Quirky Things to do in Amarillo, Texas
By Cacinda Maloney
Don’t be fooled by this sprawling panhandle city – Amarillo, Texas. It is a historic town located right along US Route 66 with a rich western culture, a natural scenery where the wind blows, the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, and a quaint downtown full of Spanish Revival Buildings. But it also has an interesting history that revolves around the oil and gas industry, ranching, helium, and even nuclear weapons. Some like to call it “bomb city” because of how close Pantex is to Amarillo. But once you arrive, I found a few quirky and unique things for you to do, as this may be the best way to experience the town in a whole new light.
To get to Amarillo, it is either a road trip on I-40 or to fly into the Rick Husband International Airport and rent a car. You will need a car, as Amarillo is big and sprawling. If you fly into the Rick Husband International Airport, be aware that it has the third largest runway in the world! So here is the first thing quirky about Amarillo – but believe me there are so many more.
Amarillo is famous for quite a few things - from Cadillac Ranch to the Big Texan Steakhouse, to Palo Duro Canyon – but I am not here to tell you about those things, I am here to tell you about the quirky and more unusual things you can find to do in Amarillo. But first, let me point out the quirky:
- Be sure and take the time to stop by the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum. This museum is a tribute to the horses that settled and shaped the American West and is one of the most favored horses by cowboys in the area.
- Jack Sisemore’s RV Museum. It is home to a collection of vintage trailers, campers, and mobile homes from the 1930s to the 1970s, including the bus from the Robin Williams film “RV” and the oldest airstream from 1935. This museum is free to get into. Just stop by Jack Sisemore’ recreational vehicle sales showroom and tell you would love to visit! They will be glad you stopped by!
- And one of my favorite things to do (because you know I am the daughter of a car guy), is to visit Bill’s Backyard Classics. Mostly what they do over here is celebrate the classic cars. With nearly 100 classic cars dating from 1928 to 2012, you will be impressed with Bill’s collection.
- Next up, be sure to “Get your kicks, on US Route 66” as the old song said. This downtown area is a throwback to the early age of road tripping in America when classic cars were king. Many of the original buildings with traditional signs are here. You will find atmospheric restaurants, antique stores, and shops, which give the area a fun vibe. There are plenty of places to pick up eccentric and strange souvenirs! You might even find an antique in the bunch or a necklace filled with Cadillac Ranch paint chips.
- Wonderland Park is another great place to bring the kids, as they have two roller coasters aptly named Texas Tornado and the Mouse Trap. This park has been here since 1951 and features thrill rides, family classic kid rides, miniature golf, and the atmosphere of quirky and fun rolled into one.
- The Amarillo Museum of Art located on the Amarillo College campus is actually a great way to spend an afternoon if you get a chance. You can check out the Globe New Center for the Performing arts, which is a performance and concert hall. The place is stunning, so stop by to just take a look!
- Hodgetown Baseball Park – No one loves baseball more than the Texans – as they play it in every small town in Texas. So stop on by the ballpark in the summer and visit the Bar 352 – which is exactly three hundred and fifty-two feet from home plate.
- As you explore Amarillo, you will begin to notice that there are horses outside of many of the businesses… not real horses, but life-sized painted horses. Amarillo has well over 100 of them, as they are part of the “Hoof Prints of the American Quarter Horse” public art project. Each one is painted different and you can find their locations here.
But Amarillo does get weirder!
There was this oddball named Stanly Marsh, the 3rd. He was an oil tycoon who inherited millions and loved pop art. He was almost a caricature of himself that dressed in dude ranch cowboy clothes… many people liked the notoriety he provided to the Texas Panhandle. He gave us the Floating Mesa, The Giant Phantom Soft Pool Table, the Amarillo Ramp, Ozymandias, and the hundreds of bogus street signs with nonsensical sayings scattered in people’s yards throughout the city.
- Floating Mesa - A white stripe was painted around the rim of a mesa, which makes its upper part appear to float in mid-air. The mesa is located about eight miles northwest of Amarillo on Tascosa Road.
- Giant Phantom Soft Pool Table - A 180-foot x 700-foot pool table sculpture that has 42- inch plastic balls on top of it! It is hidden somewhere on Stanley’s family-owned farm.
- Amarillo Ramp - Outside of Amarillo, you will find a slight depression in the dirt where a small plane carrying Robert Smithson crashed in 1973, killing all passengers. He was here surveying the area to make a land art project for Stanley Marsh. Stanley went ahead and financed the project and it can be visited by appointment only on Stanley’s private property.
- Ozymandias - A pair of giant legs sticking out of the ground (with athletic socks on). Located just off the highway, heading south on I-27 out of Amarillo. This monument is another of the peculiar philanthropist, millionaire Stanley Marsh’s creations.
- Nonsensical Street Signs – Yet again from the brain of Stanley Marsh… he created a lot of street signs that didn’t make much sense and had them scattered throughout Amarillo in people’s yards!
- Combine City, a collection of fourteen half-buried Combine tractors, is yet another homage to Cadillac Ranch. This one by Orville Ladehoff, as he loved his Combine tractors. It is located near the south end of Whitaker Road on the north side of Highway 1151. It is about 2.7 miles after the Osage Road.
So as you can see, not only is Amarillo a fun place to visit, it also has a quirkier side… and even a weird side. So come visit Amarillo for the fun, the quirky, and the weird part of Amarillo.
Dr. Cacinda Maloney is an Adventure, Culture, and Smart Luxury Travel Writer. She has traveled to 93 countries, so far! Working with a multitude of brands, hotels, and airlines, as well as, over 50 tourism boards worldwide.