When we are determining the first city to cover in a new state, we look for a place that offers something for all ages. After all, it’s not a family vacation destination, if it doesn’t appeal to everybody. Crystal and I have family in Texas but decided to start with a city far away from the areas we have frequented. The high plains of the Panhandle offered some experiences that we could not find anywhere else in the state. Sorting through all of the Amarillo entertainment options, we found lots of ways to spend time playing in the Panhandle. Obviously, we weren’t able to hit up every potential stop, but we feel like we found a nice variety for a family visit.
We want to thank Visit Amarillo and all of the businesses we visited for hosting us. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Alibates Flint Quarries
Visiting Amarillo in the summertime is a great opportunity to enjoy some outdoor activities. The landscape of this region is fun to explore and offers some beautiful views. We found that playing in the Panhandle can include some interesting lessons. On our way into the city, we made a stop at the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. Located north of Amarillo, it sits beside Lake Meredith. The visitors center has exhibits that walk visitors through the lives of early inhabitants in the area. After examining the displays, and watching a short video, it was time to explore the grounds. Hiking trails of various lengths are available for exploration and they even have ranger-guided tours.
Amarillo Botanical Gardens
Experiencing high plains means seeing a lot of native grasses and flowers. Of course, there is also plenty of cactus to be found. The growing conditions in this region can be difficult, but not impossible. When we visited the Amarillo Botanical Gardens we found plenty of species that were flourishing under the care of local volunteers. As we wandered the tranquil gardens, it gave us a few moments to take in their peaceful setting.
Sod Poodles Baseball
While the peaceful setting is beautiful to behold, it’s fun to balance it with a little excitement. Watching a baseball game can be quite a lot of fun, and finding out that it is the first season for a new team made it extra special. It didn’t seem like it could be topped, but a behind-the-scenes tour took it to a whole new level. While you may not get one of those, you can still enjoy watching the Amarillo Sod Poodles playing in the Panhandle. Bring the whole family and make an evening of it!
Speaking of family fun, how about a day at the amusement park? When we discovered that Wonderland Park was located in Amarillo, we knew a visit would be required. Their mixture of thrill, water, and kid rides means that there will be plenty to keep every family member occupied. Don’t forget to challenge each other to a round of mini-golf, before scoping out great views of the city on their sky-high overhead tram.
A visit to the Panhandle is also a good chance to learn more about this unique portion of America. The history of the lands and the people who have settled it is filled with memorable stories. Many of these can be found by exploring the Panhandle-Plains Museum. In Texas’ largest history museum, you will find exhibits from the age of dinosaurs, through the western migration, and right up to the present. We couldn’t believe just how large this place is until we tried covering it all in half of a day. Big mistake! You will want to block off longer if you really want to explore.
Amarillo has the distinction of sitting squarely on the old Route 66 path. This historic tie brings thousands of Mother Road travelers through town every year. For those familiar with the history of “America’s first highway”, you know that it was lined with unique stops and oddities. These days there are still plenty of fun spots to see and explore. The Cadillac Ranch has to be near the top of unusual places to leave your mark on the world. Be sure to bring a can of spray paint and some gloves. (Just make sure you haul your trash back out with you.)
Jack Sisemore RV Museum
With such a famous roadway in the area, travel is obviously an important subject. Would you believe there is even a place to see vintage camping vehicles? When we dropped by the Jack Sisemore RV Museum we weren’t sure what we would find. It was actually a very interesting place to wander through. It’s filled with classic campers and recreational vehicles that we remember from our youth. As we explored the space we could imagine how many kids spent their youths playing in the Panhandle during family vacations.
Palo Duro Canyon
If you are going camping in the Panhandle, there isn’t a better destination than Palo Duro Canyon. Just south of Amarillo, travelers will find the second-largest canyon in America. While the photos show beautiful countryside filled with remarkable landscapes, they still lack in showing the absolute wonder. Visitors will find an abundance of hiking trails that help them get back to nature. campsites are available inside the park, so you can really immerse yourself in the Panhandle-Plains.
Palo Duro Creek Ranch
While RV’s offer a comfortable lodging option, they won’t get you up and down some of the wild roads found in the backwoods portion of the canyon. For that, we visited Palo Duro Creek Ranch. This locally-owned company offers jeep tours through the heart of the landscape. With such a large canyon area, some of the property is privately owned. This means you can have an amazing adventure under the watchful eyes of an experienced guide. It is a memory that we will not soon forget.
Palo Duro Canyon Adventure Park
Speaking of memorable activities. Would you be willing to zip-line across part of the canyon? While Crystal chose to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, I made the climb up the tower. Once I was all strapped in, it was time to whoosh across the great divide that laid out below me. The feeling of exhilaration is amazing, and almost matches the views from this angle. Now we have heard that they added a bigger and longer zip-line option. Looks like we need to return to take on that challenge.
Texas Outdoor Musical
Are you a live theater lover? Would you believe that Palo Duro Canyon even has this covered? The canyon is home to Texas Outdoor Musical, which is a long-running live performance. Imagine all of the grandeur that can be accomplished when you have the great outdoors as your stage. The staff at this unique attraction have embraced nature and use it to help tell the story of life on the Panhandle-Plains. Once the lone rider gallops across the bluff behind the stage, it’s time to settle in for an evening of entertainment. We are betting you will find yourself toe-tapping along with the rousing score that accompanies this fun event.
Playing in the Panhandle
As you can see, there are plenty of things to fill a family vacation. The options are limitless and include: sports, theater, history or just spending time in nature. Our late July visit found us playing in the Panhandle during the summer heat, but the lower humidity makes it much more manageable. With all of these choices, (and more that we didn’t have time to visit) you are sure to build an itinerary that will have the whole family engaged. Now that we have cracked the seal on Texas cities, look for additional destinations to be covered in the future.
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