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Oklahoma: An Authentic Wonder
Oklahoma: An Authentic Wonder
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American Indian Heritage and Cowboy Life

Oklahoma has the largest Native American population in the USA, serving as headquarters for 39 tribes. Discover rich heritage by attending a powwow or visiting the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Standing Bear Monument, Cherokee Heritage Center and Red Earth Art Center, home to the well-attended Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival every June. Pioneer history and cowboy culture is on display at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, two can’t-miss attractions for Western art and culture. Other ways to get a little bit country: Stay at an authentic working cattle ranch, see a rodeo and listen to live country music in just about every town, every night of the week.

 

Route 66 Landmarks

No other road in the USA has the mystique of Route 66, and Oklahoma has more of it than anywhere else – including the last remaining “ribbon road,” a 2.7-meter-wide section of pavement laid in 1922. Quirky roadside landmarks include a big blue whale, big round barn, large milk bottle on a small building, a totem pole park, the Vaudeville-era Coleman Theatre and the 23-meter-tall Golden Driller statue in Tulsa, a figure so iconic that it was adopted as the state monument in 1979. View the extensive collections of Mother Road memorabilia at the Route 66 Interpretive Center, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum or the National Route 66 Museum. When it’s time to eat, stop at Pops 66 Soda Ranch for a burger and choose from among 700 flavored sodas.

 

Life in the Big City

While much of Oklahoma is characterized by small towns and open landscapes, it’s not all country. In Oklahoma City, check out Bricktown, a warehouse-district-turned-entertainment-mecca with bars, clubs, boutiques and eateries as well as the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and a water taxi tour that cruises through the heart of Bricktown. Visit family-friendly attractions such as the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma in the Adventure District. Get a photo of Skydance Bridge, a remarkable pedestrian bridge topped with a 60-meter star-like sculpture. Oklahoma City also has a booming culinary scene; just ask the locals for recommendations on their favorite barbecue, chicken-fried steak and fried onion burgers. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city, rocks with concerts at the BOK Center, Cain’s Ballroom and The Joint at Hard Rock Casino. Nature enthusiasts can find outdoor activities right in the city. Hike at Turkey Mountain Urban Park, pedal the Tulsa River Parks or fish below the dam in the Arkansas River.

Oklahoma: An Authentic Wonder
Oklahoma: An Authentic Wonder
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Fun Fact

Frank Lloyd Wright designed exactly one skyscraper, Bartlesville's 19-story Price Tower.
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Frank Lloyd Wright designed exactly one skyscraper, Bartlesville's 19-story Price Tower.

 Centennial Land Run Monument in the Bricktown District, Oklahoma City
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The state’s nickname comes from settlers who attempted to beat the official starting time – and get there “sooner” – during the 1889 Oklahoma land rush.

Country music entertainer Blake Shelton at his restaurant, Ole Red in Tishomingo, Oklahoma
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Oklahoma is the birthplace of some of Country music’s biggest names, including Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Toby Keith.

Must see places

A 20-meter lighted soda bottle on Route 66 outside Pops restaurant in Arcadia

Route 66

Nearly 650 kilometers of this iconic road are in Oklahoma, more than any other state in the country. In addition to numerous roadside attractions and retro diners, visit these museums dedicated to the Mother Road: Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, the National Transportation and Route 66 Museum in Elk City and the Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler.

Family browsing exhibits at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Located in Oklahoma City, this museum is an incredible repository of Western art and artifacts. In addition to more than 28,000 objects, it holds an eclectic array of exhibit galleries covering rodeos, firearms, Native American art, cowboys in popular culture and Prosperity Junction, a faithful replica of a 19th-century Western pioneer town.

Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve

The former summer home of petroleum magnate Frank Phillips blends nature, history and art in one unique attraction. Drive through the preserve for a rare opportunity to get close to the mighty bison, elk and Texas longhorn cattle. Explore the impressive art museum, which houses Western and Native American art, prehistoric artifacts from 40 Plains tribes and an extensive exhibit of Colt firearms. The lodge displays authentic furnishings from when Phillips entertained dignitaries, celebrities, politicians and businessmen.

Native American sculpture greeting visitors to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa

Gilcrease Museum

This Tulsa museum houses the world’s largest collection of Western art and artifacts. Inside, you’ll find works by icons, including Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler. The collection of Native American clothing, weapons and handicrafts is unparalleled. Outside, explore the beautiful themed gardens. Fun fact: The museum’s archival material holds the only known certified, handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation.

Dance demonstration at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Much more than a museum, this impressive facility tells the story of the Chickasaw Nation, from pre-European contact through modern-day life. Explore the detailed exhibits, manicured gardens, thought-provoking sculptures and a traditional Chickasaw village with live demonstrations of tribal customs. Catch the daily stomp dance and sample Native American food, including buffalo burgers, fry bread and pashofa, a Chickasaw corn soup, in the café.

Free-range buffalo in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma

Wichita Mountain Scenic Byway

The 150-kilometer Wichita Mountain Scenic Byway is abundant with beauty, passing through the peaks and valleys of the Wichita Mountains. The route includes the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, home to a rare expanse of natural grassland prairie where bison, wild turkeys and elk roam. Bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the small towns along the way, and don’t miss the side road to the top of Mount Scott; the 751-meter peak offers expansive views of the Wichita Mountains and Lake Lawtonka.

Turner Falls Park in Davis, Oklahoma

Turner Falls Park

If you love the outdoors, Turner Falls Park in the Arbuckle Mountains has it all. The park is home to the 23-meter-tall Turner Falls, the tallest in the state, which cascades into a popular summer swimming hole complete with water slides and diving boards. Hike eight kilometers of scenic trails, explore three natural caves, bring a picnic for a day trip or camp overnight. Concessions and groceries are available on site.

Spectacular views along the Talimena National Scenic Byway in eastern Oklahoma

Talimena National Scenic Byway

At 87 kilometers, the Talimena National Scenic Byway can be driven in just a few hours, but the spectacular views and charming towns along the way are worth lingering. This byway traverses the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Read informative plaques and visit historical sites, including the Wheelock Academy, the first Choctaw Nation educational academy, and Heavener Runestone Park, home to mysterious carvings that some believe were made by Vikings.

Guitar on display at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa

Woody Guthrie Center

Folk music icon Woody Guthrie, a native Oklahoman, wrote the quintessential song about the  USA, “This Land is Your Land,” mentored Bob Dylan and was father to Arlo Guthrie, who became a folk legend in his own right. The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa showcases Guthrie’s personal notebooks, clothing, instruments and other memorabilia. Displays covering the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, along with photography, maps and interactive exhibits, put the musician’s life into greater cultural context.

Marland Mansion & Estate in Ponca City, Oklahoma

Marland Mansion & Estate

Oil tycoon E.W. Marland made his fortune in the 1920s and used his riches to build the Marland Mansion in Ponca City. The 55-room estate’s Italianate design earned it the nickname “The Palace on the Prairie.” Tour the opulent home, which included luxuries for the era: a refrigerator, dishwasher and shower stall with multiple showerheads. The estate grounds are beautifully manicured and make a scenic setting for an afternoon picnic, especially by the iconic “Pioneer Woman” statue commissioned by Marland to celebrate the spirit of women settlers.

Explore Oklahoma destinations

People relaxing by the water at Philbrook Museum Gardens in Tulsa
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Explore Oklahoma destinations

Official Oklahoma Travel Site

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Sculpture adorning the lawn at the University of Oklahoma Visitor Center
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Destination

Norman

Tranquil setting at an urban park in downtown Tulsa
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Destination

Tulsa

View of the mountains beyond a stunning lake

Destination

Flagstaff