The first place to visit in Canyon has to be the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.This is Texas’s oldest and largest state museum and is the best place in the state to learn all about the Panhandle. Your family will learn about regional ranching and petroleum-mining history and enjoy impressive natural-history exhibits. Walk through an authentic pioneer town rebuilt inside the museum. See an extensive gun colletion and prehistoric fossils. If your children like dinosaurs or cowboys and Indians, they’re going to love this place.
There's a little something for everyone within the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum (PPHM). There are exhibits featuring dinosaurs, the petroleum industry, the geology of the region, antique cars, fine art, and more.
The entrance into the museum is one of my favorites: a large hall with hand painted murals. The museum staff draws attention to them by placing items on display and asking visitors to find a similar item in the mural. One item on display was a buffalo coat owned by a local man who was killed on the Titanic. The museum features a small gift shop to the west end of this hall, but it's not obtrusive like some other's I've seen. (You know the ones where you have to exit through them or start a tour in them?)
We looked at the displays and then moved on into the next room. It has a replica of a wooden drilling rig base (and believe me - it's to scale). The rig goes straight through the ceiling leaving my little ones with something to think about. If you were to drive in front of the museum, you'd be able to see this display as you drive by - the entire front of the room is made of glass.
The next room features one of our favorite rooms - dinosaurs! Most of these skeletal remains were found locally. My kids really enjoyed the hands on puzzles within the room. The next room featured the geography of the Panhandle region. My eight year old daughter was amazed to learn that an ancient mountain range was buried underneath Amarillo. It's true!
Next we took a look at some of the antique cars and bicycles on display. My daughter and I tried to figure out if the cars on display were featured in the Pixar movie Cars. I really liked the antique bicycles they had on display. How some of those balanced, I'll never know!
As we continued to wander through the museum, we went upstairs to a 'creepy' part of the museum. It's a continuation of the petroleum exhibit and it's very dark and quiet. In this exhibit you can see various types of drill bits and can look at the holding tanks and trucks used in early oil/gas exploration.
The next exhibits were about early clothing and settler lives. There's an example of some beautiful evening wear and casual wear from past generations. Another exhibit showcases the different clothing worn by infants. Did you know that pink was almost 'assigned' to be the color representing baby boys? It was deemed more manly and blue more feminine.
One of the last exhibits we visited was the fine art gallery. This is the one I wanted to see. The museum is housed on the West Texas A&M University campus and is the largest historical museum in the state. Georgia O'Keefe taught at West Texas for a brief period. WT has an orignial O'Keefe on display, one of the five she created while living in Texas.
The painting is wonderful; however, this area is one of the few that I would not recommend for smaller children. The art is readily accessible to little hands. I cringed the entire way through as I thought of my kids being the one to tarnish a piece of art. Fortunately, we had a quick trip through, but my younger kids need more experience with art. In their defense - it's hard to teach them when most of the things I take them to encourage them to touch and explore.
Pioneer Town has long been a favorite stop for kids; however, it was under development when we visited. I look forward to seeing the new set-up in the future!
Disclaimer: Our admission to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum was COMPLIMENTARY OF THE AMARILLO CONVENTION AND VISITORS COUNCIL. THE OFFICE DID NOT STATE ANY REQUIREMENTS REGARDING MY REVIEWS. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.