A century ago, most travelers had no choice but to explore the world by foot, unless, of course, they were rich enough to own a Wonkavator. With that in mind, they probably would appreciate visiting the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum?a facility that, in a sense, lets guests cover 26,000 square miles on foot in one visit. But that?s not the only big number behind the museum?s operation: it also houses more than 2 million artifacts, spanning 14,000 years of the region?s history. Inside, guests can marvel at themed displays, including those that showcase the Plains? roots in paleontology, archeology, and a renowned art collection. They can also relive the hardships and courage of living in the Old West while plodding through a life-size Pioneer Town.
The Amarillo Botanical Gardens showcase foliage indigenous to both Texas and far-off exotic lands, such as Oklahoma. The guided tour highlights the varied plants that thrive in Texas's hot, arid climate, such as the yellow plant that lends the Amarillo garden—and the town itself—its Spanish name. As much a tour of the 4-acre landscape as of its plants, the expedition crosses under a wooden pergola into one of Amarillo's several rose gardens, strolls past statues of fiddle-playing frogs, and climbs to higher altitudes in the High Desert garden. In the butterfly garden, the lush, delicious greenery cradles developing lepidoptera through every stage, from larva to Mothra, and the Meadow Garden's open grassland lets wild horseflies gallop free.
A trail of breadcrumbs may have helped Hansel and Gretel find their way back home, but it won't help anyone traverse the labyrinth at Amaze'n Big Texan—mostly because they'll have to double back quite a few times to escape the maze. Throughout the 4,200 square feet of jumbled paths, staircases, and tight corridors, visitors must keep their wits in order to find the four hidden checkpoints and cross the finish line. Those who manage to complete the challenge in record time earn rewards such as entries in prize drawings and the lasting confidence to make it through rush-hour traffic. Outside of the center's main attraction, a trough beneath the Big Texan Mining Company's mock water tower lets kids try their hand at old-fashioned gold panning to uncover minerals and fossils.
At Eastridge Lanes, competitive camaraderie bonds athletes as they slug bowling balls down 32 glossy lanes. Bumpers ascend to guard gutters when kids or nesting squirrels are nearby, and 42-inch flat-screen TVs keep adults entertained. The alley's leagues and tournaments cultivate friendly face-offs, often over the promise of a cash prize. All-you-can-bowl evenings, held every Friday and Saturday, make it easier to finally hit that goal of one million pins, while nearby, Lane 33 Cafe slings nachos, hot dogs, or fresh pizza for birthday partygoers and refueling athletes.
Vivid reds, blues, greens, and yellows fill Jump-N-Jive’s 39,000-square-foot facility as kids bounce on a spectrum of inflatable objects. The indoor playground’s party-like atmosphere has earned praise in the Amarillo Globe-News, whose readers voted Jump-N-Jive the best venue for children's birthdays in 2008–2011. Available party packages include a party assistant, treats, and supplies, making the blow-up jungle gym an excellent spot for field trips, corporate parties, or flash-mob reunions.
Bronze castings, beadwork, and art by more than 100 artists of the American Plains and Southwest line the walls at the Kwahadi Museum, providing visitors an enlightening glimpse of the Kwahadi, a band of Comanche people who hunted on the High Plains of Texas. The adobe-styled museum also displays the paintings, manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts of Thomas E. Mails, the late artist and author who has fed hungry libraries with 14 tasty tomes about American Indians, including Mystic Warriors of the Plains. Upcoming exhibits include the Perry Null Game Animal collection and Birds of the High Plains, and lucky visitors might catch one of the Kwahadi dancers' regular performances at the museum. Feel free to barter currency for elegant jewelry, pottery, paintings, dolls at the Trading Post, the museum's gift shop, which hosts collectibles from more than 100 native artisans.