Amarillo is one of the most underrated destinations in the Lone Star State.
Overshadowed by the Texan cities of Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, Amarillo is a hidden gem in the Texas panhandle.
The Mother Road passes through the heart of Amarillo and has helped attract a steady stream of visitors from all over the US.
Most visitors to the city are Route 66 travelers wanting to see Cadillac Ranch.
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However, this quintessential Texan town is a destination in its own right and worth planning a trip just to see the city.
Also Read: Best Cities to Visit in Texas
Why visit Amarillo?
Amarillo, Texas started out as a railroad town in the 1880s but has grown into a sprawling urban area.
In Amarillo, you will find an exciting mix of rugged cowboy culture and contemporary attractions. The city has many premier museums, art galleries, craft beer breweries, and restaurants.
Culture lovers can enjoy the art museum, historic sites, or a visit to the opera house.
You can also see live music at venues all over town, or check out the famous annual rodeo that draws cowboys from across Texas and beyond every year.
If you want to learn more about the Old West in America, Amarillo is a great place to visit.
The city also has lot of nearby outdoor activities such as hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, ATV rides, zip lining, etc.
Amarillo also makes the perfect family vacation getaway in Texas. There are plenty of fun things to do in Amarillo, Texas with kids including zoos, amusement park, and natural history museums.
Best Things To Do in Amarillo TX
Ride horseback in the Grand Canyon of Texas. Go retro on Historic Route 66. Snap a photo with the murals. Explore Amarillo’s rugged cowboy culture.
Enjoy the local flora and fauna in desert parks and try traditional Texan fare. Eat a grilled nopales!
You’ll find many unique things to do in Amarillo, Texas from a giant steak that no one can finish to the cars at Cadillac Ranch.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Amarillo, Texas Panhandle.
Wanna take a fun short trip from Amarillo?
Cadillac Ranch is the place for you. This quirky roadside attraction in Amarillo is on the top of Texas bucket list for most folks!
Located on Route 66 in east central Texas, it’s where the art group Ant Farm buried ten Cadillacs nose down into the dirt and created one of America’s most iconic artworks.
The cars are spray painted and decorated with colorful graffiti. Every inch of them is covered with layers of paint and the art installation looks striking against the empty field.
Visitors can bring a can and spray paint the cars to create their own artwork.
The art work is very popular with tourists and one of the best things to do in Amarillo, Texas.
This is one of those places where you’ll want your camera ready!
Historic Route 66 District
The Historic Route 66 District contains many historic buildings, original signs, and sites from the original U.S. Highway 66 that were bypassed by Interstate 40.
The historic district is 13 blocks and 1 mile long. It includes art galleries, murals, antique shops, restaurants, boutique stores, and live music events.
Some of the interesting and historically significant buildings that reside in the historic district are the Haunted Natatorium, the Adkinson-Baker Tire Company, and Taylor’s Texaco Station.
Wondering where to eat in the Historic District?
For a quirky ambiance and good Mexican food, try Braceros in a converted former Route 66 garage. Golden Light Cafe is another great restaurant that has been here since the 1940s.
Travel Tip – Planning to take a Route 66 all the way to California? Read our Texas to California road trip planner!
Downtown Amarillo is perfect for a stroll through historical buildings, colorful art deco architecture, museums, coffee shops, public art, and other remnants of a bygone era including Route 66 neon signs.
The Potter County Courthouse, Santa Fe Building, Paramount Theater’s historic sign are some of the famous places in the area.
Also Read: Best museums in Amarillo, Texas to know about museums such as Amarillo Historical Museum, Amarillo Railroad Museum, and more.
Amarillo Museum of Art
Amarillo, located on the campus of Amarillo College, is home to one of the best art museums in Texas.
The Amarillo Museum of Art (AMA) has been open for thirty years, and it’s a great place for locals and tourists alike.
The AMA offers something for everyone, from traditional paintings to modern installations.
It even features an extensive collection of Native American artifacts on permanent display.
Admission to the Amarillo Museum of Art is free to the public.
Amarillo Botanical Gardens
Amarillo Botanical Gardens is spread over 4 acres and has charming seasonal displays.
The Botanical Gardens has a Japanese Garden, fragrance garden, and butterfly garden that is popular with kids.
Tourists can also visit the Mary E. Bivins Tropical Conservatory where they can view tropical plant species from outside Texas.
During the holiday season, the Amarillo Botanical gardens are lit up in a kaleidoscope of colors and popular for photographs.
Nature lovers will love the beautiful flora and fauna on offer at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, making them one of the top things to do in Amarillo, Texas.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo TX is famous for its 72-ounce steak challenge!
The contest originated in the heyday of Route 66 – when the Texan cowboys could easily demolish a steak in a few minutes.
To win the challenge and get the free meal, you must eat a 72 oz steak and sides meal within an hour – a herculean task!
If you can’t finish for any reason, then you will have to pay for the meal.
Many foodies come here thinking they can attempt it but be warned – that steak is simply ginormous and costs a full $72.
If you do win, you will get a permanent feature on their winners board.
Don’t worry – you can also order from their standard menu which has normal sized traditional Texan foods.
There is also a gift shops that sells Texan themed items and souvenirs.
Whatever you want to eat, the Route 66 landmark of The Big Texan is definitely worth a stop for its captivating legend.
American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum
The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in West Texas is dedicated to telling the story of the American Quarter Horse.
The Quarter Horse breed is an excellent sprinter and these horses have played an important role in the history of West Texas and in the Great Plains.
The museum includes interactive exhibits that teach visitors about breed’s anatomy, bloodline, riding and equestrian exhibits, stories of people who influenced the breed, and more.
Visitors can also see many beautiful Western style paintings of the American Quarter Horse.
The Quarter Horse Hall of Fame is a great place to learn about famous horses through history in Amarillo, Texas.
Hoof Prints of Quarter Horse Project
Amarillo’s Quarter Horses are not limited just to the museums but can be found throughout the city.
Over 100 painted quarter horses can be found throughout Downtown Amarillo as part of the Hoof Prints of the American Quarter Horse art project.
Taking a photo with the vividly painted statues of quarter horses is one of the best things to do in Amarillo for social media fans.
Panhandle Plains Historical Museum
The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum is located about 15 minutes outside Amarillo on the campus of the West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
This premier museum offers a glimpse into the history of Texas, from the age of the dinosaurs to modern times.
Kids love seeing the prehistoric beast skeletons that once lived here.
Visitors can also learn about the American Indians who inhabited the land and get an up close look at prehistoric arrowheads and pottery at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
The museum also has exhibits on the pioneers, about the discovery of oil, geology of the area, and recent developments like wind energy advances.
The museum also has a vast art collection.
Amarillo Zoo is one of the best things to do in Amarillo with kids.
It has a large collection of interesting and exotic animal species including lions, tigers, miniature horses, donkeys, and the Texas longhorn cattle.
The zoo’s herpetarium includes giant pythons, salamanders, iguanas, and other reptiles – it is very popular with families.
The Amarillo Zoo has live animal shows, keeper chats, and animal encounters for kids.
Wonderland Amusement Park
Wonderland Amusement Park is a great place for families to spend the summer in Amarillo TX.
Thrilling rides including roller coasters such as the Texas Tornado and the Mouse Trap are popular with visitors.
Other fun things to do at Wonderland Amusement Park include mini golf, bumper car, waterslides to cool down, etc.
Splash Amarillo is a water park that is fun for all the family.
The park has a lazy River, wave pools, and water slides to keep you busy.
Little kids love playing in the splash zone while parents can relax on the deck with their feet in the sand.
If you want to take a break from swimming, you can also play some arcade games or grab a snack at the concession stands.
Amarillo Opera is one of the most popular things to do in Amarillo, TX.
The opera offers a unique blend of classical music, drama and dance performances and is great for culture lovers.
They also offer family-oriented programs to connect and engage Amarillo’s kids in classical music.
The Amarillo Symphony Orchestra is one of the most popular orchestras in Texas.
They have been performing for over 40 years and have several performances per season.
Performances take place at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.
The symphony offers a wide range of genres such as Beethoven and Bach.
If you are happen to be in town when the Symphony Orchestra is performing, be sure to attend.
Lone Star Ballet
The Lone Star Ballet is Amarillo’s premier professional ballet company.
The group performs a wide variety of classical and contemporary pieces, as well as full length ballets.
Lone Star’s performances often include live music played by a live orchestra or pianist.
Don Harrington Discovery Center and Space Theater
The Don Harrington Discovery Center and Space Theater is a great place to explore the universe around us.
Kids can play in the Space Lab where they get hands-on experience with science, engineering, math, and technology.
The theater shows an educational IMAX movie every day of the week that highlights different aspects of our solar system.
There are also opportunities for children to participate in workshops like building rockets or experiencing zero gravity through virtual reality headsets.
A visit to the Don Harrington Discovery Center is one of the fun things to do in Amarillo, Texas for families with kids!
Amarillo Little Theatre
Amarillo Little Theatre is a community theatre.
The theater produces an annual season of musicals, comedies, and dramas for the purpose of entertaining an audience and raising cultural awareness.
You can catch a show here if you have the time while visiting Amarillo.
Texas Air & Space Museum
The Texas Air and Space Museum in Amarillo TX is the best place to visit for an up-close experience of the state’s aviation and space history.
The museum has over 60 planes, spacecrafts, launch vehicles, military weapon systems and other pieces of technology on display.
A lot of these exhibits have been donated by flyers from around Amarillo.
If you are looking to learn more about the history of aviation and space flight, then this is a must-see destination.
Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum
The Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum is a great place for families to learn about the history of travel and recreational vehicles.
The RV Museum displays full-size trailers from back in the day of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Some exhibits are interactive, such as the game to test your skills during a cross country road trip while others are more stationary such as the collection of classic RV brochures spanning from 1946-2000.
If you want to learn more about the evolution of these recreational vehicles that have become more than just a means of transportation, then the Jack Sisemore RV Museum is for you!
Helium Time Columns Monument
In Amarillo, the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument celebrates the 100th year anniversary of the discovery of helium.
The monument consists of steel columns with a helium molecule at its center.
This monument commemorates how the gas has helped in many different discoveries and inventions.
It also has 3 sealed time capsules that will be opened in the future.
Bill’s Backyard Classics
Bill’s Backyard Classics is a classic car museum in Amarillo, TX.
You’ll find everything classic cars such as jeeps and jaguars to corvettes and trucks.
This museum will give you a chance to step back in time and see the evolution of cars over the past century.
It’s one of the best fun things to do for car enthusiasts who are visiting Amarillo!
Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian
The Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Native Americans.
Some of the exhibits here include displayed artifacts, videos, murals, and photographs.
This quirky museum is one of our favorite things to do in Amarillo!
Things to do near Amarillo
If you’re on a road trip and want to do something that’s not too far from Amarillo, we recommend heading to these outdoor and roadside attractions near Amarillo, Texas.
The Wildcat Bluff Nature Center
The Wildcat Bluff Nature Center is one of the fun things to do in Amarillo for kids.
This nature center offers a variety of outdoor and indoor exhibits to teach children about nature.
Kids get to learn about the local wildlife, like the Texas Horned Lizard and try out different nature activities like bird watching, fishing, and wildlife scavenger hunts.
If you’re looking for a fun activity to keep your kids occupied while you’re visiting Amarillo, then this will be a great stop!
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of the best things to do near Amarillo Texas.
This state park spans over several acres in the Texas panhandle and is home to the second largest canyon in America.
Palo Duro Canyon park is home to a variety of wildlife and offers plenty of outdoor activities for visitors including camping, horseback riding, hiking trails, picnicking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and more.
This scenic state park provides sweeping views of the colorful rock layers in the canyon walls as well as breathtaking sunsets that are perfect for photography.
Some of the fun things to do at Palo Duro Canyon include hiking the Lighthouse trail and seeing Texas the musical.
Horseback riding is also quite popular with designated equestrian trails and camps for visitors.
Caprock Canyons State Park
One of the best things to do near Amarillo TX is Caprock Canyons State Park.
The Caprock Canyons State Park is the perfect place to get away from Amarillo’s urban scenery.
This state park has some of the most scenic views in Texas and is home to a range of wildlife including a bat cave.
There are many things to do at this state park such as hiking, picnicking, and taking photographs.
VW Slug Bug Ranch
The VW Slug Bug Ranch, is one of the top attractions in nearby Conway, Texas.
It has 5 Volkswagen beetles buried hood down, just like at Cadillac Ranch.
You can’t spray paint the cars and can only see them from a distance.
It makes for a great photo op along Route 66.
2nd Amendment Cowboy
Located close to Cadillac Ranch, you will find the 2nd Amendment Cowboy.
This is one of the remaining Muffler Mans on Route 66.
He stands in front of 3 Cadillacs and is a fun quirky Route 66 roadside attraction in Amarillo, TX.
Combine City is the farmer’s take on Cadillac Ranch!
It’s the only place on Route 66 where you can about 11 broken down combine tractors buried in the ground at an angle similar to the Cadillacs!
You can’t get close to the combines or spray paint them, nevertheless it makes for a fun side trip.
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is located in the Texas panhandle.
The park preserves one of the world’s most significant resources of flint used by humans over the last 10,000 years.
Dense layers of sandstone overlie the flint, protecting it from weathering and erosion.
Visitors can tour the Alibates Flint quarries and see the Native American petroglyphs on the trails.
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
Lake Meredith is a beautiful national recreation area located in the Panhandle of Texas near Alibates Flint Monument.
This recreation area is designed for families who want an active vacation and offers everything from camping and fishing to swimming and boating!
Hunting is also popular in this region as the deer, quail, dove, turkey, and rabbit population are all abundant.
This desert art installation near Bushland Texas was also sponsored by Stanley Marsh 3, the millionaire behind Cadillac Ranch.
At the Floating Mesa, you will find painted white strip along the top of the mesa.
The white paint blends with the day sky and makes it appear as if the mesa top is floating.
It is easy to miss this attraction and you will need binoculars or telephoto zoom lens to see this Amarillo TX attraction.
Where to Stay in Amarillo
There are many hotels in Amarillo, Texas and what might be best for you is dependent on your needs.
Some of the top choices in the city include Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Downtown, Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Econo Lodge Inn & Suites.
Best Time to Visit Amarillo
While you can visit the city throughout the year, the best time to visit Amarillo weather is spring or fall.
Summer in Amarillo can become very hot and humid, but it’s still a great time to enjoy the outdoors with many water activities to take advantage of.
In winter, you can enjoy snowfall in Amarillo.
There are many interesting and fun things to do in Amarillo. From enjoying the 72 oz steak to the cars at Cadillac Ranch, you’ll find something to suit your interests.
Go hiking at Palo Duro Canyon, see Texas! The Musical or explore Caprock Canyons State Park on a scenic drive.
We hope you liked our recommendations for best things to do in Amarillo.