Born in 1857 as a stagecoach stop and for a time a gateway for westward expansion, Abilene is a peaceful, refined oasis with a quaint allure. So much so that groups that meet in Junction City, less than a half-hour drive from Abilene, often make time to visit.
“They come over here to play,” said Glenda Purkis, director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The city’s best-known attraction honors its best-known former resident. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum salutes the 34th president of the United States; it also offers space for events that are cultural, recreational, corporate and educational.
“We can work with just about any setup, from a casual in-house training day or retreat to a fancier type of event,” said Samantha Kenner, communications director.
With its crystal chandelier and two-story ceiling, the carpeted library courtyard is ideal for receptions and dinners. Originally open to the sky, it’s now enclosed, but skylights offer glimpses of the stars. The room seats 176 at rounds.
For presentations, there is the visitors center auditorium, with excellent acoustics and seating for 300. The more formal library auditorium, which has a permanent stage, holds 132.
Kenner encourages groups to plan time for tours of the galleries and the property, which includes the 19th-century house where the Eisenhowers lived from 1898 until Eisenhower’s mother’s death in 1946.
In 1911, Eisenhower departed from the Union Pacific Railroad Depot for West Point. Now restored, the depot is the home of the Abilene Civic Center, which can be booked for group events for up to 140.
Abilene can also lay claim to the Greyhound Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to greyhound breeding and racing. The facility offers a theater and meeting rooms.
Regional visitors come to Abilene to dine at two of its restaurants: Mr. K’s Farmhouse and the Kirby House Restaurant, which both handle large parties. Old Abilene Town is another favorite. In warm weather, visitors can watch mock gunfights and performances by can-can dancers.
In Abilene, it seems, groups can still discover how the West was won.