Located in the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo is known for its cowboy culture. Cowboy boots, Stetson hats, cattle ranches, and horses dominate the view outsiders have of this “old west” holdout. Country music fans often hear about the simple way of life in Amarillo, which includes past times like summer rodeos and quintessential backyard barbecues.
In addition to a slower pace of life, locals enjoy exceptionally low unemployment rates. Major industries include cattle ranching, meat packing, education, hospitality services, and manufacturing. There are even multiple hospitals in Amarillo, including specialty surgery centers and a heart hospital. No longer just a cow town, Amarillo has become a place where white collar professionals and blue-collar workers alike enjoy a cost of living that is 14% below the national average.
Are you looking for weekend fun? Enjoy the famous Cadillac Ranch, a rodeo, or the Amarillo Zoo. If you like horses, the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum is a must-see. Or, choose the Texas Air & Space Museum on a rainy day. No matter your interests, or your lifestyle, you’re sure to enjoy life in the Yellow Rose of Texas. Welcome to Amarillo!
Living in Amarillo, TX: What to Know Before Moving to Amarillo
Amarillo is an all-American town of approximately 200,000 residents located in the Texas Panhandle. Established in the late 1800s, the town quickly became a hub for cattle ranching and meat packing. Today, the packing houses in the area process around a quarter of the US beef supply. As a result, much of the local economy and culture centers on old west ranching traditions. However, if you’re moving to Amarillo without boots and a Stetson, there are many other employment opportunities in the area.
Pros and Cons of Living in Amarillo
Every city has advantages, as well as less desirable aspects. As you consider Amarillo, it’s important to determine what you consider workable, and which qualities might be deal breakers.
First, the good news:
- Amarillo is growing. Current estimates state that the city consistently adds 2,000 new residents per year, or 20,000 every decade. Growing towns tend to have improved job opportunities.
- It isn’t the big city. If you’re someone who prefers a little bit more open space, Amarillo is a great place to live. Population density is low, but at the same time, there are good services if you need them.
- It’s Texas proud. Although this might seem strange to outsiders, Texans are especially proud of their state. Many natives of the Lone Star State wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
- It’s a classic American hometown. In Amarillo, people come together for 4th of July barbecues and parades. Just had a baby? This town is the type of place where neighbors might bring a casserole to your door.
- Commutes to work are shorter than average. Although there isn’t much public transportation available, Amarilloians spend an average of 18 minutes each way in the car. This short commute might turn some city dwellers green with envy.
- Plenty of jobs for everyone. The economy is strong, and a wide variety of employers means a good job is easy to find.
And the not so good news:
- High crime rate. Unfortunately, Amarillo has a high crime rate compared to other US cities. Your chance of becoming a victim of property crime is 1 in 23. Be sure to lock your car and your home when you’re away and consider installing an alarm system.
- Scrub brush everywhere. Ranchers don’t landscape, and cows eat the grass. What’s left is scrub brush, which can be unsightly.
- Texas-sized drive to larger cities. Dallas is 365 miles southeast, while Houston is 599 miles.
- Nightlife is mostly Western style. If your preferred evening out includes two-stepping at the local honky tonk, then this might be the place for you. Amarillo is not a hub for big city nightclubs.
- Severe weather. Amarillo is known for cold winter winds and the occasion tornado.
- Property taxes: Nationally, the average property tax rate is only 1.2%. At 1.7%, Amarillo property tax rates are relatively high. Compared to the rest of Texas, however, Amarillo property taxes are slightly lower than the average rate of 1.9%. Fortunately, the median homes price is only $134,500, meaning the average family in Potter County will pay just under $2,300 in property taxes per year.
- Sales taxes: Amarillo’s sales tax is 8.25%, which includes a combined rate of the state rate of 6.25% added to the Amarillo City special tax of 2%. When compared to the rest of the country, this is a little higher than average, but far from the nation’s highest sales tax. Also, most groceries in Texas are tax-free.
- Income taxes: Keep in mind that there is no income tax in Texas. What this means is that overall taxation is low in Amarillo. Paying a little bit more for property taxes is more than made up for by not having to pay state income tax.
Whether rented or owned, Amarillo housing is quite affordable. Renting in Amarillo is fairly economical, with an average monthly rent and utility cost of $826. This rate is a bit lower than the Texas average rent of $987 and much cheaper than the national average of $1,102. About 35% of Amarillo residents rent their homes compared to the Texas average of 38%.
If you prefer to own, Amarillo is a great place to purchase a home. According to Zillow, the average home value is $134,500. From 2018 to 2019, home values appreciated 4.3%, but the overall market is good for both buyers and sellers. For this reason, buyers can expect their investment to increase in value, but at the same time, it’s unlikely that they’ll get into huge bidding wars with other buyers.
Cost of Living
It’s cheaper to live in Amarillo than in many other cities across the country. Compared to the national cost of living index of 100, Amarillo’s cost of living index is 85. While healthcare is slightly more expensive than the national average, you’ll pay less for groceries, housing, utilities, and transportation.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Amarillo enjoys a temperate semi-arid climate. Winters in the Texas Panhandle are dry, windy, and cold. The coldest time of year is from mid-November to the end of February, when daily highs are in the 50s and nighttime temperatures drop to the mid-20s and low 30s. Snow adds up to about 17″ annually and is heaviest from late December through February. Annual rainfall is about 20″, with May through September getting the most precipitation.
Summers are scorching, but muggy days are quite rare. July is the hottest month – you can expect highs in the low 90s and overnight lows in the high 60s. Amarillo’s relatively long summers mean that the growing season is also long, starting mid-April and ending near the end of October.
While there is often a lot of wind, tornadoes are much less common in Amarillo than they are in neighboring Oklahoma and other areas with a similar climate. Because it’s far from the ocean and doesn’t sit on or near a seismic fault, there aren’t many threats from natural disasters. Flooding from a rare heavy rain is the primary concern.
Economy and Job Market
Amarillo is mainly an agricultural town with a low unemployment rate. As of July 2019, the unemployment rate is 2.7%, compared to 3.9% nationally. Cattle ranching and meatpacking have dominated the economy since the late 1800s. The Amarillo metropolitan area processes about one-quarter of the nation’s beef supply.
Contrary to its cow town image, Amarillo has a surprisingly diverse workforce; only a small percentage of the labor pool works in agriculture. Major industries include manufacturing and energy. Bell Helicopter Textron operates an assembly plant near the Rick Husband International Airport. Just south of Amarillo, the 200,000-acre Panhandle Field produces an abundance of oil and gas. Tourism also helps fuel the economy. Located at the junction of east-west Interstate 40 and north-south Interstate 27, Amarillo is a popular place for travelers to stop on cross-country journeys. On their stays, visitors enjoy several famous attractions such as Cadillac Ranch, and The American Quarter Horse Association headquarters and AQHA Hall of Fame. To accommodate weary travelers, hotels and restaurants, employ a large chunk of the local workforce. The retail sector also employs many workers, since people come in from the surrounding rural areas to do their shopping.
A lesser known, but the important employer is the Pantex Plant. This plant is a federal facility owned by the Department of Energy that helps to both dismantle and maintain the US nuclear weapons arsenal. Over 3,300 employees make Pantex a major Amarillo employer. In addition to factory workers, Pantex also employs scientists, adding diversity to the local workforce.
Transportation and Traffic
Amarillo sits at the junction of north-south Interstate 27 and east-west Interstate 40. This crossroads means many people stop for rest and recovery in Amarillo before getting back in the car for cross country trips. The beltway, Loop 335, helps direct traffic around the city. Because of the loop road, traffic jams are less frequent in the center of the city, though they do occasionally happen. Overall, TXDOT reports relatively low traffic congestion.
The Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is located about ten miles east of central Amarillo, providing convenient non-stop service to destinations like Austin, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
The small bus system, Amarillo City Transit, mainly serves the central areas of the city. It’s inexpensive, but due to its limited service area, most people still drive to work. For walkers, Amarillo fares poorly. WalkScore indicates that the city generally is very car dependent and gives it an anemic score of 39. For biking, the score isn’t much better at 41. For these reasons, most Amarilloians need a car, or access to one, to commute to work and complete errands.
What to Do
One of the most famous landmarks in Amarillo is Cadillac Ranch. Famously mentioned in country songs as having no cows, the “ranch” is a modern art installation of partly buried, Cadillac cars with their dynamic fins pointed skyward. Locals and tourist love exploring Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is only second in size to the Grand Canyon. Here, you can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor sports and activities, while appreciating the beautiful red rock terrain.
For the kids, the botanical gardens, zoo, and Wonderland Amusement Park are popular choices. If you fancy high culture, you’ll enjoy the Amarillo Opera, Amarillo Symphony, and Lone Star Ballet held at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. Wandering along Polk Street will allow you to explore Amarillo’s historic buildings and homes, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, you and your family can play in over 50 municipal parks scattered throughout the city.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Amarillo without the cowboys. Since 1921, the city has held the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo the third week of September. The World Championship Ranch Rodeo, hosted by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association, is held in the Amarillo Civic Center every November. The World Championship Chuckwagon Roundup and Amarillo Livestock Auction attract cowboy culture aficionados.
Education and Schools
Amarillo provides several options for children in grades K-12. The local public school district, Amarillo ISD operates 55 schools across the metro area. According to Great Schools, high school ratings range from poor through above average. Overall, the district’s elementary schools have stronger ratings. Other educational options include the local Catholic schools, a Montessori school, charter schools, and even an Episcopal school with options for homeschooling families.
For higher education, Amarillo College enrolls over 10,000 students. This community college offers academic Associates degrees, in addition to certification programs in various trades. If you want to go into the health professions, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center may be for you. Wayland Baptist University and West Texas A&M University also have satellite campuses in Amarillo.
Unfortunately, Amarillo is infamous for its high crime rate. Both violent and property crime rates are almost two times higher than the US average. These sky-high rates have prompted the US Government to step in and help local law enforcement. One can only hope that local citizens get tired of all the crime, and work with law enforcement to reduce what has become a constant embarrassment for the city.
In Amarillo, the local electric company is Xcel Energy, and you can start service here. Water is provided through the city, and you can contact them here. If you have gas appliances or heating, Atmos Energy can help you. For cable and landline phone services, try Spectrum Cable.
Best Neighborhoods in Amarillo, TX
Like any city, Amarillo has some great neighborhoods and some that are less desirable. As you review each of the neighborhoods below, notice that the numbers following school names are the greatschools.org ratings. Here are some excellent neighborhood choices for anyone considering a move to Amarillo:
La Paloma Estates
For the well-heeled, La Paloma Estates is a perfect choice. It’s bordered by Farm to Market Rd on the east, Sweetgum Lane at the west, and Fairway Drive to the south. Houses are often palatial, with spacious lawns and gardens. Many of the houses are brand new, and there are even some lots still available. If you prefer a high-end neighborhood with respectful neighbors who value their privacy, you’ll be comfortable here. The neighborhood’s Tascosa Golf Club offers many amenities. There’s golf, of course, but also tennis and a swimming pool. Other amenities include walking trails and a restaurant.
If you want to live in this neighborhood, it’s going to cost you: the median list price is $407,000. Rental information for this neighborhood was unavailable, indicating that it’s exclusive enough to have rooms or guest cottages available, at the most. No apartments exist.
The local schools are average to excellent: Woodlands Elementary 9/10, Lorenzo DeLavala Middle 8/10, and Tascosa High School 5/10.
Like its next-door neighbor, La Paloma Estates, Tascosa is a golf-centered neighborhood located in northwest Amarillo. Houses are huge, modern McMansions with all the fashionable amenities like gourmet kitchens and high ceilings.
Because the area is exclusive, crime is usually far from residents’ minds. Your home will be steps away from Tascosa Golf Club and other club-related amenities. On the downside, buying groceries will often mean driving to the center of town, as there are no shopping centers nearby. Slightly lower priced than its neighbors, these huge homes in this neighborhood command a median list price of $354,000. As this is a subdivision, there are no apartment buildings.
Amarillo ISD serves students in Tascosa Estates. The local schools are average to excellent: Woodlands Elementary 9/10, Lorenzo DeLavala Middle 8/10, and Tascosa High School 5/10.
Lake Tanglewood is a newer, gated development with addresses on Shore Drive. Located just outside southeast Amarillo city limits, it has a population of around 800 people. Named for its location on the shores of Lake Tanglewood, the neighborhood boasts a suburban vibe. Wildlife abounds in the surrounding area, which includes nearby Palo Duro Canyon.
Although it’s a small community, Lake Tanglewood boasts a full-sized golf club to which all Home Owners Association (HOA) members belong. Due to the HOA, this neighborhood does not have rentals. With a median home price of over $500,000 and some homes priced well over a million, this beautiful community is truly exclusive.
Canyon School District serves Lake Tanglewood, including Crestview Elementary School 9/10, Canyon Intermediate School 8/10, and Canyon High School 7/10.
Nestled between the interstates, historic Wolflin is close to the center of town. Featuring 1920s homes sitting along tree-lined streets, Wolflin is up-and-coming as many of the vintage homes are undergoing restoration.
In this neighborhood, you can walk to do your grocery shopping and run errands. Locals enjoy the upscale boutiques and restaurants at Wolflin Village and the Shops at Wolflin Square. Residents like to hold block parties, and at Christmas, they enjoy showing off their best holiday lights. Wolflin has a huge range of home prices. For example, you can buy a three-bedroom, two-bath 1300-square-foot home for $85,000 or five-bedroom, six-bath 7,000-square-foot home for $1.8 million. If you plan on renting, expect to pay as little as $550 a month for a studio and $1250 for a three-bedroom unit.
Local students attend Amarillo ISD schools: Wolflin Elementary School 6/10, Austin Middle School 4/10, and Tascosa High School 5/10.
W 34TH Ave / S Washington St
This middle-class, established neighborhood is near the center of the city. In addition to families, many college students call this community home. Everything from fast food to grocery stores are in this neighborhood, so you never have to go far for any essentials. An older neighborhood, it has a low crime rate by Amarillo standards. Homes tend to be larger, with a median price of $263,000. For an apartment, the average rate is a pricy $1,600 per month.
Amarillo Independent School District educates the students via Wolflin Elementary School 6/10, Austin Middle School 4/10, and Tascosa High School 5/10.
Bishop Hills is a suburb of Amarillo that sits in the northwestern part of the city. A tiny area with just 200 residents, Bishop Hills has a wide variety of large homes and mobile homes available, some older and some quite new. Here, you can have a backyard barbecue, know your neighbors by name, and not worry about keeping up with the Joneses.
Despite Amarillo’s overall reputation for high crime, Bishop Hills is an oasis of calm close to the storm. It’s a down-to-earth area that’s great for raising kids, so long as you don’t mind driving into the city for your shopping. Homes in Bishop Hills are reasonably priced. You can expect to pay just over $200,000 for a house, or $1050 to rent.
The other advantage to Bishop Hills is the school district. Bushland Independent School District serves this section of the metropolitan area with one school at each level. Because of this smaller district size, students can get more individualized attention than in larger schools: Rolling Hills Elementary School 7/10, River Road Middle School 6/10, River Road High School 3/10.
This neighborhood is also known as Andrews Ave/S Western St. If you’re looking for an affordable, safe neighborhood where homes have a yard, this is it. In the Olsen Park area, you may not know your neighbors, but you won’t fear them. An established neighborhood, Olsen Park would remind you of the classic 1960s idyllic town where everyone gets along. Since it’s still a part of central Amarillo, Olsen Park has plenty of shopping nearby. Crockett Park is mere steps away, providing a place for children to play and adults to stretch their legs.
Unlike its more expensive neighbors, housing in Olsen Park is reasonably priced. Expect to pay $153,000 for an average house or $1100 for a rental unit. Overall, this is a pleasant neighborhood with good schools, but at a more affordable cost.
Olsen Park Elementary School 6/10, Crockett Middle School 8/10, Amarillo High School 6/10
Part of the ultra-safe northwest of the city, Sleepy Hollow is a suburban middle-class paradise with S Soney Rd on the west, SW 45th Ave on the south, Coulter St on the east, and W 34th Ave on the northern boundary. Homes are a mixture of medium-sized three- and four-bedroom single family residences and studio-size to two-bedroom apartments, giving potential residents a variety of choices to meet their budgets.
Close to the Wonderland Amusement Park and Cadillac Ranch, Sleepy Hollow has something for everyone. Several shopping centers are nearby, which means you won’t have to go far to get most of what you need. Apartments cost between $500 for a studio and $850 for a two-bedroom, making the area quite affordable for renters. The median home price is $263,854 – many homes were built between 1970 and 1999, offering homebuyers the opportunity to remodel. If you’d rather buy a place that’s move-in ready, the neighborhood also has more recent builds. Demand for real estate in Sleepy Hollow is above average, which means home prices and rents may increase soon.
Sleepy Hollow is in the top 8.3% of retiree-friendly Texas neighborhoods, according to NeighborhoodScout. The area earned this rating due to its safety, peace, quiet, and diverse housing options. Residents’ incomes are higher than 57% of other neighborhoods in the nation. Approximately 41% of locals work in professional, management, and executive positions, while another 33% work in sales and service jobs.
Part of the Amarillo School District, Sleepy Hollow students attend Sleepy Hollow Elementary School 7/10, Bonham Middle School 8/10, and Amarillo High School 6/10.
* * *
No matter what neighborhood you choose, we can help make your move to Amarillo a snap. For a free quote from licensed and insured moving companies, trust Great Guys Moving. You’ll be glad you did.