Oklahoma City is hitting its stride after decades of capital improvement projects that have spurred economic growth and entertainment options. To visitors, OKC is unexpected. To locals, it has become what they knew it could be.
The 1,000-acre Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge is a forest thick with oak and sycamore trees, swamps, and marshes perfect for bird-watching, biking, and fishing. The Myriad Botanical Gardens is the crown jewel of OKC’s park spaces, with a 15-acre outdoor garden and 13,000-square-foot Crystal Bridge Conservatory, home to thousands of tropical and desert plantings, a cascading waterfall, and skybridge.
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is a nationally renowned testimony to the symbol of strength shown in the wake of unspeakable domestic terrorism. Visit the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial for quiet reflection about the horrific event. Learn more about and see artifacts from the worst domestic terrorism event in the nation’s history at the Memorial Museum. You’ll leave changed.
The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival highlights Oklahoma’s Native American culture, while the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum displays gorgeous statues and artwork celebrating the American West and spirit of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City National Stockyards have cowboys at work at the world’s largest live cattle auction. Return to OKC when the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum opens in 2021.
Best Day Trip
The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, put Pawhuska, Oklahoma, back on the map when she opened her stand-in-line-for-hours-good restaurant and shop, The Mercantile. After lunch, drive through the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected tallgrass prairie left on Earth. Watch buffaloes roam freely and see what Rodgers and Hammerstein meant when they sang “when the wind came sweeping down the plains.”
Off the Beaten Path
OKC’s Plaza District has emerged in the last decade as the go-to for new art galleries, studios, local retail, and restaurant spots. Anchored by Oklahoma’s premier professional theater company, Lyric Theatre, the area is artist-led, vintage, and hip. Go on the second Friday of the month for LIVE on the Plaza—a monthly block party with live music, featured artists, and other special events.
Most Iconic Place
Visit the Centennial Land Run Monument, one of the world’s largest bronze sculptures and a tribute to Oklahoma’s unique beginning, when settlers staked claim on the Unassigned Land in Oklahoma Territory during the Land Run of 1889. The 45 statues feature Oklahoma Land Run participants frozen in frenzied energy and motion as they race to claim new homesteads.
While new districts are gaining momentum all over OKC, the Bricktown Entertainment District is the late-night leader. Once a busy warehouse district that sat in disrepair for decades, the district is now a thriving destination filled with restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Also in Bricktown, OKC’s Triple-A baseball team stadium, a 16-movie screen theater, and Bass Pro draw visitors.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Unique to Oklahoma and a nod to its rich oil and gas heritage, check out the oil derricks (that actually work) on the State Capitol grounds. Learn about territorial life on original Land Run property at the Harn Homestead, one of Oklahoma’s most unique treasures about its earliest settlers.
OKC residents really are as friendly as it comes. Strangers will talk to you. Advice will be given before you ask. Food is served in heaping portions to make sure you get enough. You’ll make friends with locals before you even realize what’s happened.
Lake Hefner and its 17-mile shoreline brings out the dog lovers, sailboat enthusiasts, and bird-watchers. (Dozens of waterbird species are regularly spotted.) Stop for the people-watching; stay for the sunsets. OKC is known for some of the best sunsets in the country, and Lake Hefner just might be the best spot in the city to see one.