Located in the middle of the Texas Panhandle 325 mi/523 km northwest of Dallas, Amarillo has one of the most unique sights in the West: a row of half-buried classic Cadillacs with their tail fins sticking up toward the sky. We think Cadillac Ranch is one of the most memorable monuments to the auto age anywhere, plus it's free and close to the road. It was created by eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh III. Now in its second location, the ranch had to move in 1997 when the city of Amarillo expanded and began to encroach on its wide-open spaces.

Amarillo is a major commercial hub for the wheat and cattle industries. The Amarillo Livestock Auction is among the largest in the world—the action takes place every Tuesday ( You can get a taste of how the cattle business used to operate at the "Cowboy Morning" activities, which take place in the warmer months (weekends in April, May, September and October, daily June-August). You'll get to enjoy a chuck wagon breakfast on the open range, a wagon ride, and roping and branding demonstrations (advance reservations required). You can get a less active view of the West at the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center, which offers interesting exhibits on the breed that's the favorite mount of cowboys.

Kids will like the Don Harrington Discovery Center, a 50-acre/20-hectare park with hands-on exhibits that explore natural phenomena, from the world below the surface of the sea to the farthest reaches of space ( Next to the Discovery Center is a stainless-steel Helium Monument, dedicated to the discovery of the gas. (Amarillo also has one of the largest helium plants in the world.) After the youngsters have learned something, take them to Wonderland Park (open during the summer)—the amusement park's Texas Tornado is an exciting double-loop steel coaster.

Archaeology buffs will be interested in Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (40 mi/65 km northeast of Amarillo), where Native Americans made tools and weapons 12,000 years ago ( Nearby is Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, which was created by the federal government to give the arid region a lasting supply of water. The lake is also important for recreation, with facilities for swimming, boating, fishing, scuba diving, waterskiing, hunting and camping.

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