffalo skull at Frontier Texas in December 2021. Meanwhile, Anna C. from Arkansas, traveled through Abilene in February 2019 to pose with the buffalo statue.
That giant skull was set in place at Frontier Texas in June of 2012, by sculptor, Joe Barrington. It was created with steel salvaged from old Texas oil tanks. Barrington’s giant skull weighs in at a whopping two tons (4,000 pounds) and stretches 26 feet long.
The Big Country native artist now has a studio, Red Star Studio, in Albany.
You can visit the giant buffalo skull, or many other interesting exhibits at Frontier Texas, located at 625 North 1st Street.
Thank you, photo contributors: Brooke C. (@Brooke.Curt) and Anna Cagle (@AnnaGraceCagle99).
Rounding out our top five, at 1,200+ hashtags, is a newer exhibit in town; it’s Front Porch Coffee Co. & Bakery.
Opened in December of 2019, Front Porch Coffee has quickly become a local staple.
Situated in an ideal location, across the street from The Well church, Front Porch is known for its artisanal brews and energizing atmosphere.
From studying with your sisters while having some water and lemonade, to giggling with your best girl friend over a couple of iced coffees, Front Porch Coffee Co. & Bakery, located at 702 North 2nd Street, has the right aesthetic for your grid.
Thank you, photo contributors: Hannah Jordan (@__Hannah__Jordan__) and Jama S. (@JamaSchlauch).
Next up, we have a Downtown Abilene favorite; it’s Monks Coffee Shop.
With it’s laid back, industrial vibes, and more than 1,000 Instagram tags, Monks is a terrific photo op.
Monks was opened back in 2006 and since then, it’s provided a consistent level of good vibes for your Instagram posts.
A large point of interest at Monks is their dedication to showcasing the works of local artists. Some of the beautiful pieces you see on the wall of Monks can be bought on-site.
Kayla S. and her hedgehog traveled from Louisiana to experience Monks in the Spring of 2021, and it is an experience.
Sat at 233 Cypress Street, Monks is a favorite of mine, too! I used to go there with a friends from school every Thursday to study, and then we’d stick around for open mic night. It’s a place filled with fond memories.
A particularly comfy-cozy spot inside the coffee shop, is the tea room- it’s very on brand if your Instagram vibe is 1940s chic, not unlike mine.
Next on the list, could have been considered as more of an honorable mention, because it’s not actually in Abilene. But, this little, growing shop has 1,000 and growing tags on IG.
Prickly Pear TX Tees is only about a 20 minute drive out of town, depending on where you start out, in Merkel. But, trust me, the shot is worth the drive. Just put on your best playlist and go.
Abbey (@Abbey_H_Whipple) and Matthew took in the “you’re so golden” mural at Prickly Pear TX Tees, on their trip to the Big Country from College Station.
Originally from the Big Country, Abbey told me how excited she was to be featured in Abilene’s most Instagram-able spots.
“With how much the Big Country is evolving,” Abbey explained, “I love to see our area becoming such a great place!”
The mural pictured is only one of the beautiful works, but there are several other fun murals on the sides of the building. Dallas artist, Chera Chaney (@CheraCreative), painted the incredible works.
Go check them out at Prickly Pear TX Tees, located at 9964 I-20 in Merkel.
The Mill Wine Bar & Event Venue is one of my favorite, sort of, hidden gems in Abilene. Located near the SoDa District, The Mill offers so much more than just wine.
The doors to The Mill first opened back in May of 2014, but the structure was originally built in 1910. It was known as the old Texas Mill and Elevator Company building.
In just eight years of operation, The Mill has become a popular place to post a pic, with close to 700 tags to the wine bar.
Other than spirits of both alcohol and good vibes, The Mill also offers an excellent selection of food, open-to-the-public events and magical event spaces.
Cheyenne P. (@CheyenneSierra2012) celebrated her recent engagement with good wine, good atmosphere, and good friend, Sarah P., at The Mill in February. Best wishes!
I could not count on both hands how many wedding invitations I’ve received, that have been held at The Mill. For good reason, too! The Mill prices its larger events, like weddings, starting at $300. It works its way up, but still more cost effective than some other event venues.
One thing I’m most interested in that The Mill just began offering: “Yoga + Wine!” That’s just a great Saturday evening, in my opinion.
Sip on a glass of wine while sitting next to the grape vines, or sit in a silo by the fire and have a charcuterie board. There are more locations at The Mill where you can kick back, and it’s family friendly!
Take a great pic with The Mill sign at The Mill Wine Bar & Event Venue, located at 239 Locust Street.
Next is another just-made-the-list location, because it’s also not Abilene, but still close by and with nearly 600 tags.
Denton Valley Farms is a major attraction for families across the Big Country, located about half-an-hour outside Abilene.
The privately owned and operated farm, by Amanda and Colby Hatchett, is about two-and-a-half acres and opened in 2007. 15 years later, they now have tons of loyal customers.
Loyal customers like my friends Brandy and Amanda, who just got married on February 22. Congratulations!
Brandy and Amanda visited the strawberry section at Denton Valley Farms, but there is lots more to see.
Not only can you buy farm-fresh produce here, but you can also get jams and jellies, various pasture-raised meats, homemade cobblers and ice cream, and you can even get married at Denton Valley Farms.
Other special events include Christmas at the Farm, Fall Farm Activities, and more.
Credit: Denton Valley Farms (dentonvalleyfarms.com)
At 8750 County Road 224, Fall and Christmas times are probably Denton Valley Farm’s most popular times, with its incredible decorations and perfect photo-ops.
Just making the top 10 list, The Grace Museum is an important part of Abilene’s culture. From incredible architecture, to amazing exhibits with talented, local artists, and even an amazing children’s section- The Grace has it all.
Originally built as a hotel in 1909, The Grace still boasts beautiful, original but updated architecture.
Historians say The Grace Hotel eventually fell through the cracks and was closed in 1973. The building was later purchased in 1987 and refurbished into The Grace Cultural Center, which was meant to also be a hotel. But, a group of civic leaders put up the funds to turn it into what would someday be what we have now.
The doors to the cultural center were opened in 1992, and it’s been The Grace Museum since 1998.
When I was looking through the more than 300 tags for photo contributors to add to this Grace portion, everyone had so many kind things to say about the museum.
Brisa Reoyo-Terry, of San Antonio, told me she grew up in Abilene and still loves to visit The Grace.
“My husband and I had a reception for our wedding at The Grace, as it was a favorite building of mine as a small child,” Reoyo-Terry wrote. “I have many fond memories there, and now enjoy taking my own young daughters to see the area around the Big Country.”
The Grace is located in Downtown Abilene, at 102 Cypress Street. As a long-term Abilenian, I highly recommend attending Art Walk- hosted on the second Thursday of each month.
Thank you, photo contributors: Jaylyn Arnold (@JaylynArnold_), Marisa Daniel (@MarisaDaniel13), Lacie Belcher (@Lacie_Belcher) and Brisa Reoyo-Terry (@BNever2Busy2ByOyo).
Narrowly missing the top 10 list is a known Abilene attraction. It’s The Historic Paramount Theater, most commonly known simply as; The Paramount.
From its incredible original architecture to its rich history, to its growing presence on Instagram, there is no lack in great photo opportunities at The Paramount.
The Paramount first opened its doors in May of 1930, with a sold out showing of Safety in Numbers, according to The Paramount’s website.
Due to thinning interest, The Paramount closed its doors in the mid 1970’s. But, the then newly established Abilene Preservation League worked to add the theater to the National Register of Historic Places. The Paramount was restored an reopened in 1987. Now, the theater offers programs including films, live performances, arts events and private parties.
It’s a great spot to celebrate your love for the city in a big way, like McKenzie’s post (in slideshow above) spotlighting her and the Wildcats, or to post a Notebook-like, or nostalgic, photo. Like Kaitlyn’s post, showing off her dress in the gleaming night lights downtown. Below:
You’re basically always able to get a good snap outside the marquee, but do try and get a pic with the 1930’s architecture inside.
Thank you, photo contributors: Madilyn Moore (@Madii_Gracee), McKenzie Smith (@McKenzie_Smith22) and Kaitlyn Florence (@Kaitlyn.Florence).
Next on the roster is a newer, but quickly growing spot: Phoenix Pho.
Located in the newly established Allen Ridge area, in the 2400 block of North Judge Ely, Phoenix Pho just opened in November of 2020- and it’s rapidly becoming more popular. A personal favorite of mine- the strawberry and basil lemonade!
Phoenix Pho is a great place to grab a good pic for the ‘gram because of it doesn’t lack incredible selfie spots- even for kids. To the side of Phoenix Pho is a small play area for the little ones, and a beautiful pond behind it!
Thank you, photo contributors: Stina P. (@AdventuresWithStina) and Kaylee P. (@White__Zifandoll).
Roll Shack makes number 13 on our list of Instagram spots around town!
Another newer business, having opened its doors in November of 2019, has quickly become a family favorite.
This candid shot with cuties; Zadok, Elijah and Kingsley, taken and posted by Cortney and Nathan Potter, is the perfect example of this business’s nostalgic ice cream bar meets modern comforts and innovative concoctions.
I’d call it a “must try” for Abilene visitors! The Roll Shack also opened a downtown location, at 202 Pine Street, in October of 2021- a perfect stop on your tour of downtown IG photoshoot spots.
Downtown Abilene, if you haven’t caught on, is a major spot for the best photo ops. Cypress Street Station is next up on our downtown tour.
Cypress Street Station, located at 158 Cypress Street, is a popular restaurant and bar among Abilene locals and visitors alike.
Its comfortable interior with exposed brick walls will give you a not-so-West-Texas feel for your photos.
There’s also no shame in a foodie photo for your Instagram Story. Remember, “phone eats first!”
Another place with a not-so-West-Texas feel is a 21+ spot. It’s the KAO Lounge in Abilene’s SoDa District.
With a growing social media presence, and a laid back or dressed up vibe, the KAO has all the makings for the perfect Instagram spot.
The creative lighting, good drinks and comfortable seating creates a certain ambiance that can’t be replicated.
Paige Galindo (@BloodStainedTheorist), a local aspiring tattoo artist likes to sport a dress and heels when she’s at the KAO. And just a few feet away, Jessica J. (@JessQJack) and her friends grab a drink in comfy-cozy garb.
Located at 137 Oak Street, just steps from Abilene Axe Company and a 7 minute walk to downtown, and opened in October of 2020, the KAO Lounge is a crystal clear reminder of all of Abilene’s recent development.
The Beehive Restaurant and Saloon is our next stop on the downtown tour.
The Beehive has a rich history at not even 40 years old. The Esfandiary brothers, now better known as the Beehive brothers, came over from Iran when they were still teenagers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, to serve at Dyess Airforce Base.
Ali and Nariman Esfandiary first opened their restaurant, by the same name, in Albany in 1982. Then a few years later, opened Abilene’s iconic location.
With a growing amount of tags on Instagram, along with its old-world aesthetic and named by several magazines for having the best steak around, the Beehive is an excellent stop in Abilene.
According to Abilene Reporter News, the destination steakhouse has even catered to a several celebrity patrons, including country music star, George Strait and actor, Robert Duvall.
Finally heading out of Downtown Abilene and just a few blocks south, next on our Instagram pic list is Jay’s BBQ Shack.
Known for its incredible southern comfort food, Jay’s BBQ Shack started out as a delivery and catering service in 2015, then moved up as a food truck in 2016. Since 2019, Jay’s BBQ Shack has had its own space for customers to dine in comfort.
The now iconic Abilene mural at Jay’s BBQ Shack was painted in the Summer of 2020 by young, local artist, Lyric Kincade. If Kincade’s shot is any indication of how great your Abilene Instagram tour would be, this is your sign.
Get your photo with the wall, play some lawn games and grab a plate of good barbecue at 602 South 11th.
Next up is a new and booming business back in Downtown Abilene; it’s The Local.
The Local just opened its doors in November of 2019. Since then, the restaurant and bar has quickly become a city favorite.
The Local has a quiet ambiance that is unlike much of Abilene. With friendly staff, an excellent chef and good drinks, The Local is a go-to with or without the goal of taking a good IG photo.
Thank you, photo contributors: Melissa Renova (@Melissa.Renova111) and Melissa Huffines (@MissyHuffines).
Still downtown, Candies by Vletas is a major photo destination in Abilene.
It’s the yellow doors. I remember when Instagram started getting big while I was in high school and everyone posted at those yellow barn doors. I never knew where they were and it bugged me. I wanted that photo with those yellow doors!
It’s almost an Abilenian rite of passage.
Snap a shot of your little ones after playing in Everman Park, celebrate a milestone birthday, or just take in the change of the season. But be sure to go inside and grab something sweet while you’re there!
Located at 1201 North 1st Street, Candies by Vletas has been making delicious chocolates for going on 110 years.
Thank you, photo contributors: Jacey Hernandez (@JaceyMak), Jaleigh M. (@JaleighMorales), Annie P. (@Anniere) and Heaven Alfaro (@Cielooox3).
Next to Vagabond Pizza, Grain Theory is an excellent place for not only a pint or a coffee, but also a highly aesthetic picture to add to your grid.
Sky Janics (@cutiepie_sky), local model and tattoo artist at Downtown Tattoo in Abilene, worked with local photographer, Katelynn Cobb of Hopeless Dreamer Photography, for a small Grain Theory photoshoot.
Cobb said she began a series to help out local small coffee shops around Abilene.
“People just have to buy me a coffee as payment while I capture their photos,” Cobb explained. ” Grain Theory is the best of both worlds when it comes to people who are coffee addicts like myself, and for those who aren’t. You want a strong coffee while they drink a beer? Grain Theory!”
Tips from a pro: The photographer advised that the best time to shoot a picture at Grain Theory is going to be around golden hour, which is the last hour before the sun sets.
Take some ethereal photos and sip on your favorite drink at Grain Theory, located at 202 Pine Street.
The Saddled Buffalo is a major roadside attraction in Abilene. You know it if you’ve ever passed by North 1st Street.
It’s an Abilene favorite by far, and a good negotiating tactic.
Our Assistant News Director here told me his teenaged son got out of doing his chores for the day just by getting on that buffalo and posing for a picture! I didn’t know that was an option growing up.
Otherwise, people like Michael W. (@OurEpicRVAdventure) from New York state pass through from all over and stop by to pose with the Saddled Buffalo.
The free structure is located at the corner of Grape and North 1st Streets, and has a drive-in area for safe access.
The Angel Selfie Wings painting on the side of Bogie’s Downtown Deli, once again in Downtown Abilene, is another major attraction.
The painting was just put up in 2016, lovely work by local artist, Calina Mishay Johnson, also known simply as “Cal.”
It was all part of the 2016 Art Bomb Project to Brighten Downtown Abilene Buildings.
With visitors like Cristal P. coming in all the way from Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s a fun stop to take a photo. This free attraction is in an ideal location, with Monk’s Coffee Shop just around the corner and McKay’s bakery right across the street.
Take your picture with Angel Selfie Wings on the side of Bogie’s Downtown Deli, on the corner of North 3rd and Pine Streets. You can also click here to visit Cal’s website, support a local artist and learn more about her work in and around Abilene.
Thank you, photo contributors: Serina Caballero (@Serina.Caballero), Cristal P. (@CristalVictoria) and Tracey Bellion (@TraceysFancy).
Staying downtown, the tunnels under the railroad running between North and South 1st streets are the perfect place for a fun, industrial shot for your Instagram grid.
Mind you, some tunnels will have a good amount of graffiti. Personally, I think the graffiti incorporates a nice, grungy flare and adds to the aesthetic.
However, Verity Pryor-Harden from Burlesom got lucky with a tunnel with clear walls.
These tunnels near Everman Park and the T&P building are a great, free place to brighten up your followers’ feeds.
Sadly, this is where our list ends, mostly. Last up is a brand new business in Downtown Abilene; The Pour House.
The Pour House, a cocktail bar, just opened its doors in December of 2021. Located inside the popular Windsor Hotel, The Pour House has quickly become an Abilene favorite.
With its laid back, but upscaled atmosphere, exposed brick walls and feature walls with faux foliage- it’s a no-brainer for the perfect shot to spice up your Instagram grid.
The Pour House is located at 401 Pine Street, just down the street from the post office.
With as many perfect Instagram photo locations featured in Downtown Abilene, The Pour House is a perfect place to wrap up your IG tour.
Number 25… Sort of
Number 25 is more of an honorable mention kind of list.
Downtown Abilene murals and their locations:
- “Big Love in a Small Town” by Calina Mishay Johnson – 258 Pine Street (On the side of The Hallows)
- “Colorful Bull” by Shay ‘Pono’ Mac – 1166 North 2nd Street (On the side of The Leaf)
- “Haunted Waters” by Patrick Messersmith – 1166 North 2nd Street (Next to “Colorful Bull”)
- “Home” by Emily Elliot & Stephanie Prosser – 223 Chestnut Street (On the side of Gloria’s Grill)
- “I See the Ocean” by Rolando Diaz – 1201 South 1st Street (On the side of Thomas Everett’s Furniture)
- “Into the Sun” by Calina Mishay Johnson – 898 North 4th Street (On the side of The Warehouse)
- “Succulent Wall” by Calina Mishay Johnson – 410 Locust Street (On the side of Precision Heating and Cooling)
Note from the editor: This was a really special and fun project to work on. I want to thank everyone who contributed.