Visiting Oklahoma City - What to See and Do
(Will Rogers World Airport OKC, USA)
Few American cities exemplify the western pioneering spirit better than Oklahoma City
. This spot was essentially founded in a single day during a massive land grab in 1889 known as the Great Land Run. People ran, rode horses or went on carts to stake their claim to untitled raw land around what is now Oklahoma City.
Although the city has certainly modernized itself into one of the Midwest's most invigorating, it still celebrates its frontier heritage in attractions like the Oklahoma History Center and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The largest Native American festival in the country, Red Earth, also takes place here, representing the other face of American expansionism.
The downtown district has been pleasantly revitalized in recent years, with the river providing boat rides and the historic Bricktown entertainment district brimming with fun places to eat and drink. For a look at the Wild West in its genteel form, there are few better destinations that Oklahoma City.
Ten things you must do in Oklahoma City
- The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is the city's top attraction, showcasing and glorifying the tradition of the Old West and its cowboys. The historic artifacts here are fantastic, and the museum's collection of Western art is among America's best. Exhibits also display the craftsmanship of Native Americans, a life-size rodeo ring and recreated cattle town.
- To learn more about the specific history of Oklahoma, be sure to spend a couple of hours in the Oklahoma History Center, next to the state capitol. Through an amazing array of photographs, relics and memorabilia, you can experience the highs and lows of this state. From the Land Run to the Dust Bowl, Oklahoma has been the site of many major events in America's evolution.
- Right in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City is the Myriad Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest attractions in the city. The 17-acre / 7-hectare garden is situated around a magical sunken lake, with the seven-story Crystal Bridge conservatory spanning its width. Enjoy the wildlife, the butterflies or just stroll around and enjoy the quiet greenery of this urban oasis.
- The Oklahoma City Museum of Art offers a fantastic collection of European and American artistry that spans the centuries. The highlight here comes in the form of surreal glass creations by master Dale Chihuly. There are 18 glass installations to marvel at that are worth the price of entry alone. The museum's theater shows unusual films at daily times.
- To really soak in the city's cowboy traditions, head over to Stockyards City on the edge of town. This little district was founded in 1910 and is pure cowboy, from the restaurants to the shops. It is the best place in the city to shop for hats and boots, saddles and other cowboy kit. The massive Oklahoma National Stockyards are onsite as well, where huge cattle auctions take place every Monday and Tuesday.
- If the kids are along, or you simply enjoy tinkering, make time to check out the Omniplex next to the zoo. Housed in a giant airplane hangar, there is an eclectic collection of vintage toy trains, old airplanes and Native American items, as well as an interactive science exhibit section.
- The Oklahoma City Zoo is over a century old, but remains one of the country's top-ranked zoos. Over 1,500 creatures are housed here, including some 50 rare and endangered species. The habitats are quite creative in their effort to recreate natural habitats while still allowing visitors to watch the animals. The botanical gardens, an aquarium and some exotic creatures like grizzly bear cubs make this zoo a treat.
- The renovated warehouse district known as Bricktown is the trendiest place to hang out in downtown Oklahoma City - not least because of the boat rides along a one-mile stretch of restored canal. There are also great restaurants and bars, lining the canal and spilling over into the side streets of this charismatic little neighborhood.
- During the warm weather, the Old West theme park Frontier City opens its doors for a summer of western-style fun. Among its 50 thrill rides are a handful of real gut-churners, such as the free-fall Eruption ride. Worth looking out for are the frequent performances with gunslingers and sheriffs along the main street.
- If you enjoy a good cut of beef, then be sure to set aside one night to have dinner at Cattlemen's Steakhouse. This venerable meat institution has been serving cowboys hand-cut and aged steak since 1910. It is basic meat and baked potato fare, but it is widely considered the best in the state. Head over to Stockyards City to indulge the carnivore in you.