Updated: 9 hours ago
For many Texans, Amarillo is known as the halfway stopover point on the long summer drive to and from Colorado.
Every year, I would make the eight-hour drive from Austin and stop in Amarillo for the night before continuing on to Denver, Crested Butte or Aspen the following morning.
I never gave Amarillo a chance.
So this year I decided I wouldn't just sit in my hotel room; I was going to explore Amarillo.
I am happy to report there are a plethora of activities that you could squeeze into a half-day in this Texas Panhandle town.
Here are three great ideas for you to enjoy your short stay in Amarillo.
1. The Big Texan
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and you know that statement is true once you visit The Big Texan.
As seen on the television shows Man v. Food and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Big Texan is Amarillo's most famous restaurant, well known for its 72 oz. steak challenge, where contestants vie to eat a four-and-a-half pound steak AND sides in less than one hour.
Only 10,200 of the 90,000 people who have attempted the Big Texan Challenge have beaten this competitive eating feat, which translates into an 11% victory rate. Or conversely, an 89% failure rate.
In fact, the current record holder is a woman who completed the challenge in less than five minutes, and the competition is so well known that it even has its own YouTube Channel.
When a participant takes on the 72 oz. steak challenge, they are immediately seated to a large elevated table at the center of the restaurant
An electronic clock set to start the 60 minute challenge looms behind the competitors so that all the patrons in restaurant can watch this amazing undertaking.
Given the world-famous challenge, I knew The Big Texas was a MUST VISIT in Amarillo.
The great news is that The Big Texan is open from 10:00am to 10:30pm, 7 days a week, meaning that no matter when you pull into Amarillo, you have time to get yourself serious amounts of steak.
In addition, The Big Texan is located conveniently on Interstate 40 and will be no more than 10 minutes away from your hotel.
All of which give you no reason - except maybe from your cardiologist - not to go.
I strolled into The Big Texan during lunch around 11:30am, and the cavernous dining room was relatively empty except for a few tourists and families on road trips.
The decor is definitely Texan, and I settled into my booth replete with cow patten tablecloth.
The menu is Texas-sized, meaning you can choose anything from Mountain Oysters (which are battered and fried cow testicles) to sandwiches to steaks and everything in between.
I opted for a rather pedestrian 8 oz. prime rib lunch special, which came with two sides, for $17.
I also ordered the onion ring appetizer for $11, which came with their special Ranch sauce.
When the waitress brought out my food, I was astounded.
In front of me were a fully loaded baked potato, Caesar Salad, dinner rolls, onion rings, mutiple horseradish sauces and au jus - not to mention the meat, which looked bigger than 8 ounces to me.
I dug in, and while I did my best, I could only finish about half of my meal.
Disappointed with my poor eating effort but highly satisfied with the whole Big Texan experience, I took the rest of my lunch home as leftovers and left them in the hotel fridge.
2. Amarillo Museum of Art
In dire need of digestation, I decided against a nap and headed over to the Amarillo Museum of Art located on campus of Amarillo College.
Open from 11am - 5pm from Wednesday to Saturday and from 1pm - 5pm on Sundays, the Amarillo Museum of Art features Asian Art alongside Western classics.
When I was there in late July, the museum had a Jun Kaneko exhibit, a Japanese American artist who is known for his sculpture, amongst other visual media.
I also enjoyed the Terry Allen exhibit, a visual artist and songwriter raised in Lubbock, Texas.
While I didn't have time to attend these other Amarillo institutions, The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum and the classic car collection at Bill's Backyard Classics also looked worthwhile of a visit, depending on your cultural tastes.
3. Amarillo Sod Poodles Baseball Game
I am a huge baseball fan, as you may have read about in my pilgrimage to see the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome in Japan earlier this year. That article can be found here.
So when I found out that the Arizona Diamondbacks had a double-A baseball team in Amarillo, I knew I had to go.
In my estimation, the highlight of any evening in Amarillo would be attending an Amarillo Sod Poodles game at their immaculate stadium, called Hodgetown.
You might ask what the heck is a Sod Poodle anyway?
The Texas Standard did a great article on the baseball team's name, which you can find here. According to the article, a sod poodle is an old-fashioned nickname for a prairie dog, something they must have a lot of in Amarillo.
The stadium is named Hodgetown and is only in its fourth full season of existence, meaning that Hodegtown is by far and away the newest baseball park I have visited recently, and it shows.
As soon as you walk into the ballpark, your ears perk up to Tejano music blasting from the Hodgetown speaker system, and at that moment I was overwhelmed with nostalgia.
The atmosphere transported me to a pristine Texas evening like those I remember as a child, where in the heat of a July summer night, families of all ages could gather under the lights and enjoy an event the entire town could get behind.
Snapping myself back to reality, I wandered the stadium taking in every sound and smell.
In right field, there is a Lawn that requires separate tickets. Families and friends gathered out there to enjoy the evening.
The stands, the facilities, and the concessions are all top notch.
I was there on Weiner Wednesday, which meant that every hot dog was only $1 (I ate three for a whopping $3).
I settled into my outfield seats - which cost all of $8 - and surveyed the field.
The Sod Poodles were playing the Wichita Wind Surge, with a game start time of 7:05pm.
My iPhone told me it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but given the desert breeze and the cloud cover, I was actually comfortable in a polo shirt and shorts.
Wichita struck first in the game, taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the second inning.
Then the Sod Poodles came back, and the two teams battled back and forth. The fans were excited, and in the end, the Sod Poodles emerged victorious with a 7-5 win.
The entire evening had a fantastic, small town Americana feel with a strong Tejano energy - an excitement like the lightning bugs you would catch in the bottle during the summer.
You must experience the Sod Poodles if you are in town.
Here is their schedule.
If you enjoyed this article, please click here to read more of my Texas travel adventures.
I just released a brand new single called "Wasting Away" featuring two local Austin, Texas female rappers.
You will love this summer anthem collaboration.
I am headed into the studio this Fall to launch an EP soon. Stay tuned and stay cool!