The city of Amarillo, about 330 miles (531km) northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, is where the old West lives on in the commercial centre of the Texas panhandle.
Amarillo was founded in 1887 as a 'buffalo-hide tent camp' for railroad construction workers. Today, the town boasts a convention centre, symphony, ballet, theatre, opera, and two higher education facilities, Amarillo College and Texas State Technical College.
Amarillo's fortunes have long rested on the horns of cattle ranching, but it has also become a popular stopover for tourists keen to play cowboy, with numerous motels and restaurants having opened up in recent years. The town is located on the major Route 1-40 east-west highway, making it easily accessible for visitors and those who come for the famed frenetic Amarillo Livestock Auctions.
Focusing on physical, earth, and life sciences, the Don Harrington Discovery Center is set in a 51-acre park with a lake and picnic area. The centre contains more than 100 hands-on activities and a recently renovated Space Theater. There is also an aquarium on site featuring both saltwater and freshwater tanks, as well as a botanical garden. The most popular sights here are a Foucault Pendulum, rotating independently of the earth's gravitational pull, a helium technology exhibit, and a weather-watch section with a tornado machine.
The centre was recently renovated and now includes several permanent exhibitions: Hunters of the Sky, focused on birds of prey, Amazing Bodies, all about the wonders of life and living bodies, Planetary Landscapes, an interactive exhibit that makes planetary weather systems and galactic motion more understandable, and Bounce, an examination into the physics and maths behind round shapes.
The centre runs summer camps as well as so-called Parents' Night Out on Friday nights, when parents can leave kids to learn and play for a few hours.
The Texas Panhandle's one and only accredited art museum is the Amarillo Museum of Art. The museum was established in 1967 by a group of community leaders who felt that those living in the Amarillo area deserved a proper art museum, and in 1972 the museum opened its doors to the public. The museum has six galleries housing a permanent collection that includes 17th through 19th century European paintings, 20th century modernists, photography, Asian art and Middle Eastern textiles.
Some well-known artists represented in the collection are Georgia O'Keeffe, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler, and Francesco Guardi. Since 1995, the museum's collection has grown considerably due to the contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Price of Amarillo. Their contributions led to the naming of the Price Gallery of Asian Art, a collection that contains Edo period Japanese wood block prints, as well as South and Southeast Asian sculptures. The museum also offers frequently changing exhibits ranging from contemporary art to the American and European masters.
A Concert Hall building is part of the museum complex and hosts various concerts and talks throughout the year. The museum hosts regular Art After Dark events, when the museum stays open in the evening for a special exhibition that is accompanied by live music, street food stations, possibly a demonstration or presentation of some kind, and further activities such as screen-printing tutorials.
A million years ago a branch of the Red River carved a massive canyon through the northern Texas plains. The walls of the Palo Duro Canyon, meaning 'hard wood' canyon, named after the hardy juniper trees that grow in the canyon's sides, plunge down 1,000 feet (305m) at points, exposing the multi-layered coloured rock strata.
The Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a few miles east of Amarillo, reached via Texas 217 highway. The park offers picnic and camping facilities, a visitor's centre with a shop, an amphitheatre where shows are staged, and horseback riding trips.
The park is also home to a famous historic site where the last great battle between troops and Indians took place in Texas. In 1874 Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and his 4th Cavalry defeated a large band of Native Americans camped in the canyon and transported them to reservations in Oklahoma. Visitors can watch the park's longhorns being fed by rangers at appointed times every few days, and occasional educational talks are hosted by the park to educate visitors on various aspects of life in the canyon over the years.
Amarillo on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle has a basically dry, semi-arid climate with four distinct seasons. Summers are scorching hot, and winters can be numbingly cold. The area is prone to severe weather conditions, having experienced ice storms, drought, and floods. Average annual rainfall is difficult to calculate, there being little constancy. Rain falls mainly in thunderstorms, some of them quite violent, between March and October. Snow falls between October and April, averaging 15 inches (38cm) a year.
The most popular way to get around in Amarillo is hiring a car at one of the international agencies in the city. To hire a car, a full national driver's license, and in some cases and international driver's license, is required and drivers must be at least 25 years (some companies hire cars to those aged 21 to 24 with surcharges). Amarillo has a bus service that runs from Monday through Saturday between 6.15am and 6.45pm and taxis are a good way to get around but must be booked through one of the many private taxi companies operating within the city.
Amarillo is real cowboy country, with its wide plains and beautiful sunsets. The city is home to a number of attractions ranging from fun to just plain eccentric. The Amarillo Museum of Art and the Don Harrington Discovery Center are great place to start exploring, and the Amarillo Botanical Gardens are perfect for a picnic on a sunny afternoon.
Visitors should not miss Amarillo's interactive art projects: the Cadillac Ranch on the I-40 highway, and the Dynamite Museum. Another interesting sculpture near the freeway is Ozymandias on the Plains.
Horse lovers will want to head straight for the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum, which celebrates the quintessential American cowboy horse; or attend the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo. Silver Mesa Ranch offers horseback rides and other Wild West experiences.
Amarillo is also the gateway to the Palo Duro Canyon, one of the most beautiful areas in the Texas panhandle.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination