With architecture, music, and more set in the rolling hills of Green Country, Tulsa is a mecca for culture in middle America.
A short drive north of Tulsa is Woolaroc, once a wealthy oil magnate’s palatial estate now converted into a Western art museum and wildlife preserve, home to iconic local wildlife like bison and elk, as well as exotic animals like llamas, ostriches, and pigmy goats.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, in the Osage Hills north of Tulsa, is the largest protected tract of tallgrass prairie left on Earth. Visitors exploring the preserve’s 40,000 acres can get a glimpse of the undulating sea of grass that once covered 170 million acres of North America. Just do so from the safety of a vehicle, because you’re likely to encounter a few of the 2,500 bison who call the preserve home, and they aren’t especially gentle creatures.
Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum, once home to a wealthy local oilman, houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of art and historical artifacts related to the American West. It also happens to have more than 20 acres of manicured gardens and a dramatic view over miles of the Osage Hills.
Best Day Trip
An easy drive through winding country roads from Tulsa is Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. In this charming small town the streets signs are in the Cherokee language. Take a lazy float trip on the Illinois River nearby or visit the traditional Cherokee village at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Off the Beaten Path
For live music, skip concerts at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s “The Joint.” Instead, check out The Colony, an intimate venue where local talent and touring acts play original live music seven nights a week.
Most Iconic Place
Built in 1924 to serve as a millionaire’s automobile garage and converted shortly thereafter to a dancing academy and music venue, Cain’s Ballroom in downtown Tulsa is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most iconic music venues in middle America. The concert hall was first made famous as the home of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys—and later infamous by the Sex Pistols’s 1978 appearance in Tulsa—but big and up-and-coming acts from around the U.S. and beyond continue to play at Cain’s today.
Tulsa’s downtown core has developed into a hopping bar and restaurant district on Friday and Saturday nights—and occasionally when big concerts come through the BOK Center or Cain’s Ballroom—especially in the Brady Arts District and the Blue Dome District.
With the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa and the Bob Dylan archive housed at the Gilcrease Museum, the city is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of American folk music.
Impress locals with insider knowledge about the Center of the Universe, a special spot on the Boston Avenue pedestrian walkway between First Street and Archer Street marked by an unremarkable circle of bricks where, for mysterious reasons, your voice echoes back at you.
Best Reason to Blow Your Diet
Tulsa has an unusually deep roster of beloved burger joints. Whether it’s Pepe’s Jumbo Burger on the Northside, Hank’s in east Tulsa, Brownie’s in midtown, Claud’s on Brookside, or one of many other options, you won't regret a day—or several—spent on a burger binge in Tulsa.