Are you headed out on Route 66 going through Oklahoma City? If you find yourself passing through this vibrant capital city in middle America, make some time to check out all the amazing things to do in Oklahoma City. From state of the art museums to quirky Route 66 cafes, examination of cowboy culture along with unique accommodation options, OKC has it all. It is easy to see why it is now called the modern frontier!
Oklahoma City is one of those places that is surprisingly really cool. OKC is the perfect stop over on a road trip or as a destination for a long weekend getaway from surrounding areas.
I grew up in Texas, but much of my family has lived in Oklahoma all my life. I have spent a ton of time in the state through the years and I have to say that I was so pleasantly surprised how much OKC has changed, how it has a progressive vibe with arts, culture and history all rolled into an easily accessible package. Read on for our top picks of places you should not miss whether you are just passing through or making this your final destination!
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Things to Know About Visiting Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City is the largest city in the state of Oklahoma, it is the capital city and is located nearly in the center of the state. While not jam packed with people, clocking in at only 1.4 million, the city itself is actually quite spread out covering more square miles than Los Angeles! With that said, it is similar to Los Angeles in that you will need to drive to really be able to get around to see everything efficiently. Uber is available, but if you don’t have your own car, I would highly recommend renting a car.
Weather is always a hot topic here. In the spring, summer and fall, it is often hot, muggy, windy and full of potential weather in Oklahoma City! It can snow and ice all winter long or have blue skies and 70. You never know what you will get, so plan ahead and come prepared. If it is tornado season (April, May & June), listen to the weather forecasts and be prepared if inclement weather is coming.
And just FYI, every Saturday at 12 p.m. a tornado siren goes off as a test, unless there’s bad weather. Don’t be alarmed, but recognize the sound so if it happens at another time you know what it means!
Top 13 Things to Do in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City is a fun destination whether you are visiting family, on a road trip or looking for a great weekend getaway. There are always special events happening throughout the year. Check out Visit OKC to find out what local events might be on during your visit like the Paseo Arts District festival or the Chuckwagon Festival. Otherwise, the following list are some of our top picks that are around all year.
Explore the First Americans Museum
If you have limited time, the absolute best thing to do in Oklahoma City in my opinion is to visit the new First Americans Museum. This museum is a long time coming and is well worth the wait. For the 39 indigenous tribes living in Oklahoma, this museum is meant to share their history, culture and present day lives. My son is particularly interested in native peoples so we spent 4 hours touring the museum, reading and listening to all of the stories on offer. There is also a movie theater showing several different movies throughout the day. We watched one about the Choctaw code talkers from World War I that was fabulous! There is also a cafe on site with a delicious offering of native foods.
This museum is great for all ages as it has interactive game play, stories being told over “fire pits” and many videos that children will enjoy. Note that the museum is closed on Tuesday.
Ride a Water Taxi Through Bricktown
Bricktown is Oklahoma City’s main tourist district located in the heart of the city. Filled with restaurants, bars, live music, a baseball stadium, beautiful murals and so much more, this is the perfect place to base yourself. One of the best things to do to orient yourself to the area is to take a Bricktown Water Taxi boat ride on the man made Bricktown canal that weaves through the area. On this tour you will learn all about the history of the area. Tours go throughout the day, but we highly recommend a night tour as the canal is lit up with colorful lights and you can really feel the vibrancy of the area.
OKC National Memorial & Museum
One of the things most people know about OKC is the “Oklahoma City bombing”. It was here that a homegrown terrorist attack in 1995 occured. I still remember hearing the news in college that a federal building had been attacked. If you aren’t familiar with this event, 168 people died, including 19 children when Timothy McVey exploded a moving truck full of fertilizer explosives in front of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building. There area where the building once stood is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial (the outside area with a field of empty chairs) and a Museum.
In past years I had visited only the memorial with my son, but now that he was old enough, we opted to go through the museum as well. Wow! This is one of the most powerful museums I have ever visited. From interactive exhibits to video presentations, this is a must visit to learn more about what happened here and how the people of the city rose up to take care of one another. It really is a moving museum inside and out. The museum is quite in your face at times, so I would not recommend going inside with younger children.
If you are a Junior Park ranger badge collector like my son, this is a National Park site. You can find a park ranger outside on the grounds who can provide your book to you. It is here that you will see the reflecting pool, the field of chairs and various exhibits discussed further on signboards.
Go See an Oklahoma City Dodgers Game
Coming from Los Angeles, we were so surprised to learn that Oklahoma City also has a Dodgers team. The OKC team is the Triple A farm, or feeder team for the Los Angeles team. Who knew!! We were so excited to be able to walk across the road from our hotel to the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark right in the middle of town. If you are here during spring or summer baseball season, this is a really great thing to do in Oklahoma City. Tickets are super affordable, the atmosphere is energetic and invigorating and really gives visitors a front seat view into the amazing residents of OKC.
Get an Adrenaline Rush at Riversport
One of the best spring, summer and fall adventures in town is Riversport. Located in the Boathouse District, just across the highway from Bricktown, this fun adventure park has something for everyone. During the warm months I highly recommend you check out their white water rafting options. I was terrified, but their patient and really well trained guides make it so much fun.
In addition to the water sports, you can also “ski”, do a ropes course, go ziplining and more. My son loved the skiing. It took him a minute to get used to it as it’s not quite the same as skiing down a real mountain, but once he got the hang of it he was hooked!
Closed toe shoes are required. You can rent booties on site or purchase shoes if needed.
Play Outside at Scissortail Park
Driving through town, we happened upon Scissortail Park and fell in love! This 70-acre public green space just south of downtown is a must do in Oklahoma City if you have kids. With a fantastic playground, splash pad, paddle boats, dog park, outdoor roller rink, and plenty of green lawn areas for picnics, you could easily spend a full day at Scissortail Park.
While at this fantastic urban park, don’t miss Skydance Bridge near the park at night. This pedestrian bridge crosses over I-40 was designed to resemble the wings of the scissortail, the state bird of Oklahoma. At night, the bridge is brightly lit up, making for a great photo spot in OKC. With our jam packed days we didn’t end up getting here until after midnight and surpingsly we were not alone! There were quite a few other tourists here also snapping photos of this iconic bridge!
Stay in a Covered Wagon at a Working Farm
One of the most unique accommodation options in Oklahoma city is at Orr Family Farm. Located in Moore, just outside of Oklahoma City, this is a great place to stay if you are visiting with kids. At the “campground”, there are several covered wagons circling a large fire pit where you can roast your hot dogs or marshmellows. There is also a small indoor pool area as well as private showers and bathrooms for each wagon. This fun glamping experience comes with bonus unique experience of being located on a working farm.
During our visit the farm activities weren’t open, but that still left a ton to explore. During check in we were provided a bag of feed to feed the farm animals, we were also offered the opportunity to explore the grounds with no one there! From the petting zoo, to the various playground structures, ziplines, ninja warrior type rope course and more my son had a ball.
If you happen to visit during the season festivals, you can expect even more fun like a train, bounce houses, a corn maze and pumpkin patch.
Ride the Ferris Wheel in the Wheeler District
One of the few places not in the Bricktown area, but well worth a visit is to the new up and coming Wheeler District. Located just southwest of downtown OKC, this area is beginning to boom. With the picturesque OKC sign for Instagram photos, a food truck and a vintage ferris wheel straight from Santa Monica Pier. During our visit there were several graduation events happening here which just added to the festive nature of the park. I can see with the apartment blocks going in and cool eateries like Taco Nation, this is bound to be a premier neighborhood for the young movers and shakers of OKC.
Learn About Western Heritage
Another fabulous museum in town is the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This museum houses a wonderful collection of western heritage art along with a really great area outdoors for children. In Prosperity Junction, kids can step back in time for an “evening” stroll in a replica turn-of-the-twentieth-century cattle town. Outside at Liichokoshkomo’ there is so much to do and learn about Native Americans, from a replica cliff dwellings, tipi and more.
If you happen to be in town during Memorial Day Weekend, you must visit for the yearly Chuck Wagon Festival. The museum is turned into a festival with rope making, leather stamping, food samples and other fun activities. My son fit right in with his rugged cowboy boots that he wears daily!
Check out the Bronze Horse Statues & Learn Some Local History
One of the coolest installations in town has to to be the massive Centennial Land Run Monument located in Bricktown. We happened upon this by accident as it’s just behind our hotel. You will also go past this on the water taxi boat tour if you do that. The Centennial Land Run Monument commemorates the Land Run of 1889 in the Unassigned Lands of Oklahoma. A few sign boards tell the story and the massive, larger than life-size statues depict the various struggles that happened during this run. It’s a cool thing to check out and really set in your mind more about how wild the west was at one time!
Explore the Myriad Botanical Gardens
In Downtown Oklahoma City, there is an amazing public garden that is well worth a visit. The Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 15-acre urban nature escape offering beautiful gardens, an amazing kids play and learning area, massive splash fountains and a variety of ponds and plants to explore on your walk through.
While the gardens are free to visit, there is a small charge to enter the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at the center of the gardens. The 13,000 square foot tropical greenhouse houses more than 750 different plants and multiple waterfalls. If you are looking for a place to let the kids roam or to stretch your legs, this is the place to go.
My son loved the kids play area as well as the vegetable garden and mini maze area. If we lived in town I can see this would be a staple in our week!
Grab a Drink at Pops Soda Ranch
Pops Soda Ranch is an old-fashioned soda shop and restaurant located just east of Oklahoma City on Route 66. It is a unique pit stop along the historic highway that you just can’t miss if you are in the area. Here you can buy literally hundreds of different flavors of soda, including some crazy flavors that only the adventurous would dare try. We have one of these in California as well and it’s a must stop for us!
Eat Your Way Through Oklahoma City
One of my favorite things about visiting Oklahoma is getting to eat some amazing food at the best restaurants. Oklahoma City has a ton of good offerings that are more modern and hip, but I still love my old time favorites. I am a huge fan of Tex-Mex and queso, so you know that tops my list in town. My favorites are Torchy’s Tacos which is actually an Austin, Texas institution that has made its way here. Delicious breakfast and lunch tacos with the best queso you can find! For a sit down meal, consider Ted’s Cantina for delicious Tex-Mex eats.
Other favorites during our visit:
- Breakfast at Hatch (so delicious!)
- Ray’s BBQ (near Orr Family Farm)
- Modern Mexican at Barrios
- Pizza at Rendezvous Pizza or Pub Style eats at Bricktown Brewery
We ran out of time during our visit, but there is actually so much more on our to do list for our next visit. My son also wants to check out the Museum of Osteology, the Oklahoma City Zoo, Science Museum Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Railway Museum and check out a Thunder game if they are playing. We also would love to visit Lake Hefner – we heard it’s beautiful! See, there is so much to do and see here!
Have you been to OKC? What are your favorite places to explore?
To be honest there is a lot of misnomers about this part of the United States, which I think is why it’s even more important to visit and check it out for yourself! If you go, let me know what you think.
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