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Route 66 was born out of necessity, stretching west from Chicago, Illinois to the California Coast connecting the rural west to the more populated midwest in the 1920s. The 2,440-mile road became known as the Mother Road and the Main Street of America and was used up until 1985 when I-40 bypassed the final original section of Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.
The Mother Road is still full of character and campy decor with fascinating locals and famous roadside attractions. While much of the original Route 66 now ceases to exist, there are many well-preserved sections of the original Route 66, including that through Kingman, Arizona, and the stretch through Texas’ panhandle serving the small towns of Amarillo, Shamrock, McLean, and Adrian, Texas.
This iconic stretch of road makes for a fun-filled road trip in the Lone Star State. From restored gas stations, vintage signs, giant crosses, and newer attractions such as the Slug Bug Ranch, you will easily find many photo ops and make many memories along the way.
I’ve driven Route 66 from Oklahoma City to the Santa Monica Pier several times. Eventually, I’ll make it east through Tulsa, St. Louis, and Chicago but heading west through Texas, Arizona, to California is one of my favorite US Cross Country Road Trips. There is so much to see along the way, and no matter how many times I drive this route, I am always finding new things to discover.
There are many newer additions to the quirky roadside attractions of Route 66, but consider them complementary to Route 66’s inviting past. In this post, I’ll share all of the Route 66 stops and attractions found along Texas’ panhandle. Wether original, newly imagined, directly on the route or off the route; all of these stops are something to see.
You will discover ghost towns and unique museums, authentic diners, vintage shops, and trading posts. I was able to visit almost all the original attractions on this list in a rushed 12-hour day and stopped to eat twice at a few iconic diners but I recommend breaking this drive up. If you are visiting during winter when days are shorter or want to take a more leisurely approach, stay in Amarillo for the night to make this 183-mile drive a two-day road trip, if not longer. This will allow you to explore some of the nearby attractions such as Palo Duro Canyon, (the Texas Grand Canyon) and other highlights that are not on Route 66 but are definitely still worth a visit.
I’ve included a map below of all the attractions for easy planning. Some attractions are quick stops and drive-bys, while others will encourage you to stay for a while. Opening times seem to vary from what I found in Google or even saw posted on some doors, so if you are keen on visiting a museum or specific diner, call and ask for updated operating times before visiting.
From east to west, here are the best Route 66 roadside attractions in Texas.
Conoco Tower Station & U-Drop Inn Café | Shamrock, Texas
Dating all the way back to 1936, the Conoco Tower Station & U-Drop Cafe has been called the “Taj Mahal of Texas” and is a great pitstop along Route 66 in Texas just after the Oklahoma border. The art deco building with neon lights and brightly colored doors has since been memorialized as Ramones Body Shop, from the Pixar movie Cars. It’s located in Shamrock and will transport you back in time. While you can’t fill up your tank, you can charge electric vehicles on-site with the newly added charging station, treat yourself to a mouth-watering homemade milkshake, and learn more about the local business at the onsite Chamber of Commerce.
Pioneer West Museum | Shamrock, TX
A small yet mighty museum, the Pioneer West Museum is dedicated to local Shamrock history, pioneer life, and the history of the Great Plains Indians. The museum houses 25 rooms of old artifacts, including a Military Room, a Space Room, and the Old School Room. It is a fun way to learn about Texas History. It is housed in the Reynolds House Hotel, built in 1928, which adds to its authentic charm. History buffs will love this stop along Route 66. Admission is free. Call (806) 256-3941 to check updated opening times.
Blarney Stone | Shamrock, TX
One of the most unique stops on a Texas Route 66 Road Trip has to be the Blarney Stone fragment in Shamrock, Texas. The infamous Blarney Stone, is located at the Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland. The legend of the Blarney Stone says that if you kiss the stone, then you be blessed with good fortune and the gift of eloquence. A piece of the real Blarney Stone somehow broke off and was retrieved by a local Shamrock official. The piece of stone made its way from Ireland to Shamrock, Texas, an Irish-American town that celebrates its Irish roots feverishly. When the stone was wheeled through town in 1959, the mayor reportedly called upon the Texas National Guard to ensure its safe journey to its new home in Elmore Park. Today, the rock piece is encased in concrete and affixed to the ground with a painted mural in a new home on Main street in Blarney Stone Plaza, along with a few other nods to the town’s Irish blood.
A much more photogenic Blarney Stone was established a few years later, closer to the road. The stone slab is engraved with a jolly leprechaun sending morning greetings and a note to passersby…. “Kiss this Blarney Stone for Everlasting Good Luck.” However, this is a fake stone, so if you are going to kiss a stone, make sure it is the real one in Blarney Stone Plaza or in Cork, Ireland.
Vintage Magnolia Gas Station | Shamrock, Texas
This is one of my favorite beautifully restored gas stations along Route 66. This one was built in the late 1920s and wasn’t restored until decades later with private donations. I couldn’t find much history on this treasure, but its a beauty! Its restored gas pumps show little signs of age. The bright Magnolia sign adorned with Pegasus represents its merging with Mobil Oil in 1959. There is even a vintage fire truck parked right next to the station. This gas station is just up the road from Blarney Stone Plaza and the U-Drop Inn Cafe. It is located on Madden St., right next to the Pioneer West Museum.
There are more things to see while in Shamrock; snap a photo with the town’s namesake; the creatively done SHAMROCK mural is located at 1013 North Main Street and depicts the town’s iconic landmarks in its letters. Stop at Tower Plaza to admire another mural, see the town’s famous water tower and learn about how it was born.
Devil’s Rope Museum | McLean, TX
Ready for another random and quirky attraction? I’ve got you covered with The Devil’s Rope Museum. This Route 66 attraction is dedicated to everything barbed wire. Learn about its interesting history and its impact on the development of the western United States while wandering around looking at artifacts and historical items, such as sales samples, balls of barbed wire, branding irons, fencing tools, and homemade wire artwork. Established in 1991, it wasn’t a part of the original bustling Route 66, but with free admission, it still makes for an interesting road trip stop. It is located in the same building as McLean’s Route 66 Museum and just a few blocks from another wonderfully restored vintage gas station.
The Texas Route 66 Museum | McLean Texas
Sharing the same building as the Devil’s Rope Museum, the Texas Route 66 Museum features more than 700 artifacts relating to the historic Mother Road. You will find plenty of photos, memorabilia, and a timeline of the original Route 66. It is another great stop for history buffs or really anyone traveling down historic Route 66.
Vintage Phillips 66 Service Station | McLean, Texas
The Vintage Phillips 66 Service Station (in Google Maps as “Restored 1929 Route 66 Gas Station) in McLean, Texas, is the very first Philips 66 gas station in the state of Texas. While it has not been in service for a while, its vintage pumps and Tudor-Revival cottage-style building is a nice reminder of what gas stations once were. There is even a flatbed truck parked in its drive, perfect for photos. It is a quick stop but worth it for the vintage truck and authentic-looking Philips 66 signs.
Leaning Tower of Texas | Groom, Texas
What was once a full-functioning water tower is now one of two roadside attractions along Route 66 in Groom, Texas. Cleverly named after the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Leaning Tower of Texas was a marketing stunt imagined by Ralph Britten. This local resident wanted to attract drivers to his truck stop and restaurant right off Route 66. It was a success! His business flourished once he buried and tilted the water tower, alarming the travelers who would ultimately drive to his restaurant and truck stop curious about the tilted water tower. Sadly his business burned down, and he never rebuilt but the tower is still there. It is another quick and quirky photo op you can see right from the road. If you visit around Christmas time, keep an eye out for the giant star on top of the tower.
The Giant Cross | Groom, Texas
Sitting 19 stories high above the Texas panhandle at 190 feet is The Giant Cross in Groom, Texas (in Google maps as “The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ”). Seen from more than 20 miles away, The Giant Cross is more than just a cross. Exit the highway and drive up close to see statues, fountains, empty tombs, and other scenes depicting the life of Christ. There is a gift shop, restrooms, and a parking lot big enough for RVs. There is also a small building housing a full-size replica of the Shroud Turin or the Holy Shroud, a cloth bearing the negative image of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s one of only seven in the world. The Cross and surrounding scenes are lit up in all their glory at night. Visit the property 24/7.
VW Slug Bug Ranch | Conway, Texas
30 mins from Cadillac Ranch lies its look-a-like counterpart, the VW Slug Bug Ranch. In the town of Conway, five antique Volkswagen beetles are slammed nose first in the ground for an iconic art installation. It is encouraged to leave your mark on the beetles during your visit, you can buy spray paint on the property. It’s quirky and a bit off the beaten path but whether you are a lover of the 70s, a vehicle enthusiast, or just there for the gram, the VW Slug Bug Ranch makes a fun stop. There is also a gift shop and trading post nearby, whose owners conceptualized the Slug Bug Ranch in 2002.
Big Texan Steak Ranch | Amarillo, Texas
Best known for its infamous Steak Challenge, the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, is one of the best Route 66 Texas attractions for anyone craving a hearty meal. This steakhouse invented the Steak Lovers challenge, which involves eating a 72 oz. steak within 1 hour, plus all the fixings that come with it, including salad, dinner rolls, and a baked potato. The restaurant has a fun and inviting atmosphere perfect for solo travelers or families. There is also a hotel on the property if you want to stay a while. Come with an empty stomach, and a stop at the Big Texas Steak Ranch won’t disappoint!
Combine City | Amarillo, Texas
Just a short 20-minute drive from Amarillo is Combine City. Although not an original Route 66 landmark, Combine City still draws that quirky Route 66 charm. While it’s not quite at famous as Cadillac Ranch, it’s a unique pit stop attributed to a farmer’s wife. The story goes, the farmer could not part with his beloved Combine Harvesters, a fancy tractor that easily separates grain; when he asked his wife what he should do with the broken down tractors, she jokingly responded – why don’t you bury them? Fourteen tractors later, Combine City was born. There is no spray painting these tractors, and a barbed wire fence signals you to keep your distance, but you can still get pretty close to snap some memory-making photos.
Sixth Street Historic District | Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the largest Route 66 town in Texas. Its Sixth Street Historic District is the original route through town. You will be welcomed to over a mile of restaurants, lounge spots, specialty stores, and antique shops. Find road signs and vintage signs lining the roadway and historic buildings housing newer businesses, such as Moe Dogs Grill in what appears to be a vintage gas station adorned with kitschy Americana memorabilia. Spot the Amarillo water tower and snap a photo of the Historic Route 66 sign at the intersection of S Georgia Street. This downtown was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and currently stretches over 13 blocks. Although refurbished with new tenants, many of the same buildings still exist, but you will surely catch a bit of nostalgia driving down old Route 66. Visit the 1926 San Jacinto Fire Station at 610 S Georgia street and admire the historic Martin’s Phillips 66 Gas Station at 3821 West Sixth. This station operated from the 1930s to the 1990s and is now home to an auto repair shop.
The Galleries at Sunset Center | Amarillo, Texas
This attraction is off the main route but is one art lovers will surely appreciate. The Galleries at Sunset Center is a short drive from the original Route 66 and a great way to stretch your legs while admiring the many galleries and booths inside. The building is credited with being the first indoor mall in Amarillo and opened its doors in the 1960s as Sunset Center. It succumbed to westward expansion and new mall developments in the early 1980s and was bought by a family who transformed the mall into The Galleries at Sunset Center by 2005. The indoor art gallery at Sunset Center features artwork from more than 100 artists and even includes an outdoor sculpture garden. The main attraction is the community Art Walk on the first Friday of every month, where locals and tourists come to celebrate the aspiring artists’ most treasured pieces. Check opening days and times before you visit, as it was closed when I visited last spring.
Cadillac Ranch | Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch is one of the most iconic roadside attractions along Route 66 in Texas. Ten upended Cadillacs are buried nose-first into the Texas dirt for a fabulous showcasing of vintage motor vehicles. The well-known graffitied Cadillacs have had their share of appearances in major hit movies, such as Pixar’s Cars. Since their installment, they have now spent longer being a tourist attraction than they have been driven down the Mother Road. Cadillac Ranch is one of the most well-known stops along Route 66 and a must-see during any road trip through Amarillo.
Jack Sisemore Travel & RV Museum | Amarillo, Texas
Even if you aren’t in the market for a new RV, the Jack Sisemore Travel & RV Museum might change your mind. Jack Sisemore started collecting and restoring old RVs more than 25 years ago and now has the largest collection in the Texas Panhandle. It’s an interesting Route 66 Texas attraction featuring loads of vintage motorhomes, including an authentic hippie VW bus van, classic motorcycles, shiny airstreams, and even the Flexible Clipper bus from the 2006 movie RV. Currently, the museum is open mid-March- Mid-November, Thursday-Saturday. Check their website for updated information.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park | Canyon, Texas
While not on Route 66, Palo Duro Canyon State Park makes a terrific side trip if you have the time. It is located about 30 mins southeast of Amarillo and is called the Texas Grand Canyon. It is the second-largest canyon in the US and offers some history of early pioneers, explorers, and Native Americans at its visitor center. The park has more than 25,000 acres of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, nearby private cabin rentals and many campsites; advanced reservations are recommended. Camping in the park is a great opportunity to watch the sunset, hike to the iconic Lighthouse Rock and sleep below the stars. If not spending the night, allow a few hours to drive through the park to enjoy the views, and go on a hike or two. My favorite short hike is the 0.9 mile out and back Palo Duro Caves Trail. There is an $8 day use fee per person, and the park is open from 7 am-9 pm.
Ozymandias on the Plains Sculpture | Amarillo, Texas
What takes the cake as the most bazaar Route 66 roadside attraction in Texas? It has to be the unique 10-foot-tall pair of legs belonging to Ozymandias on the Plains. Self-taught artist Lightnin’ Mcduff built this sculpture which features two overly sized legs, meant to pay homage to the ancient Egyptian King, Ramesses II, whose name in Greek is Ozymandias. The sculpture was inspired by a poem written in 1818 by Percy Shelley after a visit to Egypt. The sculpture has since been vandalized, first with the addition of two white and red striped socks and eventually with multi-colored spray paint covering the entire sculpture and nearby plaque. At one point, the town would sandblast the sculpture clean, but the locals seemed to think spray paint was the better option as it always seemed to reappear. Although, if you asked me, the sporadic spray paint takes away from what could be, the giant legs still make a great stop for a quirky photo or two.
Floating Mesa | Amarillo, Texas
While this roadside attraction sits far from the road, it’s best seen from a distance. The Floating Mesa in Amarillo is one of Texas’s quirkiest Route 66 attractions. With the right conditions (clear sky, no overcast), the top of the mesa appears to be floating from a distance, but don’t be fooled, as it’s only a series of wood sheets painted white along its middle that offers the illusion. The wacky idea came to life when a resident, Stanley Marsh 3, an artist, businessman, and millionaire, commissioned the piece. Stanley was also the bankroller behind the famous Cadillac Ranch. He died in 2014 but left his eccentric spirit preserved all over town.
Route 66 Midpoint & MidPoint Café | Adrian, Texas
Every route has its halfway point! The Mid Point of Route 66 is marked with a wooden sign and painted shields on the road. It is just 1,139 miles to Santa Barbra, California, or Chicago, Illinois. The Route 66 Midpoint has a fun slogan, ‘when you’re here, you’re halfway there.” The adjacent Mid Point Cafe is a must-stop if diner food and good southern hospitality make you smile. Say hi to JJ, the enthusiastically happy former truck driver and now waitress who has welcomed travelers to her dream job in the small town of Adrian, Texas, for years.
Dot’s Mini Museum | Vega, Texas
Another fantastic spot highlighting Route 66’s kitschy Americana and retro vibes of the past is the now permanently closed Dot’s Mini Museum. Dot’s family used to sell ice and cold drinks along the Mother Road long before cars had air-conditioning. A vibrant and lively woman with a desire to keep the memories of Route 66 alive, began a collection of Route 66 memorabilia and displayed them in a small building on her property and decorated her yard with her vintage finds. In 1963 she officially opened Dot’s Mini Museum. She was known to welcome curious travelers with good conversation and stories from the past and is said to be the inspiration for “Tin Lizzie” in the Pixar movie Cars. After her passing in 2006, her daughter inherited her property and the museum. Find the Mini Museum at 105 N 12th Street. The museum is likely closed, but a walk around the decorative yard is welcomed- there is no telling what quirky finds are awaiting discovery, but please, only take photos!
Roosters Mexican Restaurant | Vega, Texas
Roosters Mexican Restaurant is a favorite among road warriors and locals if it’s time for a bite to eat. This authentic Mexican Restaurant is in the historic Route 66 Nell’s Shell Station Building. Its mascot is perched outside, towering almost 10 feet tall with a traditional cowboy hat smoking a cigar. If that doesn’t draw people in, what will? It is open daily 8 am-8 pm for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between, and breakfast and brunch on Sundays. Check their Facebook page for updated daily specials.
While in Vega, check out what appeared to be a collection of bison statues in an open field a short distance from Roosters. Find them on the left side of the road going west from Roosters. I spotted them as I was driving through town but forgot to go back and snap a few photos. They looked really cool!
Magnolia Gas Station | Vega, Texas
One of the highlights along route 66 is the restored and vintage gas stations that speak to what Route 66 was all about back in its heyday. Gas, food, and shelter were the three things most travelers searched for along this tiring stretch of road. Opening in 1924, this Magnolia Gas Station was among the first to welcome travelers along the Ozark Trail, the original American highway, pre-Route 66. The owner fought to get this section of road paved on the new Route 66 and saw a flourishing business even after the Route 66 realignment in 1935. The business changed hands in the early 1950s and operated as a barber shop until 1965. The service station closed its doors in 1970, and in 1990 the owners donated the property to the Oldham County Historical Commission. Locals rallied to restore the station, and in 2004, they got their wish. It has now been fully reimagined and converted into a welcome center and small museum.
While visiting the service station, check out the Quanah Parker Trail arrow that was installed behind the service station in 2014. These arrows are scattered all over north Texas, commemorating historical connections with the last Comanche Chief, Quanah Parker.
Texas Glenrio Historic District & Ghost Town | Deaf Smith County, Texas
If you hope to find an authentic ghost town along your road trip on Route 66, Glenrio in Deaf Smith County is it. There isn’t much left, only a few buildings and an old motel sign. Despite its rough appearance, a little imagination will allow you to see what was once a thriving community during Route 66’s heyday. Formerly known as Rock Island, Glenrio sits on the Texas/New Mexico border, in both Deaf Country Texas and Quay Country New Mexico. While Genrio was once a fully populated town, only two residents were left by 1975 when the new Interstate 40 bypassed the town. Traffic through this small town eventually dried up, leaving it abandoned. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Now only home to tumbleweeds, Texas critters, and a few private property signs, this ghost town is a must-see for anyone with a little ghost town intrigue.
The Texas portion of Route 66 comes in a close 2nd to my favorite section of Route 66 in Arizona. Texas is home to a slew of random, quirky, and downright silly attractions that make any road trip through Texas memorable. If you continue into New Mexico, stop in Tucumcari, only 40 minutes from the Texas/New Mexico border. Its main street is chock full of vintage signs, murals, and buildings dedicated to the memory of Main Street America. Stick around after sunset and watch the iconic motel signs light up, giving off that famous Route 66 feel everyone can appreciate.
I hope you enjoyed this tour through Texas’s best Route 66 attractions! There is a lot to see- let me know if I missed anything in the comments below. Have fun, drive safe, and go ahead and“Get your kicks on Route 66!”
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