Travel Diary: Palo Duro Canyon & Amarillo, TX

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Happiness {to me} is planning a trip to someplace new with someone you love. Since we moved to Texas, we’ve made it our mission to explore as much of the lone star state as possible. Texas is roughly the size of France. When you think about it this way, then it’s easy to realize there is a whole lot out there just waiting to be explored!

This spring I had such a fun opportunity to team up with Texas Tourism to visit Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon as a part of their Texplorer program! Not only was this our first vacation as a family of three {& Annie’s first plane ride!} but the trip also gave us a whole new view, appreciation, and {no surprise} a deeper obsession of the state we now call home.  Follow along as I share my travel diary of our trip to the TX Panhandle + my recommendations on what to see, do, eat & where to stay in Amarillo & the surrounding area!

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Day 1 & 2: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Our first few days in North Texas were spent in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This canyon is the second-largest in the United States and has been home to humans for over 12,000 years! Pretty cool, huh? With so many trails to hike, birds to see & stars to gaze upon, a trip to Palo Duro isn’t complete without staying a night or two. Campsites are scattered throughout the park. There are also several stone cabins tucked away deep in the canyon as well as cliffside that can be rented with a reservation in advance.

We stayed two nights in one of the stone cabins on the canyon floor in the cow camp area. {No cows were spotted, however!} The cabins were all built in the 1930s by the CCC and are pretty primitive {but also amazing!} You bring in your own sheets, pillows, plates, utensils + food. {A quick trip to a supermarket helped to avoid flying with all of our supplies.} While this may sound a little too primitive to some, trust me it’s not! The full-size log bunk beds were incredibly comfortable and the kitchen included both a refrigerator and microwave. Glamping at it’s finest!

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When we weren’t exploring the trails we were relaxing on the patio & either sipping on coffee {or wine … depending on the hour} while gazing at the gorgeous scenery surrounding our small stone cabin.

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As this was our first time to hike with a baby, we decided not to conquer the park’s most famous trail {The Lighthouse} this go-round. Definitely planning on tackling it next time we return, though! Instead, we opted for something more moderate and chose the Juniper Cliff Side & Creek Side Trails. If you take the Sunflower Trail in between the two, you can make your own loop out of it.

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The scenery during our hike was absolutely jaw-droppingly unbelievably stunning! So much so that all of those adjectives were definitely needed. If you’re not much of a hiker, the park is great for biking and bird watching too. During the summers, Palo Duro Canyon State Park guests can even enjoy the outdoor musical drama TEXAS which performs in the park’s amphitheater. What can be better than finishing off a day of outdoor adventures with a musical? In my opinion … nothing!

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Day 3: Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

After spending two days in Palo Duro Canyon, we were ready to get back to civilization in Amarillo. On the way into town, we stopped at The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum which is a MUST when visiting this area. You could easily spend an entire day here {we almost did} getting lost in the permanent exhibits on pioneer towns, the people of the plains, petroleum, geology, archeology, paleontology and SO much more.

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Cadillac Ranch

On our way into Amarillo, we stopped at the famous Cadillac Ranch installation on Route 66. Built by a group of “alt-hippies” in 1974, Cadillac Ranch is exactly what it sounds like. A ranch filled with Cadillacs! 😉 This quirky attraction is visited by people from all over the world and is one of the only places where you can legally graffiti your heart out. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of spray paint to bring along with you when you visit! 

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& Dinner at the Big Texan

No visit to Amarillo is complete without stopping at The Big Texan for a steak dinner. Patrick and I both agreed that dinner here was one of the highlights of our entire trip! The Big Texan Steak Ranch is home to the famous *free* 72-oz. steak. The catch is that you have to eat the entire thing + a few savory sides in under an hour. While I was tempted, I opted for the much safer 8 oz. sirloin instead & it was absolutely divine!

The old west decor inside the steak house makes you feel like you waltzed right into a restaurant in an episode of West World. Animal busts of all shapes and sizes line the walls and salon-inspired decor is dotted throughout. While you’re dining, roving singers even stop by the tables to serenade a tune of your choice. I couldn’t resist asking them to belt out Yellow Rose of Texas while we were there!

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Next door to the restaurant lies The Big Texan Motel. Patrick and I love a good themed hotel so we checked in for two nights during our stay in Amarillo. With cowboy-themed decor and the television set to the Western channel, we were absolutely smitten! The best part though, you can walk on over to steakhouse for another steak for breakfast the next morning! This one is served with eggs & gravy covered biscuits, easily heaven on earth!

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Day 4: Route 66

We totally got our kicks on Route 66 this spring! Historic Route 66 in Amarillo is another can’t miss destination. As one of the major stops along the route, both road tripping tourists and locals flock to the restaurants and shops along the historic stretch in downtown Amarillo.

We walked in and out of antique shops, junk shops, funky boutiques & adorable clothing shops during our morning visit. Patrick stumbled upon a stack of vintage country record albums and I scored a pink bomber jacket and a cactus vase that now sits on a shelf in our living room. After shopping ’till we dropped we grabbed a bite to eat at The GoldenLight Cafe, one of the oldest restaurants in the city. A round of Shiner Beer & Texas Frito Pie was definitely in order!

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Museum Musings

We were so surprised by how well Annie traveled with us. She hardly fussed at all, slept a lot and was wide awake when we wanted her to be, and for that, I can’t complain! We were nervous about stacking a few museums visits into our afternoon with a 3-month old baby in tow, but it went great! Both the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum and the RV Museum were family-friendly and super interesting too!

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We were so surprised with how much we fell in love with the RV Museum! Patrick, Annie and I had such fun popping in and out of all of the vintage RVs. My favorite was the 1930s blue & white Airstream. I can only imagine how fun it would be to have one of these to take on an outdoor adventure! We even left that day seriously debating on when and what type of RV we were going to eventually get!

Four nights and four full days was plenty of time to see & experience everything on our list in Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon. This Texas destination is over 500 miles from my home in Houston but still evokes the same Texas charm and hospitality that you would find anywhere in the lone star state. The landscape was different from anything I’d ever seen before and the skies were certainly those “big skies of Texas” you hear about in stories and songs. With its modern cowboy culture, an array of museums and stunning scenery, Amarillo is a must visit destination for anyone looking to experience a true Texas vacation! Check out Texas Tourism & Visit Amarillo for more information on planning your next lone star state adventure!

xo, alice

Big thank you to Texas Tourism for sponsoring this post & experience! As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you to you guys for supporting the brands that make this blog of mine possible. 

 

  • Lacey Anne Douthat

    Those cars are too cool! Texas is seriously BAD A when it comes to photo spots!

    xx,

    Lacey
    http://theglittergospelblog.com

  • What a magical trip! Dying to go there now!

    -Kat
    http://www.katwalksf.com/

  • Channing

    This is an awesome trip guide! I did not do enough exploring when I lived in Texas!

  • This looks incredible! I’ve only been to Texas once and would love to go back and explore more– that steak place sounds amazing (although no 72 ouncer for me!)

  • sandyalamode

    Your pictures are stunning!! I’ve never been to Amarillo but I’ve always wanted to go – it seems like a really amazing spot!

  • Brianne George

    Wow, what a trip!! Cadillac Ranch looks so fun 🙂

    Xo, Brianne
    http://www.scrubsandsparkles.com

  • Sarah Ramondt Lennon

    Wow! These pics are amazing! Now I just want to go there for all of the cool photo ops! I hope you had a great time!

  • Wow these photos are amazing!! We love Texas so much and totally need to visit! Thank you so much for sharing all the best spots in Amarillo!

  • What amazing pictures! I hope you had a lovely trip!

    Xo, Lauren from http://www.aloprofile.com

  • SO freaking cool! What a fun looking trip! I’ve never been to Texas, I’ll pin this for the future!