Oklahomans are (quite literally) lighting up the sky to celebrate a joyous holiday season, and nowhere in the state do the lights twinkle brighter than Ardmore, which offers one of the state’s biggest holiday extravaganzas.

The awe-inspiring, 1.5-mile drive through the Festival of Lights display in the city’s sprawling Regional Park – complete with an ice rink – is Ardmore’s way of wishing local folks and visitors alike a joyous season. The display, begun nearly 20 years ago, is preceded each year by a parade and tree-lighting in the city’s Central Park.

Ardmore seems a fitting place to celebrate the yuletide season in style; the Carter County seat of just under 25,000 seemingly has much to offer, with a robust economy, top-notch meeting facilities, lodging, dining and entertainment.

And nearby lies Lake Murray State Park, one of the state’s most-visited parks with its sparkling 5,700-surface-acre Lake Murray, a modernistic lodge, watersports and a challenging 18-hole golf layout.

The display is set up in the city’s sprawling Regional Park, and goes through Dec. 30. With more than 150 different portions inside the park, it’s arguably the largest holiday display in southern Oklahoma, says Alicia Henry, assistant parks director.

The seasonal show began in 2001 with a dozen displays, says Henry, and has grown each year. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. She says the ice rink offers open skating, corporate and birthday events, as well as skating packages.

Established in 1897 in Pickens County, Indian Territory, Ardmore has grown steadily over the years, owing much of its early existence to the Santa Fe Railroad. Later, it found itself in the middle of one of Oklahoma’s most profitable areas – the Healdton Oil Field.

Situated almost equidistant between Oklahoma City and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, today’s Ardmore defies stereotypes, in the words of its Chamber of Commerce, which proclaims Ardmore as “pro-business, entrepreneurial, pioneering and hardworking.”

Among its assets are: The Ardmore Convention Center, which offers 13 meeting rooms and 50,000 total square feet of space. The privately-owned Shiloh Morning Inn, a luxurious, 73-acre bed and breakfast retreat 10 miles east of Ardmore off U.S. 177 that includes a five-room main house and four cottages, plus walking trails and wildlife. Lake Murray State Park, a 12,500-acre gem surrounding crystal-clear Lake Murray. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the park offers diverse terrain, exceptional trails and historic sites. It has a choice of campsites, 56 cabins, or the modern, 32-room lodge. Water sports and fishing are available year-round, and the park features an18-hole golf course complete with a waterfall. The University Center of Southern Oklahoma, created by the Oklahoma Legislature, provides an array of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from East Central University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Murray State College and OSU-Oklahoma City.

But for a fitting and lasting taste of the season’s best, a visitor should check out downtown, where the Main Street Authority sponsors a bevy of events that help make the season full of comfort and joy.


City of Ardmore

Ardmore Main Street Authority

Shiloh Morning Inn

Ardmore Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Authority

Ardmore Convention Center

Lake Murray State Park
Park: 580-223-4044
Lodge: 580-223-6600

University Center of Southern Oklahoma

Greater Southwest Historical Museum & Military Memorial Museum
(580) 226-3857

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