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  • Overview

    The Old West lives on in the city of Amarillo. About 330 miles (531km) northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, it is the commercial centre of the Texas Panhandle. Founded in 1887 as a tent camp for buffalo hides and railroad construction workers, the town now hosts symphonies, opera and ballets, as well as boasting both 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.

    Don Harrington Discovery Center

    Making science a blast of fun, the Don Harrington Discovery Center contains more than 100 hands-on activities and a recently renovated planetarium. An onsite aquarium features both saltwater and freshwater tanks, while its most popular draws include a Foucault pendulum and a tornado machine. Set in a 51-acre park with a lake and picnic spots, visitors will also enjoy its vibrant botanical garden as well as its permanent exhibits on birds of prey, the human body, and other planets' weather systems. Parents might also be interested in its summer camps and special Friday nights, when they can leave children to safely learn and play for hours.

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    Amarillo Museum of Art

    The Amarillo Museum of Art has six galleries, housing a permanent collection that includes 17th through 19th century European paintings, 20th century modernists, Asian art, Middle Eastern textiles, and photography. There are also Edo period Japanese woodblock prints and Southeast Asian sculptures. Famous artists include Georgia O'Keeffe, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler and Francesco Guardi. A Concert Hall building is part of the museum complex and hosts various concerts and talks throughout the year, while the museum regularly 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.

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    Palo Duro Canyon

    A million years ago a branch of the Red River carved a massive canyon through the northern Texas plains, forming the Palo Duro Canyon. Its walls plunge down some 1,000 feet (305m), exposing the striking layers of coloured rock strata. The Palo Duro Canyon State Park is also historically significant, marking the state's last battle between American troops and Native Americans. The canyon proves to be a great day out, with picnics, camping and horseback rides. Occasional educational talks are hosted by the park to educate visitors on various aspects of life in the canyon over the years.

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    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 places 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.

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