For many, Oklahoma evokes images of sweeping plains on the American frontier, but these days the state capital, Oklahoma City, is so much more than the old Westerns would have you believe. Oklahoma City is highly regarded as a center of beauty, art, outdoor recreation and family fun, but the locals haven’t forgotten their cowboy past. Discover the best of both worlds in the Sooner State.
Fun on the Water
Sunrise on the lake while the bass are biting, midday sun on your shoulders while you’re water skiing, a romantic sail boat ride as the twilight kisses the horizon — these are just a few of the experiences you can have at any of Oklahoma’s five beautiful lakes or on the Oklahoma River that lazily winds through the city. Maybe you have a taste for something a bit more upbeat. Try your hand, arms and feet at kite boarding, whitewater rafting or paddleboarding. Of course, you could just kayak all day. No matter what your tastes, you can enjoy the water in Oklahoma City.
The Cultural Crossroads of America
Oklahoma City’s newest attraction is free and completely accessible. The Sky Dance Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that allows foot traffic to cross Interstate 40, which runs through the heart of the city. This stunning architectural beauty is made to look like the scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird. It’s a landmark you won’t want to miss.
Putting on the Plains
Hope you packed your golf clubs, because there is a lot of opportunity to use them in Oklahoma City and most are open to the public. If you’d rather bike around the city to take in the sights but left your bike at home, you can find a kiosk around the city and rent a two-wheeler.
If your plan is to play outside, then you’re going to be happy with the diversity of Oklahoma City’s recreational options. Get extreme in the Boathouse District. Eager to test your climbing skills? Make the ascent up the 80-foot-tall SandRidge Sky Trail, billed as the tallest adventure course in the world. Challenges include rope bridges, balance beams, zig-zag elements and more. A secure harness ensures that climbers remain safe as they challenge gravity. Just know that the difficulty increases as you climb higher, but the views are worth it. Once you’re up at the top, zipline your way across the Oklahoma River along a six-story-high sky trail as part of the SandRidge Sky Zip.
Do you own a cowboy hat? If you don’t, you’ll want to get one to visit Oklahoma City. Yes, cowboys are still alive and well in this modern day western town that claims the title of the Horse Show Capital of the World. If you’re around in October, attend the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, which features more than 1,000 of the finest Morgan horses from 45 states. You can catch a rodeo with roping and riding or a more elegant event with trotting, top hats and tails. If you never travel without your horses, this is the place you’ll want to visit.
Cool Jazz and Cooler Cars
In Oklahoma City you can find cool jazz in the Deep Deuce District, hot cars in Automobile Alley and even take a ride on Route 66. If you’d prefer shopping over just about anything else you’ll feel right at home in the Plaza District or the Uptown 23rd District. Each has local shops and good eats to help you enjoy your stay.
Having a Rail Good Time
The Oklahoma Railway Museum has freight cars, passenger cars and a real steam engine on display. Even Thomas the Tank engine, a kids’ favorite, drops by from time to time. There’s a museum devoted to skeletons known as the Museum of Osteology, and you won’t want to miss the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. There are currently 38 federally recognized American Indian tribes associated with Oklahoma.
Rising From the Ashes
April 19, 1995, was a dark day in Oklahoma City’s past. This was the day the Alfred P. Murrah Building was bombed by a homegrown terrorist. Today, you can visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum to see how the city has come out of the dark while remembering the past.
Oklahoma City is proud of its heritage and enjoys showing off with rollicking and educational festivals. Paseo’s First Friday Gallery Walk is a monthly open house for the galleries in the Paseo District, which is home to more than 20 art galleries. Check out Midtown Plaza Court for modern restaurant and shopping options.
The second Friday of every month is dedicated to the Plaza’s Live on the Plaza. Retail shops and restaurants stay open late, and vendors, street entertainers and live music round out the event. The second weekend in June brings two world-renowned festivals to the city. The Dead Center Film Festival has been deemed one of the Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World. The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival celebrates Native American art and heritage.
With so many things to do, you’ll want to make time to visit the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Conservancy. This is one of Oklahoma City’s most beloved public spaces. There is a children’s garden, an off-leash dog park and splash fountains, as well as paths for walking and jogging. These lush environments welcome solitude seekers.
Learn more about the city and the state of Oklahoma at the Capitol Building or at the Oklahoma History Center. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, the center is located right across from the capital building. Its learning center sprawls 215,000 square feet, housing a number of hands-on audio/video activities.
Ride the Red River
On the grounds is a walking tour called the Red River Journey. On display are remains of the steamboat Heroine, a paddleboat that sank in the Red River in 1838 on a trip to deliver vital military supplies to soldiers.
For More Information
Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department