The open road doesn’t get much more open than on a road trip through the Texas Panhandle. But it’s more than just the picturesque plains that beckon. Its natural wonders, roadside oddities, classic Americana and High Plains wineries will have you refueling and rediscovering what the Panhandle is all about.
Every epic road trip begins with a great set of wheels. For this one, might we suggest the 90 or so classic cars (some from as early as the 1920s) at Bill’s Backyard Classics in Amarillo to put you in the road-tripping mood.
If that’s not enough American nostalgia to kick things off, throw in a little bit of art—and a little bit of funk—at Cadillac Ranch just a few miles west of downtown Amarillo right off Interstate 40. This art installation is made of 10 full-size classic Cadillacs buried nose-first in the dirt. It’s located on private land, but don’t worry, visiting is encouraged 24/7, as is painting. So bring some spray cans, tap into your inner artist and add your own personal touch to the graffiti on this ever-evolving artistic display.
Before you head out from Amarillo, be sure to make a stop at the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian. It’s just south of the airport not far from The Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant, so you can’t miss it. The museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the native tribes that lived on the Texas Plains and in the American Southwest. Learning this history will enhance your exploration of the Panhandle.
When you get the chance to include the most classic of all routes in your road trip, you should definitely take it. So hop onto the iconic Route 66, and no matter which direction you go, you’ll discover art galleries, antique stores, amazing diners and a road full of history. Head east to Shamrock, TX, and find the U-Drop Inn, which served as the inspiration for the auto body shop in the film Cars. Or head west, and if you make it as far as Adrian, TX, you’ll be halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Few places are as naturally beautiful and impressive as Palo Duro Canyon State Park. In fact, it’s America’s second-largest canyon. The canyon’s distinctive red-banded rock layers took more than a million years to form and make a stunning sunset backdrop. Go hiking, horseback riding or camping all within the park. And if you visit in the summer, reserve your tickets for a sunset performance of the TEXAS Outdoor Musical. The park entrance is only about a half-hour drive south of Amarillo, which leaves plenty of time for a stop at the surprising and enlightening Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, TX, on your way there.
As you journey south through the Panhandle, head for Lubbock, the “Hub City” of the region. It’s a straight shot down the wide-open Interstate 27 highway. This musical mecca was home to the legendary Buddy Holly and now features the Buddy Holly Center—part museum, part performing arts venue. Lubbock is also the home of Texas Tech University and the National Ranching Heritage Center on its campus.
Of course, no trip through the Panhandle would be complete without touring a few of the High Plains wineries that surround Lubbock. The High Plains is the second-largest wine-producing region in Texas and one of the state’s best-kept secrets. The area is distinct for its elevation and arid landscape and mainly produces hearty grape varieties. Several tasty options can be found in and around the outskirts of the city or by taking a short drive south to nearby towns like Brownfield.
Every road trip through Texas is unique. And no matter how you make this one your own, you’ll discover more in the Texas Panhandle than you ever imagined. So hit the road, and remember to drive friendly, the Texas way.