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The Mother Road in the Panhandle
Historic Route 66’s run through the Texas Panhandle is a quick one, but this being Texas, the attractions along the way are big and memorable. We’ll take you on a tour of the many attractions found along the Lone Star’s State’s stretch of the Mother Road, including steaks, bugs, and Cadillacs.
If you start right on the western border, you’ll be in Glenrio, known as a ghost town and home to the 32-acre Glenrio Historic District – found on the National Register of Historic Places. When you stop by the Glenrio Welcome Center, you’ll find a movie theater, information on Route 66, and probably learn parts of the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath was filmed here.
You’ll want to stop by the roadside eatery known as MidPoint Café & Gift Shop – which happens to be the midpoint of the entire stretch of Route 66 from Illinois to California, right here in Adrian, Texas. The café was built in 1928, and is run by Donna and Dennis Purschwitz. Just be sure to try those famous MidPoint "Ugly" pies.
About 35 miles inland from the western border – and just north of Hereford – Vega is one of those roadside towns you have to pull over to see. There are more than plenty of historic Texas sites, including the Historic Oldham County Courthouse, and visit museums like Dot’s Mini-Museum, the Milburn-Price Culture Museum, and the Oldham County Heritage Farm & Ranch Museum.
Vega is also set upon the Quanah Parker Trail, meaning one of the giant arrows marking the trail is found at the Magnolia Station right in Vega.
The 14th largest city in Texas, Amarillo is 36 miles east of Vega, and the major stop along Route 66 in Texas. The gateway to Palo Duro Canyon State Park and the Helium Capital of the World to boot, Amarillo can keep Mother Road travelers busy for at least a couple days if they hurry.
The most well known attraction is Cadillac Ranch, an art installation just north of town that first created in 1974 and continues to collect layers of spray paint and friendly graffiti from travelers of Route 66. Ten brightly colored old Cadillacs are buried nose first at an angle in a field, and you just have to see it to believe it.
Other Amarillo attractions include Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the 72-ounce steak known as the Texas King – and quirky museums and like the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center & Museum and the Jack Sizemore Traveland RV Museum.
You can also visit the JA Ranch – a U.S. National Historic Landmark District found on the National Register of Historic Places – which happened to be built in 1879 by Irish businessman John Adair and the legendary Charles Goodnight (known by some as the Father of the Texas Panhandle).
Just 30 miles east of Amarillo on Route 66, the city of Conway is home to the Bug Ranch – a cute Volkswagen Beetle rendition of the famed Cadillac Ranch. Bring your spray paint, and get ready to punch some arms. You can also grab some fun souvenirs at the nearby Longhorn Trading Post.
Just 15 miles east of Conway, Groom is home to another couple of Route 66 sights. The "Leaning Tower of Texas" is in Groom – meaning there’s a pretty crooked, non-functioning water tower and photo op seen right from the road. It reads: Britten, USA.
The more famous sight off Route 66 in Groom is the Big Cross, the Giant Cross, or just the Groom Cross, which stands at 190 feet, or 19 stories, and was built in 1995 to combat the mildly X-rated billboards found along the route by a couple of nearby residents. The base is surrounded by life-size sculptures of the Stations of the Cross.
Set 75 miles east of Amarillo, McLean features even more Route 66 themed sites and Old West attractions. Usually coupled with Pampa to create a micropolitan area, McLean is home to the Texas Historic Route 66 Association headquartered in the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum.
That Devil’s Rope Museum itself is a staple of the roadside attractions along Route 66 in Texas. Opened in 1991 in a repurposed brassiere factory, the free Texas museum is open March 1 to November 1, and focused on “everything you want to know about barbed wire and fencing tools.”
You’ll also want to see the Phillips 66 Service Station, and the McLean Commercial District – found on the National Register of Historical Places.
The Route 66 town of Shamrock is 20 miles east of McLean, and is known for the Tower Conoco Gas Station – a restored 1935 gas station that you cannot miss. Found at Route 66 and Highway 83, the station used to welcome travelers from Oklahoma to the great state of Texas during the Dust Bowl days.
Other attractions in Shamrock include the 1926 Pioneer West Museum, and some performing arts at Texas Theater.
From Shamrock, it’s only 15 miles to Texola and the Texas state line with Oklahoma – and the end of trip through the Texas Panhandle on Route 66.