Every time I see the Dallas skyline, the theme song from the long-running nighttime soap opera starring Larry Hagman as the love-to-hate J. R. Ewing plays in my head. And like the Dallas opening, this Texas road trip provides a taste of everything you’d expect from the Lone Star State -- a bird’s-eye view of the Big D, cattle drives, oil fields, and more.
Here’s what to see, do, and eat on a road trip from Dallas to Amarillo.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has recently overtaken Houston as the largest metropolitan area in Texas, rising to fourth place in the United States. Plenty of things to see and do in Dallas and nearby Fort Worth await at the start of this Texas road trip.
Like a gigantic electrified dandelion in bloom above the city, the Reunion Tower lets you experience Dallas from 470 feet in the air. Take in panoramic views of the city, enjoy a variety of interactive experiences, or sip a cocktail at sunset from this unique vantage point.
For floral beauty closer to the ground, visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Offering beautiful blooms and calming green spaces year-round, it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the country.
As Ford’s Theatre will forever be linked to President Abraham Lincoln, Dealey Plaza in Dallas will always call to mind the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Documenting the events of that fateful day and preserving the 35th president’s legacy, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is one of the most-visited places in Dallas. History buffs will also enjoy visiting the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the east side of the Southern Methodist University campus.
Offering everything from barbecue to Tex-Mex and cheap eats to James Beard Award-winning restaurants, Dallas is definitely a city for foodies. Enjoy thickly sliced, tender brisket, baked beans accented with burnt ends, and a slice of ooey-gooey buttery crack cake at Cattleack Barbeque. Fill up on Tupy Tacos at Tupinamba Cafe, sip a margarita at Cinco Taco, or slow down and savor contemporary French cuisine at Bullion. And round out your culinary experiences in Dallas with one of these hidden gem restaurants before heading to the next stop.
Less than 40 miles directly west of Dallas, Fort Worth (“where the West begins”) is the ultimate cattle town. Although the town was founded many years earlier, Fort Worth grew into one of the most important stops along the Chisholm Trail, which connected cattle ranches in Texas to the railroad in Abilene, Kansas, shortly after the Civil War. Today, the Fort Worth Stockyards is a National Historic District, and visitors can watch authentic cattle drives twice a day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Round out your Wild West adventure in Fort Worth with a visit to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
Stay outdoors and soak up the sunshine by touring the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. It’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the U.S. and includes a rose garden, Japanese garden, and rain forest conservatory. Or check out the more than 7,000 native and exotic animals at the highly rated Fort Worth Zoo.
If it’s too hot or humid to spend time outside, you can view a wide variety of art inside the air-conditioned Kimbell Art Museum or enjoy an IMAX movie at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
As you leave the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in your rearview mirror and head northwest to Amarillo, be sure to make a pit stop at Buc-ee’s on the northern edge of Fort Worth. No road trip through eastern Texas would be complete without a stop at this regional chain of convenience stores known for having the world’s cleanest restrooms.
Once you’ve filled your gas tank and seen for yourself that Buc-ee’s restrooms really are that clean, grab your favorite road-trip sips and snacks and drive about an hour and a half to your next stop.
Although the 72-story Bank of America Building is the tallest in Dallas, the world’s tallest building is 2.5 times that. In contrast, the four-story, 40-foot-tall Newby-McMahon Building at 701 La Salle in Wichita Falls is known as the world’s smallest skyscraper. Built to the square inch (and not the square foot), the structure is a Texas Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and stands as a reminder of the rampant greed and gullibility of the oil boom in Texas.
Another great stop in Wichita Falls is the River Bend Nature Center. This 20-acre nonprofit park facility includes a 7,000-square-foot glass butterfly and nature conservatory, an exhibit hall of the creatures who make their home in Central Texas, and a series of nature trails that wind through tree-filled wetlands.
For more outdoor experiences in Wichita Falls, check out Lucy Park. Built around a bend in the Wichita River near the city center, Lucy Park is a great place to hike, bike, or picnic.
Continuing toward Amarillo, stop in Quanah, named after Comanche chief Quanah Parker. Although he worked hard to fend off westward expansion into his native land, he was unsuccessful. As the railroads chugged into the region and more and more white settlers planted crops, Quanah redirected his energy to being a prominent Native American voice for peace in the region. Visit the Quanah Parker Monument outside the Hardeman County Courthouse to learn more about his life and accomplishments.
Housed in a beautiful Spanish Colonial building designed as the town’s railroad depot by the Austin-based Page brothers, the Quanah, Acme & Pacific Railway Depot Museum sits just a few blocks north of the courthouse. Stop by to learn more about the town’s past, including its connection to Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately owned company.
Pro Tip: Before you leave, grab a bite at the Old Bank Saloon.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Created by years of tag-team erosion by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the strong West Texas winds cutting into the fossil-rich walls of striped sedimentary rock, Palo Duro Canyon is Texas’s grandest canyon; the name loosely translates to “hard wood” or “hard stick.” You can experience the second-largest canyon in the U.S. by car, bike, on foot, or via horseback.
Rio de Janeiro has Christ the Redeemer, and Groom, Texas, has one of the largest crosses in the western hemisphere.* Rising 190 feet toward the heavens, you can see this next stop as many as 20 miles before you arrive. If you pull off of Interstate 40 for a closer look, you’ll discover that the giant cross is encircled by bronze statues representing the Stations of the Cross.
*In Corpus Christi, the Texas city named for the Catholic feast day, a 230-foot-tall cross is under construction. When it’s completed, it will steal the crown from the cross in Groom, Texas -- and be second in height only to the cross located in the Valley of the Fallen in Madrid.
Trace the history of the Texas Panhandle -- from the Native American tribes who fought to protect their ancestral land and way of life to the establishment of the cattle ranches, and from the arrival of the railroad to the High Plains oil boom -- at the Carson County Square House Museum in Panhandle.
Originally known as Oneida, this Texas town changed its name to the Spanish word for “yellow” in 1887 as a nod to the gold-hued soil along the creek banks and the lemony wildflowers that covered the area in the spring and summer. Today, Amarillo is a road-trip stop where RVs and quirky roadside attractions meet.
Bring back camping memories from your childhood and daydream about the road trips of yesteryear by perusing the vintage trailers and other beautifully restored recreational vehicles at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.
Then leave your mark on the ever-changing canvas of 10 Cadillacs buried nose-first into a cow pasture along Interstate 40 at Cadillac Ranch. For additional tips and tricks on creating a memorable masterpiece, including where to purchase spray paint, check out this article.
From the skyline of Dallas to the smallest skyscraper in the world, and from cattle drives to an art installation in a cow pasture, you’re sure to find plenty of surprises and delights on this Texas road trip from the heart of Texas in Dallas to the Texas Panhandle in Amarillo.