AMARILLO WEEKEND ESCAPE

An artistic getaway in the heart of the Texas Panhandle

By Courtney Kemp

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided that we needed a break from our weekly routine. It was time to hit "pause" on our hectic work schedules, the carpool lines and chore-filled weekends. We were ready to hit the open road and embark on a new adventure.

We set our sights on Amarillo after hearing about the city's lively and accessible arts scene - as well as the symphony's upcoming performance of "Dreamcatchers." Music and a spontaneous road trip was exactly what we needed.

After a relaxing drive across the plains with unobstructed views of the big, blue Texas sky, we arrived in Amarillo. Our hotel was located within walking distance of cozy coffee shops, upscale new American restaurants and the Globe-News Center for Performing Arts, home of the symphony. We decided to take advantage of it all.

We didn't waste any time in seizing the moment with a pre-symphony dinner at Crush Wine Bar, housed in a charming, historic brick building. The menu featured modern twists on classic Texas-inspired dishes like fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade and brisket tacos with blue cheese slaw. We were even treated to an acoustic guitar performance by a local, up-and-coming singer/songwriter on the cafè's patio. It is often the unexpected moments like this that make the best memories.

World Class Symphony

After dinner we walked to the Globe-News Center for Performing Arts, located just a few blocks away.

The modern exterior of this world class performing arts center held an even more unexpected surprise once we were inside. Colors and stonework reflecting the rugged color palate of the region's natural landscape: sky blues, warm oranges and yellows, soothing sand tones. As we moved into the concert hall, golden-hued wood panels surrounded the hall and the stage.

Already fully immersed in the venue and experience, I was captivated once the performance began. The first booming sounds of bass drum were startling as the music filled the space of the striking concert hall. I found myself lost in the moment, mesmerized by the orchestra and the way the symphony brought the music to life.

Rows of seats in front of us disappeared and it was as if the symphony was playing a private performance just for us.

The symphony's ability to blend classic works with modern, 21st century compositions was truly unique. This was the symphony, but with Texas style - a night of sophisticated yet comfortable culture where boots and tailored suits were both at home.

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Lone Star Ballet

The next day, still humming to the sounds of the symphony, we spent our afternoon cruising along Amarillo's historic Route 66. Our good luck continued as we stumbled upon amazing art galleries specializing in handmade pottery and landscape paintings. In one shop, after purchasing a beautiful handcrafted silver necklace, we struck up a lively conversation with the local artisan who crafted the piece. We mentioned we were surprised to find such a vibrant art scene in the Texas Panhandle, and she suggested that we visit the Lone Star Ballet. We promised ourselves to return for another weekend getaway to catch the acclaimed Ballet.

While they are known for their annual Nutcracker performance in December, the ballet company performs throughout the year, adding their own style to traditional performances. (In fact, one of their upcoming shows is a tribute to the movies!) Upon our return to Amarillo, the local visitor information center was able to help us secure a pair of tickets. Even luckier was the fact that the tickets did not break the bank! Affordable luxury is always a win.

We watched athletes glide across the floor with strength and fluidity. The elaborate costumes coupled with the thunderous music and expertly choreographed moves were amazing to see in person. We tried not to make audible gasps as the dancers leapt and were thrown in the air - seamlessly flying - only to be caught in the arms of their partner. It was beautiful and flawless.

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The Dance Floor

The performance inspired us to take a spontaneous detour on our drive back to the hotel. We stopped at a dance hall and two-stepped across the floor while the band played old Buck Owens tunes - something we hadn't done in years!

We were a little rusty, but we managed to find our footing and keep the pace with some of the club's regulars on the dance floor.

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We took a break from the dance floor and nursed our aching feet - casualties of our two-step missteps - with a cold one from the bar. It was one of those simple moments - sitting side by side - but this night we were alive and full of chatter as we reflected on our new artful escape.

Our Amarillo trips reawakened our love for the arts and relieved the pressures of planning future dates, since we now have our local favorites nestled in Amarillo, with a trusty rotating event calendar. And, with the Amarillo Opera and Amarillo Little Theatre featuring regular performances, we've got plenty to look forward to. We've already made plans to return this spring to enjoy the symphony's "Storytellers" program, which promises to feature cowboy poets and music from Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky. It's a new spin on a tried and true classic - just like us!

Experience the arts in an entirely new way in Amarillo.