Beloved Tourist Hotspots
Tourist spots are popular for a reason – they’re great! These include the Tulsa and Oklahoma City zoos – which offer just about every animal under the sun and amazing amenities – the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, the Myriad Botanical Garden in OKC and the Tulsa Botanic Garden. They’re worth the lines and crowds – trust me!
The longer you live in Oklahoma, the harder it is to bypass a trip on the Mother Road. If you’ve managed to avoid it thus far, no more! Take a leisurely weekend drive along the highway and enjoy the slow pace that comes with the two-lane life.
Local Sporting Events
Maybe it’s the Tulsa Drillers or the OKC Dodgers; the FC Tulsa or Energy FC; the roaring OKC Thunder; or a rousing collegiate football game with the University of Tulsa or a match-up between the Sooners and the Cowboys (better known as Bedlam … but you knew that, right?) No matter – sports are a quintessential slice of Oklahoma life.
You’d be remiss to avoid Tulsa’s Gathering Place and OKC’s Scissortail Park. From miles of walking paths to outdoor amenities, food trucks, community events and all-around gorgeous views, these world-class parks are some of Oklahoma’s crowning achievements.
Museums Big and Small
Most people know about our museum behemoths – Philbrook, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Gilcrease and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. You can spend hours upon hours strolling through their hallowed halls and beautiful gardens.
But what about the not-so-well-known gems? Try the American Pigeon Museum in OKC; the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Paul’s Valley; the Windmill Museum in the tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Shattuck; the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee; the Fred Jones Jr. and Sam Noble museums in Norman; or the Museum of Osteology and Skulls in OKC. Whatever niche interest you may have, we likely harbor a museum to cater to you.
Don’t Forget the Entertainers
We’ve got performers aplenty from our great state, but the two most beloved may arguably be Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie. The good news is they both have their own centers/museums (Rogers’ in Claremore; Guthrie’s in Tulsa) with memorabilia, captivating biographical information and photographs.
Wowed by the Whale
Yes, the Blue Whale of Catoosa gets its own bullet point! Created in the early 1970s by Hugh Davis, the Blue Whale is an Oklahoma cultural staple, kitschy as it may be. Any drive along Route 66 should include a stop at this magnificently ridiculous piece of art.
The Crawl’s for All
We aren’t the only state to do art crawls, but we might just do it best. Try the First Friday Art Crawl in Tulsa; the First Friday Gallery Walk in OKC; or the Second Friday Art Walk in Norman. Food, drinks, art and music … what more could you want?
Theme Park Fun
While we may not offer a vast amount of theme parks for thrill-seekers, what we do have is pretty great. Classics include Frontier City Theme Park and Hurricane Harbor in OKC; Safari Joe’s in Tulsa; and the Water-Zoo Indoor Water Park in Clinton. (Extra points to anyone who got to experience the joys of Bell’s Amusement Park and the iconic Zingo rollercoaster.)
Don’t Cry, Baby!
Not for the faint of heart, Cry Baby Hill – which takes place during the annual Tulsa Tough bike race – is an experience you’ve got to see to believe. Revelry, camaraderie and a bit of madness swell as spectators cheer on bikers during their grueling journeys to the finish line. Make sure to hydrate – with more than just beer – and wear sunscreen if you’re going to this one.
Your Use of Y’all
Not an experience, but the longer you live in Oklahoma, the more common this contraction will be found sneaking into your vocabulary. And it’s A-OK, y’all!
The Local Music Scene
Undiscovered musical talent abounds in Oklahoma, and ranges from country crooners to hard rock, jazz, and everything in between. You can spot these gems at bars, small indoor and outdoor venues and casinos.
Learning Some History
Visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which includes touching tributes and informative displays on a harrowing day in Oklahoma history. In Tulsa, visit the Greenwood Cultural Center and the Center for Reconciliation, which both educate visitors on the Tulsa Race Massacre and foster conversations on racial reconciliation and racial justice by confronting the legacy of slavery.
An Ode to the Mother Road
No, it’s not enough just to drive on the highway … you need to go to the museum, too! In Clinton, this landmark offers visitors a personal journey through the history of the nation’s most beloved stretch of road.
If you haven’t seen this glowing neon bottle as a beacon in the night during a long drive … you’re missing out. Pops, in the small town of Arcadia, is a quirky combo of soda shop, restaurant and gas station. Fill up, grab some grub and sip on one of thousands of soda flavors.
Add a bit of local flair to your film experience by visiting Circle Cinema in Tulsa or Rodeo Cinema in OKC. Here, you can see the indie films you can’t find anywhere else. Don’t forget about the classic drive-in experience, found at Tulsa’s Admiral Twin Drive-In, Guthrie’s Beacon Drive-In and OKC’s Winchester Drive-In.
On the Water
It’s no secret that Oklahoma offers some of the best venues for on-the-water fun. Whether it’s floating down the Illinois River with friends, taking a weekend to rent a cabin at Grand Lake or spending some time fishing and swimming at Lake Eufaula, the options are nearly endless.
There’s a whole world under the streets just waiting to be explored in Tulsa and OKC’s undergrounds … and yes, tours are offered. We’ll let you do your own research on that one.
For those with a love for the creepier side of life, Oklahoma offers several ghost towns you can explore. Top picks include Picher, an abandoned zinc mining town in northeast Oklahoma; Acme, the once-booming home of the Acme Cement and Plaster Company in southwest Oklahoma; and Beer City, in the panhandle, which boasts a colorful history of brothels, dance halls and salons.
Exploring the Wichitas
Near Lawton, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest managed wildlife facility in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service system. You’ll spot intimidating yet majestic American bison, gorgeous flora and fauna, and a variety of geological wonders.
The State’s Weirdest Forest
A bizarre treasure left over from the 1920s, the Parallel Forest was built by the federal government in an attempt to thwart the damage of the Dust Bowl. Over 20,000 red cedar trees, planted 6 feet apart over 16 acres, makes for a bizarre tour. Some say it’s haunted … but you should see for yourself.
You’ll be transported to another world at the Salt Plains in Jet, a barren but stunning landscape where you can camp, hunt for crystals, kayak and enjoy views you can’t find anywhere else in the state.
The state harbors a variety of clandestine watering holes, restaurants and clubs. Tulsa offers Bull in the Alley, Boston Title and Abstract and the Cellar Dwellar. Don’t miss Nic’s Place in OKC. This writer doesn’t know of anymore … but I’m sure they’re out there!
Ree Drummond Reigns
Pawhuska has been brought to life in the last few years with the addition of the Pioneer Woman Mercantile. Offering delicious eats, home goods and other delightful merch, people come from around the country to feast on Ree Drummond’s recipes. Stick around the city for beautiful boutique hotels and the Osage Nation Tribal Museum.
Keepin’ an Eye Out
The most accurate stereotype about Oklahomans? We’re fascinated by tornadoes. You know you’ve made it to true Okie status when you run outside at the sounds of a tornado siren. (But take precautions right after that, yes?)
Throw Back a Few
Our state hasn’t been exempt from the brewing craze; you can find a brewery around every corner. Classics included Marshall Brewing Co. and American Solera in Tulsa; and Anthem and Prairie Artisan Ales in OKC. Other popular breweries outside the metro include Black Mesa in Norman; Iron Monk in Stillwater; and Expenditure Brewery in Okarche.
The Rogers and Hammerstein musical homage to our great state is a must-see, whether that’s the 1955 movie or a live musical performance. (Bonus points for any theater junkies who were actually in a stage production themselves.)
Get to Grillin’
Oklahoma barbecue is unlike any other. Whether you’re munching down at one of our many delicious restaurants or smoking it up in your backyard with a cold one, we’ve got smoked meats down to a science.
Appreciating Native America
Home to dozens of tribes, Oklahoma history is Native American history. Many a pow-wow, dance, festival or other cultural event is open to the public, and a quick internet search can get you there.
Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center preserves 150 acres of the site along the Arkansas River. From exhibits to trails, tours and family-friendly events, Spiro Mounds’ center helps Oklahomans learn more about this fascinating portion of our history.
Black Mesa State Park, in Cimarron County, is located 15 miles away from its namesake, the highest point in Oklahoma. Enjoy hiking galore within 1,600 acres, where you’ll find several rare plants and animals.
Pawnee Bill Wild West Show
Visit the historic Pawnee Bill Ranch in its namesake city for a trip back to the Old West. The shows spotlight talents including trick shooting, singing and animal roping. Stick around to see the museum, which presents historically accurate demonstrations of Old World talents like blacksmithing, sharp shooting and gunfighting.
Little Sahara State Park
Another small but mighty eco-region, Little Sahara is a desert world in the plains of Waynoka. The sand dunes are perfect for dune buggy and ATV rides.
What did we miss?