what to do in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City: Attractions Along Route 66, Cowboy Museums and Lively Neighborhoods

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Oklahoma City: a city that, in the collective imagination, was for a long time only linked to the tragic attack that forever devastated hundreds of lives and placed it on the front pages of national and international news.

Over the years, however, OKC has renewed itself and established a new identity linked to its lively neighborhoods (Bricktown especially) without forgetting its links with the past.

So let’s take a look at what the main attractions and the best things to do in Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma City Bricktown

This is certainly the most popular district of the city, located along the banks of the canal that bears the same name, in an area that was originally just a gray industrial zone. After the economic crisis of the Great Depression, however, the whole district went through very difficult times, and most of the structures were gradually abandoned until the city administration decided to breathe new life into the entire area, turning it into the entertainment center that we can visit today.

From a certain point of view, it remind us of the Riverwalk in San Antonio, due to the liveliness of the area and the large choice of restaurants and attractions. Again, I suggest that first of all, you  take a walk along the Bricktown Canal to enjoy the unique atmosphere of this neighborhood. If you want to take it easy, without too much effort involved, you can also opt for a ride on one of the many Water Taxi and travel back and forth along the canal in comfort.

As you can see, the main thing to do around here is to sit in one of the many bars and restaurants and get something to eat. If you are undecided whether to arrange a visit for lunch or dinner I recommend you to opt for the latter. The atmosphere in the evening, thanks to the many colored lights that line the canal banks gives the area a very special charm.

Of course, given the many offerings, you will find something that will satisfy your tastes, but to be on the safe side I suggest you consider Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, the Bricktown Brewery and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.

Route 66 Attractions in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is also a city worth visiting also because it is located along the course of the legendary Route 66. We are led to believe that the most typical Mother Road attractions are located far from the big cities, hidden in small towns or in remote Ghost Towns.

Generally speaking, what we have said is true, but some curiosities and special places can be found, as in this case, even in the big cities that incorporate some sections of Route 66. So let’s find out what the main attractions related to this legendary road are.

The Milk Bottle Grocery

things to do in Oklahoma City

Perhaps this is one of the most famous attractions in full Route 66 style in the city. A giant milk bottle stands on the roof of a store that was located along the original course of the Mother Road. Surely, while driving along the road, it was impossible not to notice this flashy advertising gimmick, which today continues to be photographed and shared by hundreds of people.

The building, which has seen it used by many businesses over the years, was even included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. If you also want a souvenir photo, all you have to do is head to 2426 North Classen Blvd.

The Pump Bar & Grill – Texaco Station

best things to do in Oklahoma City

What was once a quaint gas station is now a renovated restaurant that undoubtedly maintains a link to its past. Location, historic signs and colorful neon give this restaurant a nice retro feel.

Lake Overholser – Route 66 Park

Oklahoma City attractions

If you want to take a leisurely stroll after a day on the road, you might consider stopping along the placid shores of this man-made lake. One of the most famous structures in this area is the Lake Overholser Bridge. Opened in 1925, it served its purpose until the late 1950s, when increasing traffic was threatening the very fabric of the structure and it became necessary to build an alternative one.

Another attraction that links its name to the Mother Road is Route 66 Park that houses a playground for children, outdoor dining areas and the Cyrus Avery Observation Tower, from where you can observe the entire area below. In front of this structure is a map painted on the ground with the route of Route 66 along all eight states.

Ann’s Chicken Fry House

Oklahoma City route 66 attractions

This place also started out as one of the many gas stations along the course of Route 66, until it was turned into a restaurant in 1966. To step inside here is to take a real step back to the golden age of the Mother Road. The walls of the restaurant are plastered with signs, colored neon, vinyl, guitars and various memorabilia from the past, which manage to create a chaotic but at the same time pleasant and convincing atmosphere.

Tower Theater

things to see in Oklahoma City

A historic theater dating back to 1937, it went through several closures and re-openings before the 2014 renovation that brought it back to its former glory. If you don’t have time or interest in visiting its interior or catching a show, it’s still worth coming this way at night so you can photograph the historic neon sign.

To visit it you have to go to 425 NW 23rd Street, where you will also find many pubs, stores and restaurants including the Pump Bar we mentioned above.

Gold Dome

Oklahoma City sights

A curious building with a golden dome, built by renowned architect Richard Buckminster Fuller in 1958 to house a… bank! Over the years it has changed use numerous times, also becoming home to an art gallery, a restaurant and various offices. Today it is still waiting for a new allocation and can only be “admired” and photographed from the outside.

Things to do in Oklahoma City

Here you find a list of the best places to visit in Oklahoma City:

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Oklahoma City must see

April 19, 1995 is a day sadly etched in the memory of everyone in the city and the entire United States. At 9:03 a.m. Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. Army non-commissioned officer who had served during the First Gulf War, parked a van full of explosives in front of the Murrah Federal Government Building and blew it up causing the death of 168 people.

Prior to the September 11 attacks, this was the most serious terrorist incident to occur on U.S. soil.

In 2000, this museum/memorial dedicated to the memory of the victims was opened and over time it has become one of the most visited places in the city. There are many things to see in this place of remembrance; let’s find out what the main and most important ones are:

  • Gates of Time: These are two huge bronze sculptures facing each other that ideally represent two gateways to the memorial. On one is engraved the time of 9:01 to represent the peace and quiet before the explosion, and on the other you will find 9:03 indicating the time of the destruction of the bomb.
  • Reflecting Pool: this large pool stands between the two gates, where a section of N.W. Fifth Street used to be, designed to encourage an atmosphere of calm and contemplation.
  • Field of Empty Chairs: a large lawn dotted with 168 sculptures in the shape of empty chairs, symbolizing the emptiness left by the victims of the attack. They are distributed on 9 rows to represent the floors of the Murrah Federal Building. Each chair bears the name of a victim. You will notice that there are 19 chairs that are smaller than the others, those represent all the children who died in the bombing.
  • Rescuers’ Orchard: In this garden, which surrounds the Survivor Tree, is a large group of various types of trees, designed to represent the rescuers who worked in the frantic moments after the bombing. The non-native tree species represent those who helped from outside Oklahoma.
  • Survivor Tree: as you can guess from its name, this is an American elm tree that managed to resist the deadly explosion. The fact that it continued to live and resist despite everything has become a symbol of resilience and hope.
  • Survivor Wall: In this area there are some original remains of the wall of the Murrah Federal Building on which there are commemorative plaques with the names of all the people (more than 600) who, despite being seriously injured, managed to survive the attack.
  • The Fence: This was the area where a protective net was installed to delimit the area of the works in the days following the attack. It was the point where many people wanted to hang a remembrance or a thought for the victims. Today parts of the original fence remain and it is still used with the same intent.

The actual museum is very interesting and, in addition to tracing the history of the attack in a detailed, engaging way, it also holds and passes on the stories of people who were marked by this dramatic event.

National Cowboy Museum

Oklahoma City tourist attractions

One of the most famous and popular attractions in Oklahoma City. It is a large, well-curated and structured museum that looks at the role that the figure of the cowboy has played in the United States’ history and popular culture.

The area called “Prosperity Junction”, a replica of a rural town of the early twentieth century, is of great impact. Get ready to take a real leap back in time to the golden age of the American West. You’ll see the reproduction of a railroad depot where a load of cattle has just arrived, as well as stores, the school, the church and the doctor’s building.

Oklahoma City things to do

The Museum of the Frontier West is the perfect area to learn more about those legendary and tumultuous years through the use of fact sheets and a collection of firearms from the era and items belonging to the natives.

If you want to find out more about rare and collectible pistols and rifles, head to the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms, where you’ll see more than 100 historic examples.

A section dedicated to Rodeo really couldn’t be missed out. If you are interested, the exhibition for you is the Lynn Hickey American Rodeo Gallery where you can find the most important stories and testimonies of the protagonists of this sport.

Centennial Land Run Monument

Oklahoma City things to see

This is a truly impressive monument for its size and its careful construction. It was built to commemorate the 1889 Land Run, a true “Oklahoma Land Run”. It is estimated that more than 50,000 people participated in this event with the goal of being the first to arrive on an unassigned parcel of land and claim their new property.

Hollywood movie lovers may remember the movie Rebel Hearts starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, which deals with this very subject.

Specifically, this is an installation by artist Paul Moore (whose ancestor personally participated in this event) consisting of 45 bronze statues depicting a number of characters engaged in their desperate race to the coveted “promised land.” Most of them are holding a flag, an instrument that would be used to claim their piece of land once they arrive. You’ll also notice the presence of a man with a cannon to represent the way the event was officially kicked off.

As you might imagine getting a photo in this area is a very popular thing to do.

Oklahoma City Underground

Oklahoma City Underground

Beneath a 20-block area is a network of underground corridors that connect the various buildings and parking lots in downtown Oklahoma City. It was originally called Conncourse and was used exclusively as a quick way to get between the different buildings.

Today this complex of corridors has become what could be called a true underground museum where each corridor displays a particular theme related to art or history, both local and national. Ideal to spend some time in on a rainy day.

State Capitol

Oklahoma City State Capitol

Like any state capital, here too there is a Capitol building in typical classical architecture. A curiosity that immediately catches the eye is the presence in the park outside of an oil well that is not a simple reproduction, as some would be inclined to think, but an actually working well.

Inside the building, there are some very nice murals that retrace the most important episodes in the history of Oklahoma. In the outdoor spaces, near the Supreme Court building, you can visit the Oklahoma Veterans Memorial that pays tribute to the locals who lost their lives during the two World Wars, Vietnam and Korea.

Historic Stockyards City

oklahoma city Historic Stockyards City

Built in the early 1900s as a cattle market area, over the years it has become the Oklahoma City neighborhood where the atmosphere of the Old West is most relived.

Here, in addition to the large market that still exists today – one of the largest in the world, the brick buildings of Exchange Avenue, themed stores and restaurants await you. If you want to witness a live, picturesque cattle auction, come here every Monday and Tuesday. On the other hand, if you are in Oklahoma City during the winter months don’t miss the Cowboy Christmas Parade which is usually held on the first Saturday in December.

Obviously, this is the perfect place if you are looking for some cowboy clothing or if you want to give as a gift some particular souvenirs related to this type of culture. As for the food, you will find something for all tastes, but if you want to remain as “orthodox” as possible, go on the safe side by eating at the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse.

Minor museums in the city that are serious and funny

fun things to do in oklahoma city
Photo by Sheila Scarborough

As we have been accustomed to discover on our travels, the United States hides curiosities and surprises around every corner. So let’s see what the most peculiar and original attractions are that you can find visiting Oklahoma City.

  • American Banjo Museum: as you can guess from the name this is a museum dedicated entirely to the country music instrument par excellence. Here there are more than 400 models of banjo, from the earliest to the most elaborate and complex, making this the largest collection in the world. The permanent exhibition traces the entire history of the instrument from its beginnings to the era of Bluegrass music and Folk. Live music events are also not uncommon.
  • American Pigeon Museum: This museum celebrates the figure of the… pigeon! A bird that is often mistreated and seen, especially in big cities, as the bearer of dirt and nuisance. Over the years, however, pigeons have proven to be valid helpers to humans in many areas of their lives. In more recent times, we need only think of the role played by carrier pigeons during the years of the First and Second World Wars. Obviously, there is no lack of exhibitions of the strangest objects dedicated to these birds as well as a well-stocked gift shop.
  • Skeletons – Museum of Osteology: The skeletons and bones of more than 350 different animal species are on display here. Particularly impressive for its size is that of a humpback whale that occupies an entire room.
  • Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum: This is the only museum dedicated to firefighters to be run by them. Inside you will find a permanent exhibition in which the most important pieces are a reconstruction of an old fire station and a collection of rescue vehicles from the oldest to the most modern. In the exterior spaces of the museum you can visit a memorial dedicated to all the firefighters who have lost their lives while doing their job.
  • Oklahoma History Center: in this museum dedicated entirely to the history and traditions of the state of Oklahoma, the one item that will attract the most attention is the life-size replica of Winnie Mae, an airplane that belonged to the famous American aviator Wiley Post, which is attached to the ceiling in the atrium. There are also many interesting rooms in which buildings and parts of towns and villages have been meticulously reconstructed to allow visitors to relive firsthand the development of this part of the United States.
  • Oklahoma Railway Museum: If you are a train enthusiast or are traveling with children, this is a place to consider. You can take a ride on a vintage train that is still in working order, or experience for yourself what it’s like to “drive” a handcar, the famous hand-operated railroad vehicle that we have always been accustomed to seeing in cartoons and movies of the past.
  • Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art: In Oklahoma City there is also room for a real art museum that also houses works by some of the most famous and important artists in the world, including Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir from the Weitzenhoffer Collection.

Sports in Oklahoma City

There are two main teams in the city: the Oklahoma City Dodgers, who play Minor League Baseball, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who play in the NBA. Here are some tips if you want to follow some live games.

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Witnessing the spectacle of the NBA is a fortune many would like to experience. If you are passing through the area during the season, the advice is to not let the opportunity pass you by. The Thunder play their games inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena, just a stone’s throw from Bricktown. If you have decided to buy a ticket, why not save some money? By going to the website of Hellotickets you can take advantage of a discount of $10 by entering the discount code TRAVELINUSA during the checkout stage (the discount is valid if your expenditure exceeds $100).
  • Oklahoma City Dodgers: those who prefer baseball can fall back on the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark that, as you can guess from the name, is located in the famous neighborhood. It is one of the most renowned facilities in the industry, so much so that Baseball America has elected it as one of the best ballparks in the minor leagues. Their audience is also very large and participatory, which ensures a good atmosphere during most of the games. Outside the stadium is the plaza and the statue dedicated to Mickey Mantle.

Places to eat in Oklahoma City

As in all major U.S. cities, Oklahoma City has plenty of options to satisfy everyone’s tastes. As you can imagine there are several restaurants, pubs and eateries, so I decided to point out those places that offer not only good food but also a special atmosphere.

  • Cattlemen’s Steakhouse: located in the Stockyards district, this is the oldest restaurant still operating in the city. There are many celebrities who have decided to taste the delicacies of grilled meat that are served here. Among the most important ones are movie stars such as John Wayne and American presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Recommended if you want to focus on the substance rather than the presentation of the dishes (which is a bit simple).
  • Tucker’s Onion Burger: here you can taste a well-known local specialty of which they are particularly proud, hamburger with onions. This particular preparation was perfected during the years of the Great Depression when restaurateurs found themselves needing to reduce the use of meat by mixing it with other ingredients to keep production costs down. It was discovered that by adding chopped onions to the meat, it was possible to obtain a tasty result while saving money. From that moment on, the onion burger gained increasing fame and appreciation.
  • Edna’s: is considered one of the most famous bars in the city. Its popularity is due in particular to having revisited the idea of the lunchboxes. Here, however, instead of snacks and sandwiches, lunchbox means a cocktail made of beer, amaretto and orange juice.
  • Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse: if you are visiting Bricktown, this is definitely one of the options to consider. Recommended for those who want to try the signature grilled meat menu in a more polished and elegant setting.

Places to stay in Oklahoma City

Here are some characteristic and classic solutions where you can spend the night in Oklahoma City:

  • Orr Family Farm: if you’ve always wanted to experience what it’s like to sleep in an Indian tent or a characteristic pioneer wagon (without giving up all the comforts) this is the place for you. The farm also offers a whole series of activities that can involve and intrigue even the youngest.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Oklahoma City: for those who want to play it safe and opt for a large-chain hotel in a convenient location in the district of Bricktown. Ideal therefore as a base to explore the city during the day.
  • The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City: this is one of the most popular luxury hotels in the city, located in a building that definitely does not go unnoticed. The rooms provide guests with everything you could want from a hotel, and the restaurant is the award-winning Park Avenue Grill.

In case you want to look for other alternatives, you can click on the link below and discover all the overnight options Oklahoma City has to offer.

Find accommodation in Oklahoma City

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

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Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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