WHY VISIT OKLAHOMA
Native American powwows, cowboy capers, Route 66 adventures, and outdoor escapades are all par for the course in Oklahoma.
Some 60 Native American tribes have lived in ‘The Sooner State’ and visitors can wander among prehistoric mounds at Spiro, experience early Cherokee life at Tahlequah’s replica villages, and hit Oklahoma City for the Red Earth Festival, an energetic extravaganza of Native American artists from across the continent.
There are few better states in which to giddy up for an authentic cowboy experience than Okie. Kit yourself out in clothing at Langston’s in Oklahoma City, which has been dressing cowboys and gals since 1913. Then take your pick of cattle-wrangling on a ranch, cheering on bronc riders at a rodeo, chowing down on belt-busting hunks of steak, or stomping your boots to country music at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.
Oklahoma lays claim to the longest driveable stretch of Route 66, which is littered with quirky roadside attractions. Snap pics of the iconic neon sign hanging outside Clinton’s Route 66 Museum and dive into POPS, a landmark diner in Arcadia, which serves classic road trip fare and a heroic selection of sodas. Catch a silent flick at the Coleman Theatre in Miami (no, not that Miami) or cast your eyes over vintage motorbikes at the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum in Warwick.
If all that driving sounds too sedentary, duck underground at Alabaster Caverns State Park, rappel down walls at Red Rock Canyon State Park, or zip across Lake Murray on waterskis.
Take time too to visit the moving memorial commemorating the 1995 Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, where the bronze Gates of Time mark the minutes immediately before and after this tragic event.
WHAT TO SEE IN OKLAHOMA
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: the southwest corner of Oklahoma is covered by one of North America’s oldest mountain ranges, and the Wichita Wildlife Refuge is the ideal park to experience the majesty of the Wichitas. It’s a wildlife haven here, with regular sightings of bison, elk, deer, and some 240 species of birds. Recreation options revolve around hikes, rock climbing, fishing, and camping. The chance to see bison in the wild is reason enough to spend a day or two in the Wichitas. The town of Medicine Park serves as a gateway into this refuge.
- National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum: the top attraction in Oklahoma City does a superb job relating the story of the Old West and its iconic cowboys. In addition to the fascinating collection of Native American and frontier-era relics, this museum boasts one of the world’s top collections of Western art with works from Frederick Remington and Charles Russell. Visitors can also explore a recreated cattle town and rodeo arena where real displays of roping and riding are performed every day.
- Oklahoma City Zoo: regularly ranked as one of America’s top zoos, this century-old wildlife center set among the rolling hills northeast of Oklahoma City is well worth a visit. Of its 1,500 animals, there are more than 50 endangered species. Its innovative habitats make life as natural as possible for the animals, with highlights like the Great EscApe, Cat Forest, and the Oklahoma Trail that showcase native creatures. Next door to the zoo is the Omniplex, a hands-on science center that is always a hit with the kids.
- Tulsa: Oklahoma’s second city is a great representation of this state as a whole. This brash little oil town is a fun mix of western twang, modern cultural venues, and a relaxing outdoor atmosphere. Tulsa’s Art Deco skyline contains two top-flight art museums in the Philbrook and the Gilcrease, while its historic downtown Blue Dome District is overflowing with cool bars and tasty restaurants. Tulsa does a bang-up job incorporating nature into its urban scene, with 144 public parks and 50 miles of walking and biking pathways along the Arkansas River.
- Talimena National Scenic Byway: one of the prettiest stretches of road you’ll ever see runs through the eastern end of Oklahoma. The Talimena Drive is a 54-mile scenic byway that runs from Talihina, Oklahoma to Mena, Arkansas. This incredibly scenic road travels along the ridgeline of the Ouachita Mountains in the Ouachita National Forest. Plenty of turnouts give drivers as many photo shots or pit stops as they want. If at all possible, make this drive during the fall when the hardwoods pepper the hills with red, yellow, and orange.
- Oklahoma History Center: Oklahoma is a fascinating state filled with a rich heritage involving Native Americans, pioneers, and oil barons. This center traces the entire timeline from the 1889 Land Rush that put Oklahoma on the map to the Dust Bowl tragedy of the 1930s. In between are interactive exhibits showcasing the 39 Native American tribes who call Oklahoma home and old movies about some of the state’s famous native sons like musician Woody Guthrie and actor Gene Autry.
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art: the state’s most impressive art museum provides many reasons to pay it a visit. But the highlight here is certainly the mind-blowing glasswork creations of Dale Chihuly, one of the world’s masters of the genre. The 18 exhibits created by Chihuly himself are simply stunning. The museum also contains a decent collection of American and European artwork along with a theater that screens interesting classic and foreign films.
WHEN TO GO TO OKLAHOMA
The best period to visit Oklahoma is from May to September.
The region has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Oklahoma City average temperatures range from 3°C (37°F) in January to 28°C (82°F) in July, and tornados are common.
WHAT TO DO IN OKLAHOMA
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of Oklahoma.
Take a ride on Route 66
The celebrated Great American Highway runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, but nowhere will you learn — and experience — more of it than in Oklahoma. It’s home to not one but two Route 66 museums, the larger of which in Clinton features a classic car and a cabinet of curious Route 66 artifacts. You can also stop into Lucille’s Service Station and Roadhouse, a restored roadside oasis of early America. The National Route 66 & Transportation Museum takes you through mocked-up roadside attractions from all the states along the highway and ends with a very cool black-and-white drive-in movie theater. You’ll also find roadside oddities aplenty, from a 66-foot soda bottle to an entire park of totem poles.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH OKLAHOMA
If you are just heading to Oklahoma City or Tulsa for a quick business trip you may not need a rental car since taxis and limos are readily available.
The price of renting a car in Oklahoma is so cheap that most travelers opt to drive themselves around, even if it’s only for a couple of days. The airports in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have several major car hire firms on site, making it easy to get mobile right away. You’ll find that a car is very handy in this wide-open state, even within the cities themselves. Many of the top attractions are located on the outskirts of the cities, so a car can easily pay for itself if you plan to do any sightseeing. Navigating this relatively flat state is very easy.
It is possible to take the Amtrak train to Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas via the Heartland Flyer line. It runs daily, stopping right in the heart of downtown at the Santa Fe Station in Bricktown. Fares are very reasonable and the seats are quite nice, but the service only runs to Fort Worth which is extremely limiting.
The Greyhound bus is much more useful for travelers on a budget. These long-distance coaches stop at most towns in Oklahoma and have extensive connections to the rest of the country. Fares are very cheap, though the comfort level of the buses can be a bit weak. If you don’t have a car, the bus is a decent option for a short journey.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON OKLAHOMA
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-6 (-5)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN OKLAHOMA
Typical food in Oklahoma
Souvenirs from Oklahoma