West Texas and the panhandle are full of seasonal oddities and destinations perfect for a summer road trip from Tulsa. Pack the car, gas up the tank and head west for beautiful sites and historic lessons — all with that Texas spirit.
Red rock country
The red rock canyons of the Texas panhandle are breathtaking. Travelers often opt for the popular Palo Duro Canyon State Park, home to scenic vistas, trails and campsites, as well as the second largest canyon in the country. You also can catch a performance of the “TEXAS Outdoor Musical” this summer through Aug. 14 as the park’s outdoor amphitheater is now open for full capacity.
If you’re looking for another option just as beautiful, try Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway, tucked away in the southeast corner of the panhandle about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo. It’s every bit Palo Duro’s equal in variety and natural beauty. Home to the Texas State Bison Herd and 90 miles of trails, the 15,000-plus-acre park calls hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, campers and those wanting to venture onto Lake Theo for swimming, fishing and no-wake boating. The park’s Clarity Tunnel is the summer residence for a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats.
Spectacled rock-and-roller Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, where an eponymous center curates, preserves and interprets artifacts related to the musician, as well as other west Texas artists. The center is located in the Depot District, which is home to music venues Cactus Theater and Blue Light Live, as well as numerous bars, restaurants and lively establishments.
Nearby, check out the American Windmill Museum, which is home to the largest collection of rare and fully restored windmills in the world. The area boasts a fruitful winery industry, so be sure to visit and sip at the numerous tasting rooms throughout Lubbock.
A trip to the Texas panhandle isn’t complete without a pit stop in Amarillo. Historic Route 66 crosses the city, including the touristy Cadillac Ranch on the west side of town.
If you’re hungry, check out the Coyote Bluff Cafe, a joint known for its half-pound burgers and red and green chilis. Amarillo has its fair share of interesting museums, including the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum, which reopens this month in a new location with vintage RVs dating to the 1930s.
Just south of Amarillo in Canyon, Texas’ largest history museum, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, is open seven days a week this summer to tell the story of this exceptional area — everything from dinosaurs to the old West to the petroleum industry.
While in Canyon, be sure to stop and snap a photo by Tex Randall, a 47-foot-slouching cowboy that was refurbished in 2016 and sits in a park just off Highway 60.