Like the iconic Land Run of 1889, Oklahoma City is seeing a resurgence on the back of urban renewal projects. Always a city of effortless Southern charm and amazing food, it now holds vibrant entertainment districts that help showcase Oklahoma City to the masses.
Bricktown may be the heart of the city’s burgeoning food and entertainment scene, but it’s also a great starting point for exploring the rest of Oklahoma City. The compact downtown leaves most things within walking distance.
There are fabulous museums that explore local history which are great things to do in Oklahoma City for all ages. Plus, fantastic sporting attractions and an abundance of homegrown galleries. With all that in the city’s core, you won’t be wasting much time as you explore the state capital.
17. Centennial Land Run Monument
In April, 1889, 50,000 boomers and sooners rushed to grab their own slice of Oklahoma Territory. The Unassigned Lands became a gold mine for pioneers and would-be ranchers, one that could change their lives. The historic moment and the frenzied nature of the event is wonderfully captured by the Centennial Land Run Monument.
Just south of the Bricktown Canal, the monument is one of the largest bronze sculptures in the world. It features 45 members of the event that saw Oklahoma City’s population skyrocket overnight. By the end of the first day, almost two million acres of land had been claimed.
16. Paseo Arts District
With almost two dozen art galleries, plus plenty of shopping and dining, the Paseo Arts District is a wonderful place to experience local culture. Covering a mere two blocks, the district is packed with artists and artisans all within a short stroll of each other.
Housing the galleries and boutiques, is the Paseo Arts District’s Spanish Revival architecture complete with terracotta rooftops atop the stucco buildings. You could kill a whole afternoon wandering between the stores and galleries home to over 80 working artists.
The best time to visit is on the first Friday of each month, when all the studio doors open and live music floats through the air.
15. Henry Overholser Mansion
At the turn of the 20th century, much of Oklahoma City was vast sections of ranches. Henry Overholser changed that, perhaps signaling a changing of the guard. He added a touch of grandeur to what was a rough and tumble city by building his tri-story French-style chateau.
Today, almost 120 years after it was complete, you can tour the home and discover its opulence, period furniture and familial history. The mansion is open from Tuesday to Friday with tours departing from 10am. But the best time to visit is on the Scary Tales and Twilight Tours that explore the mansion’s haunted history after dark.
14. Frontier City
For all the history, cowboy culture and art in Oklahoma City, there’s still plenty of ways to let your hair down. One of the best places to do just that is at Frontier City. This thrilling theme park is complete with adrenaline-pumping roller coasters, water adventures and rides that will have you holding on for dear life.
All up, there are 50 attractions that provide thrills and chills for young and old. The little ones can jump on Frankie’s Mine Train or the exciting dodge ’em cars and even try their hand at capturing bandits in the Wild West. Speaking of, Frontier City features a stunt show that has gunfighters, explosions and shootouts just like the days of yore.
13. 45th Infantry Division Museum
At Lincoln Park Armory, which was built in 1937, is where you’ll find the fascinating 45th Infantry Division Museum. All travelers who are interested in history and 20th century military conflicts will get a lot out of this experience.
The museum tells the story of the 45th Infantry Division, which operated from 1920 to 1968. During this span, the division fought in the Second World War and the Korean War. The former included taking part in Operation Dragoon that led to the end of the war.
The many exhibits come with a vast collection of weapons used during these conflicts, along with rows of military vehicles around the grounds.
12. State Capitol
After three years of construction, the Oklahoma State Capitol was finished in 1917. It features Greco-Roman architecture and a facade complete with Indiana limestone. The columns and dome (built in 2002) round out the structure, creating a striking and memorable sight.
But since a capitol building is a place that changes the course of history, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Visitors can explore the Oklahoma State Capitol on their own or join a guided tour that offers an additional layer of insight.
The tours run Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 11:00 am and 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Those who wish to join a tour should schedule in advance.
11. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark
As you’ll read below, the revitalization of Bricktown has brought shopping, entertainment and delicious dining to the area. But beyond those three things, the old warehouse district is now the center of local sport. A prime example is the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Home to the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers, this ballpark is renowned as one of the best minor league stadiums in the United States. The beautiful red-brick arena captures the spirit of the district while being a wonderful place to watch a ballgame.
From April to September, you can watch the future stars of the LA Dodgers right here in Oklahoma. With a hot dog and beer in hand, of course.
10. Oklahoma History Center
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn about the capital city throughout your trip. But to explore the story of the entire state, you’ll need to visit the Oklahoma History Center. This way you can venture back through Native American history, before learning about the Land Run and the pioneer era.
But it doesn’t stop there. After learning the tales of cowboys and ranches, discover famous figures through the 20th century and even the state’s involvement in the exploration of outer space.
From the museum, you can also look up to the state capitol through gorgeous floor to ceiling windows. Afterwards, wander through the lush grounds home to art pieces and native flora.
9. Hefner Lake & Park
Around 20 minutes northwest of downtown, Hefner Lake & Park is your natural escape while in Oklahoma City. Downtown has some great urban parks, but you’ll be happy you took the brief drive as you stand on the banks of the lake, alongside the romantic lighthouse.
There is a walking path that envelopes the lake, covering nine miles. Walk as much as you like as you enjoy the beautiful scenery. Along the lake is the Lion’s Children’s Playground, Lakeshore and Stars & Stripes Park, all great for an afternoon picnic. But stick around for a sunset by the lighthouse, before dining at one of the lakeside restaurants.
8. Science Museum Oklahoma
Those with kids in tow will have a blast at the Science Museum Oklahoma. The range of interactive exhibits will stoke everyone’s curiosity, young or old, while providing a platform to explore the world around us.
Yes, the Science Museum is tailored towards the younger folk. But since you’re along for the ride, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement.
Each exhibit is fun and insightful, not to mention hands-on. You can get your hands busy with the entire family as you create LEGO masterpieces, ride a Segway or venture into the enthralling tornado simulator.
7. Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Featuring a vast collection of contemporary pieces, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is the preeminent gallery in the city. Their permanent 19th and 20th century collections are renowned for the burst of color and vibrant artistic expression. In fact, the first thing you’ll see as you walk inside is a 55-foot tower of prismatic glass.
The museum covers three floors sectioned into various themes and topics. This includes a hall dedicated to glass works of Dale Chihuly, Latin America art and European works from the 1800s.
Add in the revolving door of traveling exhibitions and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art has something captivating for all who wander through the door.
6. Myriad Botanical Gardens
Surrounded by skyscrapers and the old buildings of the business district, Myriad Botanical Gardens is an urban oasis. Just steps away from the bustling local streets, the gardens are a lovely escape from the action, with plenty of fun to be had.
When the sun is out and summer is in full swing, the gardens are a popular place to go. Here, you can let the little ones run wild in the thrilling thunderstorm fountain before everyone settles in for a night of Shakespeare in the Park.
As the temperatures fall, Myriad Botanical Gardens is the place to go ice skating. But at any time of year, you can experience the garden’s true highlight, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. Come for the waterfalls and stay for the blooming flowers and butterflies.
5. Oklahoma City Zoo
Rated as one of the most family-friendly zoos in the country, the Oklahoma City Zoo should be high on the itinerary of all traveling families. Everyone else too, for that matter. The zoo is a place to embrace your wild side as you explore expansive enclosures with up-close viewpoints.
The zoo is large, so visitors should arrive with their best pair of walking shoes. When you’re ready, start off on the Oklahoma Trails. This passageway features 100 animals native to the state spread across Oklahoma’s 11 life zones. There’s even a recreation of Turner Falls.
Beyond local species, the Oklahoma City Zoo is home to elephants, lions and tigers. At Great EscApe, you’ll have an amazing vantage point for seeing gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees.
4. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma City boasts a rich cowboy tradition. The city was settled back in 1889 by pioneers during the famous Land Run. In the ensuing years, it developed a swath of ranches and cattle trails as it marked a prominent position in Cowboy Country.
Today, you can celebrate and learn about Oklahoma City’s and indeed the United States’ ranching history at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Embark on a nostalgic and romantic story of the American cowboy that brings you to a complete recreation of an early 20th century cattle town.
Along with this replica and dozens of amazing artifacts, the museum has a fantastic array of Native American and Western art. This explores the tragic Trail of Tears, with the End of the Trail sculpture being the major talking point.
3. Museum of Osteology
Perhaps the most interesting experience in Oklahoma City, the Museum of Osteology, is all about bones, skeletons and fossils. All told, the museum is home to over 400 skulls and 300 fully formed skeletons. They offer fascinating insight into the biology of many vertebrate animals through history.
From the outside, the Museum of Osteology isn’t one for the memory banks. But it only serves to heighten your surprise as you wander inside to discover the array of bones carefully laid out before you. It’s the only museum of its kind in the country and it features almost all the major animals.
As you wander around, you’ll come across some of your favorite wildlife standing as they would if they were alive. Sans skin and organs.
The grand effects of urban renewal can be seen throughout the United States, but we’d pitch Bricktown in Downtown OKC to be one of the best examples. Not only does it have a rocking name, but the classic red-brick warehouses have a new lease on life now that they’re home to restaurants, entertainment and patios strewn across the sparkling canal.
It’s one of the best spots in town to shop. You may see your typical brand stores, but it’s mostly local boutiques and vintage stores that will have you shopping for something different.
Come nightfall, Bricktown’s true personality comes out. Visitors can enjoy live sport, take a water taxi down the canal at sunset, watch a flick at the beautiful Harkins Theater or put on their cowboy boots and hit the floor at Coyote Ugly Saloon.
1. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
In April, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed. Today, the site has been transformed into the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. It offers a place of healing and hope, along with the opportunity to remember those who passed.
The site’s museum grants visitors a look into the lead up to the horrific event along with the tragic aftermath. Following that, you’ll get a great understanding of how Oklahoma City recovered and forged its way into a new era.
You’ll remember the museum most for the heart-wrenching oral accounts and multimedia displays, not to mention artifacts found after the wreckage. After visiting the museum, pay your respects under the incredible Gates of Time and wander along the reflecting pool towards the Survivor Tree.