Texas outdoor musical, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, horseback riding
and many memories in Amarillo, TX!
Every summer, what some call the Grand Canyon of Texas, fills with fireworks, music, and dance. It’s something that everyone should experience. I saw the “Texas” outdoor musical when I was a youngster and loved every moment of it. I wanted my husband to be able to mark it off his bucket list as well. So, I packed up my husband and my mom to experience all that Palo Duro Canyon State Park had to offer as well as visit some sites in Amarillo, Texas.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States; it falls short of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. However, it dazzles with natures splendor and a vast supply of Texas blue sky. The canyon is in the Texas Panhandle Plains. If you have never seen the Texas plains the best way to describe it is to say, you can see nothing for as far as the eye can see. The eternal prairie grasses blow in the Texas sun like an ocean back and forth. Until you arrive 20 minutes outside of Amarillo, where gradually, you start to see groups of trees. Then there is the reveal – an enormous southern canyon plunging some 800 feet filled with ruggedness.
Once you enter the park, you will start to understand why cowboys, campers, and hiking enthusiasts come to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Time shows off its geologic periods spanning more than 250 million years in layers that explode in various colors. Pops of green dot the canyon floor with walls of hardwood shrubs and mesquite trees and the earth opens up to show off water-carved formations like Fortress Cliff.
Texas Outdoor Musical
The show, known as the official play of Texas, is presented against the canyon wall in the Pioneer Amphitheatre. For more than 50 years the show’s cast and crew have put on a play that delights Texans and visitors from afar.
A lone man on a horse atop the cliff gets your attention as the music starts to fill the air. Teenagers and young adults pour out onto the stage in boots, hats and cute prairie dresses singing and dancing. And our story begins.
A wild and vibrant first half where the fictional story about the settlement of Texas and the West starts to unfold, with lively performances and special effects. The characters begin to bring to life the struggles and achievements of the settlers of the Texas Panhandle in the 1800s.
The second half is full of special effects as the story moves ahead while dancing and singing continue. The backdrop of the canyon’s red walls at sunset start to turn dark as prairie fires roar, and dance waters flutter with lighting and fireworks abound. It’s all enough to make anyone, of any age, wow and ah.
Tips for the Texas Outdoor Musical
Don’t let the hot summer nights get you down. Here are a few tips to get the best out of the show:
- Wear super comfy and breathable clothes. We highly suggest a sundress, sleeveless or short sleeved shirts and shorts. No need to dress up here!
- Bring water
- Personal fans
- Neck coolers
- Seat pads – we didn’t mind the chairs, but if you have them, bring them.
The Palo Duro “Texas” show is top-rated and can sell out. Purchase your tickets in advance. You can buy tickets with the option of the barbecue dinner where you can fill your plate with delicious brisket, sausage, beans, coleslaw, and potato salad, with cobbler for dessert.
Get your coupon for 15% off tickets here!
You can make a full day of the park by hiking or horseback riding (see below), and at night going to dinner and the musical. The Texas Parks department has done a marvelous job making Palo Duro easy to navigate, even for the most intrepid hikers. If you plan on hiking, start out early and bring plenty of water. Even on a mild day, the Texas heat can creep up on you. Plus, if you are there in the morning you can get some breathtaking pictures.
Don’t Miss The Old West Stables
One thing I love to do is horseback ride. I remember begging my parents for a horse because we had plenty of room in the backyard (we do not). I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to take to the canyon floor on horseback in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The best part was, this would be my mother’s first time to ride!
We opted for the earliest ride time at 8:30 am because we are Texans, and I know very well how hot it can be in the afternoon. After entering the park, we drove past the “Texas” play parking lot and came upon a sign for the Old West Stables.
We went inside the small building, signed our release forms and waited for another rider. We made sure to use the facilities and had a look at the horses in the back stables. At the stables, three employees helped us mount our chosen horse based on skill. We followed our fantastic guide along the horse trails in the Canyon.
My horse, Comanche, wanted to eat, meaning that he would take any opportunity to stop and pull at grass. I was assured this was just his nature and he was well fed. When he was walking, he was turtle-like pace slow. I lagged in the back but enjoyed the slow pace of the horse, and it gave me multiple opportunities to take photos. Our hour-long ride through the canyon, framed by a blue sky, rock formations, seas of wildflowers and grasses was peaceful and fun.
My mom is a testament to the fact that riders of any age and any skill set can enjoy this activity! We all had a blast!
More Amarillo Attractions
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
Amarillo has more than just Palo Duro Canyon to offer. It also has one of the finest regional museums in Texas, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. (receive 10% off museum tickets when purchased through TEXAS! Here or call 806-655-2181)
You can also mosey over to the iconic Texas attraction the Cadillac Ranch where vintage Cadillac’s are buried in the Texas farmland. Many visitors paint the cars with spray paint while there. Kids particularly seem to enjoy painting the cars.
No road trip is complete without visiting a unique destination where quirky pictures and fun times can be had. Hince, making a stop at the RV Museum. Entry is FREE and the employees are delightful.
Big Texan Steak Ranch
Stop by the Big Texan Steak Ranch and check out its notorious 72-ounce sirloin. It’s free if you can consume it all, with a baked potato, dinner roll, salad and three fried shrimps, in one hour. If you tap out before you eat it all you’re out $72. Believe me when I say these people were not even close to finishing when their time was up.
Don’t forget to take the complimentary limo pickup to the Big Texan Steak Ranch. They will pick up from almost every hotel, motel, and RV park in Amarillo and a few truck stops as well. Local picks ups are made at Cavender’s Boot City and The Starbuck’s on I40 and Grand. For more information head to the website or call them at (806)-372-6000 to schedule a reservation.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch is more than just a restaurant. There is a saloon style bar, a games area, gift shop and an outdoor area with live music. It’s a must stop!
We did go to the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian. We all agreed, it was a disappointment. The cost was high, and the museum lacked fundamental information on displays. It took the hubby 10 minutes to walk around – a person who thrives on spending a full day in a museum. I would advise going when there is an activity for kids or a show for full enjoyment.