I feel like I start almost every blog in the same way. But I guess I am a “explore the less road less travelled” blogger these days. So… while most people would not think of Amarillo, Texas as a destination, there is actually a lot to do there. In particular, I think nature and history-lovers would enjoy visiting this town over a weekend. There is a theme park as well, so it could be a food family destination as well. Whether you are passing through town on a business trip, a cross-country roadtrip, or planning out a little weekend adventure, here is my list of what to do in Amarillo, TX.
Botanical Gardens and Museums
As little as I know about plants, and as much as my house plants struggle to stay alive, I love botanical gardens. For someone searching for peaceful place to enjoy nature in an urban setting, botanical gardens are perfect. In my case, as a shy person, I find these to be one of the best places to enjoy your own company without feeling too awkward for being solo. I know that not everyone deals with that particular challenge while traveling alone, but I definitely do, even though I travel solo every year.
I feel similarly about museums and I especially love historic, place-based museums. Amarillo, Texas has both a lovely botanical garden and a great historic museum. Both of which should be included on any list of what to do in Amarillo.
Amarillo Botanical Gardens
The Amarillo Botanical Gardens are a great budget option, because they are by-donation. The garden is located in the Medi Park, and while it isn’t a big garden, it has some nice variety. I was immediately attracted to the Japanese section of the garden, and I especially thought that the integration of water with the carefully tended plants was very artful.
The Amarillo Botanical Gardens was my first exposure to the love for domed environments in the Midwest. Their conservatory was modestly sized, but I was extra delighted by the little ducks that call the Garden’s dome home. Due to that, I think Amarillo’s conservatory is an especially great place to chill out on a bench for a little bit so you can watch the little ducks and take in all the beautiful plants.
Besides this, there are some more traditional, European-styled gardens to explore. And all of it is beautiful. In terms of what to do in Amarillo, due to its price and calm beauty, the botanical gardens are a must-see.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
Technically, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is just out of town in Canyon, Texas, but I include it in my list of what to do in Amarillo (along with some natural attractions even further out of town), because it’s relatively nearby and way too nice not to include.
As its name indicates, the PPHM focuses on the history of the region surrounding Amarillo, aka the Texas panhandle. It’s a really immersive museum (my favorite) and it organizes itself by rooms that are focused on a variety of themes. This includes dinosaurs, pre-colonial and post-colonial lifestyles, the petroleum industry, and cars through the ages among other things. There are plenty of hands-on activities for kids (and adults) that like interacting with elements of museums.
While not free, I think that the ticket prices for the PPHM is pretty affordable at $12.50 per adult, with discounts for seniors, veterans, and children. During the summer, they are open seven days a week, but in the winter they are closed on Sunday and Monday.
Other Museums in Amarillo
While not places that I visited while I was in town, there are a few other interesting museums that you might consider while visiting. These include:
(1) The Amarillo Museum of Art
Among others. There is a surprising number of museums to explore while in Amarillo.
Hiking and Nature Attractions
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
I really had no idea how much hiking there would be on my what to do in Amarillo list, because I completely underestimated the amount of cool natural stuff to see in Texas’ panhandle, like Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. This park is a part of the National Park Service, and caters to outdoor recreationists of all kinds.
Since I was there, you know there was hiking. I had a little bit of a struggle finding out about the trails, but the Harbor Bay loop is where it is at. There are a bunch of different options here, from a shorter loop, to longer expeditions into the wild grasslands surrounding the lake.
When I visited, there was a bit of rain and tons of morning spider webs. So I took a pretty relaxed walk and turned around maybe a mile or so in. There wasn’t much elevation gain on this short segment. But I know other trails will get in a better workout for you. The loop has some elevation gain and the longer trails can give you more of a half-day or day hike experience.
Of course, besides hiking, there are boating and camping opportunities in at Lake Meredith. So, there is plenty to do for everyone!
The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument was on my bucketlist for Amarillo because I try to visit as many national park units as possible for a personal quest. However, I had no idea what it was really.
After visiting, I would highly suggest trying to time your visit for one of the guided hikes that you can take with a ranger. This will take you to the actual quarry. And give you a wonderful opportunity to learn from the experts about the ancient history of this place. If you are unable to do that, you can take the nature walk, and visit the museum, as I did.
But this park was protected as a National Monument because it was used by a Native American people for flint since ancient times. And in fact, the culture that settled at the quarry were fairly unique to the area before they disappeared mysteriously. This place represents the ingenuity of Native American cultures that we are just now barely beginning to uncover and understand (at least for non-Native peoples).
For anyone who is a history or National Park buff, this location should absolutely be on your what to do in Amarillo list.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
I wish I could say more about Palo Duro State Park, because I honestly think it is probably one of the coolest natural attractions in the Texas Panhandle. However, as I discuss below, I was unable to visit when I was in Amarillo.
That all being said, I couldn’t leave this off my what to do in Amarillo list. From what I understand, Palo Duro is like the Grand Canyon of the panhandle. And from what I saw on my drive to the entrance, I can see that. It’s a beautiful canyon that is characterized by its dry nature.
There are miles and miles of trails in the park. Tons to explore for the hikers among us, and I was so sad when I was unable to visit.
To have the best chance of making it into the park. So, even when there aren’t giant storms to flood everything, do make a reservation for day use. It’s a popular spot!
Healthy Food Spots in Amarillo
Texas isn’t necessary known for its healthy food. But when I was in Amarillo, I was on the search for some healthy grub after surviving on drive-thru for a little too long on the road. I found two places that I really enjoyed.
The first is Chill Natural Bar, where I got an amazing salad that I was able to munch on for lunch and dinner. Now, I am not a salad person. Generally speaking, I don’t eat them and while I love spinach for lunch, I like to cook it before eating. So, this place was exceptionally great with its fresh ingredients and great flavor combos. I’d highly suggest it for anyone looking to snag a healthy meal while they are in town.
The second is NobiliTea, which I realize is not exclusive to Amarillo or even Texas, but it was my first time experiencing the tea here, and I thought it was a great option for a healthy drink. I had a black tea without sweetner that was just tasty and refreshing enough on its own. I’m definitely no expert, but I do love tea. And I thought this place had some very high-quality stuff and friendly staff as well.
What To Do in Amarillo When Things Don’t Go as Planned
When I visited Amarillo, I had the misfortune of driving in the same day as a huge storm. This made the first day of my roadtrip quite scary if I am being honest. But I made it into my hotel just after dark, and safely. So, I was feeling good the next day when I awoke to a forecast of light showers in the morning and then a dry afternoon. I planned my day around this forecast and hoped to visit all kinds of attractions.
Everything went really well all morning, but then after lunch, when I rolled up to Palo Duro Canyon, I was turned away by the ranger. Initially, I thought she was telling me that I couldn’t get into the park because I didn’t have a reservation. But then she explained that the park had flooded the day before. More than half of the roads were flooded and there were boulders in the road elsewhere.
Of course, I was supremely disappointed, but I said the only thing that I could. Ok! And I went to turn my car around to leave. In the process, the ranger thanked me for being so kind about being turned away. And I was shocked by this, as it wasn’t anyone’s fault that I couldn’t come in. But throughout my roadtrip, I heard similar things from people dealing with weather damage or issues with the supply chain.
So, I had to add to my post this week. When you get turned away from somewhere while traveling or told no, please just… be kind to the people working. I know how disappointing it is, especially when you know that you won’t and can’t come back. But getting angry won’t get you what you want. Go with the flow and remember you are there to have fun! And as a visitor, you should share the love with local people, not make them sad.
Want to explore more of Texas?
We’ve also covered several beautiful locations in Western Texas. Spend a weekend in historic Fort Davis. Climb to the highpoint of the state in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Enjoy the many ecosystems of Big Bend National Park. Or do it all!
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