Visiting Oklahoma City was on my “bucket list” a few years ago, and now, because I live just outside of OKC, my ever-expanding list of cool things to see and do in the area comes in very handy when family and friends stop in for a visit.
Free activities abound in this city of the cowboy and the cultured, but I narrowed the list down to the top five so that it might be a little easier when planning a trip.
Listed in no particular order (since all five are great!), you’ll also find links for more information on each activity at the bottom of each section.
When I see the name: Route 66, I can almost hear Nat King Cole singing that catchy phrase,”Get your kicks on Route 66,” from Bobby Troup’s song, “Route 66.” My favorite line is, “And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty,” and with good reason. A drive on Route 66 in and around Oklahoma City is an entertaining and memorable experience because:
– It’s a historical and nostalgic trip down a part of the National Old Trails Road.
– You’ll find a variety of free attractions and picture-worthy landmarks.
– You’ll be helping to keep the history of Route 66 alive and well.
Oklahoma has the longest stretch (about 400 miles) of drivable Route 66 roads in the country, and depending on how much time you want to spend on your drive, you can see everything from Route 66 museums, to The Blue Whale of Catoosa, to the Art Deco skyscrapers of downtown Oklahoma City, to two of my favorites, Pops Restaurant and The Round Barn in Arcadia. And, there are lots of Route 66 road signs along the way. So toss a picnic lunch in the car, grab your camera or cell phone, and take home lots of pictures and memories of Oklahoma-made Americana.
Route 66 in Oklahoma Information
Stretches of Route 66 can be found from Quapaw, OK in the northeastern part of the state, to Texola, OK in the southwestern area of the state.
For more information, check these websites:
Oklahoma Route 66
Travel OK: Oklahoma’s Top Attractions Along Route 66
Road Trip USA/Route 66
The Centennial Land Run Monument
What’s cool about The Centennial Land Run Monument is:
– The monument memorializes one of the most important events in Oklahoma history: The Land Run of 1889.
– The Land Run is depicted with larger-than-life-size bronze sculptures of people, wagons, horses, and more/.
– The monument is not yet finished.
Located in the Oklahoma City area known as “Bricktown,” the Centennial Land Run Monument is a massive array of sculptures that depict the action, hope, and excitement of the more than 50,000 people that came from far and wide to race (by horse, wagon, buggy, or on foot) and stake their claim on a part of the 2 million acres in the “Unassigned Lands” that were opened up by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889.
Designed and cast by Oklahoma artist Paul Moore, there are currently 27 sculptures on site. According to The Centennial Land Run Monument website, an additional 18 are planned to be added by 2015, all of which will encompass an area of 365 feet long, by 36 feet in width, and more than 16 feet tall. Once completed, The Centennial Land Run Monument will be one of the largest freestanding sculptures in the world.
Some of my favorite sculptures include the rider on a horse holding a claim stake flag high in the air, the wagon driver reigning in his horses as they get ready to cross the (actual) Canadian River, and a woman wearing a bonnet riding sidesaddle. What really appealed to me is the sense of movement captured in all of the sculptures. My plan is to keep an eye out for the installation of new sculptures – five of which (according to the artist’s website) are currently being sculpted or cast. Watching the installations could be a very cool, and hopefully free!, activity as well.
Before or after viewing The Centennial Land Run Monument, take a stroll through historic Bricktown to see the architecture, enjoy the view of the canal, or just enjoy the ambiance of downtown OKC (which is especially pretty when it’s lit up at night).
The Centennial Land Run Monument Information
Located along the south end of the Bricktown Canal just southwest of Bass Pro Shop.
Park at the far right end of Bass Pro Shop parking lot; the Monument will be on your right.
Bass Pro Shop
200 Bass Pro Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73129
Centennial Land Run Monument
Oklahoma City Bricktown
Sculptor Paul Moore
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum is exceptional for three reasons:
– You can walk on the actual site where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building stood.
– There are numerous outdoor monuments to view, and most importantly.
– The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, like the memorial indoors, is a touching and fitting tribute that honors those who were killed, injured, participated in the rescue effort, or were forever changed by the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, housed in the renovated Journal Record Building, provides visitors with the timeline, artifacts, and information aligned with the sequence of events immediately before, during, and after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
And while there is an entrance fee to the museum, on the actual site of the Murrah Federal Building is an outdoor memorial which is free to the public. There you will find incredibly moving monuments including the “Gates of Time,” the reflecting pool, “The Survivor’s Wall,” “The Survivor’s Tree,” and others, but my personal favorite and perhaps the most well-known, is “The Field of Empty Chairs.” The Memorial website shares that each of these chairs, handcrafted of stone, glass, and bronze, represents each person who was killed in the bombing, with his or her name etched at the bottom of the chair. Because there is soft lighting provided for each chair at night, the chairs are particularly beautiful, and poignant, after the sun sets, so you may want to consider timing your visit to early evening/sunset.
Also, take your time when going through the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial (give yourself about an hour), and don’t be surprised if you find a real sense of reverence and respect that pervades the space.
Oklahoma City Outdoor Symbolic Memorial Information
629 North Harvey Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73012
PH: (405) 235-3313
Toll Free: 1-888-542-4673
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 24 hours a day
With the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, National Park Service Rangers are available daily, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to answer questions.
A cell phone tour of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is also available by calling (405) 445-4792.
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
National Park Service at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
First Friday at the Paseo Gallery Walk
What’s unique about the First Friday at the Paseo Gallery Walk? Well,
– It’s an event with a great “artsy” vibe where you can poke in and out of art galleries and shops in a fun and funky area of Oklahoma City (and often there’s live music).
– A number of the galleries and shops offer free wine tastings, nibbles, or refreshments.
– It’s a two-day event held on a Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, once a month.
The Paseo is hailed as the oldest arts district in Oklahoma City. First developed in 1929, The Paseo’s Spanish revival architecture adds to the charm of the two block area that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Paseo Gallery Walk website mentions that “over 60 artists in more than 17 galleries participate, all within walking distance. Four to six art opening receptions on Friday night [of the Paseo Arts Walk] showcase the new work of the gallery/studio owners or the work of guest artists,” and on Saturdays the artists often do live demonstrations.
The Gallery Walk is free, but I’ve found good deals on art, jewelry, pottery, even clothing, on those Fridays and Saturdays.
Tip: Get there by 6 pm in order to park on Paseo Drive (or as close as possible).
First Friday at the Paseo Gallery Walk Information
Location: Paseo Drive (between 28th Street and North Walker Avenue, to 30th Street and North Dewey Avenue, Oklahoma City
Hours: Held the first Friday and Saturday of every month:
Friday from 6 pm to 10 pm, Saturday from 12 noon to 6 pm.
The Paseo Arts Association
3022 Paseo Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73103
PH: (405) 525-2688
The Paseo Arts District
First Friday Gallery Walk
Historical Stockyards City
What makes a visit to Stockyards City different? Fun? Memorable? Well, saddle up and take a gander!
It’s a small-town-within-a-city with that western feel of wooden store fronts and Plains architecture from the early 1900’s. A variety of restaurants, entertainment venues, western wear stores, and businesses are in Stockyards City, but just walking down Main Street (South Agnew Avenue) you’re as likely to see a “real-deal” cowboy going into Cattlemen’s Steakhouse for lunch as you are a businessman in a suit.
In addition to the live cattle auction every Monday and Tuesday at 9 a.m., Stockyards City is the home to the largest working stocker/feeder cattle market in the world, a fact that’s pretty darn impressive. Stockyards City’s early growth had a big impact on Oklahoma City’s economic development, and even today, it’s a unique “must see” when you’re in OKC.
Great stories abound about Stockyards City, including businesses won by a roll of the dice, a building haunted by saloon girls, and even celebrity sightings such as Reba McIntrye and Toby Keith. Who knows? Maybe Kanye West and Kim Kardashian will be next!
Historic Stockyards City Information
Stockyards City Main Street
1305 South Agnew Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73108
PH: (405) 235-7267
Historic Stockyard City
Directory of Stockyard City Businesses
Haunted Houses: Langston’s Western Wear
History of Cattlemen’s Restaurant
Road Trip USA/Route 66: http://www.roadtripusa.com/routes/route66/route66.html
Travel OK: Oklahoma’s Top Attractions Along Route 66: http://www.travelok.com/article_page/oklahomas-top-attractions-along-route-66
Bobby Troup, Composer of Route 66: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/10/arts/bobby-troup-80-route-66-songwriter.html
Oklahoma Route 66 Association: http://oklahomaroute66.com/
YouTube: Nat King Cole, “Route 66”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCYApJtsyd0
National Old Trails Road: Federal Highway Administration: http://www.roadtripusa.com/routes/route66/route66.html
The Blue Whale of Catoosa: http://www.bluewhaleroute66.com/
Pops Restaurant: http://route66.com/
The Arcadia Round Barn: http://www.arcadiaroundbarn.com/Round_Barn_Website/HOME.html
Centennial Land Run Monument: http://www.okc.gov/landrun/
Artist and Sculptor Paul Moore: http://www.crownartsinc.com/
Oklahoma City Bricktown:http://bricktownokc.com/
Oklahoma Historical Society (Land Run of 1889):http://www.okhistory.org/
History.com: Oklahoma Land Rush: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-oklahoma-land-rush-begins
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum: http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/
National Park Service at the OKC National Memorial and Museum: http://www.nps.gov/okci/index.htm
First Friday at The Paseo Gallery Walk: http://www.thepaseo.com/calendar/firstfriday.html
Oklahoma National Historic Register Places: The Paseo District: http://www.ocgi.okstate.edu/shpo/shpopic.asp?id=04000517
The Paseo Arts District: http://www.thepaseo.com/
Stockyards City Main Street: http://www.stockyardscity.org/
Oklahoma City Haunted Houses: Langston’s Western Wear: http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/ok/langston_western_store.htm
Cattlemen’s Restaurant: http://www.cattlemensrestaurant.com
Langston’s Western Wear (About Us): http://www.langstons.com/aboutus.html
Oklahoma National Stockyards Association:http://www.onsy.com/about-us/