If you could find a place that somehow attracts and concentrates weirdness, that place would be Amarillo, Texas. The epicenter of this quirky community is the eccentric helium tycoon Stanley Marsh 3 (he didn’t like pretentious Roman numerals). Nothing but wonder and joy can come from anything associated with the words “eccentric helium tycoon.”
Sadly, Marsh passed away in 2014. But his monuments to unrestrained artistic mischief remain. Discover four unusual attractions awaiting your discovery in Amarillo.
Exhibit A: The Cadillac Ranch
Image via Flickr by fPat
In 1973, Marsh invited a San Francisco art collective to help him create a memorable ode to the classic automobile.
The result: 10 Caddies buried nose down on his Texas field, all aligned facing west. The striking installation has a Stonehenge-like feel to it, attracting curious disciples from around the world.
Visitors are welcome 24 hours a day, as are additions to the layers of graffiti on the vehicles. Two cans of spray paint should be plenty; departing visitors share their leftovers.
Inspired (perhaps infected) by Marsh’s creative zeal, Orville Ladehoff planted 14 combine harvesters to construct Combine City, south of Amarillo. While you can’t paint them, they’re also a sight to behold.
Exhibit B: Ozymandias on the Plains
Ozymandias is the Greek name for Ramesses II and the title of a poem by Percy Shelley. With Marsh’s support, local artist Lightnin’ McDuff recreated Shelley’s “vast and trunkless legs of stone,” an Egyptian-like relic now rising majestically from a field beside Interstate 27. Locals frequently add socks to the sculpture, contributing to the area’s booming economy based on spray paint.
Exhibit C: Floating Mesa
The prolific Marsh also did illusions. Northwest of Amarillo, a line made of white plywood splits a mesa. From the right direction and distance, in the right light, the top part of the mesa appears to float in the air. Bring a telephoto lens: The mesa is a fair distance from the road.
Exhibit D: The Dynamite Museum
Marsh also bankrolled a project called “The Dynamite Museum.” Among many other objects, Marsh and his team created around 200 hilariously inappropriate street signs that appear at random around Amarillo. Among our favorites are “Mime Assassin,” “Sea Monster Xing,” and “I Love You.”
The Tip of the Weirdberg
Finally, you have to snap a photo at the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument — helium is a big deal in these parts, as the area houses the Federal Helium Reserve. The second time capsule opens in September 2018.
You can explore many other Marshian oddities and lore. But Amarillo is also the cultural and business center of the Texas Panhandle. Given this cultural and professional setting, Amarillo also has its serious side, too: art museums, an opera house, and an award-winning performing arts center.
Find Your Base Camp
Exploring this weirdness and wonder is an expedition of Everest proportions. Establish a comfortable base of operations and give Amarillo the commitment it deserves.
Fortunately, affordable accommodations in Amarillo abound so that you’ll have plenty of money left for paint. Get ready to discover some quirky attractions when you’re visiting Amarillo.