Cadillac Ranch is probably one of the most overrated places we’ve been to during our three-plus years on the road, but it’s one of those places you must do when in the area. There are so many interesting places along Route 66. Cadillac Ranch is just one of many in the Amarillo area you must stop and see for yourself.
What’s the story behind Cadillac Ranch?
Historic Route 66 was known as “The Mother Road”. This road was a game changer when it came to interstate travel in the U.S., running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. It is known for its roadside attractions probably none more famous than Cadillac Ranch.
Just west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of hippie artists from San Francisco known as “The Ant Farm”. Their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a modern artwork to perplex the local Amarilloans and the artists proposed a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tailfin. In 1974 Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt so that they can show off their tailfins. They face west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.
People would stop along the highway, walk out to view the cars — then deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were tolerant of this public deconstruction of their art — although it doomed the tail fins — they eventually came to encourage it.
Nearly 50 years have passed. The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were ever on the road as cars. They are stripped to their battered frames, graffiti-laden, splattered in countless layers of paint splooge, almost to the point where the automobiles themselves are unrecognizable.
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Can You Spray Paint the Cars?
Of Course! It’s highly encouraged — so make sure to stop by a hardware store on the way and pick up a can or two of spray paint. Don’t forget your camera. As Roadside America explains, “If you bring spray paint, make sure to snap some photos. Because whatever you create at Cadillac Ranch will probably only last a few hours before it’s created over by someone else.”
This art installation is graffiti-laden, almost to the point where the cars themselves are unrecognizable. But have some fun and leave your mark when you visit.
Our Visit to Cadillac Ranch
Our first visit to Cadillac Ranch. We got to Amarillo and shortly after pulling into the campground, it started raining. We got our camp set up, the skies cleared and we headed over to Cadillac Ranch to check it out. Not knowing that the place would be so covered in mud we trekked out to the cars anyways. The mud is thick and very sticky.
We didn’t bring any spray paint but got a can from another tourist that was visiting. You can buy a can or two from a merchandise trailer that is parked at the site.
We did have a good time spray painting the cars. Adding our names and love for each other.
Pro Tip: Don’t sit on the cars in good pants! There is wet paint everywhere!
Our second trip was much better with dry conditions. We went out about an hour before sunset. There was a steady stream of people coming out to check out the cars and make their marks.
With a can of red and white paint in hand, we made our way to the old Cadillacs and tagged them with our names.
Where is Cadillac Ranch?
To get to Cadillac Ranch on Route 66, pull off onto the I-40 frontage road and park alongside it.
There is no parking lot, visitors simply park in the gravel along the road.
From there, you’ll enter a small gate and walk about 200 yards across a field (fair warning: after rain or snow, this can be a muddy walk) before reaching the buried Cadillacs.
Do you have to pay to go to Cadillac Ranch?
Cadillac Ranch has no lines, no ticket booths, and no management system: visiting Cadillac Ranch is FREE-FOR-ALL, and visitors are always welcome. It makes the roadside exhibit accessible to all travelers and visitors. It’s also a great place for families, as no one wants to pay admission for something your kids may only want to visit for 10 minutes. The only expense is purchasing a few cans of spray paint before you arrive. Or you can maybe get a hand-me-down can from a fellow tourist. Also, check the trash cans on site we found quite a few cans with enough paint in them to have a good time.
Can you visit Cadillac Ranch at night?
Yes, It’s open 24/7 365 days a year. There are no lights, it’s literally a dark field.
How many people visit Cadillac Ranch a year?
You won’t see billboards or advertising for Cadillac Ranch. It’s one of the things that makes this place so unique. Even without marketing, this public art installation welcomes almost two million visitors every year.
Is Cadillac Ranch Worth a Visit?
While it is overrated in our opinion, there’s no reason not to stop and enjoy the colorful art of Cadillac Ranch. Since it isn’t far off the main road and or an art museum that requires ticket entry or waiting in line, It remains a classic art attraction. A representation of American history through the Cadillac’s iconic tail fin styling. It’s a symbol of American society. This attraction is worth a short stop if you find yourself traveling down I-40 or Historic Route 66. You can spend less than 30 minutes here or take longer to create your masterpiece on one of the Cadillacs.
Come on and bring your spray paint and add your own touch to this classic attraction. With so many hands-off art exhibits, this is one place that welcomes visitors to express themselves. And since the art changes daily with new tourists, you’ll see something brand new the next time you visit.
What interesting places can you recommend? We’re always looking for neat out-of-the-way experiences to add to our list of places to visit. Thank you for reading our article. If you have any comments or questions we’d love to hear from you below.
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