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Why in the heck would we want to visit Amarillo, Texas? Well, of course, there are cowboys and horses and a cattle drive of longhorns down the main drag. And then there is also big art, big steaks and plenty of Texas whiskey, beer and iced tea. But these are just a few of the many enticements that make this panhandle city worth your time.

RELATED: 21 photos that will have you packing for a West Texas road trip

Big Texan | Photo by Jason Heidemann

Big Texan Steak Ranch

This huge and kitschy restaurant complex is famous for its steaks—the 16-ounce bone-in Duke’s Cut ribeye is sublime—but is perhaps even better known for the 72-ounce Steak Challenge. Anyone who eats a 72-ounce steak, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, dinner roll and salad in one hour gets the meal for free. And all the other diners get to watch the action (on a stage no less) while they attempt finishing off their own meals.


Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Cadillac Ranch

Back in 1974, Stanley Marsh 3 and other artists got together and planted ten Cadillacs in the ground, nose first. The installation was moved in 1997 and is now closer to old Route 66, but it’s still out there in a cow pasture. Nowadays, in addition to viewing it, visitors often bring their own cans of spray paint to add a personal touch to the dramatic work.

Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo and Cattle Drive

The Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo comes to town just once each year. It focuses on the ranch hands who work locally and so is not as polished as some, but it exudes a down home, everyone-knows-everyone feeling. And there are plenty of bucking broncos. The cattle drive of Texas longhorns down the city’s main drag—Polk Street—occurs the day before the rodeo opens and is followed by plenty of celebrating in adjacent bars and restaurants.

Trover photo by Erik Rowley

Big art in big sky country

There is plenty of space available in Texas for big art. You do have to hunt down most of the sites, which is part of the fun. Ask around. “Ozymandias” by Lightnin’ McDuff dates to the mid-1990s. Located in a private cow pasture protected with barbed wire, it consists of two giant legs that pay homage to the Egyptian king. “Floating Mesa” is credited to Stanley Marsh 3 and dates to 1981. Installed on top of a mesa, it appears to be floating atop the ground when the sun reflects just the right way. There’s also “Combine City,” a Cadillac Ranch of sorts, but featuring combines instead of cars.

Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” this 120-mile-long canyon is the second largest (based on length) in the U.S. Among its features are a giant cave and a 300-foot-tall “hoodoo” rock formation that resembles a lighthouse. In summer the temperature can climb above 100 degrees, so each trailhead here has a warning thermometer. For 53 years now, when the sun sets and the canyon cools off, the over-the-top extravaganza known as “Texas—The Musical” lights up an outdoor amphitheater. It features real horses and a fireworks show at the end.

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Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

Situated inside a 1921 Art Deco building on the West Texas A&M University campus, this is the oldest and largest history museum in Texas. It is often referred to as “The Smithsonian with a Texas accent.” Displays cover petroleum, archaeology and costumes and textiles, but it also holds a fine arts collection that includes many Georgia O’Keeffe artifacts and one painting (she was once an area resident).

Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Route 66 halfway marker

Amarillo is the big city mid-point for Route 66, the famous “Mother Road” running between Chicago and Los Angeles. But the actual mid-point, which measures in at 1,139 miles between starting points, is at the MidPoint Cafe and Gift Shop in nearby Adrian. It makes the perfect stop for some fresh homemade pie, and the gift shop is loaded with souvenir items that you might actually want. Also check out the Route 66 Historic District in Amarillo, where you can duck into the Lile Art Gallery to pat Lady, an Australian Shepard that keeps watch at the door. Inside, check out the owner’s exclusive line of cadilite jewelry made from the paint layers that peel off those famous Cadillacs.

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum

Dedicated to “the horse that settled the West,” this museum showcases the history of the quarter horses and the people who have brought the breed fame. (Did you know the quarter horse got its name by being the fastest horse to run the quarter mile?) An arena outside sometimes schedules demonstrations with real horses.

Embassy Suites Amarillo Downtown


Situated near the heart of downtown, the brand-new Embassy Suites Amarillo Downtown hotel is filled with natural light and offers a living wall in the lobby that is covered with more than 4,000 green plants. Suites are spacious, Wi-Fi is free and TVs measure 49 inches.  Full breakfast and evening reception are included.

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Tagged: Texas

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Carole is a Berkeley-based travel writer who most especially enjoys cultural and culinary travel. She contributes to an assortment of publications and is the author of 18 books. Carole oversees two websites, and, and she blogs at
Carole Terwilliger Meyers
- 4 weeks ago

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