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Get Your Kicks in Oklahoma

Art lovers, adventure seekers and history hounds can all find a way to get their kicks on a tour of Oklahoma.

A sample of what the state offers can be found in Oklahoma City’s Western experiences, Native American culture and world-class outdoor thrills. Your group will be delighted by Tulsa’s welcoming vibe coupled with outstanding museums surrounded by lovely gardens, and the city’s Gathering Place offers multifaceted outdoor amenities.

The state also serves as headquarters to 39 Native American tribes. Scenic Chickasaw Country in south-central Oklahoma touts rolling hills, waterfalls and abundant activities.

Stretching nearly 400 miles across the state, Oklahoma’s portion of Route 66 helps to enhance any itinerary with plenty of quirky and memorable sites.

Oklahoma City

Slated to be completed mid-September 2021, Oklahoma City’s First Americans Museum will tell the collective story of Oklahoma’s 39 tribes from a historic perspective and contemporary reality. Groups can take advantage of the full-service restaurant and grab-and-go cafe. The large museum store, akin to an artistic marketplace, will sell one-of-kind handcrafted artworks.

For an authentic Western experience, the National Cowboy Western and Heritage Museum showcases the American cowboy, rodeos and Native Americans. Outside, visitors can explore replicas of Native tribal dwellings and watch on-site demonstrations.

Saturday evenings in Stockyard City, Rodeo Opry delivers family-friendly entertainment. Before or after, dine at the legendary Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and shop Little Joe’s Boots and Langston’s for all things cowboy.

In the Boathouse District, Riversport OKC delivers outdoor thrills. Groups can raft, kayak or tube on Class II to Class IV rapids. Professional guides give instruction beforehand, and the whitewater experience lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes. In addition, the SandRidge Sky Trail features a six-story ropes course and an 80-foot free-fall jump. A zip line crosses the river, and there’s a climbing wall and four high-speed slides. Indoors, visitors can try the surfing simulator, and come late spring, a ski simulator will be operational.

“Groups can get day passes for multiple activities within the district, or they can come and experience one particular activity,” said Lindsay Vidrine, vice president of marketing for the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “A food truck can be brought in, plus there’s event space and catering options from casual to very formal.”

Downtown’s 70-acre Scissortail Park hosts concerts and weekend farmers and holiday markets. Pavilions with picnic tables accommodate a food truck area on the park’s east side, and paddleboat rental is available on the lake. The OKC Streetcar connects six miles of the city’s core and stops at the park.

Your group can take the high-speed elevator to the 49th floor of the Devon Energy Tower to the memorable restaurant Vast. According to Vidrine, the restaurant is well known for its locally sourced seasonal menu and unique cocktails. Numerous options for a private reception or dinner are backdropped by stunning views.


Tulsa’s art scene continues to expand outdoors. The Philbrook Museum of Art showcases American, European, Renaissance and baroque works within a 1920s Italianate villa. Linger at the lovely La Villa restaurant overlooking the formal gardens or opt for outdoor movies, live music and programming in the gardens.

Northwest of downtown, the Gilcrease Museum’s world-class collection of Western American art spans Colonial times to the present. Self-made oilman Thomas Gilcrease had a fondness for Remington bronzes, as well as Moran and Russell paintings. Guided garden tours highlight horticultural styles from the American West, and visitors can spend several hours walking additional trails on the grounds. The excellent museum store features Native American and contemporary arts and crafts.

From Broadway shows to the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center (TPAC) offers a full calendar of events. Gracing the interior and grounds, more than 70 works of art feature well-known Oklahomans, Native Americans and international superstars. TPAC houses four theaters, plus studio and event space.

For more open-air socializing, the Gathering Place stretches alongside the Arkansas River. Nearly 100 acres feature nature trails, a concert lawn and the OneOK Boathouse, where visitors can rent paddleboats, kayaks and canoes for cruising Peggy’s Pond. The Boathouse Restaurant offers elegant dining, while the casual Overlook Deck affords panoramic views. Anchoring it all and built from primarily Oklahoma materials, the glass and stone Williams Lodge hosts activities, and its great room features a floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace.

“Everyone is focused on bringing new, unique experiences to their outdoor spaces through music, dance, art and outdoor projects,” said Ray Hoyt, president of Tulsa Regional Tourism.

Just 45 minutes southeast of Tulsa, Sequoyah State Park lies on the shores of Fort Gibson Lake amidst tall pines. The state’s largest lodge offers a variety of rooms along with an expansive bunkhouse and A-frame cabins. Activities range from swimming to golf and trail rides. The Three Forks Nature Center schedules naturalist-led programs.

Chickasaw Country   

Your group will find culture, shopping and entertainment in Tishomingo, the historic capital of the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw Council House and Museum holds one of the largest collections of Chickasaw art and artifacts. The museum shop sells artwork and jewelry by Chickasaw artists.

Inspired by Blake Shelton’s hit “Ol’ Red,” the Ole Red Restaurant features live music every weeknight, as well as dance parties Friday through Sunday evenings. Private space for groups is also available.

On 184 pristine acres of rolling hills and woodlands, the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur honors the Chickasaw Nation’s living culture, past and present. Outside, groups can take the winding path or four-story Sky Bridge to the traditional village that replicates the 1700s Chickasaw homeland, including dance and craft demonstrations, before European contact. Nearby, the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center combines upscale amenities, such as its Sole’renity Spa, with outdoor activities that include a ropes course, fishing and canoeing.

“Chickasaw Country offers many amenities in nature and outdoor recreation,” said Paige Shepherd, director of corporate development and tourism for the Chickasaw Nation. “We’re looking forward to welcoming groups back in a safe environment because we’re in rural Oklahoma, and our attractions provide great experiences without the crowds.”

Halfway between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Lake Murray State Park is the state’s largest park. Tucked into forested hills on the shores of Lake Murray, the iconic Tucker Tower History Center affords panoramic views for those who climb to the top. Groups can opt for a sunset dinner cruise, watch local entertainment or attend naturalist-led programs. There’s an exceptional trail system for hiking and horseback. The lake offers swimming, fishing, boating and scuba diving in its clear waters. Sports range from an 18-hole, par 72 golf course with pro shop to tennis courts and ballfields.

Returning through Oklahoma City, Bricktown’s Exhibit C is part gallery and part boutique. Here, handcrafted artwork is displayed and sold by First American artists. Gourmet Bedré Fine Chocolates, made by the Chickasaw Nation, can also be purchased.

Route 66    

Commonly dubbed the Mother Road, Route 66 was conceived by Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery, Oklahoma’s first highway commissioner. Groups that follow portions of the original route through the state will find a number of unique experiences.

The elegant Coleman Theatre in Miami showcases a 1929 Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. Instead of vaudeville shows of yesteryear, the theater now offers a variety of entertainment.

In Claremore, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum honors the Oklahoma native. This fascinating museum highlights Rogers’ career as an actor, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist and social commentator.

In Chelsea, quirky Totem Pole Park claims the world’s largest concrete totem, and the 11-sided Fiddle House displays hand-carved fiddles. And near Tulsa, the 80-foot-long Blue Whale beckons as one of Route 66’s most recognizable icons.

Stop for a photo at Tulsa’s Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, where eight state flags represent the states crisscrossed by Route 66. The Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge lies over the original route.

“Between Peoria and Lewis on 11th Street, Tulsa’s original Route 66 is currently being developed with the Mother Road Market as the anchor,” said Hoyt. “It’s a unique food court that features up-and-coming local chefs. This stretch of street also has four microbreweries, boutiques and lots of neon.”

In between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, one-of-a-kind memorabilia fills Chandler’s Route 66 Interpretive Center. This 1937 National Guard armory displays historic travel guides, vintage billboards and virtual hotel rooms. Visitors can “ride” in a 1930 Model A Ford, a 1948 Willys Jeep or a 1965 red Mustang while watching short films about the Mother Road.

On Oklahoma City’s outskirts, an iconic 66-foot-tall pop bottle puts Pops on the map. The futuristic building displays a rainbow of soda bottles. Inside, nearly 650 flavors of specialty sodas include flavors like Jelly Belly Blueberry and Sonoma Pear Natural Sparkler. The 1950s-style diner serves meals or snacks. Patio seating overlooks 66 redbuds, Oklahoma’s state tree.

Another highlight, the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum, lies near the Texas border in Elk City. The four-museum complex features first-person accounts of Route 66’s heyday, along with a collection of vintage cars. Visitors can hop into a 1959 red Impala at the drive-in theater to watch clips from classic movies such as “The Blob.”

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.