6 Reasons to Visit Amarillo, Texas: The Most Fun Things To Do

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Looking for things to do in Amarillo, Texas? I really enjoyed spending a weekend in this fun little city!

When I told people I was visiting Amarillo, Texas, many of them stopped, cocked their heads and looked at me quizzically. “Why?”

My response: “why not?” As Australian expats living in Texas, my husband and I have been trying to make the most of our time here. Texas has a culture all of its own and between the cities of Dallas and Austin, the small towns that dot the Texas Hill Country, quirky Marfa and iconic road trips, there is so much to explore.

Amarillo attracted me because it’s a slice of old Texas – but with the trappings of a big city.

I wanted the history and the stereotypical Texan cowboy town, but with the safety of good restaurants, bars and plenty of things to keep us busy for a weekend.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why anyone would visit Amarillo, here are a few reasons! We discovered a lot of fun things to do in Amarillo!

Neon-lit Amarillo National Bank sign against a dusky sky at twilight, with a traffic light showing red and cars waiting at an intersection.

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1. Route 66 ran through Amarillo

A weathered mural depicting Route 66 sign and a vintage red truck on a brick wall, symbolising the historic highway that passes through Amarillo. Amarillo is one of the most important towns in Texas that historic Route 66 ran through.

You may recognise Amarillo from the famous song “(Get your kicks on) Route 66”. Amarillo was the most important town along the Texas section of historic Route 66.

While Route 66 no longer exists (it was decommissioned in 1985), it lives on in Amarillo.

You can take photos of the Route 66 signs that dot the 1-mile stretch of 6th Avenue between George and Western streets, as well as explore the antique stores that also line the street.

Pick up your own Route 66 memorabilia in one of the many antique stores or find a quirky souvenir in one of the newer shops that have popped up.

Get lost in the maze that is Alley Katz Antique Emporium (2807 SW 6th Ave) as you sift through the vintage toys, kitchenware, signs and sports memorabilia.

Or for something more modern, The Roseberry (2816 SW 6th Ave) has a range of luxurious candles, locally made condiments and Native American blankets for sale.

2. It has a good food scene

Most of my trips are planned around finding the best eats, and it was no different this time. A quick search for the best restaurants in Amarillo yielded some great options.

We started our Amarillo food adventure at Yellow City Street Food (2916 Wolflin Ave). What started out as a small shack is now a hipster space selling fun street food that’s even been featured on the Travel Channel.

Interior of a casual dining restaurant in Amarillo with wooden beams, tables and chairs set up for guests, and a chalkboard menu listing various dishes. Yellow City Street Food is one of the best places to eat in Amarillo, Texas.
Inside Yellow City Street Food – quiet because we ate late in the afternoon, but great food!

Dinner was at Crush (627 S Polk St). Housed in an industrial-style space, this restaurant has great service and a modern menu that stretches far beyond the steak and fried food you’ll find in most Texas towns.

The Sunday brunch menu at The 806 Coffee + Lounge (2812 SW 6th Ave) rotates regularly, and I had the most delicious migas I’ve ever tasted. Plenty of egg, cheese and potato in a tortilla, but the pièce de résistance was the crushed blue corn tortilla chips inside.

It’s a cool space that hosts live music and Amarillo’s longest-running open mic night.

A plate of migas with melted cheese and black beans, served with a side of blue corn tortilla chips and salsa, on a metal table. The Sunday Brunch at 806 Lounge in Amarillo, Texas, is one of the best examples of delicious Amarillo food.
Breakfast at The 806 Coffee + Lounge

3. There are cars buried in the sand

Colorful graffiti-covered cars planted upright in a field, known as Cadillac Ranch, with visitors walking around and taking photos. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, is one of the best places to visit in Amarillo.

Hello, Instagram. One of the most popular Amarillo attractions is the perfect place for your next ‘Gram-worthy photo.

Located on the outskirts of Amarillo, this art installation (free entry) features almost a dozen old Cadillacs half-buried nose-first in the dirt. It was created in the mid-70s by artists who were part of an art group called the Ant Farm, and funded by local millionaire Stanley Marsh III (who later was allegedly involved in some shady stuff involving young children, yuck).

You can pick up one of the spray cans on the ground (or bring your own) and leave your own mark on the cars, now thick with decades of graffiti.

A woman - the author of this article - spraying paint onto one of the graffiti-covered cars at Cadillac Ranch, contributing to the layers of colourful artwork. Picking up a can and spraying one of the cars at Cadillac Ranch is one of the best things to do in Amarillo, Texas.
Leaving my mark on Amarillo

4. And beautiful art deco buildings

The imposing Santa Fe Building in Amarillo, Texas, captured at dusk with lights glowing from street lamps and a clear twilight sky. One of the best things to do in Amarillo, Texas, is enjoy the beautiful art deco buildings.

Wandering down Polk Street after dinner, I was surprised to see so many gorgeous art deco buildings.

The Santa Fe building, an old theatre (a gorgeous building that’s now a Marriott hotel), the local courthouse and many more are all beautifully maintained.

The Potter County Courthouse in Amarillo illuminated by outdoor lights, with a well-manicured lawn and pathway leading to the entrance. One of the best things to do in Amarillo, Texas, is enjoy the beautiful art deco buildings.

5. It has an awesome state park

Two towering red rock formations, known as the Lighthouse structures, rising prominently above the greenery at Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo. One of the coolest things to do in Amarillo is visit nearby Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.

We’ve visited quite a few national parks now, but Palo Duro Canyon State Park was our first state park. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the city, and one of the best things to do in Amarillo. ($8 entry fee per person, free for kids 12 and under)

Nicknamed Texas’s Grand Canyon, it’s 120 miles long, 6 to 20 miles wide and more than 800 feet deep. That compares to the Grand Canyon’s 277 miles long, 8 to 18 miles wide and a mile deep.

READ NEXT: 21 things to know before visiting the Grand Canyon

Striking red and yellow stratified cliffs under a bright blue sky at Palo Duro Canyon, showcasing the park's unique geological features. One of the coolest things to do in Amarillo is visit nearby Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.

We set out early one morning so we could attempt to avoid the hottest part of the day. Because we visited in summer, it was freaking hot. I wouldn’t recommend going hiking at this time of year. It would be better to explore the park in spring or autumn. And while it was cooler in the morning, we were still dripping in sweat as the temperature hovered at around 86°F (30°C) by 9am.

We hiked the Lighthouse trail (2.8 miles one way, moderate hike), the park’s most popular trail that leads to the Lighthouse rock formation.

The rich, red dust along the way reminded me of the earth in the Australian outback.

We saw mountain bikers and horse riders along the way, as well as people walking their dogs. When we reached Lighthouse rock, we could climb up to a flat part for spectacular views out. The 94-metre-high rock is a National Natural Landmark.

Other than the draining heat and the nasty march flies that nipped at us as the sun rose higher, it was a great walk. When we returned to our car after our hike, there were rangers handing out cold bottles of water – so it’s also possibly the friendliest state park in the country!

A person - the author of this article - joyfully jumping with arms raised in front of the Lighthouse rock formation in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, under a clear blue sky. One of the coolest things to do in Amarillo is visit nearby Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.
A smiling couple - the author and her husband - taking a selfie with green trees in the background, enjoying a sunny day out in the natural surroundings of Amarillo. One of the coolest things to do in Amarillo is visit nearby Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.
Hot and sweaty after our hike in Palo Duro Canyon State Park!

If it hadn’t been so hot, I would have loved to do a few other Palo Duro Canyon hikes:

  • CCC trail, 1.4 miles one way, difficult – descends to the floor of the canyon
  • Rock Garden, 2.4 miles one way, difficult – climbs 200 metres from the bottom of the canyon to the rim
  • Juniper / Riverside, 1.1 miles one way, moderate – has colourful rock formations and is a flat trail
  • Paseo del Rio, 1 mile one way, easy – follows the river and has a cowboy dugout you can visit
  • Rojo Grande, 1.2 miles one way, moderate – one of the few shady trails in the park

I’d love to come back and stay at Doves Rest Cabins, which sit above Palo Duro Canyon. Would be a beautiful view to wake up to!

READ NEXT: The ultimate Utah national parks road trip

6. You can eat a 72-ounce steak – for free!

The iconic sign of The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, featuring a large cowboy figure and Route 66 signage, against a clear blue sky. Many people visit Amarillo to attempt the 72 oz steak challenge!

The one thing people did mention when I said I was going to Amarillo: the steak at the Big Texan. This steak-eating challenge is legendary throughout Texas.

Challengers sit at a table on a small stage in the front and centre of the restaurant. The challenger must eat 72 ounces of steak, a baked potato, shrimp cocktail, salad and bread roll with butter in under an hour.

If you can do it, the meal is on the house, if not, you have to cough up $72.

Do it if you dare!

There was one challenger the night we ate there. We left before he finished, so we don’t know if he was successful, but he looked like he was struggling, with 40 minutes still to go!

Bonus reasons to visit Amarillo!

With only a weekend in Amarillo, we didn’t get through everything I had on my to-do list. There are of course a few more reasons to visit Amarillo if you have more time.

Another bonus tip: if you’re driving from Dallas to Amarillo, you HAVE to stop at the Pecan Shed just outside of Wichita Falls. This place has the best fudge I have ever tasted in my entire life. Seriously. (Thanks to my friend Ashley for the tip!)

PS. If you are roadtripping, don’t forget to check out my road trip packing list for everything you need to take on a road trip.

A close-up of a box of fresh homemade fudge from The Pecan Shed, indicating the product is made in Henrietta and Wichita Falls, Texas, with the company's squirrel logo. On your way to visit Amarillo, stop by the Pecan Shed for the best fudge you'll ever eat!

Tips for visiting Amarillo

After visiting Amarillo, I’ll impart some wisdom about how to visit the city right. Here are a few of my tips:

  • If you’re coming for the weekend, stay Friday and Saturday night (rather than Saturday and Sunday nights). Places close early on Saturdays, so you want to make the most of the day. And Sundays are pretty quiet – a lot of restaurants are closed as well as shops and museums.
  • Avoid summer if you can. Amarillo is in the centre of the Texas Panhandle, where the Great Plains meet the desert. Stepping outside in Amarillo in the height of summer is like stepping into an oven, as we learned pretty quickly!
  • A car is a must! Like the rest of Texas, there’s just no way to get around Amarillo without your own car. We drove up from Dallas, so we had the comfort of our own vehicle. But if you need wheels, you can rent a car in Amarillo.
A large statue of a cowboy tipping his hat, with vintage cars and the Cadillac RV park sign in the background, under a bright blue Texas sky. A visit to Amarillo is a great way to see a different side to Texas.

Where to stay in Amarillo

The Airbnb we stayed in unfortunately isn’t available to rent online any longer, which is such a shame, because it was so comfy and the owners were divine. But I’ve found a few other alternative options:

There are also plenty of hotels in Amarillo, many of them your standard chain hotels, but you can stay at The Big Texan Motel!

How to get to Amarillo

By road, Amarillo is located on the I-40, and is 362 miles from Dallas, 596 miles from Houston, 284 miles from Albuquerque and a whopping 1,530 miles from New York City.

It took us around 6 hours to drive from Dallas to Amarillo with stops along the way, so you’ll need a long weekend to do this trip.

You can fly into Amarillo International Airport, which is serviced by the major airlines. Fun fact: the Space Shuttle landed at Amarillo’s airport twice! You’ll want to rent a car while you’re here to get around easily.

Did you find this article helpful? Consider buying me a coffee as a way to say thanks!

If you’ve visited before, what are you favourite things to do in Amarillo? Leave your tips and comments below!

Related posts

Before you go… looking for more Texas travel inspiration? You might like these articles…


  • Book flights to and around the USA online with Skyscanner. I like this site because it shows me which dates are cheaper.
  • Find a great hotel in the USA. Check prices on Booking.com and Expedia online.
  • Check out the huge range of day tours throughout the USA on GetYourGuide or Viator. There’s something for everyone.
  • A copy of the Lonely Planet guide to the USA will be handy.
  • One thing I always purchase is travel insurance! Travel Insurance Master allows you to compare across multiple policy providers, while SafetyWing is great for long-term travellers and digital nomads.


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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

12 thoughts on “6 Reasons to Visit Amarillo, Texas: The Most Fun Things To Do”

  1. This was an excellent read. We have lived in Amarillo for many years and my wife grew up just north of here. The food scene is definitely excellent and we spend a LOT of time in Palo Duro Canyon, although I recommend not being in the canyon in the heat of the summer as it can be sweltering. We always say Amarillo is a big city with a small town feel. Come visit Amarillo anytime!

    • Thanks Andrew! I really enjoyed my time there. And DEFINITELY agree with not being in Palo Duro Canyon in the heat of summer!!

  2. You mentioned museums, so one that I also thoroughly enjoyed in Amarillo was the Texas Air and Space Museum. Not a huge amount of planes, but if you are into aviation, it is pretty cool. They even allow you to get into the planes and look at the cockpit and all the instrumentation. Definitely worth a visit.

  3. I grew up in Amarillo and you really made me miss it! The Amarillo Museum of Art on the Amarillo College campus is a great way to spend the afternoon if you ever get back. And check out the Globe News Center for the Performing Arts. Just to see the space if you can’t catch a concert/performance. It’s stunning!

  4. Girl, you are becoming more Texan than native Texans by the minute! Actually, Amarillo looks really cool! That brunch has my mouth watering already.. and the Palo Duro Park looks fantastic for some hiking action. I love that you can create your own Banksy mark on the car exhibit! Great shot of you guys at the end too :). Keep up your discoveries of Texas, it makes me homesick in the best way possible!

  5. I love that you went to Amarillo! I’ve still never made it up to the panhandle but I’m dying to go to Palo Duro Canyon, to see the Cadillacs and to NOT eat 72 ounces of steak at Big Texan…I wanna go but I’m lucky if I finish 6 ounces hahah lightweight.

    • Haha yep, eating 72oz of steak is definitely not on my list of things to do!! Palo Duro Canyon is really pretty, I wish we’d had more time there (and that it had been cooler).


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