The Top Things to Do and See in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is an underrated tourist destination bursting with things to see and do
Oklahoma City is an underrated tourist destination bursting with things to see and do | © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Kalpana Satish

Not many tourists are familiar with the sights in Oklahoma, but this state is an unsung hero and has more to offer than meets the eye. Below are some activities that make the state’s capital city such an exciting spot to visit.

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Visit Bricktown Entertainment District

Having transformed from a warehouse district to the entertainment quarter of the city, Bricktown has all the hottest spots gathered in one place. Whether it’s restaurants, clubs, bars or shopping you’re after, you’ll find it all in this central location, making the area that much easier to navigate – so you don’t have to be a local to have some fun. You should definitely check out some of the following when venturing into this district: the ballpark, a 16-screen movie theater, carriages, Bricktown canal, boat rides… The list goes on!

Watch the sunset at Lake Hefner Park

A reservoir that was constructed to help the city with its water shortages years ago, Lake Hefner has become a recreational destination for visitors and locals alike. Fishing, for example, has become a popular sport in the area – but if it isn’t really up your alley, then you can try your hand at sailing or even grab a blanket and have a lakeside picnic with friends and family. Spanning over 2,500 acres (1,012ha) and not too far away from the heart of the city, the park offers plenty to do while you enjoy the outdoors.

Watch a concert at Chesapeake Energy Arena

Whether it’s concerts, basketball games or conferences, the Chesapeake Energy Arena hosts it all. This is the go-to spot for shows that make their stop in Oklahoma City (OKC). Located downtown, this central spot is perfect for touring the city before catching a game or performance. Book your next concert here by going to the venue’s website and learning more about the services it provides.

Head on over to the stockyards

There’s no better representation of Oklahoma culture than the stockyards. Travel back to the wild, wild West and emerge into a land of cowboys, haystacks and bulls. Get ready to embrace the old Western culture that most people have only seen in movies. From riding horses to watching the rodeo, there are many activities to enjoy here.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art

On your next visit to Oklahoma City, become one of the 130,000 people that visit the city’s art museum every year. Exhibitions from all over the world display art from a wide variety of cultures, genres, mediums and eras. View a film at the premier cinema located within the museum or enjoy a great view from the rooftop terrace after a tour of the museum itself – there is much to discover within this space.

Gaze at the Gold Dome

The Gold Dome is definitely one of those sights that travelers to Oklahoma City will remember long after they’ve left the city. With its bold color and intricate geometric patterns, this structure is eye-catching to say the least. This landmark was built on Route 66 in 1958 and became one of the first geodesic domes in the world. So, come over and visit this historic and aesthetically pleasing landmark.

Stand in awe of the OKC National Memorial

Take time out of your visit to the city to commemorate those who have sacrificed their lives for others. The National Memorial was built to offer the OKC community a spot where everyone can remember those who fought to protect, serve and honor the nation. The design of the memorial is intriguing and remains imprinted on the minds of all who make their way here.

Visit the animals at Oklahoma Zoo

Another Oklahoma attraction is the OKC Zoo, home to almost 2,000 animals. Particularly impressive residents include lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos, and there are plenty of water-dwelling inhabitants to meet too. But what really makes the zoo stand out is the range of interactive experiences and shows on offer, from rhino and giraffe feedings to twice-daily performances by the sea lions. If you’re feeling lazy wandering around the 140-acre (57ha) site, you can jump on the mini-train for easier access to the animal pens. Food and drinks are available at three stylish restaurants and several cafés.

Embrace the hauntings at Overholser Mansion

Named after the father of Oklahoma City, the Overholser Mansion is quite an impressive property. It has become a crucial part of the city’s history over the years and has undergone many restorations to preserve its architectural glory. You can go on a tour and learn more about the family that once lived within the walls. The 20-room Victorian mansion is also said to be haunted. From eerie sounds to faint apparitions, tourists have heard and seen it all!

Dive into the world of bones at the Museum of Osteology

No educational jaunt through OKC could be complete without a visit to the rather curious Museum of Osteology. For those unfamiliar with the term, osteology is the study of bones. Unleash your inner scientist at one of the largest bone collection exhibits in the country. With over 300 skeletons on display in a 7,000sqft (650sqm) space, there’s so much to learn from the surroundings here.

Visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Founded in 1955, Oklahoma’s National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (also containing the National Cowboy Hall of Fame) provides fascinating insight into the culture and history of the American West. The permanent collection comprises paintings, sculptures and historical materials, highlights of which include American Indian art, rare military items and important works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Kids won’t get bored either; they can test their rodeo abilities in the Children’s Cowboy Corral. A varied program of temporary exhibitions also runs alongside the permanent collection.

Roam the Underground

Formerly called the Conncourse (after a distinguished Oklahoma City banker Jack Conn), Downtown OKC’s Underground was opened in 1974 to connect various buildings and parking garages. Spanning 20 blocks and running for around a mile in total, this subterranean network of tunnels is now used as a de facto art gallery, with temporary exhibitions displayed on its colorful walls. You’ll also find a café, a post office, a bank and a Chinese restaurant. Entrances to the Underground are scattered around the downtown area, but the two most accessible entry points are in the basements of the Sheraton Hotel and the BancFirst building.

Be amazed at the Science Museum

Although aimed principally at kids, the exhibits at Oklahoma’s Science Museum are so dynamic and interactive that adults will also be amazed. Of the many things to do here, you can train like astronauts do, hang out with giant bugs, build with enormous Legos and explore the cosmos in the Kirkpatrick Planetarium. The extensive gardens feature some of Oklahoma’s most impressive flora and also provide the setting for a seasonal calendar of outdoor events. When you’re done experimenting and exploring, head to Pavlov’s Grill for a burger or Pavlov’s Snacks for a take-out coffee and sandwich.

Check out the Oklahoma History Center

Located on a large site directly opposite the iconic Capitol building, the Smithsonian-affiliated Oklahoma History Center takes a detailed look at every facet of the state’s past. Topics explored across the 2,000-item permanent collection include culture, aviation, geology and commerce. There’s also a huge range of educational events and workshops available for those wanting a deeper immersion in Oklahoma’s rich history, from classes to field trips and film screenings. Outside, take the quarter-mile Red River Journey, an informative walking tour focused on the flora native to the Oklahoma stretch of the Red River Valley.

Learn about banjos

For something you can’t do anywhere else on the planet, head to Oklahoma City’s American Banjo Museum. Home to the largest public collection of banjos in the world (there are more than 400 of them), it will teach you all about an instrument that has been central to American music for centuries. The collection’s focal points are the elaborately decorated instruments made in America throughout the Jazz Age of the 1920s and ’30s, but there are also notable models from the late 1800s, the early 1900s and the post WWII period. Other items include films, recordings and antique printed music.

Additional reporting by Mark Nayler

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