13 Cool Things to Do in the Texas Panhandle

Small roads, big skies, and wide-open spaces as far as the eye can see: these are just a few of the cool things to see in the Texas Panhandle Plains!

Located in northwest Texas, this often-overlooked region of the Lone Star State is quintessentially Texas, featuring the seemingly never-ending plains that many non-Texans associate with our state.

If you’re passing through, though, it’s worth stopping to appreciate some of the Texas Panhandle attractions that make this corner of Texas well worth a look.

Here are a few of the best things to do in the TX Panhandle!

Close up of a painted car at Route 66 Cadillac Ranch with a Texas flag on the bumper

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Fun Things to Do in the Texas Panhandle

Drive Route 66.

Texas’ portion of Route 66 may only stretch for 179 miles, but it packs quite the punch!

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Featuring cool ghost towns, quirky roadside attractions, and even the Midpoint of the full Route 66 drive (it’s in Adrian, Texas), driving Route 66 is one of the absolute best Texas Panhandle attractions.

While you can easily drive the route in a single day, it’s much more fun to make a weekend of it and spend the night in Amarillo along the way.

Midway Point sign on Route 66 Texas in Adrian

Go for a hike in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon on Texas”, Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the USA and one of the best places to visit in the Panhandle!

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While there are plenty of hikes and viewpoints to choose from, be sure not to miss the hike to the famous (and gorgeous) lighthouse formation while you’re there.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located just off of Route 66 and right next door to Amarillo, making it an easy addition to most trips to the Panhandle.

Kate Storm standing in front of the Lighthouse in Palo Duro Canyon TX

Visit the International Waterlily Collection in San Angelo.

Did you know that one of the world’s most impressive waterlily collections is located in the Texas Panhandle Plains?

Located right along the Concho River, this peaceful park is a hidden gem in the often dusty plains, and definitely worth a visit!

purple flowers with drago fly on waterlily san angelo texas

Snap photos at Cadillac Ranch.

Texas’ portion of Route 66 is home to many quirky roadside attractions, but none is as iconic as Cadillac Ranch!

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Featuring 10 Cadillacs lined up in the desert with their front ends buried in the sand and thousands of layers of spray paint coating every inch of them, there’s no doubt that Cadillac Ranch it’s one of those sights that you simply have to see to believe!

If you’re so inclined, you can buy a can of spray paint to add your own touch to the art as well–but be sure to photograph your work, because it will almost certainly be painted over again within a day or two.

Jeremy Storm sitting on top of a spraypainted Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch Amarillo Texas

Hike the famous Tunnel Trail.

Have you ever wanted to explore an abandoned railroad tunnel?

Add the popular Tunnel Trail to your list of what to do in the Texas Panhandle, and you can!

Clarity Tunnel is located near Caprock Canyons State Park and makes for a memorable hike.

In addition to the history and views, the tunnel is also home to around 500,000 Mexican free-tailed bats from April to October each year.

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Stop by the American Windmill Museum.

If there’s one manmade structure that you associate with visiting the Panhandle… there’s a good chance that it is windmills.

This quirky museum in Lubbock features more than 160 windmills, and the collection is quite a memorable sight!

collection of windmills at american windmill museum, one of the best things to do in lubbock texas

Check out the Wichita Falls Waterfall.

When you think of visiting the Panhandle Plains, waterfalls probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind–but one of the most memorable waterfalls in Texas is located in Wichita Falls!

At 54-feet tall, the multi-level waterfall is well worth a visit when in the area.

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Is it natural?

Kind of… but no.

The original Wichita Falls that the city was named for were natural, but they washed away in a flood back in the 19th century.

Today’s artificial waterfall is a homage to them, and a fun road trip stop as well!

3-tiered Wichita Falls with a bridge in front of them

Visit the official Texas Bison Herd in Caprock Canyons State Park.

With nearly 90 miles worth of trails and plenty of beautiful, rugged scenery, Caprock Canyons State Park has long been a favorite among Texas hikers.

You’ll also find the official Texas Bison Herd living in this park–and may even be caught up in a bison traffic jam if they choose to cross the road in front of you.

group of bison in caprock canyons state park texas

Learn about a unique landscape at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

Sought after by humans for more than 13,000 years, the flint located in Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument was once vital to the survival of many people.

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This is one of the most unique places to visit in the Texas Panhandle, and a great opportunity to learn about the history of the region.

Join a Ranger-led hike to dive deep into the history of the area, or simply enjoy the beautiful views!

Alibates Flint National Monument in the Texas panhandle with a quarry visible in the distance

Pay a visit to the Buddy Holly Center.

In the 1950s, Lubbock local Buddy Holly brought pride to his hometown with his successful rock n’ roll music career that included repeatedly opening for Elvis Presley himself!

Sadly, the promising musician had his life tragically cut short by a 1959 plane crash.

Today, you can explore the story of Buddy Holly, as well as the larger story of music in Lubbock and beyond, at the Buddy Holly Center in downtown Lubbock.

front facade of buddy holly center in downtown lubbock, one of the best day trips from amarillo tx

Spot local wildlife at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.

Stretching across 6,440 acres of grassland prairie, Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge is the oldest wildlife refuge in Texas, and a fun place to visit in the Panhandle!

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It’s a wonderful place to spot wildlife, especially migratory birds (it is particularly known for its population of lesser sandhill cranes when they pass through during migration).

There are two very short trails in the park, but it is mostly known for its wildlife, not hiking.

The refuge is open 24/7 and is free to visit.

prairie dog at muleshoe national wildlife refuge, one of the national parks near amarillo texas

Try your hand at a steak-eating contest.

Think you have a big appetite?

If so, consider hitting up the Big Texan Steak Ranch for their 72 oz. steak challenge, one of the most infamous things to do in the Texas Panhandle!

If you take the challenge, you’ll need to sit on a small stage-like table at the front of the restaurant as you (try to) eat a 72 oz. steak, plus fixings, in less than an hour.

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If you succeed, the meal is free.

If not, prepare to cough up $72.

Even if food challenges aren’t your thing, though, this utterly unmistakable and over-the-top restaurant/roadside attraction combination is well worth a stop while in the area.

Cow statue in front of Big Texan Steak Ranch, one of the most iconic roadside attractions on Route 66 Texas

Explore the official “Storybook Capital of America”.

Did you know that Abilene, Texas is the official Storybook Capital of America?

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The city is known for being the home of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, as well as an incredible collection of storybook-themed statues that you can find around town!

From Stuart Little to Charlotte and Wilbur to many Dr. Seuss characters and beyond, beautiful sculptures of childhood favorites can be found all around Abilene.

pretty park with blooming crepe myrtles in abilene, one of the best places to visit texas panhandle plains

Where is the Texas Panhandle Plains?

Sure, everyone knows that the Texas Panhandle is located in the upper-left corner of the state–but the region technically stretches beyond the “square” at the top of Texas!

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The Texas Panhandle Plains region reaches further south than Abilene and as far east as Wichita Falls, taking up a solid portion of northwest Texas.

Lubbock, Abilene, San Angelo, and Amarillo all fall solidly within the Panhandle Plains region.

If you’re looking for the best things to do in the Texas Panhandle Plains, any of those cities are an excellent place to start.

2 photos of texas panhandle plans, palo duro canyon and cadillac ranch. black and red text reads 'texas panhandle fun attractions'

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