Quite possibly worse than Hell itself
I was originally from here, left for a number of years, and ended up back for a short time due to life circumstances. I have really tried to make the most of my time back in my hometown, but it has been absolutely miserable. I am excited to finally be making my forever grand exit later in this year!
If there were a place that gave Hell a run for its money on being the most depressing place ever created, this would be it. My three favorite places in Amarillo are the airport, Interstate 40 and Interstate 27, because those are the three quickest ways out! It honestly doesn't feel like a city at all, but more so like a gigantic truck stop community. Most cities have their own unique feel, culture, and identifying points, but Amarillo is about as cookie-cutter as it gets. It is essentially a large congregation of home bodies and people who want to stay in outside of work, church, and maybe their kids' extracurricular activities. The local commercial radio stations are terrible, the shopping options could not be more limited, and most people I know drive to another city 2-6 hours away for air travel because our airline options are so limited!
This city is wildly dangerous. Like...higher per capita crime rate than Compton or Inglewood, dangerous. It has also become overrun by the homeless, despite the low unemployment rate. Locals around here love to rail on California for their homeless crisis, but unlike California, this place does NOT have a housing shortage, cost of living is extremely low, and also the elected officials pretend the issue doesn't exist here rather than focus energy on addressing it, which is what they are doing on the West Coast. After the new ballpark opened downtown, they essentially pushed out the transient folks into the surrounding historic neighborhoods. I had to sell my house and move because my alley became a homeless encampment, I had people regularly breaking into my home, backyard and garage, sleeping on my driveway, and defecating/urinating on my property..I learned that the city unfortunately doesn't side with the taxpaying, contributing members of society in these issues.
This place prides itself in its "panhandle friendliness" but If you are older than 25 and don't have kids and have never been married your social life will be in trouble, and if you are not a white, middle-class, Conservative Christian, it probably isn't the place for you either! If you enjoy flying Confederate flags on your oversized truck plastered with Trump stickers, you will be in Heaven. I have tried for years to connect and find this place to be the most cliquish, shallow, rude city where I've lived or spent considerable time at this point in my life.
Despite being the buckle of the Bible Belt and a place that raves about Conservative family values, it has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the US, and has become the epicenter of drug and human trafficking in Texas. A notorious, eccentric, local billionaire spent years doing heinous things to young boys and nobody confronted him until he was on his deathbed and his public "art"projects all still stand. A national news organization published a bombshell report on our area boys' home engaging in years of systemic abuse to the children and the community came out swinging in favor of Boys' Ranch. I still find a surprising number of residents to be ultra racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic. This city is extremely segregated and despite the fact that we have many immigrants and refugees contributing to our community and economy, we seem to decry diversity and culture rather than celebrate it. I guess we are on different pages about good family values?
The weather and terrain are both wildly depressing and miserable. It is one of the top 3 windiest cities in the nation, which blows in the stench of feed lots several times each week, the summers are scorching hot, winters are freezing cold and the scenery and topography will never belong on a post card. The area is also prone to wildfires, hailstorms, and severe weather from late spring to early summer. So in turn, you would have a hard time finding anywhere that is more difficult to enjoy the weather spanning the 12 months each year. It is dry, flat, and brown with nothing to look at because nothing grows here. The few decent parks we do have became infested with trash, graffiti, and filthy bathrooms.
If you are an active person and enjoy bountiful recreational opportunities and a wide array of attractions, cultural amenities, and things to do, this is NOT your place. Locals rave about the city's "food renaissance", but for every good local restaurant that opens, three more close. It is a mecca for national chain restaurants, which are tough places to find a parking spot on a Saturday night. The nearby college town of Canyon had three local restaurants build on the downtown square over the past 3 years and they all are closed as of last month. Are you interested in seeing a concert that isn't Texas country, a 60s one-hit-wonder, or cover bands? Better drive 4+ hours. Want to see a film that's not a mainstream blockbuster in a megaplex theater? Better get in the car or wait for it to come to Netflix in 3 months. We had a historic theater downtown, but instead of revitalizing it like most cities have been doing, we instead bulldozed it in favor of a parking garage.
Barring perhaps Naples, Italy or Chicago,IL, you would be hard-pressed to find a city with more dysfunctional, corrupt local politics. There are so many young professionals trying to force-cram Amarillo down all of our throats as the next big "hip trendy city or tech hub", but that could not be more of a fantasy. Wages are extremely low (and still disproportionately poor when considering the lower cost of living), public schools are below average, and the educational attainment and college graduation rates are some of the lowest in the nation. Amarillo isn't exactly somewhere you come from all reaches of the world with a dream. There aren't a lot of opportunities for those who think outside the box, and most of the wealthy in the region are not self-made entrepreneurs but instead heirs and heiresses of land, cattle, oil, or banks. Amarillo is also about 5 years behind major cities with the trends. If there is something new going on in Dallas, Austin, San Diego, etc. wait for about half a decade and then it will be a thing in Amarillo.
I have never in my life seen a larger conglomeration of people who have no concept of how to drive. The roads are a mess because for some reason they decide to start 5 new road construction projects before finishing one. Small sections of the highways will sit under construction for years at a time.
I tried to make this place work and wanted to see my hometown thrive, but it hasn't happened, likely never will, and is sad to realize about the place where one grew up. But the good news is there is a whole world out there teeming with better options and opportunities!
Ace | Amarillo, TX