Set in the middle of the rugged plains of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo is a true “cow town” of cowboys and ranch life, with some color left over from its glory days as a watering hole on legendary Route 66. Today the area is accessible by modern transportation, and modern heating and air-conditioning have tamed the harsh plains environment. These changes have led to population growth and buildup of the downtown area, but other than steakhouses and a few museums and historic sites, cultural amenities outside the native Western culture are about as scarce as trees.
Along with agriculture and food processing, there is some primarily defense-related manufacturing and some other basic industries. Downtown is clean, plain and mostly modern. For the region, the area has a relatively pleasant, dry climate; a small-town feel; and low cost of living, but the downside is a wide-open, featureless space far across the plains from anywhere else.
The Spaniards named Amarillo, which means “yellow” in Spanish, for a dry clay soil in the area. The mostly flat, empty, high plains support scrubby prairie vegetation and irrigated fields. The climate is semiarid continental with dramatic temperature variations and high winds. Summer days are warm to hot with low humidity; evenings are pleasant. Winters are changeable with alternating mild air from the south and cold blasts that can drive temperatures below zero from the northwest. The area is generally sunny and dry with periods of spring and summer thunderstorms and winter snowstorms. Some years when the storm track stays north, droughts occur and dust is a problem. First freeze is early November, last is late April.