10 Terrific Reasons to Visit Tulsa, Oklahoma

Explore the top 10 attractions in this vibrant city.

Related To:

Photo By: Courtesy Gathering Place

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Oklahoma Aquarium

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Courtesy Steve Larese

A Gathering Place for Tulsa

Tulsa’s newest attraction is A Gathering Place for Tulsa along the Arkansas River, a 100-acre park and multi-use areas made possible by a $200 million donation by the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, the largest such donation in ever made in the United States. Gathering Place contains playgrounds, open space, sports fields, a skate park, outdoor performance spaces, cycling and running paths and a community "living room" complete with fireplace.

Downtown Tulsa

Downtown is easily walkable and is divided into several distinct, complementary districts. The Tulsa Arts District is known for its restaurants, shops, galleries, museums and public spaces. Grassy Guthrie Green is a hotspot where free music concerts, yoga classes, plays and more are held throughout the year. Each Wednesday, food trucks line the area, and festivals such as Tulsa Mayfest are based here too. Greenwood District, which was known as the "Black Wall Street" in the 1920s, was the wealthiest African American community in the country. Reconciliation Park acknowledges the horrific 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. Nearby, ONEOK Field, is where the Tulsa Drillers play baseball throughout the summer. (A free fireworks show takes place at the field every Friday throughout the season.) The Pearl District is known for its local watering holes and live music, and the Blue Dome District, named for its historic Art Deco gas station, has retro bowling, '80s arcade games, and pleasantly dive-y neighborhood bars. Cherry Street (15th Street between Utica and Peoria) and Brookside (Peoria from 21st to 51st streets) are other charming neighborhoods filled with local restaurants, galleries and shops. And if you're thinking about relocating to Tulsa, you could be paid $10,000 to do so.

Philbrook Museum of Art

The Philbrook Museum of Art was originally the home of Waite Philips and his family (of Philips Petroleum); the Italian Renaissance-style home was completed in 1927 and then donated to the city in 1938. Today, the former villa displays paintings and antiquities from ancient Rome, Egypt, the Middle Ages and Italian Renaissance along with European, American, Native American, African and Asian art. The expansive and expertly manicured gardens outside the museum walls are worth admission alone. At the Philbrook Downtown location, modern and contemporary pieces of the Philbrook collection, including works by Picasso and Warhol, as well as 20th-century Native American art by such luminaries as Allan Houser, are displayed.

Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art

The Gilcrease Museum is nationally recognized as having one of the best collections of Western and Native American art in the nation. Bronzes and paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, John Audubon, Georgia O’Keeffe, and other American masters grace the exhibit space, which was built in the style of a Native American longhouse. Historic Native American artwork representing tribes and nations from across North and South America include leather, beadwork and pottery.

The Woody Guthrie Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Woody Guthrie Center explores the life of the artist who penned such American classics as "This Land is Your Land" — and who inspired all sorts of music from Bob Dylan to punk rock. Located in the vibrant Brady Arts District downtown, this museum and educational center is a must-stop for music lovers. You'll find his guitar and original notebook and lyric pages, along with listening stations and rotating exhibits detailing Guthrie’s impact on music as well as the politics and time surrounding his life.

Tulsa's Art Deco

Tulsa has some of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the country because the city was booming in the 1920s thanks to oil revenue. Tulsa's Deco District is home to the 24-story, gargoyle-protected Philtower and Boston Avenue Methodist Church (pictured). For an introduction to the design style, tour the Tulsa Art Deco Museum in the lobby of the Philcade Building. You can do a self-guided tour to see the district's architecture, and a $5 walking tour of downtown’s Art Deco buildings is led by the Tulsa Historical Society on the last Friday of every month.

Oklahoma Aquarium

Located in nearby Jenks, the Oklahoma Aquarium is a family favorite that contains exhibits ranging from aquatic life native to Oklahoma and Ozark streams to saltwater fish and the 56,000-gallon Sea Turtle Island featuring two loggerhead sea turtles, reef sharks and tropical fish. The Tulsa Zoo is an 85-acre park featuring snow leopards, white rhinoceros and other critical species with an emphasis on conservation.

Events

Tulsa likes to party year-round. High-profile events include May’s Tulsa Tough, a combination of grueling bicycle races, fun rides and tours. Cry Baby Hill, a strenuous climb during the races, has become known for its party atmosphere. Tulsa’s Linde Oktoberfest is one of the largest in the country, with authentic German music, food and an amusement park. For a complete calendar of events, visit here.

Tulsa Sound

There’s plenty for music lovers in Tulsa with all genres of live music being performed nightly throughout town. The Cain’s Ballroom is where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys performed in the 1930s, and since then its stage has seen everyone from Hank Williams to the Sex Pistols. Because of its music history, big names often go out of their way to schedule a gig at this American music institution, check here for upcoming acts. The Church Studio is where Leon Russell recorded with friends such as Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale (who wrote several songs performed by Eric Clapton). Russell and Cale are credited with developing the "Tulsa Sound.” This once-church-turned-recording-studio is slated to open to the public in early 2019. At the BOK Center Downtown, international acts frequently perform, and the Osage Casino, Hard Rock Casino & Hotel and the River Spirit Casino Resort with its Paradise Cove Stage have national music and comedy acts year-round. The documentary Oil Capital Underground details Tulsa's vibrant punk and alternative music scene in the 1980s and '90s.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Route 66 cuts through the heart of Tulsa via 11th Street, through the Pearl District downtown and south across the Arkansas River via Sunset Boulevard on to Oklahoma City. Signs throughout Tulsa mark the historic route, and many hotels, restaurants and other Mother Road neon icons still line the corridor, such as Tulsa’s Golden Driller and the Meadow Gold dairy neon sign. New businesses such as Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66 keep the kitsch and coolness of Route 66 alive. Tulsa honors Route 66 with its annual Williams Route 66 Marathon in November.

Shop This Look