Amarillo by Morning

Amarillo by Morning
Words by Christine Van Dyk
Photos by Lawrence Pereira, Amarillo CVB

The sounds of George Strait fill the car as we cruise into town. This is the last stop on an abbreviated drive across Route 66 that began in St. Louis. Instead of traveling to where the route ends in California, we’ll finish up in Texas because this stretch is widely considered to be the true heart of America’s “mother road.”

Along the way we pass the Gateway Arch, the Kan-O-Tex gasoline station from Disney’s Cars, and the Blue Whale of Catoosa. We’ve seen just about every neon attraction and kitschy pop-culture sight on this weird roadtrip and have finally arrived in Amarillo.

This Texas panhandle town is not your “high-tea at the Ritz” kind of vacation, but if a quintessential Texan experience is what you’re lookin’ for, Amarillo is for you. Come along and discover a place where the vibes are friendly, the portions are huge, and the dress is always cowboy. Here’s our list of what to do and see in a small town with a big personality:

Quirky Sights 

Amarillo boasts a collection of iconic roadside attractions. Here are our favorites:

Cadillac Ranch — Ten graffitied Cadillacs sit “head down, bum up” in a field outside Amarillo.

Leave your mark on one of Route 66’s top attractions by bringing your own spray paint to tag this trippy art installation.

Ozymandias on the Plains — This weird attraction is basically a giant pair of legs created by the same billionaire behind Cadillac Ranch.

Route 66 Historic District — The Historic San Jacinto Neighborhood features all the quirky delights, from vintage clothing shops to antique service stations, old-timey murals to eateries—all in buildings from the 1920s to 1940s.

Floating Mesa — This large hill has a strip of white-painted plywood installed across the top, making the mesa’s peak appear to float in the sky.

A Horse, Of Course — “Hoof Prints of the American Quarter Horse” is an art display consisting of dozens of life-size painted horses throughout the city.

Tascosa Drive-In — Order some popcorn and hunker down for a double feature at one of Texas’s last drive-in theaters.

Wide Open Spaces 

The second largest canyon in America sits deep in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. Nearby there are two national parks, giving you plenty of reasons to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park — This massive canyon is well worth a visit. Challenge yourself on an 11-mile running trail or take the Lighthouse Trail for amazing views of the giant hoodoo at the end.

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument — There’s plenty of nature to explore, but make sure to also take a ranger-led trek of the flint mines to learn how Native Americans mined these colorful gems for making tools.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area — This stunning setting is ideal for hiking, camping, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits.

Big Flavors

From local brews to belt-busting steaks, everything is worthy of the clean-plate club. If only the portions weren’t so big!

The Big Texan Steak Ranch — The Big Texan Steak Ranch is more than a restaurant. There are live concerts, a beer garden, and a giant retro cowboy for Insta pics. But even though you can spend the night in a Conestoga wagon or camp in an Airstream, steak is the real draw. For years folks have come for the 72-ounce challenge—finish a steak and sides in under an hour and your meal is free!

Ye Olde Pancake Station — This homey diner is small but worth the wait. You’ll enjoy breakfast classics such as skillets, breakfast burritos, and of course, mountains of fluffy pancakes.

Blue Sky Texas Burgers — Everything is homemade and huge at this joint that boasts fresh-made burgers, fresh-baked buns, and hand-cut fries. Finish it off with a milkshake made with Texas Blue Bell ice cream.

Joe Taco –– From traditional Tex-Mex dishes to tacos and margaritas, this place is a local favorite. Order it as it comes or pick your own fillings and sauce. I recommend the poblano cream sauce.

Six Car Pub — The great local crafted beers and tasty food give you plenty of reasons to hang out in downtown Amarillo.