Oklahoma — Attractions
The Old West is still holding on tight in Oklahoma, a truly underrated destination filled with Native American culture, cowboy heritage, and loads of nature. Its two main cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City contain nearly all of the big cultural attractions, while its eastern flank is where four mountain ranges combine to create one of the Midwest’s finest wildlife and outdoor recreation pockets. Oklahoma is an ideal place to dig deeper into this country’s Native American story, its frontier land rush era, and the origins of real cowboys. Prepare to be impressed.
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.
Address: 32 Refuge Headquarters, Indiahoma, OK 73552
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.
Address: 1700 NE 63rd Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73111
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.
Address: 2101 NE 50th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73111
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 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 pathway along the Arkansas River.
Address: Northeastern Oklahoma
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 Tailhina, 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.
Address: Eastern Oklahoma
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.
Address: 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
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.
Address: 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73102