Abilene, Texas is a medium-sized city with a small-town atmosphere. Conveniently located just off Interstate 20, which connects it to Fort Worth and Dallas some two hours to the east, the city has strong schools, cultural institutions, economic opportunity and is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Texas. Major regional employers include Dyess Air Force Base, on Abilene's western edge; the city's universities, which include Abilene Christian and McMurry Universities; and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which operates several nearby facilities.
Abilene's community draws its strength from the city's wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities. The Abilene Zoo, the larget and most diverse zoo in West Texas, is known for its family-friendly events and an entire roster of summer educational programs to keep kids entertained when school is out. For adults, Maxwell Municipal Golf Course is a popular summer destination, as are the world-class courses on the grounds of private institutions like Abilene Country Club and Fairway Oaks Country Club.
There are also over two dozen municipal parks of varying sizes spread throughout the city. Oscar Rose and Nelson Wilson Parks, located in established neighborhoods near downtown Abilene, come to life during the spring and are popular destinations for local workers in search of a lunchtime stroll. Lake Kirby, on the southern end of town, and Fort Phantom Lake, in the city's far northern reaches, entice summer weekend visitors looking to escape the heat along their grassy, shaded shorelines. Known as one of the state's most active cities, Abilene can thank its excellent park system for improving its collective health.
Abilene honors its rich history each year with several community-wide events. The West Texas Fair and Rodeo is a hybrid event that incorporates traditional rodeo and farm show events as well as modern carnival-style attractions. Put on annually for ten days in September, the event attracts visitors from around the region as well as tourists unfamiliar with cowboy culture.
The Western Heritage Classic, another major event put on to celebrate the area's history, tends to be more traditional in its focus. Held in central Abilene each May, the Classic heralds the coming of summer with a ranch rodeo, sheepdog trials, traditional cowboy cooking and a major art exhibition, which in recent years has become the dominant component of the fair. More local high culture can be found at the monthly downtown Artwalk, a fairly new event: On the second Thursday of every month, local art galleries and museums throw open their doors for free and artists come from far and wide to sell their work on the streets.
No discussion of Abilene's community would be complete without mention of its excellent schools. In addition to its three public high schools, the city also boasts a world-class math-science magnet program, whose Holland Medical High School produces a disproportionate number of future scientists and medical professionals. For families considering relocating from elsewhere in Texas or beyond, community assets like these make Abilene difficult to resist.