Amarillo is a city with stories to tell. Two buildings there could especially entertain with tales of the past: The Nat and GoldenLight Café and Cantina. “The Nat” is a former indoor pool, or natatorium, which opened in Summer 1922, then was converted into a dancehall in 1926. Today listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a Texas Historical Landmark, it serves the community in a variety of ways. It’s also home to a few spirits still hanging on to the good times.
The Nat was a jumping place when Big Band music hit the scene, as the venue boasted one of the best dance floors in the Southwest. Rock ‘n’ roll kept the stream of people coming too. The structure eventually declined but was purchased and renovated. The upstairs rooms, previously a gambling hall, have been the site of odd cold spots noticed by both owners and guests. Strange noises and rearranged furniture are also common occurrences. The ballroom is a hotbed as well; for many years now, a phantom couple has been seen dancing there. Audio recordings of an empty building have picked up a drummer playing a solo, and the sounds of a woman singing.
Photo: @mirkomacari via Twenty20
If exploring The Nat makes you hungry and yearning for live music, head exactly one minute down the road to GoldenLight Café which has been a part of Amarillo for nearly 75 years. Established in 1946 in the same spot it stands to this day, the first owners were Chester “Pop” Ray (1889-1971) and his wife, Louise who made $10.48 on opening day ($139.69 in 2020 dollars). Now on its fifth owner, this no-frills spot is the oldest restaurant in Amarillo, and it’s thought to be the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the same location anywhere on Old Route 66. Burgers, fries, and chili are the most famous menu items, but Flagstaff Pie and an All The Way to LA are always good options. GoldenLight Cantina was established in 1996; it’s a favorite place for live music by locals and visitors alike. Enjoy these two historical places in Amarillo and see what reveals itself!