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Find the Essence of Texas in Amarillo

The romantic image of the American cowboy leading cattle across an untamed country isn’t a myth in Amarillo, Texas, but rather the backbone of the destination’s identity. One of the country’s top cattle trading towns in the 1890s, Amarillo continues to embrace its Wild West roots at various attractions that appeal to groups.

The Route 66 town doesn’t expose visitors to the Disney version of the cowboy; it’s the real deal, with experiences including an introduction to the West’s favorite horse breed, a historical musical about the state and authentic Native American dances. Groups can even imagine themselves as cowboys and cowgirls by saddling up on a horseback tour with canyon vistas.

Each of Amarillo’s Western attractions reveals an important piece of the cowboy lifestyle from the town’s past and the present.

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum

Ranchers gathered around a dining room table one night in 1940 with the goal of saving the short, stocky, friendly horses they had grown to love. To keep their favorite horse breed from extinction, the ranchers started the American Quarter Horse Association.

With the association’s aid, not only has the quarter horse population fully rebounded, but it is also celebrated for its significant impact on history at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum.

“As colonists headed west, the quarter horse was the one that provided the horsepower,” said Miller. “Nowadays, the quarter horse is used on ranches, in shows and just for pleasure because it is such a versatile horse.”

Texas cowboys believed that quarter horses could drive Longhorn cattle through bad weather or difficult terrain faster than any other horse breed, so the American quarter horse now holds a place in Western lore. The museum honors this heritage through informative and artistic exhibits.

Larger-than-life bronze statues of quarter horses greet visitors to the museum. Groups can then explore the horse legends and people who promoted the breed in the hall of fame.

The museum uses interactive exhibits on horse anatomy, horseback riding and the disciplines of the American quarter horse to engage guests who may not be familiar with the breed.

Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian

To the resounding beat of the drum, dancers emerge onto the stage decked in colorful beads and elaborate headdresses at the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian. These authentic Native American dances run regularly at the museum, which showcases the crafts and cultures of the Pueblo and Plains Indian people.

“One of the best group experiences at the museum is to have a meal and see the Kwahadi Dancers,” said Kashion Smith, director of tourism for Visit Amarillo. “It’s one of those experiences that you could either kick off your tour with or end with. It’s one that people will always remember.”

The youth-led organization of Kwahadi Dancers has received much acclaim over the years and has traveled through Europe to introduce foreigners to Native American dance. Teenagers sign up to master the dances as well as create their own colorful wardrobes and play traditional instruments.

Groups can learn about the dance organization as well as tour the museum’s extensive Native American art collection. The museum displays bronze castings of Tom Knapp, Navajo rugs, Thomas Mails’ paintings and a plethora of other artworks from the Pueblo and Plains cultures.