Looking for fun things to do in Amarillo, Texas? There's a lot, and this guide covers them all!
You'll learn about the coolest attractions—from classic to quirky to outdoorsy, and so much more—plus, you'll find tons of tips for planning your trip.
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Are you thinking about taking a trip to Amarillo?
This Texas panhandle town has so much to offer visitors! There is something for everyone: fun museums, outdoor adventures, tempting restaurants, one-of-a-kind and weird attractions, and much more.
I was sure what I'd think when I visited a couple months ago, but I ended up loving it. And I'm pretty sure you will, too!
Keep reading to learn how to plan your Amarillo vacation.
All About Amarillo, Texas
This Texas panhandle town makes the perfect weekend getaway. There are more than enough activities to fill a few days, and it's just a quick plane ride from Dallas (and other nearby Texas, Southwest, and Midwest cities). Our flight took less than an hour ... can't beat that!
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city in Texas, and it has an interesting history that revolves around ranching, oil and gas, helium, and even nuclear weapons. Which had led to some unique city nicknames, like Bomb City.
These days, its location on Route 66 and near the Palo Duro Canyon, along with its quirky roadside attractions, make it a fun weekend destination.
Ready to learn more about this unique Texas city? This travel guide covers everything you need to know:
- Things to Do
- Trip Planning Tips
- Where to Stay
Things to Do in Amarillo
Amarillo has so many unique attractions. You'll find everything from quirky (Cadillac Ranch) to classic (Route 66) ... there really is something for everyone!
In fact, there are so many fun things to do that a weekend trip really isn't enough time. We were there for about two and half days, and we definitely didn't check everything off our list ... a return trip is surely in order.
Are you ready to start planning your itinerary? Then keep reading!
Snap an Airport Selfie
Are you arriving by plane? Before exiting the airport, take a pic with the colorful Amarillo mural ... preferably while wearing your cowboy boots, of course! You'll find the mural on the second floor near the ticketing area. It's hard to miss it.
Visit the Cadillac Ranch
The Cadillac Ranch is a must see! This classic road trip destination consists of 10 graffiti-covered Cadillacs buried in a field located just outside the city limits.
Cadillac Ranch is the most well-known roadside attraction in the area, so you probably won't be alone. Go early in the day to miss the crowds, and bring a can of spray paint (or two) to leave your mark on this unique piece of art. You need to walk through a dirt field to get to the cars, so wear shoes you don't mind getting dirty.
See a Pair of Giant Legs
Speaking of roadside attractions, Amarillo actually has quite a few. You'll find Ozymandias on the Plains, which is basically a giant pair of giant legs, located just south of the city. The legs were created by local artist Lightnin’ McDuff, and funded by Stanley Marsh 3, the same billionaire behind Cadillac Ranch and a number of the area's other public art projects.
Attend an Event
Amarillo is the largest city in the Texas Panhandle, making it a popular destination for musicians and other entertainers. There are plenty of local events, too, like the First Friday Art Walk at Arts in the Sunset and the Amarillo Community Market where you'll find food, crafts, music, and more (it's held every Saturday from June through September). Will you be in Amarillo during the holidays? Then don't miss the Electric Light Parade!
Find more Amarillo event listings here.
Get Your Photo with a One-of-a-Kind Horse
As you explore Amarillo, you'll probably start to notice that there are horses everywhere you turn ... not real horses, but life-size painted horses. In fact, there are over 100 of these painted horses throughout the city. The horses are part of the "Hoof Prints of the American Quarter Horse" public art project, and each one if different. Learn more about the horses and find their locations here.
Spend a Day (or More) at the Palo Duro Canyon
The breathtaking Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the U.S. (after the Grand Canyon), and it should be at the top of your bucket list! You'll find amazing, panoramic views here, many hiking trails, lots of interesting plants and animals, and unique sights like the Lighthouse hoodoo. We only had a day to spend in this state park, and it wasn't nearly enough time. I'd recommend spending two days for a more relaxed visit.
Tip: the temperature on the canyon floor can reach 120 degrees in summer. We visited in mid-June and were sweating buckets, even in the dry climate. It was very uncomfortable, and we skipped the longer hikes. For more temperate weather, visit the canyon in spring or fall instead. If you do go in summer, bring lots of water (more than you think you'll need) and plan to hike and do other strenuous activities in the early morning before the temp spikes.
Watch a Texas-Themed Musical
Combine your visit to Palo Duro Canyon with tickets to the musical Texas, which tells a romantic story set in the 1880s. I'm not sure how historically accurate this musical is (probably not very), and it does drag in spots. As long as you're not expecting Hamilton though, I think you'll enjoy it. The play takes place in a beautiful amphitheater and along the canyon's rim.
Tip: We sat in the right rear section, and the sight line was fine. For the best views though, get tickets in the middle (or top) of the center section. That way, you'll be able to see everything that's happening on the stage and in the canyon. I'd also recommend skipping the meal (it doesn't get good reviews). Grab a bite to eat in nearby Canyon or at the Palo Duro Trading Post inside the park instead.
Amarillo is no dusty cow town ... you'll find many opportunities to enjoy the arts during your trip! Seek them out at the Symphony, Cerulean Gallery, Little Theatre, Opera, Lone Star Ballet, Chamber Music Amarillo, or Arts in the Sunset (which has 50 working studios and galleries, plus an outdoor sculpture garden).
Visit a National Park ... or Two
The Amarillo area is home to two National Parks—Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument and the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area—and you can easily visit both during your trip. Lake Meredith is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, like hiking, birdwatching, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and fishing.
Alibates Flint Quarries is one of the least visited National Parks, and it's a shame! The site's history is fascinating, and the landscape is gorgeous. During your visit, you'll learn how Native Americans mined the colorful flint found here, then used it to make tools. You can only view the shallow mines on a ranger-led hike, so reserve a spot in advance.
Watch a Flick at an Old Fashioned Drive-In Theater
The Tascosa Drive-In is one of Texas's last drive-in movie theaters, and it's the perfect place to take your family or go on a romantic date night. Get there early and grab a bite at the concession stand, then settle in for a double header. The theater is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
View an Ode to the Combine
Combine City is a farmer's answer to Cadillac Ranch. While you can't walk among the half-buried combines like you can at Cadillac Ranch, it's worth a quick stop. Bring a zoom lens if you want to get good photos. If you're heading east on E Farm to Market Road 1151, you'll find Combine City located right before Whitaker Road.
Cheer on a Local Team
Sports fans will be happy to know that Amarillo is home to a number of professional and semi-professional teams. Check out the minor league Sod Poodles at their new baseball stadium downtown ... the team's name is an old-fashioned nickname for prairie dogs. Don't miss the Venom, a professional indoor football team, if you're a football fan. And soccer lovers will enjoy cheering on the Bombers, a professional indoor soccer team.
Track Down the Mysterious Floating Mesa
Can't get enough of Amarillo's unique roadside attractions? Then, head out of town to view the Floating Mesa, which was funded by the same guy behind Cadillac Ranch and the giant legs. The site is a mesa (flat-topped hill) with a strip of white-painted plywood installed near the top ... the mesa's top appears to float when the sky is the right color. Bring a zoom lens for a good pic, because you can't get too close. To get there from Amarillo, head northwest on Tascosa Road. The mesa is right before the junction with State Highway 2381.
Visit an RV Museum
Believe it or not, the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum was one of our favorite discoveries here! At this one-of-a-kind museum, you'll learn about the history of recreational vehicles and view vintage RVs (like the world's oldest Airstream). The museum has other travel-related displays, too, including a retro gas station. This cool museum is actually part of an RV showroom. Go into the store, and they'll show you how to get to the free museum.
Explore the Area's History, Arts, and Culture
The city's museums reflect the Texas Panhandle's rich history and culture. Here are some museums worth checking out on your visit:
- Amarillo Museum of Art - This local art museum features a roster of well-known artists, an Asian art collection, and an outdoor sculpture garden.
- Texas Air and Space Museum - Visit this aviation museum to enjoy a variety of exhibits, including full-size civilian and military planes.
- Don Harrington Discovery Center - Kids of all ages (and adults) will love the interactive exhibits at this science center and planetarium.
- Amarillo Quarter Horse Hall of Fame - Learn about the history of the world's most popular horse breed at this unique museum.
- Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian - Discover the arts and culture of Pueblo and Plains Native Americans at this museum, which is housed in a replica of an underground ceremonial chamber.
- Amarillo Railroad Museum - Learn about the fascinating railroad history of the Texas panhandle through model-size exhibits and full-size trains, including a white car which was used for transporting nuclear weapons.
- Bill's Backyard Classics - Car lovers won't want to miss this display of over 90 vehicles (classics, hot rods, and more) dating from the 1920s to the present.
- Harrington House - Take a free tour of a beautiful, historic house that was built in 1914.
- Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum - Learn about Texas Panhandle (and Southwest) art and history. This museum is actually located in Canyon ... combine a visit with your trip to the Palo Duro Canyon.
Get Your Kicks on Historic Route 66
Amarillo is located on Route 66, the first U.S. highway to be completely paved. The highway ran from Chicago to California, and it was the primary route for migrants trying to escape the Dust Bowl, as well as vacationers heading west in later years. While you can't drive the whole route anymore, it's fun exploring sections of it, like the Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District. Antique shops, restaurants line the road here.
Read about the historic buildings along Route 66 here. And if you're planning a road trip, make sure to pick up a Route 66 Passport book so you can collect stamps along the route. We found our passport at the Lile Art Gallery.
Visit a Monument to Helium
Amarillo is known for its vast helium reserves, and in 1968, the Helium Time Columns Monument was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of helium's discovery. Each leg of this a six-story statue contains a time capsule which was meant to be opened in 25, 50, 100, and 1000 years. The first capsule was opened in 1993, and the contents are located at the Don Harrington Discovery Center (more on that museum above), which is also home to the monument.
Explore Downtown Amarillo
If you're interested in architecture, you'll love exploring the buildings in the Center City Historic District. Check out the Potter County Courthouse (pictured below) and nearby Potter County Library, the towering Santa Fe Building, the Paramount Theater's historic sign, and more. The area is also home to cool bars, restaurants (more info below), and public art displays. We loved being able to walk to everything downtown from our hotel.
Keep the Kids Happy
Almost everything we did on our trip was kid-friendly. If you're looking for activities specifically for children though, make sure to check out the Wonderland Amusement Park, which has rides (including coaster, kiddie, and water), mini golf, and games for all ages, or the Amarillo Zoo, which is home to over 80 species of animals.
Eat and Drink Your Way Through Town
If you love to eat, then you're going to love the food in Amarillo. Everything we tried was delicious ... we never had a bad meal! You'll find a huge variety of options, too, from artisan coffee to ginormous steaks.
These were our favorite places. And bonus, they're all vegetarian-friendly ... yes, even The Big Texan!
- The Bagel Place - Head here to build your own breakfast burrito (mine had eggs, cheese, hashbrowns, and jalapeños ... yum) or grab a bagel or pastry. They also serve lunch.
- Six Car Pub - We had so much fun chatting with the bartenders at this brewery! Try one of the beers they brew on site (the sour beer was my fave) or one of the many others they stock. Food is also available.
- Crush - This downtown restaurant has an upscale vibe. We started with the cheese curds (so good!), loved our entrees (a peach-steak salad and a grilled portobello with risotto), enjoyed great cocktails and wine, and finished with a couple mouthwatering desserts.
- Ye Olde Pancake Station - The bartenders at Six Car Pub recommended this restaurant to us. You'll find everything from breakfast classics to skillets to breakfast burritos at this homey spot. I was struck with indecision but went with the delicious, fluffy pancakes at the last minute, and they didn't disappoint. It gets busy, so arrive early, especially on weekends.
- Purple Flamingo Pops - We spotted this popsicle cart at the Botanical Garden and loved the watermelon and pickle juice (!) flavors ... it was the perfect hot weather treat. Rumor has it they sometimes sell boozy pops!
- The Big Texan - This classic Amarillo tourist spot is known for it 72-ounce steak challenge ... if you can eat that huge steak (plus sides) in under an hour, it's free. And while the food probably won't win any awards, we actually thought it was pretty good. My husband enjoyed his steak, and the fried pickles were some of my favorite ever. Vegetarians can make a meal from the many sides, and they even brew their own beer, which was also great.
- Joe Taco - We ate here after visiting the Palo Duro Canyon (they have locations in Amarillo and Canyon), and the cheesy Tex-Mex food definitely hit the spot! You can pick from different fillings and sauces for many entrees, and we enjoyed building our own meals (my mushroom-spinach burrito smothered with poblano cream sauce was delish).
Explore the Great Outdoors
While the area is especially well known for the Palo Duro Canyon, you'll find plenty of other outdoor activities. Hike the trails at the 640-acre Wildcat Bluff Nature Center, or walk / bike the four-mile Rock Island Rail Trail. There are opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities, too.
Relax at the Botanical Gardens
Amarillo is home to a beautiful, petite botanical garden with a variety of interesting landscapes. It's the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon anytime of year. If you get the chance, visit the during Music in the Gardens, which is held most Thursday evenings during the summer. There's live music, and the gardens are so pretty in the setting sun ... bring a picnic. I also hear that it's magical at Christmas when the garden is covered with lights!
Tips for Planning an Awesome Trip
I hope you enjoyed reading about all these fun things to do in Amarillo! The city really is the perfect weekend getaway.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your vacation:
- Mind the weather. Amarillo weather can be extreme. Temps in summer are very hot (although the climate is quite dry, which makes the heat more bearable). Winter weather is cold, and sometimes, snowy. During summer, make sure to drink plenty of water and bring sun protection, especially if you'll be outside for long periods of time.
- Rent a car. This city was not built for walkers. You will definitely need a car to see all the sights. Uber is available though, so take advantage if you're planning on going out at night.
- Give yourself enough time. Like many Texas cities, Amarillo is spread out. It seemed to take us at least 20 minutes to get between most places. And there was a lot of construction, which also slowed us down.
- Get out of town. You'll find just as many activities outside the city limits are you will inside them. Make sure to plan trips to the nearby Palo Duro Canyon, Alibates Flint Quarries, and more.
Where to Stay
You'll find mostly chain hotels here, and there is a option for every budget.
I'd recommend staying in downtown Amarillo. We spent a couple nights at the Embassy Suites, and the room and location were both excellent. We were able to walk around downtown with ease and found a number of restaurants nearby. The Courtyard by Marriott is another highly rated hotel downtown.
Check reviews and rates for these hotels (and others) at TripAdvisor.
Palo Duro Canyon Hotels
If you're planning overnight trip to the Palo Duro Canyon and don't want to camp, then stay in Canyon, Texas. It's the closest town to the state park, and it's only about 19 miles from Amarillo.
We spent one night at the Holiday Inn Express in Canyon, which was a quick drive from the Palo Duro Canyon. It was comfortable, affordable, and breakfast was included. The Best Western in Canyon is another good option.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Looking for more info on this panhandle city? Here are some frequently asked questions ... let me know if you have others!
What is Amarillo known for?
Amarillo is famous for the song "Amarillo by Morning", sung by country music legend George Strait. It's located on Route 66 and is home to the famous Cadillac Ranch, the 72-ounce steak challenge, and the nearby Palo Duro Canyon. The city is also known for its ranches, oil and gas production, massive helium reserves, and it's the site of the United State's primary nuclear weapons assembly / disassembly plant.
How populous is Amarillo?
As of the 2010 census, there were 190,695 people living in Amarillo. It is the 14th largest city in Texas.
Why is Amarillo called the Yellow City?
The name Amarillo comes from the Spanish word for yellow. The city most likely took its name from the yellow wildflowers that grow in the region or from the color of the soil around the Amarillo Lake and Amarillo Creek.
Why is Amarillo called Bomb City?
Amarillo is the site of the only nuclear weapons assembly / disassembly facility in the United States, which has led to it being called Bomb City. (There is also a movie by the same name about a local murder.)
Why is Amarillo called Helium City?
Amarillo, which is the self-proclaimed "Helium Capital of the World", is known for its vast helium reserves. From 1929 until 1943, the historic Amarillo Helium Plant supplied almost all of the world’s helium.
What is there to do in Amarillo for free?
There are so many free things to do in Amarillo:
- Visit one of the city's many roadside attractions, like Cadillac Ranch, Ozymandias on the Plains, Floating Mesa, or Combine City.
- Explore a National Park: Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument and Lake Meredith National Recreation Area are both closeby.
- Learn about the history of RVs at Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.
- Walk or bike the Rock Island Rail Trail.
- Explore the Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District.
- Wander around downtown Amarillo and check out its historic buildings, like the Potter County Courthouse and the Santa Fe Building.
- Track down the painted horses that are located all over town.
- Tour the history Harrington House.
- Visit the Amarillo Museum of Art.
Does Amarillo have snow? How cold does it get in Amarillo?
Believe it or not, it does snow in Amarillo. Winter temperatures in Amarillo can be quite cold (January's average low is 25 degrees), and the city get about 15 inches of snow a year.