Things to Do in Amarillo Texas
Ranch culture prevails in Amarillo, Texas. Two of its chief attractions, located off former Route 66, have the word “ranch” right in their name. We’re talking, of course, about the Big Texan Steak Ranch and the Cadillac Ranch – just a couple of the cool things to see and do in Amarillo. Don’t stress if you forget your cowboy boots at home, though.
The Big Texan
The Big Texan Steak Ranch is a restaurant (with a motel across the street) best known for “The Texas King.” This 72 oz. steak has enticed almost 50,000 people over the years and will be yours for free if you can eat the whole meal in under an hour.
Only around 8,000 people have managed this gluttonous feat, and you can view a list of some of these champions on the Big Texan’s website. (It seems records from 1966-1991 were destroyed in a fire, after which the restaurant moved from Route 66 to Interstate 40.) Whether or not you try the Texas King, the Big Texan is a fun place to eat. They take the Wild West motif to the extreme. There’s even a gift shop that’s home to a live rattlesnake.
Artist collective Ant Farm created this public sculpture in 1974. Cadillac Ranch features 10 Cadillacs nose-down in the dirt, the back ends of the cars all sticking up at the same angle. The piece was created to show the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin and uses different models of the car from 1949-1963. Visitors to the site are encouraged to bring spray paint to incorporate their own artistic expression to the installation.
Cadillac Ranch was originally located on artist and patron Stanley Marsh 3′s ranch in Amarillo but was relocated when the city expanded. It’s still technically on private land, but “trespassing” to view and contribute to this public sculpture is a tacit part of the experience. Be sure to check out Marsh’s wacky mock traffic signs scattered about Amarillo, as well.
Palo Duro Canyon
At 120 miles long and an average width of 6 miles across, Palo Duro is the second-largest canyon in the U.S. In some places, it’s actually 20 miles across. Its deepest point is more than 800 feet. The canyon’s dramatic geologic features have inspired many, including famous painter Georgia O’Keefe. During the early 20th century, O’Keefe lived in nearby Canyon, TX, and would frequently visit Palo Duro to hike its trails and observe the steep sandstone formations with stark white gypsum deposits. Over 50 of her watercolors were inspired by the landscape here. Of the canyon, O’Keefe once wrote, “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.” She wasn’t kidding. If you go for a hike here, bring plenty of water.
One of the most popular trails for hikers is a 6-mile loop dedicated to the Lighthouse hoodoo, and the middle portion has very little shade. Temperatures can reach the mid-90s at summer’s peak. It’s certainly beautiful in the park, and worth the drive if you’re in nearby Amarillo.
Amarillo Skate Park
If any Offbeat travelers out there are sk8r boys and girls, Amarillo boasts one of the state’s best bowl skateparks. It includes a 20-foot full pipe, with a surrounding bowl of 5-9 feet deep. There’s also a street area with quarterpipes, a pyramid, and a handrail. Even if you don’t skate, this would no doubt be a great place to grab some neat action-photography shots.
American Quarter Horse Museum
The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed of horse in the U.S. today, as they are good for sprinting short distances. They also do well in rodeos, working on ranches, and in horse shows due to their compact bodies, as they can execute quick and intricate maneuvers quite well. Horse lovers will be delighted to see the museum and Hall of Fame in Amarillo dedicated to this beloved breed.
Texas Panhandle War Memorial
This site, dedicated in 2003, commemorates Texas Panhandle soldiers who either lost their lives or went missing in action serving the U.S. All lost soldiers from the Panhandle’s 26 counties, since the Spanish-American War, are remembered here.
Well, that just about concludes our quick guide to Amarillo. A very fun addition to any U.S. road trip. Also worth a photo or two is the vintage Paramount Theater sign, which you will find downtown. The theater is gone now, but residents couldn’t bear to part with the lovely art deco sign. Word is, someone bought the sign and moved it to an office building. No confirmation on that rumor, so if you visit Amarillo, you’ll have to let us know. Happy trails!