Make the Most of a Visit to Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo, Texas is an underrated American city that not only serves as the midpoint to the historic Route 66 highway,but also boasts a vibrant art scene, historical landmarks, and thriving local economy that demands to be explored. In its time, the city of Amarillo has seen its fair share of wild west legends, including Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday, and while there are plenty of museums and historic sites dedicated to these figures—and other famous cowboys like Jesse James—there’s so much more to do in Amarillo than just learning about its history. Thanks to this detailed travel blog from Southern Living, the following are the top picks for things to do the next time you’re in Amarillo.

Spray paint a car monument at Cadillac Ranch

If you’re looking for a place to get creative and add your own touch to one of the most popular roadside attractions in America, then you should consider making your way out to the stunning collection of Cadillac cars, known as the Cadillac Ranch. Resembling an automotive Stonehenge, this attraction features ten Cadillacs that are lined up in the desert, each with their front ends buried in the sand and covered in thousands of layers of spray paint from visitors over the years. So, get on the road and get ready to start drawing. Note: when you approach Cadillac Ranch, follow signs that point towards where you can start adding your own masterpiece onto one of these classic cars. You’ll receive a free stencil kit when you arrive at this free attraction that’s sure to stick in your memory for a lifetime.

Visit the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum

The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the famed American Quarter Horse, the most popular breed of horse in the country. The Hall of Fame & Museum is free to visit and is located in downtown Amarillo, where you can observe a large collection of horse artifacts, including a look at the most famous horses of this breed. Trophies, photographs, memorabilia, and the stories of these great horses are on display throughout the museum. Additionally, the American Quarter Horse Association also has an online databasewhere you can search for horses going back as far as 1854 until the present day, who are registered with AQHA or otherwise. If you’re at all interested in the development, history, or legacy of the horse breed that literally shaped the American West and was favored by Texan cowboys, then this is a must-stop attraction.

Take on a Culinary Challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch

Having opened in 1960, this staple of Amarillo cuisine has become a well-known staple of great American and Texan culinary excellence. This is in part due to its 72-ounce steak challenge that is open to any member of the public. The challenge details that whoever can finish a 72-ounce steak dinner in the course of an hour eats that meal free. As of 2021, there have been 10,077 steak challenge champions out of 87,655 attempts. Do you have what it takes to be added to the Hall of Fame of this celebrated Amarillo, Texas steakhouse?

Stroll through the Amarillo Botanical Gardens

As you drive into Amarillo, one of the first things you see is a beautiful green array of colors emitting from the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. Located in the heart of the city, these beautiful gardens are a great place to relax and enjoy nature, as they are open year-round with free admission and have a variety of activities planned throughout the year.

Find the painted horses located throughout Amarillo

Although there’s no shortage of things to do in Amarillo, residents of the city likely associate the city with its painted horses. These beautiful creations can be found throughout Amarillo, including each of the locations listed above. That is because, since 2002, more than 100 horses have been placed throughout Amarillo as a way to raise funds for Center City of Amarillo and to promote art in public places. The project is sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association, and each horse is painted by a local artist, who receives a particular honorarium for the work.

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Swimming Holes To Visit in the American South

Are you tired of spending the summer months soaking in salty oceans or over-chlorinated pools? If so, you may want to consider this list of the best swimming holes to be found in the south from Southern Living Magazine.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy some cooling water in the summer months that doesn’t involve sand, beach parking, or pool chemicals. If that sounds ideal to you, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to travel too far to enjoy it, because there is an easy-to-reach beauty in your own backyard that you should check out: a natural swimming hole. After a day of hiking, biking, and climbing at nearby state parks like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Roan Mountain State Park, you’ll find these places are more than just great for outdoor recreation – they’re also located close to a refreshingly beautiful swimming hole in their own right.

Mississippi’s Black Creek in DeSoto National Forest

A great way to get out of the Mississippi summer heat and cool off is by visiting the swimming hole in DeSoto National Forest known as Black Creek. The Black Creek is a National Scenic River, meaning that this river is so remarkable in terms of scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, or historic value that the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has designated it and given it our nation’s strongest form of protection for free-flowing rivers and streams. In addition to this designation, the Black Creek also features multiple sandbars along its expanse that create several natural swimming holes that are perfect for cooling off and relaxing after a day hiking the Black Creek Wilderness found within the DeSoto National Forest.

Tennessee’s North Chick Blue Hole

The North Chick Blue Hole is a beautiful, secluded collection of swimming holes located in the woods along Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The river gorge found here has several large boulders along the waters, disrupting the flow and thus creating several swimming holes all along the creek. Better yet, these boulders serve as excellent ledges that are perfect to jump off of into the waters below, making this the perfect spot for any outdoor adventurer seeking to keep cool this summer.

Texas’s Barton Springs Pool

One of the outstanding crown jewels of Austin, Texas is the Barton Springs Pool, a 3-acre, water-filled area nestled within the beautiful Zilker Park. This mineral-fed swimming hole is within the channel of Barton Creek and utilizes water from Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest spring in Texas. Open year-round and featuring gorgeous limestone formations that reflect its natural spring waters, this natural swimming hole has been a favorite of locals and visitors alike since its opening  in 1837 shortly after the city of Austin was incorporated. The Barton Springs Pool is incredibly popular due to it being open to the public for year-round swimming and consistently hovering between 68 °F and 74 °F throughout the entire year.

North Carolina’s Cashiers Sliding Rock

If you’re looking for a fun and quirky way to spend a day or weekend in the North Carolina mountains, you have to visit Cashiers Sliding Rock. Located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Jackson County, not far from Highlands,Cashiers Sliding Rock is just one of many spectacular natural attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. At the bottom of this 10-foot slide you’ll find yourself in a uniquely beautiful setting. The water is crystal clear and cool, and while you’re sliding down you can enjoy the view of hundreds of babbling brooks that feed into the larger pool of water at the bottom.

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State Parks to Visit in Texas this Summer

If you were to attempt to drive across the width of the state of Texas, it would take you approximately 14 to 16 total hours, thus allowing you many opportunities to survey one of the 88 total State Parks in the area. Luckily, Southern Living has compiled a trusted list to help parse down that directory to just nine “Best State Parks in Texas To Visit for a Lone Star Adventure,” an article by Kaitlyn Yarborough.

The state of Texas is so large that it is not only twice as large as Japan or Germany, but it’s also 10% larger than France. Because it is the second-largest state in America, averaging a length of approximately 790 miles and a width of 773 miles, there’s plenty of area for a variety of landscapes and a diversity of natural features across its total landmass. One of the most surprising facts about the state of Texas is that the Lone Star State “is so large that El Paso, Texas is closer to San Diego, California than it is to Houston, Texas. Similarly, Orange, Texas is closer to Jacksonville, Florida than it is to El Paso, Texas.” Because of this massive size, there are dozens of state parks ready to be explored throughout the state that occupies approximately 7% of the total land and water area of our country.

State Park attendance in the United States has reportedly “skyrocketed across the South in recent years,” according to Southern Living Magazine, so there’s never been quite a time like this upcoming summer season to survey what the great state of Texas has to offer, whether it be deserts found in Western Texas or the bayou-adjacent areas of Eastern Texas.

One of the featured State Parks on the list that had near-immediate name recognition among the trendy and well-traveled is Pedernales Falls State Park. As the entry notes, Texan singer-songwriter Willie Nelson once penned a ballad to the Pedernales River, a water feature to which this State Park owes its cascading waters. Located just 30 miles west of the “weird capital of the country,” Austin, this park is quite popular among visitors to the vibrant city with many of them driving over for an extended afternoon or weekend trip, and it’s for good reason!

What makes Pedernales Falls State Park is its collection of off-beat landscape features, namely its impressive system of massive cascading slabs of limestone that are leftover from prehistoric eras. What results is some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in all of the Texas Hill Country. The area is lush with several miles of trails that allow visitors many different pathways to survey the terrain and its various nooks and crannies that can be found among the boulders in the riverbeds and along the sandy shoreline of the Pedernales River.

As mentioned above, the landscape of Eastern Texas can sometimes resemble the more water-centric State Parks of Florida or Louisiana, especially when one visits a terrain that is wholly different from the other State Parks in the area. Caddo Lake State Park is just one of those parks that you have to actually visit in order to truly understand that it’s located in Texas. The collection of Texan bayous, sloughs, ponds, and bald-cypress trees that are draped with the iconically-southern Spanish moss all attribute to a bizarre experience to any visitors who have driven in from the Western perimeter of the state. Check out one of the campsites in the area to truly take in the variety of wildlife and water activities that can be experienced in one of the most unique parks in Texas.

Lastly, one stand-out among the State Parks featured on Southern Living’s list is indicative of the out-of-this-world scenery that is often attributed to the West Texas area. Located near the New Mexico border, Texas’s Monahans Sandhills State Park features acres upon acres of rolling sandhills that resemble an ocean- especially with the locals who like to surf along the top of the dunes on rentable sand discs. Similarly, the extraterrestrial-adjacent area also offers visitors an 800-acre equestrian area for some of the most desert-theme horseback riding that you can experience in the Lone Star State.

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Best Resorts in Texas

It’s true what they say: “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and according to Travel + Leisure’s list of the best resorts in the state of Texas, the state may also be known for everything being “better” in addition to “bigger.”

Travel + Leisure, or T+L, publishes a “World’s Best” awards list each year that serves as the travel and tourism industry’s standard benchmark for critically acclaimed destinations for the publication’s readership and many more. Among dozens upon dozens of other Top 10 lists, this year’s “The Top 10 Resorts in Texas” points out a gem of the nation’s second-largest state (in both landmass and population) that often goes unnoticed- the incredibly bewildering decadence of the Lone Star State’s resorts.

Featured across T+L’s annual survey, Texas offers a variety of experiences for the Travel + Leisure reader such as the mesmerizingly unforgettable history of the Alamo, world-renowned music festivals of Austin, the invitingly adventurous expanse of Big Bend National Park, and the capital city of Houston’s notable collection of contemporary art–just to name a few. Though, if you’re up for visiting Texas in opulent style and luxurious spectacle, then be sure to look no further than the full list which features Austin, Texas’s Commodore Perry Estate, which stands alone as a unique pinnacle of the Auberge Resorts Collection, among many other finds.

Horseshoe Bay Resort; Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Horseshoe Bay Resort is a premier luxury lifestyle vacation destination set on the shores of Lake LBJ and just a short drive from Austin and San Antonio. You’re sure to be inspired to partake in a period of rest and relaxation amid the beautiful landscape of Texas Hill Country, as seen from the resort’s modern rooms, suites, and villas with their views of the lake. The resort is located in close proximity to all sorts of creative local cuisine from Horseshoe Bay Report’s world-class restaurants, and you’ll somehow always be able to fit a tee time in on one of the campus’s three championship golf courses. It’s true, whether you’re partaking in an exhilarating boating excursion or indulging your inner sense of groundedness and peace with the resort’s Bayside Spa, you’re sure to find heaven on Earth at Horseshoe Bay Resort.

 JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa; San Antonio, Texas

This otherworldly decadent resort rests amid 600 acres of unforgettable oak-covered hills in San Antonio, Texas as a luxury haven set within a stunning landscape. This Marriott resort is located near the area’s most notable wineries, the Natural Bridge Caverns, Six Flags Fiesta, and Seaworld, just to name a few, but it’s the offered amenities such as the balcony-laden suites and rooms, eight spectacular eateries, and the reliably transcendent Lantana Spa and Resort Health Club that will make you never want to leave the grounds. This especially holds true if you’re a fan of aquatic attractions, as the resort offers the one-of-a-kind River Bluff Water Experience, which is an exhilarating experience you won’t want to miss.

This year’s “World’s Best Awards” survey, which was developed by the editors of Travel + Leisure in association with the M&RR research firm, was administered to the publication’s readership from January 11, 2021 to May 10, 2021. It was additionally noted by the T+L editors that the voting period was occurring amid many of the world’s destinations lifting COVID-19 restrictions to travel, accommodations, etc. This being said, the editorial staff still views their survey data as an accurate representation of its readership because the survey is known to allow readers to reflect on the past three years of travel experiences whenever responding.

 As always, any vacationing travelers should look into properly researching all local guidelines and CDC recommendations due to new local regulations, social distancing measures, and travel restrictions occurring due to COVID-19 surges. It’s always a good idea to remain proactive in order to keep those you care about as safe and responsible as possible in these unprecedented times.

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