When we were there: October 4 – 11, 2019
Where we stayed: Big Texan RV Ranch
What we ate: Steaks at Big Texan Steak Ranch; Mexican grilled chicken from Amigo’s grocery store
What we drank: Shiners on the patio at Smokey Joe’s
What we did: Cadillac Ranch; Historic Route 66; T Anchor Flea Market; Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Tourism Website: https://www.visitamarillo.com/
Worth the Trip? Better than I expected
Amarillo was one of those “on the way to somewhere else” stops that turned out to be a destination in its own right.
It’s a decent size city, around 200,000 people, and there’s pretty much everything you’d want. The first night in we had dinner at Whataburger because I had missed it so very very much. I know people like to crow about their local burger chains, but Whataburger is the best and that’s that.
Our first tourist excursion was to Cadillac Ranch. Yes, it’s a bunch of Caddys buried head first in the dirt. And people come from – I’m not making this up – all over the world to see it. America! They provide the spray paint for you to decorate the cars and sell some souvenirs. As you can see by the photo, it had been raining quite a bit in the days before so everything was a big mud pit.
Amarillo’s historic area is on Route 66 (of course), otherwise known as 6th Street. TONS!! of antique shops, which we don’t care about, but also restaurants and bars (which we do care about). When we get into a town, we ask the locals what we should see and do. Bartenders, in particular, are a fountain of good information. We were told to go to Smokey Joe’s and GoldenLight Cantina, both in the historic district.
Smokey Joe’s is a traditional Texas bar/restaurant/entertainment venue with a large patio where you can sit and watch the world go by. GoldenLight, on the other hand, is something special. It’s in an historic building that doesn’t look like much…until you go inside. There you’ll find a highly local burger diner, with a shitkicker decor. Get a burger with fried jalapenos and a cold beer, then stay for the band.
Our RV park was wonderful! Terrific amenities, big sites, nice and clean, and the people are super friendly. New Mexicans aren’t terribly personable, and Arizonans are marginally better, but Texans are all your new best friend. I love them.
The owner of the RV park also owns Big Texan Steak Ranch, and they have a limo (with bull horns on the front, of course) that will take you to the restaurant for free. The steak ranch is enormous, with two dining areas, a bar, an arcade area, a concert venue, and a big ass gift shop. There were 8 million people there on a Wednesday evening.
The food was really good and there was a lot of it. I had the 24 oz ribeye because I did some maffs and it was a better deal for breakfast leftovers. In reality I got two large meals out of my leftovers. They have strolling musicians who play country standards.
Big Texan has a thing where if you eat a 72 oz steak with sides within an hour, you’ll get it for free and they’ll put you in the Hall of Fame. Neal was thinking of doing this. He’s not a big eater or anything like that, but if you can’t finish it they only charge you the regular price of $72. BUT! You have to sit in the spotlight at a special table where everyone watches you try and tackle that beast. I didn’t want to eat alone and Neal didn’t want to be the floor show, so we watch a couple other guys try (and fail) instead.
A short drive from Amarillo is Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is the second largest canyon in the US (the largest, of course, is Big GC). You get on a 16 mile loop that takes you through the canyon, with pullouts and viewing areas. They have several campgrounds with hookups which looked nice but that trip down the canyon in an RV would really be something. A few miles in there’s a Trading Post, with staple items for campers, a large gift shop, and a small restaurant where we had excellent burgers and fries for lunch.
We honestly weren’t expecting much from Amarillo, and were pleasantly surprised. It was one of those times I was glad that we stay a week minimum even at our “on the way to somewhere else” stops. You just never know what you’ll find.
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