Thursday, April 11, 2019

Amarillo, Texas - A Must See Texas Panhandle City

If you're planning a visit to Texas soon, or if you live in Texas and just looking for a new destination to explore, look no further than the awesome panhandle city of Amarillo. Often overlooked for the larger cities of Houston and Dallas, Amarillo has so much to offer its visitors. Situated in the middle of the Texas panhandle, Amarillo is the 14th most populous city in Texas but still holds on to that small town atmosphere. I recently took a trip here with my dad and fell in love with the old west theme that is present throughout the entire city. Hopefully looking through my pictures and reading about the places I visited with my dad will help you consider a trip to the beautiful city of Amarillo, Texas! 



Day 1 - 

The drive from my house to Amarillo is a little over 600 miles and took my dad and I around 10 hours. You might think that's a lot especially since I live in Texas but I love road trips so this was super fun for me :) (Amarillo may be small but is does have an airport so if driving is out of the question you can always fly there). After our long drive and checking into the hotel we had a few hours of the day left so we decided to explore....



Route 66

The historic Route 66 drive that goes through the heart of America runs right through Amarillo. There is a section of the city designated as the site of the original drive and it doesn't take long at all to drive down this short stretch of highway. While this drive is a far cry from what it was in its glory days, it's still a nice little bit of nostalgia and you now have bragging rights to say you were on this super famous road. 



Cadillac Ranch

Who ever thought that 10 cars buried facedown in the ground and painted with graffiti would become a huge tourist attraction?! Well that's exactly what happened! A stop at the famous Cadillac Ranch is a must if you're ever in Amarillo! Yes it's kind of hokey but I live for this kind of stuff! Oh and did I mention it's FREE? SCORE! *Don't forget to bring spray paint* 




Cadillac Ranch Gift Shop

Normally I wouldn't list a gift shop separately but this one is an attraction all on it's own. Located a little ways away from Cadillac Ranch (we almost missed it) you will see a HUGE cowboy with 3 beautiful Cadillac's behind him. A stop here is a must! Not only can you get a souvenir but this place is full of photo opportunities! Can you guess who the people inside the Cadillac's are without reading the signs? We missed one. LOL 






The Big Texan Steak Ranch

Over the years this restaurant has become a popular tourist attraction in Amarillo. It's super famous for the 72 ounce steak challenge...if you can eat it all you get it for free :) Unfortunately no one was doing the challenge while we were there but we did get serenaded by an older gentleman playing the guitar. Such a great old west atmosphere and the steaks (smaller ones of course LOL) were pretty great too! Don't miss a trip to the back where there are some great photo opportunities and a shooting game!  




Day 2 -

We decided to start off our second day in Amarillo with a short drive to Canyon, Texas. At only 18 miles away, Canyon is kind of like an extension of Amarillo only a much smaller little town. A side trip to Canyon is a must if you're ever in Amarillo especially if you want to see the canyon itself! Also, the largest history museum in Texas is here and it's pretty freaking awesome...



Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

If you love history and want to learn about the panhandle plains area then a stop at this museum is a must! Admission is only $12.50 per person and it's worth every penny. This museum is HUGE! We spent at least 3 hours here and probably didn't see everything. My favorite exhibit was the old west town. Set up to look exactly like a town would back in the early 1900s this was a trip back in time. So much history in one section of the museum! I could've spent hours here! 






Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of Texas" this is the second largest canyon in the US and is a must see for anyone visiting the Amarillo area. It's only $8 per person for a day pass and totally worth it. If you don't have a lot of time to visit the canyon then take the scenic drive through the park. It takes you from the top all the way to the canyon floor then back again for some stunning views that aren't to be missed. There are many pull offs along the way so you can safely stop and get some photos. There are also many hiking trails for the adventurous but don't forget the water and watch out for snakes! 






Downtown Canyon 

Dad and I were actually looking for the post office when we ended up in downtown Canyon and instantly fell in love with the old town feel. The huge courthouse was beautiful and surrounding it were old shops and restaurants that looked as if they hadn't changed much in the last 60 years or so. Directly across the street from the courthouse was a little place called Rock N Roll Soda Shop. We decided to give it a try and we were instantly glad we did. Set up like a 50s diner this place screams nostalgia! Wall to wall memorabilia...not to mention the old music playing through the speakers all added to the classic theme. We were informed by one of the workers that this place was opened in 1958 and has most of the original furnishings. How cool is that?! 



Bill's Backyard Classics 

If you love classic cars then a stop at Bill's is a must! Located in the heart of Amarillo this place has over 100 classic cars that are in mint condition. It's a car lovers paradise and my dad was having a blast checking out all the old cars. The backstory on this place is simple. A man, Bill, loved cars so much that he bought most of the cars you see within 3 years in the condition they are currently in and decided to show them off. A pretty ingenious business venture considering Route 66 isn't far away and people travel from all over the world for a trip down the famous road. You can see all Bill's cars for only $10 per person and take all the pictures you want....but don't touch the cars! 





Day 3 -

One thing I love about road trips is the little stops that can be made along the way. Usually on the way to my destination I won't make many stops because I'm focused on getting there, but the drive home is a whole other story! We made one stop on the way home that I have to share with you! There is a little town called Wichita Falls, Texas that is about 225 miles SE of Amarillo. It's a small laid back town but it has a unique attraction that I had to see...



World's Littlest Skyscraper 

Normally when you think of a skyscraper you think of a very large building that you need an elevator to reach the top. Well technically this isn't a skyscraper but it was supposed to be. Built in 1919 this building has a unique backstory that I won't totally go into. The very short story is a man duped several other men out of a lot of money by drawing up plans to build a huge skyscraper only when they signed off on the plans they didn't read the fine print. The measurements were in inches instead of feet letting the builder get away with building this 4 story tiny building and running off with most of the money....and there was nothing they could do about it. It's kind of a hokey little attraction but if you're in the area it's worth a visit. It's free to go inside but there is no elevator and the stairs are narrow and steep.





Our trip to Amarillo was so much fun. I loved spending time with my dad and seeing all the cool unique attractions Amarillo (and surrounding areas) has to offer. If you're thinking of a trip to the Texas panhandle then look no further than Amarillo. You won't regret it! There are so many things to see and do that I wasn't able to do them all. Maybe one day I'll get to make a trip back to Amarillo and see everything. Have you ever been to Amarillo? Wichita Falls? What did you do while there? I love to hear travel stories and see pictures from everyone's travels. You can share pictures and stories of your Amarillo trip on my Facebook page under this post. I'd love to hear from you. 

Until the next adventure, 

Mel Was Here  







Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trip Planning 101 - Amarillo

Amarillo, Texas....Gateway to Palo Duro Canyon, major stop on Route 66, and all around great place to visit. My dad lived here from 1959-1960 and has always wanted to take a trip back to see the small town he once called home. Exactly two weeks from today he will get that chance. Trip planning can be an exhausting and somewhat unpleasant experience for some, but I LOVE planning trips! Trip planning itself is almost as fun as actually going on a trip....almost! If you're thinking of visiting Amarillo (or maybe you've never heard of it until now) I'm going to share with you my trip planning process and hopefully it will help you plan your trip, or at least give you some great ideas :) 



The first thing I do when planning a trip is research all attractions and activities in the area and make a list of everything that interests me. I always list these in order of what I want to do most all the way down to what I'd like to do if there's time. For my Amarillo trip the list is as follows:

          1. Palo Duro Canyon ($8 per person)
          2. Panhandle Plains Historical Museum ($12.50 per person)
          3. Cadillac Ranch (Free)
          4. Route 66 (Free)
          5. Bill's Backyard Classics ($10 per person)
          6. RV Museum (Free)
          7. Amarillo Zoo ($4 per person)


Notice I listed how much each place costs for admission per person. This will help with the travel budget which is a very important part of trip planning. I then choose the top 3-5 (depending on time constraints) and budget enough money for those attractions. So if I choose the top 4 for my trip and there are 3 people going my attraction budget is $61.50. 


The next step in planning a trip is deciding which hotel is right for you and fits in with your budget. The main two questions to ask when deciding on a hotel are: how much do I want to spend per night and what are the ammenities I want in a hotel room. My budget for a hotel room is generally $100-$200 per night unless all hotels in the area are over that in which case I'll increase the budget. There are three ammenities that I require in a hotel and I list them from most important to least important:

          1. Pool (I don't have one at home and I want to swim when I travel)
          2. Free Breakfast (It's all about budget)
          3. Free Parking (I'm already paying to stay)

For my Amarillo trip I decided on Comfort Inn and Suites. At $102.35 per night it falls in my budget and it offers all 3 ammenities I want. SCORE! Since we are staying 2 nights the total budget is $204.70....not bad at all!  


Now I decide on transportation! Am I going to drive (Road Trips are my #1 choice for most of my trips) or am I going to fly? For my Amarillo trip I'm going to drive. Amarillo is approximately a 9-10 hour drive from my house (depending on traffic) so it's the perfect destination for a road trip. Now to put those math skills to use :/ 

          Distance from start to destination (580.2 miles)
                                 +
          Distance of all little trips around town (37.2 miles)
                                 + 
          Distance from city you're in to home (580.2 miles)
                                 =
          Total mileage (1,197.6 miles)
                           
                            Divided by

          Total mileage your vehicle gets for a tank of gas (350 miles)
                                 =
          Amount of times you'll need to fill up your vehicle (3.42 times)
                                 X
          Price of a tank of gas for your vehicle ($30 per tank)
                                 =
          Total price for fuel ($102.65) 

Be sure to round up because fuel prices vary all over the country so you don't want to short yourself on the transportation budget. 


The next step I take in the trip planning process is deciding how much to budget for food. As a general rule I budget $50 per person per day. I also research restaurants in the area and pick at least one that is a must. I don't know about you but when I travel I like to try new places to eat that aren't available where I live. For my Amarillo vacation I chose Big Texan Steak Ranch (Home of the 72 ounce steak challenge) This place is iconic to Amarillo and a must for any travel enthusiast. Here comes that pesky math again....

          Total of people going on vacation (3)
                                X
          Amount alloted for food per day ($50)
                                X
          Total days of trip (3)
                               =
          Budget for food ($450)


The last step to trip planning is deciding how much to budget for souvenirs. You may think you can get away without buying anything but you'd be wrong. Who doesn't love bringing a little trinket home to remember their trip? Even if you don't end up buying anything it's always a good idea to budget some spending money anyway. When it comes to souvenirs it's every man for himself (or herself). For myself I generally budget $25 per attraction so I can get a t shirt :) So if there are 4 attractions that I'm for sure going to see then my souvenir budget is $100. 


And that's it....how simple was that?! Now you have a trip planned and a budget all at the same time! For my Amarillo trip the total budget is $918.85. And that includes EVERYTHING! I'm so excited about this trip. These next two weeks are going to take forever but I can't wait to go then come back and share my experience with you! 

Are you planning a trip? Maybe now you'd like to visit Amarillo....hopefully I was able to help with the planning process and give you some ideas about where to go in Amarillo. Be sure to check out my Facebook page @melwashere and my instagram @melwashereblog in two weeks to see pictures of my Amarillo trip. Have a great day!

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here 


                                 
                    















        

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

5 Questions You Must Answer To Plan A Successful Vacation

It's that time of year again! Now that the holiday's are over and you've hopefully recovered from the shock to your pocket book it's time to start planning that vacation. I know what you're thinking....it's only February! But trust me...if you want the best deals now is the time to book your trip. I planned and reserved hotels for all of my 2019 trips the second week of January and the one I have scheduled for July was already 70% booked! It's better to reserve now (with the option to cancel for free) then to be sorry later when you can't find a decent hotel or you have to over pay just to get to stay where you want. So, now that you've decided to go ahead and plan that trip, where do you start? Well, it's always best to start at the beginning....with the basic 5 questions we all learned about in grade school. Who, What, When, Where, and How.




Who (is going on the trip with you)?

The first question you need to ask yourself when planning a trip is simple. Who is going to be going on this trip? Is it a family trip with kids, a family trip without kids, a trip with friends, or a couples trip? Answering this question will help you decide where you want to go and what activities you want to do. I mean you probably don't want to plan a family trip with kids to the casino. And you probably don't want to plan a trip to hike in the mountains with great grandma Sue who has a bad hip. Knowing who is going is key to planning a great trip everyone will enjoy and will help you answer the next question...



What (do you want to do on this trip)?

Now that you have decided who's going you can decide what you want to do. Are you a museum junky (like me) or are you into hiking and outdoor adventures? If you're bringing the kids you'll want to pick activities that are more kid friendly and of course if it's just you and your sweetie then the sky is the limit. My fiancé and I are going to the casino in August but in July we are taking the kids to the mountains to do some exploring. Be sure to pick something that everyone in your group will enjoy. You don't want any sad faces on vacation! Now that you have decided on some activities you can answer the next question...



When (do you want to go)

Once you know who's going and what activities you want to do you can decide what time of the year is best. If you're taking the kids and they are school aged then summer break is going to be the best time. If it's a friends trip or a couples trip then you can pretty much go any time depending on what you want to do. You probably don't want to plan a hiking trip in the dead of winter (unless you love hiking in the cold) and unless you love crowds you'll want to avoid all holiday weekends. Knowing when you are going on your trip will help you answer question number 4...



Where (do you want to go)

Now that you know who's going, what activities you want to do, and when you are going to go you can decide where to go. If you're planning a family trip with the kids and you want to take them to an amusement park in the summer of course (since they will be out of school) then you can do a google search of the best amusement parks and decide which one is right for your family. (Disney!!!) If you and your sweetie want to go hiking in the mountains during the spring so it's not too crowded you'll want to do some research and see where the best hiking spots are for that time of year. (Tennessee is perfect in the spring) Now that you have answered all of these questions you can ask yourself the final question...



How (are we going to get there)

Are you going to take a road trip or are you going to fly? Anyone who has ever been on a road trip with a car full of kids might want to consider flying...unless you love the open road (like me) and want to drive. Also, getting a large family through security and the hustle and bustle of a busy airport might be too much for some. Take into consideration your budget and time restraints. Some people may have a week to devote to a road trip while others do not. If your destination isn't too far away then a quick road trip might be a good choice. If it's a 36 hour drive one way then flying might be the better option. Choose the best method of transportation that suits your needs. Answering these simple questions will help you plan a successful vacation every time. 



Bonus: Why (WHY NOT)

Don't ask yourself why you want to go on a trip. If you want to go somewhere ask yourself why not. I've spent many years being told I'm not super rich and I need to realize I won't be able to see all the things I want to see. I made the decision last year I wasn't going to live that way anymore! I have a bucket list of places I want to see (over 100) and I'm going to see as many as possible before I die. No more negative thinking! I can and will get to travel if I work hard and make it happen...and so can you! Why not plan that trip today and experience something new and exciting that you will never forget....



I know you have some awesome trips planned for this year. I have 4 scheduled and I'm looking forward to sharing each and every experience with you. Maybe I'll inspire you to seek out your own adventure! 



Until next time,




Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

If you're planning a trip to Houston or just looking for something fun and educational to take the kids to then look no further than The Houston Museum of Natural Science. This HUGE museum has it all....dinosaurs, art, mummies, hands on exhibits, simulation rides, and much more. Located on the edge of Herman Park right next to the Houston Zoo this museum has four floors of exhibits to check out. Not to mention the butterfly center, the planetarium, and the large screen theater! You could quite literally spend an entire day here. So, what makes this museum so special?...


A little bit of history 

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 and acquired most of it's primary collection between 1914 and 1930. The museum was first housed in Houston's City Auditorium then at the Central Library for seven years before being moved to a site in The Houston Zoo in 1929. Construction of the current museum began in 1964 and was completed in 1969. In 2012 the museum opened it's new 230,000 square foot paleontology hall (dinosaurs) which more than doubled the size of the original museum. Millions of visitors flock to the museum every year for the state of the art exhibits and to see the large display of dinosaur skeletons. 


Permanent Exhibits 

With your basic admission charge you get access to all of the permanent exhibits housed at the museum. There's a total of 16 permanent exhibits with my favorite being the Hall of Paleontology. You also get access to The Hall of Ancient Egypt (real mummies), The Energy Hall (lots of hands on fun for the little ones), and so much more! Once you take a tour of all the permanent exhibit halls you will see it's totally worth the price of admission. 


Special Exhibits

While the permanent exhibits at the museum never change, the special exhibits are only there for a short time and change every few months or so. I've been to several special exhibits including Titanic and Ancient China. Currently the museum is showcasing Death by Natural Causes which has been extended until January 6th because of it's popularity. Check the website before you decide to visit to see what special exhibits are being showcased at that time. All special exhibits are an extra charge.


Extras

If you're looking for something extra you can check out The Butterfly Center, The Planetarium, and The Giant Screen Theater. All of these are an extra charge but if you're wanting to make this a whole day event then you should totally check out at least one if not all of these. Every time I go I say I'm going to see the butterfly exhibit but I have yet to do so....next time it's happening for sure! 


FYI:

-Price of admission is $25 for adults, $15 for children and seniors for the permanent exhibit halls

-The museum is open daily from 9am - 5 pm with Free admission to the permanent exhibits Thursdays from 2pm - 5pm

-Special exhibits are an extra $5 and up depending on the exhibit but with admission to these you also get access to all the permanent exhibits

-The planetarium admission is $9 for adults, $8 for children and seniors

-The butterfly center admission is $9 for adults, $8 for children and seniors

-The giant screen theater admission is $12 for adults, $10 for children and seniors

-The website says parking is $20 for all day parking but I've never once paid for parking at the museum. 


Helpful Hints:

-Make sure your flash is turned off when taking pictures in the paleontology exhibit. A guard had to remind me of this since I didn't see the sign. 

-Arrive at the museum as early in the day as possible especially on the weekends. It can get really crowded.

-There is no photography allowed in the award winning photography section. This should be a no brainer but apparently it's not.

-There is free 3 hour parking directly along the street in front of the museum so if you don't think you'll be longer than that you can park for free.

-Don't forget to stop at the large gift shop before leaving. There are many souvenirs to choose from. 

-For guests who have trouble with stairs there are elevators located throughout the museum. 

-If you have small children this museum may be a bit too old for them since there is a lot of reading involved. The Energy Hall is your best bet with children under 5. It's very hands on and visual so even the little ones can enjoy it. 


A trip to Houston is never complete without a visit to this amazing museum. I've been many times and every time I discover something I didn't see before. If you have a few hours to spare you should at least check out the permanent exhibit halls. You won't be disappointed! Have you been to The Houston Museum of Natural Science? How was your experience? What was your favorite museum exhibit? I'd love to hear your stories and see pictures of your trip. You can post them on my Facebook page @melwashereblog or email me at melwashereblog@gmail.com

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here