Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Amarillo, TX

  • Published 2022/12/05

With its scenic landscapes and Old West spirit, Amarillo in Texas is the perfect destination for anyone looking for the next great adventure coupled with nostalgia.

The city in Potter County was originally called Oneida but was eventually renamed Amarillo, the Spanish word for yellow, after the area’s yellow sub-soil and the yellow blooms of yucca plants.

Located at the center of the Texas Panhandle region, the city is home to 201,234 people as of the 2021 census.

It is known for its ranching and farming industries, as well as its beautiful sunrises and sunsets that are said to show the curvature of the earth on the wide open spaces of the Great Plains.

Amarillo’s picturesque views and historic as well as obscure sites have continued to pull in people from all over the country and the world.

If you’re looking to explore and learn about Texas history, plenty of unique adventures await in this city where Old and New West meet.

Before heading out, make sure to save this list of free things to do in Amarillo, Texas!

Stop By and Paint Your Mark at the Cadillac Ranch

Daytime view of Cadillac Ranch installations

Edwin Verin / Shutterstock.com

One of the most popular destinations in Amarillo is also free for everyone’s access.

The Cadillac Ranch is a roadside attraction you can’t miss when visiting this city.

It features ten Cadillacs buried halfway in a field, whose angle is supposed to resemble that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The unusual art exhibit was invented and built by The Ant Farm, a group of art-hippies from San Francisco, with the support of Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3, who wanted a baffling piece of public art to amuse the locals.

People at Cadillac Ranch

evenfh / Shutterstock.com

Today, the Cadillacs are barely recognizable as automobiles because of their battered frames and all the paint splattered across them.

It has become a tradition for visitors to stop by and leave their own mark on the displays using spray paints or other markers.

If you’re planning to go to the area, don’t forget to stop by the Cadillac Ranch and perform the painting ritual!

A person spray-painting a car at Cadillac Ranch

Scott Sanders / Shutterstock.com

Go for a Mural Scavenger Hunt

Visit downtown Amarillo and go for a mural scavenger hunt!

The city boasts a variety of unique art that you may discover throughout your visit to the city.

Besides the popular Cadillac Ranch, you may find larger-than-life art installations and murals that depict the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, a robot, a cowboy, a buffalo, Texas butterflies, and an American flag, among many others.

A mural map is available at the Visit Amarillo website, so you may check that out if you want to do the mural scavenger hunt!

For sure, it’s gonna take a long time before you run out of quirky art to discover in the city of Amarillo.

Meet Locals and Travelers at the Texas Route 66 Visitor Center

When you travel down Route 66, you should stop by the Texas Route 66 Visitor Center.

You’ll realize that the place isn’t just filled with knick-knacks but also with unique art made by locals.

It is an important stop where you’ll find local art, information, maps, and other Route 66 memorabilia.

During your visit, feel free to talk to the owners and know more about the historic area and other places they’d recommend.

Your visit to Route 66 wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Texas Route 66 Visitor Center and hearing stories from the locals themselves!

Take a Stroll Down the Route 66 Historic District

A saloon at Route 66 Historic District

Gimas / Shutterstock.com

You can’t miss out on the Route 66 Historic District when you find yourself in Amarillo.

Here you’ll find over a mile of art galleries, antique and collectible stores, restaurants, and bars, mostly located inside old buildings.

Walking along the district and looking for things to do will surely take you down the city’s memory lane.

The popular Route 66 is dubbed the Mother Road of America after John Steinbeck proclaimed it in his 1939 book “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Steakhouse at Route 66 Historic District

Danielle Beder / Shutterstock.com

The district is also among the first residential and business districts in Amarillo.

In the past, people from miles away used to travel here just to access the lively district.

If you want a bit of nostalgia and a glimpse of history, take a stroll down the Route 66 Historic District.

Gelato shop at Route 66 Historic District

Gimas / Shutterstock.com

Visit the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum

The Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum is built by father and son Jack and Trent Sisemore.

The family started restoring and collecting unusual and vintage RVs over 25 years ago.

The number of RVs they own then grew into a collection worthy of showcasing in a museum.

Among the vehicles displayed in the museum are the 1948 Flxible bus from the Robin Williams’ 2006 movie “RV”; the oldest existing Fleetwood RV, and plenty of other RVs from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Vintage collectors and automobile enthusiasts will be fascinated by this local collection at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.

Make sure to drop by this museum when you go to Amarillo!

Appreciate Local Artistry at the Amarillo Museum of Art

Exterior of the Amarillo Museum of Art

Who What Where Nguyen Why a/k/a Anonymous Cow, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re already in the area, you can’t miss out on discovering awe-inspiring pieces of art at the Amarillo Museum of Art.

Community leaders started the museum to create a regional art facility for the residents of the Texas Panhandle region.

Today, the museum houses a permanent collection of over 1,800 works of art.

The Amarillo Museum of Art aims to provide art education to visitors as it holds approximately 15 art exhibitions annually.

The exhibits feature original works across all kinds of media, periods, and styles.

Here you may also catch lectures, gallery talks, art classes, and other events where you may engage with the local community.

If you’re an art enthusiast, you should see the exhibitions at the Amarillo Museum of Art.

See the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument

The Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument has become a popular destination among travelers.

But the attraction isn’t just a cool structure for stopping by and taking photos, it also represents a piece of Amarillo’s history.

The six-story-tall spire with a big helium molecule in its center was built in the city in 1968, serving as a commemoration of the 100th year since helium was discovered.

The city has a long history of helium production, including having a part in the US government’s helium reserve and production of gas and the Bureau of Mines’ helium plant operations in the 1920s.

Learn a piece of local and national history when you drop by to see the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument.

Tour the Historic Harrington House

Exterior of the Historic Harrington House

BriceWi999, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See old architecture, explore, and step inside a vintage home at the Historic Harrington House.

The neoclassical house was built by local cattlemen Pat and John Landergin in 1914 and was acquired by Don and Sybil Harrington, who led the oil and gas industry growth in 1940.

Most of the house’s original materials have been preserved through time, including the tapestry on the walls of the Reception Hall, the 18th-century parquet de Versailles flooring, and a relief-carved pine mirror from 1697.

You’ll find so much beauty in this historic house.

And if you’re interested in architecture, you won’t run out of details to pore over.

Enter the Historic Harrington House and be transported back in time!

Discover Old Trains at the Amarillo Railroad Museum

The Amarillo Railroad Museum, which has preserved historic railroad equipment and built models, will walk you through the rich heritage of the Texas Panhandle region.

The outdoor display features unique railroad cars, including an actual White Train from the US Department of Energy, which were used to transport nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

One of the museum’s biggest attractions is a scale layout designed to reflect Santa Fe’s railway across the region, spanning approximately 200 miles of the railroad.

The model, set between 1952 and the 1970s, will show you what railroads were like during the last part of the steam-to-diesel transition period of the 1950s.

Be inspired to create your own models or learn about the railroad industry of the state when you go here.

Add the Amarillo Railroad Museum to your list of things to do in Amarillo at no cost!

See the Historic Madame Queen

Marker of the Historic Madame Queen

Pi3.124, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1930, Madame Queen is a Texas-type locomotive designed with a 2-10-4 wheel arrangement.

It was designed by the Santa Fe Railroad’s Mechanical Department as a response to the need for stronger and faster freight locomotives.

Today, it stands in downtown Amarillo and is open 24/7 for anyone interested in seeing vintage trains.

It has become one of the city’s unique fixtures that symbolize the rich history of the place.

You may drop by the Madame Queen display at no cost and get a glimpse of the past!

Feast Your Eyes on the Ozymandias

Another quirky art installation in Amarillo is the Ozymandias, a gigantic sculpture of two legs that are seemingly unfinished.

It was created by Lightnin’ McDuff, a famous artist in the region, who initially started the project with the goal of building a whole man.

But in the middle of constructing the Ozymandias, McDuff resolved that the installation looked perfect, just like a pair of legs.

Today, travelers who go to Amarillo stop by to take a picture or two of the strange but unique structure.

When you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and see the Ozymandias for yourself.

Explore the State’s Aviation History at Texas Air and Space Museum

Interior of the Texas Air and Space Museum

Richard Warner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Air and Space Museum isn’t just the perfect destination for aviation fans, but also for all kinds of history enthusiasts.

The museum houses the DC-3 aircraft known as the N34, one of the four planes listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors may also see the displays of the Grumman Gulfstream II NASA Shuttle Training Aircraft, a North American P-51 Mustang that’s on loan, a de Havilland C-7A Caribou, and biplane class aircraft Bearcat, among others.

Aircrafts in the Texas Air and Space Museum

Richardawarner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll even learn about the stories of each aircraft!

Besides the featured planes, the museum also has extensive documents, newspaper articles, and exhibits of photos from the beginning of the English Field Airport operations.

Don’t forget to visit the Texas Air and Space Museum, situated on the grounds of the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

Drive by the Floating Mesa

The city of Amarillo is undoubtedly filled with eccentric and obscure art installations.

The Floating Mesa is one of the many structures you should check out when you’re in the city.

When you drive by Tascosa Road, slow down a bit, so you don’t miss the chance to see the Floating Mesa from a perfect angle.

Commissioned by local visionary Stanley Marsh 3, the piece creates an illusion that the top portion of the mesa is floating in the air when the sky in the backdrop is the right shade of white.

If you’re a photographer, make sure to catch the mesa at the right time to capture the illusion.

For sure, the Floating Mesa is an interesting and one-of-a-kind piece that you can’t miss out on.

Walk around the Downtown Historic District

Amarillo city hall at the Downtown Historic District

Traveller70 / Shutterstock.com

You can’t leave the city without walking around the Downtown Historic District.

Here you’ll find historical buildings and churches as well as a variety of public art pieces.

Among the structures you should see here are The Bivin’s Home, the Amarillo City Hall, the Amarillo Civic Center Complex, and The Herring Hotel.

Buildings along the Downtown Historic District

Traveller70 / Shutterstock.com

You should also see the Amarillo Building, one of the city’s first skyscrapers built in the 1920s.

Today, it houses several local organizations and displays old pictures of the historic downtown in its lobby.

Appreciate the beauty and heritage of the city when you walk the streets of the Downtown Historic District.

Road of the Downtown Historic District

Traveller70 / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

The city of Amarillo in Texas is a worthy destination even for those who wish not to spend a lot of money on their adventures.

You can explore the city’s history, culture, and art without breaking the bank because they’re apparent everywhere you go.

When you plan your visit to the area, make sure to check this list of free things to do in Amarillo, Texas.

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