While Abilene is full of activities to do, there’s lots of shopping, eats, and adventures awaiting in surrounding towns in the Big Country. A short car ride of an hour or less can take you to the hidden treasures of our community. Consider Baird, a city that formed from a railroad stop in 1880. It became the county seat of Callahan County in 1883. Today it features a few unique places to eat and shop, perfect for a day trip from Abilene. Using our map and itinerary, you can plan a fun-filled day to share with family or friends.
Stay the Night: Unique Airbnbs in Baird
Whether you’re from Abilene and looking for a place to stay nearby, or coming in from out of town, you won’t want to miss these unique Airbnbs on a Baird ranch. David Ratliff, president of Midway Plumbing, owns two popular places to spend the night for those who want to get away from the city.
Three years ago, David was riding around his ranch with his then 11-year-old son, Ryder. “He said, ‘Daddy, I want a treehouse,’” David said.
David had never had a treehouse of his own, so he went all out building one for his son. He found some live oaks and built more than just a box with a ladder. He created a one-bedroom, one-bath cabin in the branches, complete with a crow’s nest and floating bridge.
“I’m a little over-the-top in everything I do,” David said. “I spent a lot of money on it, so I told my son, ‘We gotta rent this out.’”
He listed the treehouse on Airbnb, an online vacation rental site. When the coronavirus lockdowns hit, business boomed for the little property. Suddenly more people were needing private places to spend the night and escape the city. At Ryder’s Treehouse, guests can enjoy the quiet and the outdoors since the treehouse comes with outdoor seating (a hammock and a two person swing), a grill, a fire pit, and an outdoor shower. Guests can also fish in the stock tanks or take a walk around the ranch and enjoy nature.
David said he furnishes the guests with breakfast items including bacon, eggs, bananas, orange juice, champagne and more. It’s no wonder he stays booked nearly every weekend in April through October. During November through March his son, Ryder, finally gets his treehouse back to himself where he can invite friends and hang out.
THE BELLE PLAIN CABOOSE
Seeing how lucrative the vacation rental business could be, David decided to open up another property with another unique twist.
“It’s the first thing on the ranch that’s consistently profitable,” David said, laughing.
He had his heart set on turning a train car into a rental. With help from friends, he found a caboose to purchase in Arkansas and brought it back to Baird. He built tracks to set it on, and remodeled it to have a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room.
Both the caboose and the treehouse are the perfect places for couples to stay. David said many people come for anniversaries, birthdays, even honeymoons. Some couples get married in Abilene, then stay the night in the treehouse before heading out on their full honeymoon.
“People come for the experience,” David said. “Some people just want the isolation, the peace and quiet of living on a ranch.”
You can find both of David’s properties available to rent on airbnb.com.
Day Trip to Baird Itinerary
Drive to Baird. Get up and take your time getting ready. You can grab breakfast at a local coffee shop or Starbucks on the road to Baird. It’s a 26-minute drive to the heart of Baird.
Start your day at the 1911 Texas & Pacific Railway Passenger Depot. It shows the history of Callahan County cow trails and railroad to the first real interstate highway in the country. It is managed by the Baird Chamber of Commerce and is open from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Location: 100 W 1st St.
After your museum tour, walk down Market Street to Circa 1880, a local restaurant. Here you can enjoy traditional country foods like chicken fried steak, patty melts, fried catfish, jalapeno fries, burgers, and more. Don’t forget to save room for desserts including homemade ice cream.
Once you finish your meal, it’s time for a tour of Grumpy’s Lollipops, Baird’s candy factory. This factory creates unique imprinted lollipops for businesses, events, and families. The factory is only open Monday through Thursday and you will need to call ahead to book a tour, but the tour is worthwhile and a “sweet” way to spend the day.
After the tour, take some time to shop at a few local stores. You can start inside Circa 1880 at Rancher’s Mercantile, a small farm store featuring gourmet foods and local beef and milk. If you want more food supplies, Robertson’s Hams is a great place to stop by for smoked meats and beef jerky. For antique lovers, Antique Memories, is the place to shop for treasures and odds and ends.
After a day of activities, it’s time for dinner. Head over to 4th street, a short drive away from downtown, to Don Luis Cafe. This Mexican and Cuban restaurant also has locations in Coleman and Abilene and provides traditional cuisine. The menu includes fajitas, enchiladas, fried avocado, pulled pork nachos and more! For dessert, enjoy flan or tres leches cake.
If you’re in more of a pizza-mood, check out Baird’s newest restaurant, Darner Pizza Co. Located on Market Street, this family-owned restaurant opened in April and features traditional pizza with a few twists like the chicken alfredo pizza.
If you’re in town on Friday or Saturday, you can grab a drink at Primal Brewing, also located on Market Street. Carl Price started as a home brewer, then opened the brewery in 2019. Drinks include the Callahan County Stout, the Buffalo, Freedom of Peach, What’s the Big Dill, and more.