Route 66 has been, since its inception in the 1920s, an experience for the mojotraveler. One of the best known highways in the world, Route 66 starts in Chicago and covers 2400 miles through eight states on its way to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Boulevard. From the 1920s through the 1960s, traveling Route 66 was the classic American vacation. Today the journey is the destination.
Of the eight states crossed by Route 66, Texas has the second fewest miles, behind Kansas, with less than 200 miles. Amarillo is the only town of any size on Texas leg of the route.
A stop at the Golden Light is a must when traveling Route 66 through the Lone Star State. The Golden Light is the oldest restaurant in Amarillo and some say that it is the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the same location anywhere on Old Route 66.
It opened in 1946 and has won numerous awards and accolades over the years for the quality of the burgers and the authentic, unpretentious atmosphere. It’s now a National Historic Landmark.
The Route 66 district in Amarillo where the Golden Light is located is called simply enough Sixth Avenue. Some of the buildings are empty, such as the famous Natatorium, a former swimming pool, concert venue, dance hall that hosted the big names over the years.
But there are equal a number of engaging shops and cafes to explore. Some carry antiques, but many carry trendy home furnishings. There’s a lovely costume/vintage clothing store and a place that at Halloween is the spookiest in town. There are First Friday art gallery openings and special events throughout the year.
Another great place to eat in Amarillo that has all of the quirkiness of Route 66 without being on that famous highway is the Big Texan. Celebrating the hubris of Texas that all things must be bigger here than anywhere else, this family-owned property is famous for its 72-ounce steak. If you eat it within 60 minutes, it’s free. Strolling musicians entertain diners who enjoy house-brewed beer, a gift shop and really big rocking chair. It’s kitschy, but get over yourself and have a little fun!
Cadillac Ranch on Route 66
This public art project is simply 10 Cadillac automobiles buried nose down in a Texas field. Placed here in the 1970s, the Cadillac Ranch is one of the biggest tourist attractions and things to do in Amarillo. Go figure!
Any time of the day or night, a dozen or more cars have pulled off the interstate at the installation. Bring a can of spray paint, because graffiti in encouraged here. More than 30 years worth of graffiti have resulted in an unexpected texture and finish to the once expensive automobiles.