Walk in Dwight Eisenhower’s footsteps in Abilene

Abilene, Kansas, is the home of Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. The pleasant city 130 miles west of Kansas City hosts the Eisenhower Library, Museum, Boyhood Home, and many other Eisenhower-related sites.

The city of 7,000 people is 28 miles east of Salina on Interstate 70, and 93 miles northeast of Wichita. Salina (SLN) is the nearest airport providing commercial flight service, but Wichita (ICT) offers more options. If you fly, you will want to rent a car. Compare prices here (ad).

I’ve visited Abilene many times, and Abilene partially hosted my most recent visits. However, all opinions are my own. If you use our affiliate links, including Amazon Associates and Stay22, to make a purchase, we might earn a small commission for our time and website costs (at no additional cost to you). These links are always disclosed. 

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On June 22, 1945, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower returned to Abilene after the United States and its allies had triumphed over Nazism in Europe. In his homecoming speech, Eisenhower proclaimed, “The proudest thing that I can say today is that I am from Abilene.” Abilene is still proud of him, and visitors can’t get far without seeing another reminder of Ike’s legacy.

Related: Enjoy 21 things to do in Abilene.

Table of contents

Eisenhower Museum Complex | Ike’s first Abilene home | Little Ike Park | Belle Springs Creamery | Museum of Independent Telephony | Seelye Mansion | Abilene High School marker | Travel Information Center | Eisenhower Park | “I Like Ike” Mural | “Ike Wins” Mural | “I Like Ike” Button | World’s Largest Belt Buckle | Interstate 70 | Food and lodging

First, we’ll tour the Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, then visit more Eisenhower-related places in Abilene.

Eisenhower Museum in the fall surrounded by trees
The Eisenhower Museum is on one side of the campus while the library faces it on the other.

1. Eisenhower Library, Museum, & Boyhood Home, Abilene

The Eisenhower Library complex covers the arc of his life from boyhood until he died in 1969. Coincidentally, the 34th President came from the 34th state.

Related: The Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home tops our North Central Kansas things-to-do list

Roxie’s reliable report: The library and museum are part of the National Archives and Records Administration, not the National Parks Service. That means park passes are invalid. 

Eisenhower Boyhood Home, Abilene
The Eisenhower brothers grew up in this home.

Boyhood Home

The David and Ida (Stover) Eisenhower family moved into their new Abilene home in 1898. After Ida died in 1946, the Eisenhower sons donated the house to the Eisenhower Foundation. The first tours began in 1947. The Eisenhowers were far from wealthy. Abilene’s elite lived north of the railroad tracks, not south of it like the Eisenhowers. 

Related: David and Ida met and married at Lane University in Lecompton.

Ida taught her boys to do typical male chores like caring for the chickens. Additionally, they also had to cook, sew, and do laundry – without running water. The house still has the original furniture and wall coverings. Her treasured piano was the centerpiece of the back parlor. She bought it with her inheritance from her father. David, Ida, and his father Jacob slept downstairs while the Eisenhower boys slept upstairs.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Take a virtual tour of the house before your visit.

The Place of Meditation
The Place of Meditation, where Ike, Mamie, and their older son are buried.

Place of Meditation

The Eisenhower-designed Place of Meditation is near the Boyhood Home. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower rest there with their first-born son, Doud Dwight “Icky,” in the small chapel near the boyhood home. Icky was born September 27, 1917, in the Fort Sam Houston infirmary. His father was stationed in Georgia at the time, so Mamie’s mother Elivera (Carlson) Doud came to help her. Icky died of scarlet fever on January 2, 1921. Mamie was also ill, so Dwight had to bear the loss alone until she recovered. He later wrote, “This was the greatest disappointment and disaster in my life, the one I have never been able to forget completely.” The family initially buried him in the Doud family plot in Denver. In 1966, the Eisenhowers reinterred him in the little chapel, which his father had designed. 

The Eisenhowers' graves behind a low fence with an American flag and a stained glass window behind them.
Dwight, Mamie, and Icky Eisenhower’s final resting places.

General Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969. During nationwide mourning, he was buried in the chapel on April 2, Mamie died 10 years later, on November 1, 1972, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. and is buried next to her husband and older son.

The couple welcomed their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, on August 3, 1922. He was named for his maternal grandmother. The younger Eisenhower also graduated from West Point. He eventually became a general in the reserves and served as Ambassador to Belgium. He also wrote 10 military history books before his death on December 21, 2013. He’s buried in the West Point Cemetery.

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Ike and Mamie on their 40th anniversary
Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower on their 40th anniversary. Mamie is wearing her Eisenhower Toile dress.

Meet a relatable Ike and Mamie in the museum

The Eisenhower Museum underwent a complete renovation in 2018 and 2019. The Abilene facility is entirely different than the pre-renovation facility. When I visited the Eisenhower campus before, I felt that I had met Ike the icon. The renovation makes Ike more human and relatable.

The initial exhibits explain Ike’s early life and career and how they prepared him for the outsize tasks ahead of him. Eisenhower was an outstanding athlete at Abilene High School and went to the military academy to save tuition money. He was stranded stateside during World War I because he was too good at training men. The war ended before he could go “Over There.” Between the World Wars, Eisenhower served General Douglas MacArthur as a military aide in Washington and in the Philippines. 

Related: The Eisenhowers lived at Fort Leavenworth during World War I and in the 1920s.

He returned to the West Coast in 1940, and the attack at Pearl Harbor brought him to Washington and the War Plans Office. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall sent him to the United Kingdom in June 1942, the command he had craved for so long.

Related: Eisenhower once stayed at the Rock Island Arsenal‘s Quarters One.

Wooden table and chairs with a picture of Eisenhower and his commanders around it.
Eisenhower and his subordinate commanders sat around this table to plan D-Day.

Eisenhower in World War II

The WWII section alone is worth the price of admission. I am a lifelong World War II buff, and I loved the exhibits covering Ike’s role in the war. The exhibit explains Ike’s planning role and his service as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Eisenhower led the war’s European Theater from the invasion of North Africa in 1942, then Sicily and Italy in 1943 and 1944. The Normandy Invasion started on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was the largest amphibious invasion in military history. Its success meant that the Allies would eventually win the war. The Allied victory came on May 8, 1945.

Floor-to-ceiling wall map of the European Theater of Operations with Eisenhower's Army car with a red five-star license plate.
Map of the European Theater of Operations with Eisenhower’s 1942 Cadillac Fleetwood staff car.

Related: Learn more about D-Day at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.

Interactive map tables explain the timeline and geography of the global conflict. Beyond the planning and strategy, Eisenhower’s signature achievement was to hold together the often-fractious alliance.

Related: Eisenhower celebrated victory in World War II in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1946, the city’s first Independence Day celebration in 85 years.

1952 Eisenhower election memorabilia, Abilene
“I Like Ike” slogans were everywhere, including a telephone dial.

From “I Like Ike” to Mr. President

The general’s success propelled him toward the highest office in the land. Eisenhower began his campaign in Abilene. Americans agreed with his political campaign slogan, “I Like Ike.”

When Eisenhower left office, his presidency wasn’t well regarded. Eisenhower appeared to be a genial, bumbling golf nut. Instead, more recent history has elevated his ranking. Declassified records show that Ike was a subtle, skilled politician who sought a middle way. The museum’s presidential gallery celebrates the administration’s signature achievements. 

Roxie’s reliable report: President Eisenhower was president three times, twice of the United States and once President of Columbia University.

Desegregation process under Eisenhower in Abilene
School desegregation progress under Eisenhower

Eisenhower and civil rights 

Black veterans had fought and died for their country. They deserved more from her than segregation. In response, Eisenhower banned segregation in Washington, D.C. He also pressured federal civilian and military workforces to finish President Harry Truman’s integration policies.

In 1954, the Supreme Court struck down segregation as unconstitutional. The controversial decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka sparked massive resistance in Southern states.

When Arkansas resisted the segregation of Little Rock Central High in 1957, Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and allow Black students to attend. 

Related: The Brown v. Board of Education is a must-see Kansas civil rights site.

The Eisenhower Administration shepherded two civil rights bills through Congress in 1957 and 1960. The first created the Civil Rights Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The administration wanted more, but Southern senators gutted the bill. The second required election officers to retain and preserve voting registration records which eventually proved race-based voter suppression. The two Civil Rights Acts were the first passed since 1875.

Ironically, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) watered down Eisenhower’s civil rights efforts. However, LBJ enshrined protections into law as President in 1964.

Related: Visit LBJ’s Texas White House in Stonewall, Texas.

The first four satellites diagram at the Eisenhower Museum, Abilene
The Space Race begins with the first four satellites.

Eisenhower and the Space Race

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik. Sputnik II followed not quite a month later. The launches shocked Americans. In response, the administration asked Congress to change the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) to the National Air and Space Administration (NASA). Eisenhower signed the bill in July 1958, and NASA began in October. 

NACA had been working on spaceflight, and the embarrassed US science establishment sent Explorer I into space on January 31, 1958. Vanguard followed three months later. NASA announced the first group of astronauts, the Mercury 7, on April 9, 1959.

The Soviets won the early Space Race segments. They sent the first man and woman into space and landed the first object on the moon. Eventually, the Americans took the prizes. Ironically, Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Nixon, was President when Neil Armstrong made “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind on July 20. 1969.”

Roxie’s reliable report: Look for the “Ike’s Galaxy” cowboy boot in front of City Hall.

Vocal and trumpet soloists perform with the First Infantry Division Band.
The First Infantry Division Band performs in front of the Eisenhower Library.

Symphony at Sunset

Every year, the library and museum honor D-Day at Symphony at Sunset on the first Saturday in June. The museum offers free admission on that day. Local entertainment performs during the day between the library and museum.

Red-shirted color guard trooper shoots a balloon from horseback at Symphony at Sunset
A color guard trooper shoots a balloon.

After the First Infantry Division Band performs, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley shows off their skills. The event closes with a free Salina Symphony performance in front of the library. Bring your own chair.

Get to know Mamie Eisenhower in Abilene

Mamie Geneva Doud married Dwight Eisenhower on July 1, 1916. Mamie was used to the finer things in life. Therefore, adjusting to being an Army wife was difficult. Her husband put the Army first, and his family came second. But she persevered through numerous moves. She made her home a welcoming center for guests, which helped propel her husband’s career. People called their homes “Club Eisenhower” because they were so welcoming and comfortable. Life in the White House was no different. The Eisenhowers hosted more events than any previous administration.

Mamie desired to provide a comfortable home for her family and to beautify the White House. She improved the White House china collection and obtained over 1,600 pieces of vermeil, gold-plated silver, for the historic house. The Vermeil Room currently houses the collection.

Eisenhower Toile detail
Detail of Mamie’s Eisenhower Toile dress.

When Mamie entered the White House, her signature color, Mamie Pink, became fashionable. She always wore coordinated hats, handbags, and gloves. Friends gave her the Eisenhower Toile dress in a deeper shade of pink. The dress showed Dwight and Mamie’s milestones such as the White House, NATO command, World War II, and more.

Mamie was more than a fashion plate, however. She supported women’s rights and racial equality. Because Ike and Mamie both had heart conditions, she supported the American Heart Association.

When Barbara Walters asked Mamie in a 1979 interview how her legacy should be remembered, Mamie answered, “Just as a good friend.”

Related: Visit Thomasville, Georgia, where Eisenhower decided that he could run for President again after his 1955 heart attack.

Strike a pose with Ike.
StIKE a pose with Ike.

StrIKE a pose with Eisenhower in Abilene

Before leaving the grounds, take a selfie with Eisenhower’s 11-foot statue that Robert L. Dean, Jr. sculpted. Copy Ike’s stance and use the hashtag #strIKEapose. The Georgia granite base highlights Eisenhower’s illustrious service as President of the United States, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General of the Army, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and Army Chief of Staff.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Read the facility’s visitor tips. Don’t rush the experience. Instead, allow several hours.

Add more adventure to your trip.

Rear of Eisenhower statue glowing from the sun behind it.
Eisenhower’s legacy still glows.

In Eisenhower’s Abilene footsteps

Ike left his mark throughout Abilene. Explore beyond the library complex to learn more about the boy from the heartland of America.

2. Eisenhower’s first home in Abilene

David and Ida welcomed Dwight, the third of seven sons, on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas. The Eisenhowers returned to Dickinson County in 1892. The family moved into his First Abilene Home three blocks north of the Eisenhower Library complex. The current owners also own the Eisenhower Museum in Oberammergau, Germany.

Related: Roy Eisenhower, Ike’s next-youngest brother, became a pharmacist in Junction City. Dwight and Mamie visited his brother and sister-in-law when they could.

Eisenhower sculpture in Little Ike Park with the Abilene postcard mural behind him.
Eisenhower sculpture in Little Ike Park with the Abilene postcard mural behind him.

3. Little Ike Park shows Eisenhower growing up in Abilene

The young Dwight Eisenhower awaits you in Little Ike Park, Abilene. The charming sculpture of a boy in overalls looks straight at the viewer. He seems to anticipate whatever task or adventure is coming.

Roxie’s reliable report: The Abilene postcard mural is across the alley behind Little Ike’s head. The “B” shows the Eisenhower Library.

4. Belle Springs Creamery

David Eisenhower and every Eisenhower son worked at the Abilene creamery. Edgar and Dwight worked there the most. At its zenith, the creamery was Abilene’s largest employer, distributed throughout the United States. A plaque marks its location on Court Street behind the Dickinson County Courthouse.

For two years after graduating from high school, Ike worked at the creamery to support his next-oldest brother Edgar at the University of Michigan. Then Ike’s friend Everett “Swede” Hazlett persuaded him to apply to the military academies where education was free. Hazlett (PDF) attended the Naval Academy, and Ike went to the Military Academy. Of course, graduates had to serve in the military after graduation. The pacifist Ida would not have chosen this path, but she accepted her son’s decision. 

Roxie’s reliable report: Hazlett became a naval officer and lived to see his friend become a two-term President.

Brown Telephone Company timeline
The Brown Telephone Company timeline in the Museum of Independent Telephony

5. Museum of Independent Telephony

David Eisenhower became the Brown Telephone Company’s Director of Employee Savings. The Abilene telephone company eventually became Sprint, which merged with T-Mobile. The Museum of Independent Telephony preserves Brown’s and other early telephone technology. It’s part of the Dickinson County Heritage Center.

The Georgian splendor of the Seelye Mansion, Abilene, Kansas
The Georgian splendor of the Seelye Mansion

6. Seelye Mansion

Patent medicines founded the Seelye family’s wealth, and the Eisenhowers didn’t impress them. People from the wrong side of the tracks didn’t get to enter the front, so Ike delivered ice to the large mansion’s service entrance.

7. Former Abilene High School marker

A marker preserves the location of the now-demolished Abilene High School where Eisenhower attended from 1906 to 1909. Ike excelled at football and baseball, but his yearbook predicted that he would become a history professor at Yale.

Roxie’s reliable report: The yearbook predicted that his brother Edgar would become President. Instead, Edgar became an attorney who frequently criticized his brother, the President.

The Abilene train depot, now the visitors center
The Abilene train depot, now the visitors’ center

8. Abilene Travel Information Center

In 1911, Ike boarded a train at the Union Pacific Depot en route to the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. In 1929, the UP erected a new Abilene depot, where Eisenhower disembarked when he returned home. His funeral train arrived there in 1969. 

The depot became a community space in 1988. The center holds an event space, a souvenir store, and Visit Abilene’s offices. 

9. Abilene Cemetery

David and Ida Eisenhower rest in the Abilene Cemetery’s Section 3, Lot 20.

10. Belle Springs Cemetery

Ike’s grandparents and great-grandfather rest in the Belle Springs Cemetery southeast of Abilene. David and Ida’s fifth son Paul rests there, too. He died of diphtheria at the age of 10 months.

Cannas and a fountain in Eisenhower Park
Cannas and a fountain in Eisenhower Park

11. Eisenhower Park and Rose Garden, Abilene

The future President announced his candidacy in the park’s stadium in 1952. The Central Kansas Free Fair is held there. Visit the rose garden in the summer for beautiful flowers surrounding a fountain, a stone arch, and a copper-roofed gazebo.

Related: See an F-14 that flew in the movie Top Gun in WaKeeney‘s Eisenhower Park.

The catchy tune that boosted Eisenhower’s candidacy.

12. “I Like Ike” Murals

Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign jingle “I Like Ike” is still considered one of the greatest political advertising campaigns in American history. Roy Disney produced the cartoon, the first political ad on television, with a jingle written by Irving Berlin.

The Eisenhower’s Abilene homecoming in 1952.

storyboard from the ad adorns the Sunflower Hotel’s east side. The candidate and his wife viewed their homecoming parade from the hotel’s now-removed balcony on D-Day’s eighth anniversary, June 6, 1952. The structure is currently an apartment building.

Ike and Mamie smile in a mural as he holds a newspaper headlined "Ike Wins!'
The “Ike Wins!” mural shows that the 34th President-Elect won 39 of 48 states.

13. “Ike Wins” Mural

Seventy years after Eisenhower won his first presidential term, the muralist William Counter finished “Ike Wins,” a portrait of Ike and Mamie holding the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle emblazoned with a vast “Ike Wins” headline. A copy of the edition on the right shows more detail. 

Red, white, and blue replica of a I Like Ike campaign button in Abilene, Kansas.
The world’s largest I Like Ike campaign button (Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau)

14. World’s Largest “I Like Ike” Button

The I Like Ike button looks just like its predecessor did, except it’s nearly 29 times larger. The six-foot diameter button stands on a pair of five-star posts next to Little Ike Park. Button creator Jason Lahr of Fluters Creek Metalworks crafted a concave metal structure with a pin clasp back. “Ike” was Eisenhower’s nickname. Both the Democrats and the Republicans desired him to run for president. He eventually chose the Republican Party. The Disney-designed campaign propelled him to the White House in 1952 and 1956.

ACVB unveiled the button on June 21, 2024, to a crowd wearing replica I Like Ike campaign buttons.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) sold I Like Ike challenge coins to fund the project. Buy a button to support Abilene.

The turquoise and silver World's Largest Belt Buckle
Roxie and Roadie try on the World’s Largest Belt Buckle.

15. World’s Largest Belt Buckle

ACVB decided to produce the World’s Largest Belt Buckle. Therefore, they hid the buckle’s dimensions to preserve their record. When Abilene revealed the buckle on December 21, 2022, it was 19 feet, 10.5 inches wide by 13 feet, 11.25 inches tall. It stands on a platform in Eisenhower Park. Visitors may climb stairs to a platform behind the buckle. Lahr’s design includes Eisenhower, Hickok, the ASVRR, Seelye Mansion, a carousel horse, a telephone, a greyhound, and a longhorn inlaid with blue quartz.

Eisenhower Interstate System sign
Look for the Eisenhower Interstate System signs on I-70 near Abilene.

16. Interstate 70

in 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower joined the Transcontinental Convoy as a War Department observer. The grueling trip from New York to San Francisco required 61 days on often-impassable roads. Later, during World War II, he saw how easily transport traversed the German Autobahn. Eisenhower pushed for similar roads in the United States during his administration. He signed the Federal Aid Highway Act

on June 29, 1956,.It provided for a 40,000-mile Interstate Highway System to be built over 13 years. At the time, it was the federal government’s largest public works program. Kansas Governor George Docking officially opened Interstate 70 between Junction City and Abilene on October 9, 1959. 

Look for the five-star Eisenhower Interstate System signs

Front of Joe Snuffy's Old-Fashioned Grill with I Like Ike/Thank you veterans sign
Joe Snuffy’s loves veterans.

Abilene’s Eisenhower-themed food and lodging

Eat and stay where Ike went or where his memorabilia is collected.

Chili, toast, a cinnamon roll, and coffee at Joe Snuffy's, Abilene, Kansas
Savor Midwest diner classics like chili and cinnamon rolls at Joe Snuffy’s.

17. Joe Snuffy’s Old-Fashioned Grill

Savor diner classics at Joe Snuffy’s. At the entrance, a boy carrying an “I Like Ike” drum says, “Thank you veterans of all ages.”

18. Abilene’s Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast

Dr. Edward E. Hazlett, father of Ike’s lifelong friend Swede, built the house in 1887. Stay in the Eisenhower Room, Hazlett Room, or Mamie’s Honeymoon Suite.

19. Engle House Bed & Breakfast

Jacob Engle was the vice president of the Abilene creamery where the Eisenhowers worked. As school board president, Engle signed Eisenhower’s Abilene High School diploma. Stay in the Belle Springs Room.

Camp at Walt’s 

Walt’s Four Seasons Campground offers sites from tents to Class A RV and camping cabins. Walt’s features pull-through full hook-up sites with water, electricity, sewer, and Wi-Fi.

Explore more Abilene-area lodging options.

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