10 Things You've Got to Do in Oklahoma City

There's so much to explore in this sprawling Midwest metropolis.

August 19, 2019

Photo By: nashvilledino2

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Make Time for Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City may not have a spot on many bucket lists, but that's a shame. There's a lot to love about this delightful Midwest destination thanks to its colorful, ever-changing murals, walkable neighborhoods that beg to be explored and rich Western and Native American heritage. This capital city even boasts a slice of historic Route 66 that draws in those eager to trace the Mother Road through the state. Known largely for a nationally-recognized college football rivalry (Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State) and oil fields that dot the area, you're in for a treat, like an onion burger (yum), when you make time for Oklahoma City. You won't be disappointed.

Pay Tribute at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

Make the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum one of your first stops in Oklahoma City. A self-guided tour relays the story of the history-shaping events following the 1995 bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. This privately-funded museum honors the 168 victims, including 19 children. An outdoor memorial allows for peaceful reflection between the Gates of Time, which signify the minute before and after the bomb blast. The Field of Empty Chairs symbolizes each of the victims who lost their lives that day.

See the Sights from the Bricktown Water Taxi

Take a sightseeing cruise through the heart of downtown Oklahoma City along the Bricktown Canal. Settle in to learn the history of OKC by way of a 40-minute live narration with Bricktown Water Taxi. Hop off wherever you like to see the sights across Bricktown, like the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, OKC Zoo and Oklahoma History Center. Then hop on when you're ready to get back on the water. Cruise passes are good all day. It's a great way to start off a getaway in Oklahoma City, particularly for first-time visitors.

Ride the Wheeler Ferris Wheel

At Wheeler Riverfront Plaza, take a spin on the 100-foot-tall Wheeler Ferris Wheel. Many cities have observation wheel-style rides that let you see the city from up above, but only Oklahoma City boasts an upcycled ferris wheel that once called the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California home. Yes, Oklahoma City bought the Wheeler Ferris Wheel on eBay, then spent more than $1 million on a refurb. Chill out on the green space in front of the Wheel, then snap a few photos with gigantic hashtag-worthy white OKC letters (#SeeOKC).

Go Whitewater Rafting

It's hard to believe, but yes, you can get in whitewater rafting on class III and IV rapids in Oklahoma City at RIVERSPORT Rapids. It's shockingly legit, too. This is no theme park ride with seat belts and a bar to hold onto as you're guided along rapids. This is authentic paddle-for-dear-life whitewater rafting and you will get wet. Like, really, really wet. You may even fall out of the raft (so hold on tight). At the Boathouse District, you can also kayak rapids or flatwater, climb across a ropes course or fly on a zipline 700 feet over the Oklahoma River.

Chow Down on an Onion Burger

It's kind of a thing and it's kind of delicious. Onion burgers date back to the 1920s when restaurants across Oklahoma got creative to cut costs and stay afloat during the Great Depression. To save money on beef, cooks pressed thin slices of onions into burgers. Once fried, the onions added a new level of tasty to the burgers (who knew?). The place to go is Tucker's. There are three locations in OKC, but 23rd Street is the flagship store. Go hungry (like, really hungry) and order the Mother Trucker, a triple-size, one-pound burger with fixings galore.

Get Your Kicks on Oklahoma's Route 66

More than 400 miles of Route 66 cut across Oklahoma. That's more miles than any state. In Oklahoma City, snap photos of the Gold Dome Building and Milk Bottle Grocery. Just east, stop in the Round Barn and Pops 66 Soda Ranch for 700+ varieties of soda. To the west, you'll find El Reno, home to three more onion burger joints. A few more miles down the road, get nostalgic at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, which recounts the colorful history of this storied highway.

Skip Across Town in Search of Colorful Murals

You'll find colorful murals all across Oklahoma City, even at the airport. Blogger Kristin Luna of Camels & Chocolate suggests renting a car to see as many beautiful murals as you can, including those in Bricktown, across Western Avenue and near the Paseo Arts District. There are so many must-see murals in OKC, but a few faves include the Bricktown Octopus, Greetings from OKC and Red Tail Hawk. It's also a must to check out the uber-colorful murals that brighten up the railroad underpasses that lead to Bricktown.

Take a Relaxing Walk at Myriad Botanical Gardens

Stroll across a 15-acre urban green space that wows with an off-leash dog park, a children's garden and playground, a carousel and ornate flower gardens. Even better, you can do all this for free at Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City. Inside, the Crystal Bridge Conservatory boasts thousands of desert and tropical plants. There is a charge of $8 for adults and $5 for children to explore the indoor gardens. Look for seasonal features, like a pumpkin carnival in October, an ice rink from November-January and a summer sprayground just right for frolicking little ones.

Get Immersed in Artworks at Factory Obscura

For an unparalleled immersive art experience that engages all the senses, pop in at Factory Obscura. It's wildly colorful, highly curious, and well, you'll need to see it for yourself. The first phase leads with "The King's Mouth," which is billed as an "immersive head trip fantasy experience." It's also free (for now), so stop by to fill your Insta feed. In late-September, look for the full experience, Mix-Tape at the Womb. Inspired by the old-school mix-tape, the installation intends to engage visitors on a sensory journey that spurs creativity and brings about a sense of wonder.

Explore Museums You Won't Find Anywhere Else

Every city has its own assortment of museums, like natural history and children's museums. Only in OKC, however, can you find the American Pigeon Museum, the Museum of Women Pilots and the Museum of Osteology (yes, a museum dedicated to skulls and skeletons). You'll even find the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City. Across two floors, you'll find more banjos than you've likely ever seen and you'll be able to go deep into the history of the banjo, from the Minstrel Era starting in the 1840s to Bluegrass following World War II (and well beyond, of course).

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