things to do in Amarillo

8 Great Things to Do in Amarillo

Step Into the Real Texas,” they like to say in Amarillo, Texas. While Amarillo is the largest city in the Texas panhandle, it is even one of the dozen largest cities in Texas. “Real Texas,” I gather, means avoiding the hustle and mayhem of the big city and appreciating the people, things, and surroundings.

While Amarillo residents definitely have Texas pride, the city is actually physically much closer to much of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado than Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. “Real Texas,” then, means most of the world’s image of the American West: large ranches, cattle herds, and actual cowboys.

Amarillo grew up around the cattle business and, in fact, hosted a huge trial between cattle ranchers and Oprah Winfrey in the 1990s. The courthouse where the “mad cow” drama took place is certainly among the things to do in Amarillo for many visitors.

While I do not include the courthouse in this list (it does have some cool architectural elements), I did find 8 other great Amarillo attractions I think you will like.

8 Great Things to Do in Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch

When I found out I was going to visit Amarillo, seeing Cadillac Ranch was what I most looked forward to. Although I did not visit Cadillac Ranch with my group of travel writers—because of my delayed United Airlines flight—my friends at Visit Amarillo shuttled me there during our free afternoon time the next day. Thank you Eric and Hope!

things to do in Amarillo: Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch is iconic Americana, representing the heyday of Cadillac and post war USA. It is the very essence of Route 66 although actually not physically located on historic Route 66. The ten classic Cadillacs (1949 to 1963 models) were installed in 1974.

things to do in Amarillo: Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Stanley Marsh III created Cadillac Ranch on his own farmland. Marsh was very creative and encouraged creativity in the community; his quirky signs can still be found around town. He was a successful business guy in Amarillo, owned a TV station, big landholder, and cattle rancher, and died two years ago.

things to do in Amarillo: Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak Ranch

The Big Texan is home of the free 72 oz steak. Before hot dog eating contests and other gastronomy competitions, the 72 oz steak dinner was the original eating challenge. Anyone who finishes eating the 72 oz steak dinner within one hour does not pay for their meal. Thousands have attempted the feat and victors are entered into the 72 oz Hall of Fame.

things to do in Amarillo: The Big Texan Steak Ranch

The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan property has a motel (resembles an old Wild West main street), Texas shaped swimming pool, horse hotel, brewery, patio for live music, stretch limos with longhorns on the hood, and massive gift shop. Do not miss the live rattlesnake in the gift shop.

things to do in Amarillo: motel at The Big Texan

The Big Texan, Amarillo, Texas

things to do in Amarillo: motel at The Big Texan

The Big Texan, Amarillo, Texas

RV Museum

The RV Museum opened two years ago and is located at Jack Sisemore Traveland (which has been open for 42 years). The RV Museum primarily includes Americana from the personal collection of Jack and Trent (his son), attained over 30-40 years. Jack told me that the theme of the museum is “passion for the road” and “the experience on the road with families.”

things to do in Amarillo: Sizemore's RV Museum

RV Museum, Amarillo, Texas

Prized items include:

  • the first known Airstream, from 1935. It was a kit, people built their own trailers then. It was owned by one family for 81 years and traveled 500,000 miles
  • 1948 Flxible, “Happy Max” from the movie RV
  • 1927 Lampsteed Kampkar
  • 1936 Alma, not restored, but original. Found in a barn.
things to do in Amarillo: Sizemore's RV Museum. 1935 Airstream

1935 Airstream, RV Museum, Amarillo, Texas

things to do in Amarillo: Sizemore's RV Museum. 1948 Flxible

1948 Flxible, RV Museum, Amarillo, Texas

The RV Museum is free. People all over the country bring and send items to the Sisemores. Step back in time, reminisce, and enjoy the progression of the RV industry from its inception until now.

American Quarter Horse Museum

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum showcases the colorful history and modern activities of the world’s most popular breed of horse and the people who played a major role in its history.

things to do in Amarillo: American Quarter Horse and Hall of Fame Museum

American Quarter Horse and Hall of Fame Museum

Quarter horses are “America’s Horse” and help settled the US West. The horses you see in rodeos, on ranches, and in Westerns (TV and movies) are quarter horses, whereas “racing” horses are thoroughbreds—although quarter horses have their own races (the All-american Futurity is similar to the Triple Crown but is a quicker race and offers more money).

Changing, one-of-a-kind exhibits are on display year-round. AQHA maintains the world’s largest equine breed registry (6 million entries) and membership organization. The floor of the main entrance is etched with quarter horse foundation bloodlines, extending back to Janus, a Colonial America import considered a founding stallion.

things to do in Amarillo: American Quarter Horse and Hall of Fame Museum

American Quarter Horse and Hall of Fame Museum

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon was selected #1 on Fodors 2014 top ten state parks in USA. Visit Amarillo really spoiled our group, arranging for us to witness a glorious sunrise followed by a Chuckwagon style breakfast. Afterward we had some time to explore a few hiking trails.

things to do in Amarillo: Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas

things to do in Amarillo: Palo Duro Canyon sunrise

Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas

 

things to do in Amarillo: Palo Duro Canyon hike

Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo Community Market

Amarillo Community Market is in its first year of operation. All vendors are from within 150 miles of Amarillo. Over 80 vendors were selling food, goods, and services on the Saturday I attended.

One vendor displayed jars of jam with interesting flavor combos. I said Hello to the man setting up. He said, “this is my wife’s project.” I asked where she is. He said, “She coaches volleyball and the season just started.” We joked a bit but he said he loves being part of the market.

things to do in Amarillo: Amarillo Community Market

Amarillo Community Market

A booth with book art was particularly impressive and popular. The teen girl in charge said she started doing the book art as an entrepreneurial project for school. I asked how many she has sold and she said, “I dunno. So many.” Some of the designs are elaborate so I asked which is harder, the words or the symbols. She said “all the same, the size of the book, the number of pages, determines the time and effort.”

things to do in Amarillo: Amarillo Community Market

Amarillo Community Market

things to do in Amarillo: Amarillo Community Market by Charles McCool of McCool Travel

Amarillo Community Market

Historic Route 66

things to do in Amarillo: Route 66

Old Route 66 through Amarillo

The San Jacinto neighborhood, 4 to 5 blocks of 6th Avenue, is Amarillo’s historic Route 66 area. While there are some quirky and funky gems to find along this stretch—like the Lile Gallery, where they produce elegant jewelry from broken Cadillac Ranch pieces—it is not full-blown Route 66 mania. My Visit Amarillo host told me that Amarillo should be striving to be like Albuquerque, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, with appreciation for Route 66 history.

things to do in Amarillo: restaurant on Route 66

outdoor dining along Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas

Golden Light Cafe is one of the oldest continuously operating cafes along Route 66, perhaps the oldest. It opened in 1946 and is still at its original location. The chili cheese fries were absolutely amazing and my green chili burger was really good.

things to do in Amarillo: Golden Light Cafe on Route 66

Golden Light Cafe, Amarillo, Texas

Another neighborhood highlight is “The Nat.” The Natatorium is a huge space which was once the city pool (1920s) then a night club (1940s), and now houses dozens of antique and crafts vendors. But just walking along 6th Avenue (yes, it is Avenue, not Street like in the Route 66 sign), you will see plenty of cool wall murals, Route 66 relics (like Sinclair dinosaurs), and nostalgia.

things to do in Amarillo: wall mural on Route 66

Old Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

Horse Statues

More than 100 full size American Quarter Horse statues can be found around Amarillo. Hoof Prints promotes public art in Amarillo and helps raise money for Center City, which runs the American Community Market. Here are pictures of two Hoof Prints horse statues and perhaps you will find all the others when you visit Amarillo.

things to do in Amarillo: Hoof Prints statues

Hoof Prints horse statue, Amarillo, Texas

things to do in Amarillo: Hoof Prints statues

Hoof Prints horse statue, Amarillo, Texas

What are some of your favorite things to do in Amarillo?

Note: I and a half dozen other travel journalists were hosted by Visit Amarillo, before the Travel Media Showcase conference in August 2016, as an opportunity to explore and learn about Amarillo, Texas and share our favorite findings with our network.

Some great things to do in Amarillo Texas include visiting Palo Duro Canyon, historic route 66, Cadillac Ranch, RV museum.

 


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8 Great Things to Do in Amarillo published on 9 September 2016.

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27 Responses to “8 Great Things to Do in Amarillo”

  1. melody pittman September 25, 2016 at 1:11 am #

    I loved following your trip through social media! So fun and the Cadillac Ranch looked my it would have been my favorite part. 😉

  2. The Thought Card September 24, 2016 at 10:37 pm #

    I’ve seen photos of the Cadillac Ranch but had no idea that it was in Amarillo, Texas. This is something I wouldn’t want to miss if I’m in town. So Americana and so 1970s style.

    • McCool Travel September 25, 2016 at 8:42 am #

      Everyone knows of Cadillac Ranch being a quirky attraction (definitely should visit) but I bet only a portion know that it is in amarillo.

  3. Bart & Eena September 23, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    This is a very very cool place! And nice photos too! We bookmarked this for the future, we love this! ?

    • McCool Travel September 23, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

      Thank you so much. When you plan your trip, let me know.

  4. Vyjay Rao September 22, 2016 at 2:13 am #

    Growing up on a rich diet of books and movies about the wild west, guns and horses. This post brought back vivid images of the lawless days where ranches swarmed with guns drawn. I would love to head out to the Cadillac ranch and the Horse museum.

    • McCool Travel September 22, 2016 at 6:15 am #

      Cool, Vyjay. This area is definitely historical wild West and those 2 stops are worthy.

  5. RoarLoud September 21, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    I’ve been to Texas but none of those spots. Palo Duro Canyon I could spend some time backpacking at! Of course Cadillac Ranch is street art fun. Question- did you try to eat the huge steak?

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 11:33 am #

      Oh, yeah, you would absolutely love Palo Duro, you hiking fiend. I did a short 45 minute hike and loved it.

  6. The Solivagant Soul (@Thesolivsoul) September 21, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    I’ve seen many places like that but I will never stop being surprised about half the south US having Spanish names. Amarillo means yellow, any idea why? Anyway, I have to say that my favourite one was the Cadillac Ranch! So eclectic!

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 10:43 am #

      Thank you for the note. One story I heard was that Amarillo is named for the golden sand surrounding it.

  7. Gina September 13, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    Amarillo is not that familiar to me but I’d love to consider this on my list. Cadillac Ranch is pretty impressive. Thanks for sharing, great post!

  8. Lyn aka TheTravellingLindfields September 13, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    I’m going to save this post. We are thinking of Texas in 2018.

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 9:08 am #

      Thank you. You will enjoy it. Let me know if I can help with planning.

  9. Johanna September 13, 2016 at 1:24 am #

    The American Quarter Horse museum would be my first stop. Then I’d want to buy a horse and ride off into the Texan sunset and all that space. The Cadillac Ranch looked a lot of fun!

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 9:09 am #

      You can ride your horse from the museum to Cadillac Ranch and then into the sunset. Fun day.

  10. Kristin Henning September 11, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

    The Palo Duro Canyon looks like a destination in itself. I love the rest of Armadillo’s attractions, worth a stop if I were passing through. Is Armadillo on the way to anywhere:)?

    • McCool Travel September 12, 2016 at 7:20 am #

      Amarillo is at the intersection of two big interstates, 40 and 27 ,between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque.

  11. Donna Janke September 11, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    I’ve driven past Amarillo a few times on my way to someplace else. I’ve never thought to stop. Maybe next time I will. The Cadillac Ranch and the RV Museum look particularly interesting to me.

    • McCool Travel September 11, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

      You should STOP in Amarillo. Cool place, Donna,

  12. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel) September 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    This sure looks like the Wild West to an easterner. Feels like a walk back in time.

    • McCool Travel September 11, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

      I totally advise you to visit to get a sense of real cowboy country. Plus, Cadillac Ranch alone must be seen.

  13. Duke Stewart September 9, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    So many nice pictures and fun things to do in Amarillo. I’d probably go check out Palo Duro Canyon if you forced me to choose one thing out of them all. Great list of stuff, McCool. Thanks for sharing.

    • McCool Travel September 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

      Palo Duro Canyon is amazing. My time there was very limited and I would definitely explore there much longer on my next trip.

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