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Everything’s Bigger in Texas: The Best Route 66 Texas Attractions + Diners & Hotels

Texas has the second smallest stretch of Route 66 among the eight states that it crosses coming in at just under 180 miles, but it has some of the most iconic Route 66 attractions and if you’ve never crossed the Great Plains…it’s really something. Miles and miles of nothing, windmills as far as you can see, and the sky goes on forever. 

The weather gets extreme in the Texas panhandle with the wind whipping around…summers are hot and winters are cold so plan accordingly. 

Some states have so many miles of Route 66 and so many attractions, sites, historic spots, etc that it feels overwhelming, but I think Texas is a pretty manageable stretch. Enough to be interesting, but it’s also a good place to make up the miles if you’ve gotten bogged down in other places. 

Route 66 Attractions in Texas

Cadillac Ranch: Amarillo, TX

Let’s start off with the big one. Cadillac Ranch has to be among the top 5 most iconic sites along Route 66. 

Commissioned in 1974 by Texas billionaire Stanley Marsh III (and created by a group of art hippies called “The Ant Farm,” Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation that highlights the spirit of the Mother Road. 

The 10 Cadillacs that are buried nose first in the dirt are models spanning from 1949-1963 (the years when travel down Route 66 was at its peak). The cadillacs are buried at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza and most have been graffitied so much over the years that they’re almost unrecognizable under the gobbs of paint. 

Here’s the scoop on visiting: Cadillac Ranch is right off I-40 just west of Amarillo. You’ll park on the access road and walk through a gate into the middle of a field with a hundred or so other people. Yes, it’s Amarillo’s most popular attraction (one of Route 66’s most popular attractions), and it’s right off the interstate so there’s always a steady stream of people. 

Bring your own spray paint, buy some at one of the trailers near the entrance, or find a half used can on the ground near the trash cans that visitors leave behind to share. 

ALSO, if it’s rained recently, the field can be super muddy so bring a pair of rubber boots to wade through the mud.

It’s a fun stop although I find that the “public art” part of it is often lost on the older crowd.  Driving I-40 out to New Mexico for vacation, I’ve stopped here with different family members before and my dad was less than impressed. We always tease him now that if he doesn’t behave we’re going to stop at the Cadillac Ranch ; ) 

It’s fun!

U-Drop Inn Cafe & Tower Station: Shamrock, TX

If Cadillac Ranch is the most well known Texas Route 66 attraction, then the U-Drop Inn Cafe is the hidden gem. I mean, it’s not exactly hidden (it gets a lot of love and attention from Route 66 travelers), but it’s not as overran as the Cadillac Ranch. 

And it is COOL. 

I always say there’s no way you can see and do everything along Route 66, but this is one stop that you want to plan your trip around. It is a GEM and it’s easily on my top 10 Route 66 list if not top 5. 

This old art deco service station and cafe has been near perfectly preserved and it still welcomes visitors. Part of the building houses the Shamrock Texas Visitor Information Center (and gift shop!) and the other half is a little cafe.

The cafe has VERY limited hours, so it takes some planning to hit it just right. But the visitor center has more reliable 9-5 hours. And you don’t want to miss the maps! Put a push pin where you’re from and just marvel at how many people from ALL OVER THE WORLD have ended up in this tiny little town in the Texas panhandle. 

And yes, you Cars fans, the U-Drop Inn Cafe was the direct inspiration for Ramone’s Body Shop in the Pixar movie. 

Route 66 Midpoint: Adrian, TX

Adrian is a don’t miss town in the Texas panhandle. It’s the official midpoint of Route 66 (1,139 miles from both Chicago and Los Angeles) and because of that it’s usually pretty hopping. 

Stop for an official photo op on the midpoint line. 

Glenrio Ghost Town: Glenrio, TX

Route 66 is littered with ghost towns…once thriving communities that just shriveled up when they were bypassed (or in many places cut in two) by the interstate. And so far, Glenrio is probably the one that’s been the most interesting to me. 

You’ll cross back over the interstate to the south side and the road feels a little more remote. There’s a motel, diner, and service station all in various stages of decay that straddle the Texas New Mexico border. 

VW Bug Ranch: Conway, TX

We’ve all heard of Cadillac Ranch, but did you know there’s a VW Bug Ranch close to Amarillo? In Conway (just east of Amarillo), there are a handful of old bugs buried in the ground and absolutely everything is covered in spray paint. 

Keep moseying down the road and you’ll come to the biggest city in the Texas panhandle (and that’s not saying much!). Compared to what else is around, Amarillo is a cosmopolitan paradise so if you’re looking for a nice(er) place to stay and some creature comforts, it’s a good place to spend the night. 

Leaning Water Tower: Groom, TX

Behold! The Leaning Water Tower of Groom-a. 

Burma Shave Signs: McLean, TX

This is the first place I saw the famed Burma Shave signs anywhere along the route and I got pretty excited! Even if one was missing. If you’re not familiar…Burma Shave signs were small little signs where each sign only had one (or a few) words so you had to read them all as you went to get the message. I don’t believe there are any original Burma Shave signs on the route anymore, but there are several places where you can see replicas and this is one. 

Museums

Coming from Oklahoma where there are a few do not miss Route 66 related museums (and others), I wouldn’t say anything in Texas is a must do, but if you’ve got time and an interest in one of these niche topics, here you go: 

Devil’s Rope Museum & Texas Route 66 Museum: McLean, TX

This is one of those places where I pulled in the parking lot and ended up turning back around. The two museums are in the same building. If you don’t know…”Devil’s Rope” is barbed wire and yes, this is a whole museum about it. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, being from Oklahoma, I’ve actually seen a huge exhibit on barbed wire in a museum before so this was not a big draw for me haha. (The Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City has a whole room of it if you stop there and that’s a world class museum). 

I was mildly interested in the Texas Route 66 Museum part, but I wasn’t sure once I pulled up so I kept going. Once I drove by I could see how big the building actually was so maybe it’s a great museum and I’ll never know. Or maybe I’ll stop by another time. 

McLean-Alanreed Area Museum: McLean, TX

This is another one that doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s actually in the little downtown area. But it does have information about the German POW camp that was in the area during WWII so if you’re a big WWII history buff, it might be worth a stop. 

Pioneer West Museum: Shamrock, TX

Next door to the restored Magnolia Gas Station, you’ll find the Pioneer West Museum. I didn’t have time to go inside, but it’s in a nice building

Dot’s Mini Museum: Vega, TX

A small family museum that may be open or maybe not…if it is, it’s one of those special places along the route where you’ll have the chance to visit and hear stories. I’ve heard that Dot Leavitt served as the inspiration for the Lizzie character in the Pixar Cars movie. 

Old Gas Stations

Magnolia Gas Station: Shamrock, TX

Just off the route you’ll find this cute little fully restored service station.

Phillips 66 Station: McLean, TX

I can never pass up a good, restored gas station. 

Magnolia Station: Vega, TX

This fully restored gas station was originally built in 1924. This one has actually been done on the inside too which is cool to see. And there’s a little lending library out front if you need a book or have one to leave. 

Bent Over Midway Station: Adrian, TX

This old gas station is my favorite type to find along the route: in a state of decay but still with a ton of interesting details. 

Best Places to Eat (Diners, Drive Ins, Food Stands, etc.)

U Drop Inn Cafe: Shamrock, TX

The cafe has VERY limited hours, so it takes some planning to hit it just right. When I visited in June, they were open from 11AM to 2PM for lunch and then 2PM to 5PM for ice cream. And I believe they were closed on Sundays and Mondays, but you should call ahead to verify their hours during your dates. 

 

If at all possible, I would make an effort to visit when the cafe is open. It’s such a cute little, well kept place and they’ll even point out the booth WHERE ELVIS SAT. I seriously can’t tell you how thrilled I always am when I inadvertently find out that I’m somewhere Elvis has been. How fun. 

It’s tricked out like a diner, but it’s really just a small cafe. They don’t serve anything that requires much cooking. It’s mostly just sandwiches, paninis, etc. So don’t expect burgers and onion rings. Although they do make a great shake!

Midpoint Cafe: Adrian, TX

Of course there’s a retro diner that sits right on the Route 66 midpoint! We didn’t do a full meal here, but their pie was very, very good (the chocolate was probably my favorite I’ve had anywhere). 

The Big Texan Steak Ranch: Amarillo, TX

You’ve got to love it when a restaurant becomes a roadside attraction. People driving by on I-40 must crane their necks and say “what is that place!!?” because it definitely looks like something. Besides the enormous cowboy on the sign out front and the huge steer in the parking lot, this just looks like a place where you should eat a steak. They’re famous for their 72 oz steak challenge. Here are the rules: if you can eat a 72 oz steak (plus shrimp cocktail, salad, roll, and baked potato) in ONE hour, it’s free. If you can’t…it’s $72. 

Goldenlight Cafe: Amarillo, TX

Touted as the longest continuously operated restaurant (in one location!) on Route 66, if you love greasy burgers then you’re going to LOVE this place. 

It’s on 6th Street in the area with all of the antique stores and yes, from the outside it looks kind of like a sketchy dive bar, but it’s really just a restaurant inside and there’s a patio out back.

The burgers are perfect and the fries are hand cut. A lot of people were ordering the chili cheese fries so that must be a big crowd pleaser. 

Motels & Hotels (Where to Stay & Where to Skip)

Ok, honestly there are not a ton of small vintage motels along the Texas stretch. You’re pretty much going to want to stay in Amarillo. And Amarillo is mostly small chain motels and hotels (think Courtyard, Hampton Inn, etc.). 

Barfield: Amarillo, TX

But I really recommend the Barfield in downtown Amarillo. It’s not a Route 66 hotel, but it’s in a historic building (Amarillo’s first skyscraper…all 10 floors ; ) and it’s really well done. 

It has more amenities than you’ll find anywhere else in the area (they call it a luxury hotel), but it’s still Amarillo prices. 

Also it’s part of Marriott Bonvoy’s Autograph Collection so you can use points!

Cactus Inn: McLean, TX

Not sure I would stay here (I mean I can certainly never see myself spending the night in McLean, TX and I’m not even sure how nice the rooms are), but the signs are pretty cute. 

Great Neon (Day or Night)

I always put a section at the bottom of my “Route 66 by state” posts about the best neon, but sadly Texas is seriously lacking in the neon department. 

The only one I’ve got for you is the U Drop Inn Cafe and I didn’t even see it lit up at night. 

There was some good looking neon coming into Amarillo (it was during the daytime), but honestly it was a pretty sketchy looking area so I didn’t even stop. But don’t worry too much, Tucumcari is up ahead and it’s going to more than make up for it ; )

Planning a Route 66 road trip? I’ve got all of the info you need! 

I’ve broken down each segment driving westbound so you know exactly what to expect: St. Louis MO to Springfield MO, Springfield MO to Tulsa OK, Tulsa OK to Oklahoma City OK, Oklahoma City OK to Amarillo TX, Amarillo TX to Albuquerque NM

Plus I’ve rounded up my absolute favorite experiences (things to do, where to eat, where to stay, etc.) by state here: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico

And I’ve got more in-depth posts on certain cities: St. Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Tucumcari, and Albuquerque.