Once a famous stop on cattle drives north towards America's great cities, Amarillo is a great jumping-off point for trips in the Texas Panhandle, a delight for fans of western history, and an incredible destination for steak lovers.
Amarillo rose to fame as a cattle town at the hub of the USA's 19th-century economy. These days, it's a classic western town, with ranches offering horseback riding and the attractions like the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo, held every September.
Modern Amarillo is an artistic center, thanks to the unique Cadillac Ranch (which features Cadillacs half buried in soil) and the excellent Amarillo Museum of Art.
Amarillo is still a cow town, and there's no better place to dine on range-fed beef than places like the Big Texan Steak Ranch & Opry (where you can take on a 72-ounce steak dinner).
Just outside Amarillo, visitors can head to Wildcat Bluff Nature Center, 600 acres of Texan rural bliss. Follow trails through the cottonwoods, take photos from the bluffs, and just soak up the peace and quiet.
More than rodeos await families in Amarillo. You can also head to the Wonderland Amusement Park, which mixes rollercoasters with a water park and is paradise on hot Texan summer days.
With 120 miles of raw Texan ravine, Palo Duro Canyon is a place to hike, ride and (perhaps surprisingly) to enjoy superb musical performances. Budding frontiersmen can camp in the canyon, while 1,500 acres have been reserved for horse riding. There are mountain biking trails, and all manner of natural inhabitants, from Texas horned lizards to blankets of native wildflowers. And there's also the Pioneer Amphitheater, where the TEXAS show features music, dancing, wagons-full of humor, and a barbecue feast after the show. Needless to say, it's much more than just an 800-foot-deep canyon.
One of America's (and the world's) quirkiest art installations, the Cadillac Ranch is located alongside Route 66 and features 10 Cadillac automobiles, buried head first in the Texan soil, with only their iconic tail fins poking out. The brainchild of California hippies and local millionaire Stanley Marsh, the Caddies have been graffiti-ed over the years - presenting a multicolored spectacle that entertains and mystifies thousands of visitors every week.
Situated on Streit Drive in western Amarillo, the Botanical Gardens are a feast for the eyes and the nose. Built over decades by local gardening enthusiasts, the Botanical Gardens are a demonstration of the beauty and hardiness of Texas' flora, and feature four acres of regional flowers, along with a complete change of scenery in the Tropical Conservatory. Educational tours and talks are regularly put on for younger visitors, and come evening the stunning setting is also the backdrop for live roots, folk, and jazz music.
While Chuck Berry reminded us that Route 66 wound for more than 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, the section around Amarillo is one of the most special. The iconic highway passes straight through the city (and was name-checked by Berry), where it has become a fabulous place to dine, drink, and shop. Take a stroll down the strip and check out all of the businesses, but have a look at the events schedule too, as Route 66 is the venue for everything from antique markets to fancy-dress scavenger hunts and car shows. If nothing else, it's a classic all-American attraction right at the heart of town.
If you've got a gaggle of kids to entertain and an afternoon to kill, Amarillo Zoo is the only place to head. Easy to reach from downtown Amarillo, the zoo opened its doors in 1955, and now hosts a diverse collection of locals - from graceful panthers and lions to African spurred tortoises and boa constrictors. The Safari Theater hosts informative chats from the zoo's expert keepers, providing all the background young zoologists could desire. Even better, Thompson Park Pool is right next door, offering a place to cool off when Texan temperatures soar.
Summer is blazing hot but September is more pleasant, with the added bonus of attending the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo.
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (AMA) has links to major cities like Houston, Dallas, and Denver. From there taxis cost around $25.
There's no Amtrak service to Amarillo, but you can take trains to Las Vegas, NM, which is around three hours' drive to the north.
Take Route 40 from Oklahoma City or Albuquerque, or take Route 35 then 40 if you are driving from Dallas.
Amarillo has a Greyhound stop on S Tyler Street, not far from the center of town.
Exceptional accommodation providers in Amarillo include the Courtyard by Marriott in the Downtown area and Staybridge Suites Amarillo-Western Crossing, just west of the town center.
Route 66 Historic District - located in between Georgia Street and Western Street in the Downtown area, this neighborhood is stuffed with antiques stores along what used to be Route 66.
Memorial Park - just south of the city center, the area around Memorial Park is Amarillo's museum neighborhood, with the Museum of Art as its centerpiece.
Dumas Drive - running north from the center of town, Dumas Drive is home to the Wonderland Amusement Park and Amarillo Zoo.
Amarillo doesn't have a great local bus network, but there are some routes. Single tickets cost $0.75.
Expect to pay a flag drop of $3, followed by around $1.50 per mile.
Rental services in Amarillo include Avis, Budget, and Enterprise, where you can find packages for $20 per day.
For antiques and collectibles, head to the Route 66 District, while for designer labels, the Westgate Mall is a good bet. For authentic cowboy boots, check out Leverett Boots or Beck Cowboy Boots. Both are fairly centrally located.
Supermarkets in Amarillo include United and Walmart, where 12 eggs will come to approximately $2.75.
Beef is king in Amarillo. Some of the best places to grab a steak include the Big Texan Steak Ranch and the Cowboy Gelato Smokehouse. If you fancy something lighter, try El Tejavan - a superb Mexican eatery. A 72 oz steak will cost over $50, but most meals will come to around $15-20.