Western Texas is the perfect way to enjoy your first taste of The Lone Star State
As you stop to take in the surrounding scenery of the Palo Duro Canyon, you see towering clay-coloured cliffs, striped with shades of red, orange and brown. You look up to the summit and see a peekaboo view of the plains that stretch above. You’re reminded of “old Texas”—cowboys riding large steeds, galloping along the flatlands until they reach the edge of the cliff that now towers above your head.
To your right, you spot a structure bearing the letters T-E-X-A-S—a strange sight to see at the base of a canyon in what feels like the middle of nowhere. As you approach the titled archway and walk through its opening, you see an expansive amphitheatre, lined with rows upon rows of red chairs. Although nestled in the crevice of the country’s second largest canyon, you discover that this is home to a highly-acclaimed Broadway-style theatrical production.
The dichotomy of the natural surroundings and towering cliffs to one side, and the artsy amphitheatre to the other, perfectly reflects the canyon’s locale—sandwiched between the panhandle plains of Amarillo, and the avant-garde, artsy town of Lubbock. The middle ground of Texas old and new.
Here’s how to wander through the hidden wonders of Western Texas, exploring its rich history and discovering the highlights of the Texas of tomorrow...
1. Step into the real Texas with a stroll through Amarillo’s historic sites
Bianca BujanAmarillo is authentically Texan, showcasing the state’s western narrative, nostalgia and nature. Home to historic sites, wow-worthy wonders, and the country’s second largest canyon, Amarillo is the perfect city for your introduction to the panhandle plains.
Start your journey with a visit to some of Amarillo’s most memorable museums. The RV Museum showcases a unique collection of vintage RVs, campers and motorcycles. Slide into the driver’s seat of the original bus from the movie RV (starring Robin Williams), snap a photo behind the wheel, and then take a trek through time as you walk through the evolution of camping trailers that date back to the early '70s.
Pop into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum where you can learn about the history of the original cowboy horse breed and discover the history behind some of the most famous jockeys in Texas. And don't forget to snap photos of the bronze statues that surround the museum’s exterior.
Bianca BujanA walk through time wouldn’t be complete without a stroll and shop along the nostalgic stretch of historic Route 66. Amarillo is the only part of Texas that touches this highly acclaimed highway, connecting Chicago to LA. This two-block stretch is lined with antique shops, boutiques and an art museum owned by local legend Bob Lile (known as “Crocodile”) who makes jewellery using the paint chips of the world-renowned Cadillac Ranch.
If you plan to visit Amarillo in early November, you’ll also want to check out the World Championship Ranch Rodeo, an annual event attended by over 36,000 visitors, featuring working cowboys from over 20 ranches across the U.S. who compete for highly coveted titles in unique challenges such as Wild Cow Milking and Team Penning.
Bianca BujanOn your way out of town, be sure to stop in at Cadillac Ranch, a classic landmark located near Route 66 featuring 10 half-buried, nose-down Cadillac cars. The site was created in 1974 by Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3, and designed by San Francisco based Ant Farm—a multidisciplinary collective involved in alternative architecture. This quirky and audacious display of art is free to visit, and guests are welcome to bring spray paint to add to the art on the cars—just remember to clean up after yourselves to preserve the off-interstate grounds.
2. Where to eat & stay in Amarillo
Bianca BujanFor breakfast, fuel up with an award-winning coffee and sweet treat from Palace Coffee. Stop in for a greasy burger and fries at the oldest restaurant in Amarillo, the Golden Light Café—a hot spot located on Route 66 that has been in operation since 1946. For dinner, the iconic Big Texan Steak Ranch is a definite must. Serving over 400,000 guests a year, this sprawling steakhouse is the place to be if you’re looking to enjoy a true Texan steak. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a try at the 72 oz steak challenge, where diners sit on a stage and attempt to consume a meal consisting of a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, a salad, a roll and a 72 oz steak in under an hour. If completed, your meal is free!
You’ll want to spend more than a day in Amarillo, and the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown is the perfect spot to rest your head. Located in the historic Fisk Building in the heart of Amarillo’s downtown core, the hotel is a stylish blend of old and new. The lobby is modern and welcoming, the staff is friendly and the rooms are spacious and affordable.
2. Take a trek along the trails of Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Bianca BujanYou’ll want to set aside a full day for a jaunt through the “Grand Canyon of Texas”—Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Spanning 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and reaching a depth of 800 feet, this is the second largest canyon in the U.S. Packed with a plethora of activities for all ages and adventure levels, there’s a ton to see and do in this must-see park.
There are 50 miles of marked trails to explore by foot or by bike, the critically acclaimed Broadway-style production of TEXAS is performed in a picturesque amphitheatre located at the base of the canyon during the summer months, and riding stables and ziplining is available for thrill-seekers. Overnight camping in a small cabin tucked along the canyon is also an option, but reservations are recommended well in advance as this is a popular spot for nature lovers.
Before you head on to Lubbock, be sure to stop in at Imperial Taproom, located in the small town of Canyon. This modern microbrewery was recognized as the “Best Beer Bar in Texas” by CraftBeer.com, and features fresh farm-to-table fare that’ll tantalize your taste buds. The chicken and waffles are a mouth-watering must-try lunch treat.
3. Tour the winning wineries and admirable arts spots of Lubbock
Bianca BujanKnown as the “Hub City” of Western Texas, and home to Texas Tech University, Lubbock has evolved into a trendy town teeming with a thriving arts scene and rich with cultural character.
A surprisingly thriving wine-growing region, Texas is one of the oldest wine-producing states in the U.S. The temperate weather of West Texas mimics that of Portugal or Spain, yielding similar grapes grown in the vineyards that line the limits of Lubbock.
For a taste of the best wines in Texas, tour these top Lubbock wineries. First, head to McPherson Cellars, located in a historic 1930s era Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Lubbock. Sip, swish and swirl glasses of award-winning wines in their urban tasting room. Be sure to try the 2015 Sangiovese, a riveting red that pays homage to an Italian Chianti table wine.
Once enjoyed by George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth, Llano Estacado is another winning winery to visit. Enjoy a few glasses in their newly renovated tasting room, or take the tasting outdoors and stroll through the neighbouring cotton fields while you sip their latest stock. The 2015 Cellar Reserve Merlot is full and rich in flavour, a definite treat.
Bianca BujanPossibly Lubbock’s biggest claim to fame is its connection with music, as the city is the birthplace of famed musician Buddy Holly. Located in the historic Depot Entertainment District, the Buddy Holly Center is a shrine to Buddy Holly’s history, showcasing unique memorabilia and historical highlights of the musician’s conspicuous career. A highlight of the centre is the J.I. Allison House, once home to “The Crickets” drummer where Buddy Holly wrote and recited many of his hit songs.
Bianca BujanTake a walking public art tour through Texas Tech University, where you’ll find eye-catching and thought-provoking works of art around the sprawling campus grounds. Named one of the top 10 university public art displays in the U.S. this collection of work is definitely worth a visit. The “Texas Rising” piece pictured above, is an interactive display where guests can manually change the colours that light from the structure’s interior, so be sure to check it out at night!
Bianca BujanMusic lovers can’t leave Lubbock without a visit to singer/songwriter night at The Blue Light Live. Supporting local and regional singers and songwriters who perform covers and original pieces from all genres of music, this is a great spot to soak up Lubbock’s live music scene. This was the first home for many Texas musicians, including Josh Abbott and Flatland Cavalry.
Other points of interest to check out during your visit to Lubbock include the American Windmill Museum, which highlights the history behind the railroads and windmills that shaped the American pioneering efforts; and the National Ranching Heritage Center, dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of ranching. Both spots feature exciting and interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits that are kid-friendly and totally fun.
4. Where to eat & stay in Lubbock
Bianca BujanGet your caffeine fix at Yellow House Coffee, a hipster-y spot where you can enjoy made-to-order signature drinks and an assortment of freshly made goods. This is where you’ll want to go if you’re craving an avocado toast. For breakfast, you’ll want to head to the Cast Iron Grill. While they claim to be all about “boots, pie and chicken fry,” it’s the homemade pies that really steal the show at this gem for gastronomes. A No. 1 favourite on Trip Advisor for good reason, this local treasure is a must-visit.
A lunch at Evie Mae’s is well worth the wait! Recognized as one of the top 10 BBQ joints in Texas, and only open for a few hours a day, this mouth-watering meat spot is the best place to try a true Texas brisket. Arrive hungry but be prepared to wait as they can sometimes have lines wrapping around the block.
For dinner, enjoy sumptuous Spanish cuisine at La Diosa Cellars, where you can admire the artsy ambience while sipping on a fine selection of wine and share tasty tapas with friends old and new.
If luxury dining and a fine cut of steak is what you’re looking for, head to Las Brisas Steakhouse, and if you’re interested in savouring Latin American cuisine with a twist, opt for the chic cuisine served at Cocina de la Sirena, where you can sip on an assortment of cocktails like Mermaid Water, and dine on drool-worthy dinner dishes like the Tenderloin Filet with green chile relleno, yum!
You’ll want to stay for at least a few days, so the Overton Hotel & Conference Center is the best place to hang your hat. Located in the heart of “Hub City” this upscale accommodation maintains a laid-back feel. The first and only AAA Four-Diamond hotel in West Texas, the Overton combines urban elegance with southern charm to create the perfect home base for your visit to Lubbock.
American Airlines offers great flight options to and from Texas. For getting around, book a car with Royal Limo & Trolley Express. They'll not only provide airport pickup and drop off services, but they can get you around town and to and from Amarillo to Lubbock.
For more information on all there is to see and do in these Texas towns, check out Visit Amarillo, and Visit Lubbock. For more information on Texas and to receive a free copy of the Texas State Travel Guide and map, visit Travel Texas.