When you think about cities around the USA, I am sure that many of you are thinking about New York City, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles. However, what about Oklahoma City? It’s time to change the stereotype of cities like Oklahoma City (OKC) being in the middle of nowhere and help them get on the radar because it truly is a beautiful city. Spending a weekend in Oklahoma City will certainly help sway your opinion (if you previously had one) or at least hopefully persuade you that the capital of Oklahoma is well worth visiting if you are road tripping along I-40.
Where is Oklahoma City?
Located a little over 3 hours from Dallas, Oklahoma City is a perfect location for a weekend getaway for many people that live in nearby states. Fort Smith, Arkansas is under 3 hours away and Wichita, Kansas is a little over 2 hours away.
As you drive along I-40 or I-35 through the heart of Oklahoma’s western landscape (keep your eyes peeled as you may see a cowboy on the horizon…ok, ok enough of that stereotype!) and approach Oklahoma City, you are welcomed with the breathtaking sight of the skyline primarily highlighted with the towering Devon Tower that stands at 844 feet.
Where to Stay in Oklahoma City?
We immediately felt at home when we arrived in Oklahoma City and it certainly helped that we stayed at the gorgeous Ambassador Hotel in the Midtown district of the city. The art-deco inspired architecture that is apparent throughout the interior and exterior of this hotel is one of the main reasons why we would encourage you to stay here.
It is one of the more upscale hotels in the OKC area, but you can certainly find reasonably priced rooms for under $150 per night which is definitely money well spent if you want a relaxing hotel in a booming neighborhood with delicious dining options and bars within short walking distance.
You can read a full review of our experience at the Ambassador Hotel in Oklahoma City but if you want our recommendation, then this is the place to stay!
Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City, Autograph Collection
1200 N Walker Ave,
Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Tel: (405) 600-6200
What to do in Oklahoma City?
So you have found a great hotel to stay and now it’s time to start preparing your itinerary for a weekend in Oklahoma City. Where do you even begin? What are your interests? How much time will you need? All these are questions that need to be answered but don’t worry, hopefully, this guide will give you a few useful hints and tips that will get you started.
Based on our experiences in OKC, we want to break this down into four main categories.
- Sports – Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma City Energy, Boathouse District.
- Arts & Culture – The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, The Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Myriad Botanical Gardens, The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
- Neighborhoods – Paseo Arts District, Midtown, Automobile Alley, Bricktown et al.
- Cuisine – Iguana Mexican Grill, Waffle Champion, Pie Junkie, Pops 66 Soda Ranch.
If you love adventure, sports, history, art, culture, cuisine, beer or anything else related to any of these domains…Oklahoma City has you covered! We enjoyed a combination of all these in just 48 hours exploring the city and you can too.
When we started researching things to do in Oklahoma City, I immediately headed over to the CVB website and clicked on Sports because wherever we go we love to experience the local action.
We take our sports pretty seriously here in OKC.
When I read the above quote on the website…I was immediately sold! Let’s take a look at the local teams we experienced.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Since 2008, Oklahoma City has been the proud hosts of the Thunder, the NBA team that was formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics.
With the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are one of the top teams in the NBA so when we were given the opportunity to experience them play the Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena…well, we didn’t need to be asked twice!
The gorgeous arena located in the heart of downtown OKC can hold just over 18,000 noisy Thunder fans and first-hand experience of these folks certainly emphasizes the word ‘noisy’.
I can’t imagine any opposing team enjoys a visit to the Thunder’s home court but as first-time spectators, we were simply enjoying the raucous crowd lifting their team to a resounding 113-91 victory over a struggling Jazz team.
Oklahoma City Energy
If NBA basketball doesn’t spark your interest, perhaps watching the local OKC Energy FC team will intrigue you. Playing in the third tier of professional soccer in the States, the Energy ply their trade at Taft Stadium, home of various high schools throughout the city.
The USL (United Soccer League) may not have the quality of the Barclays Premier League, La Liga or even Major League Soccer, but what it does have is an entertainment level that makes this a worthwhile experience while in OKC.
From tailgating prior to kick-off to watching a local skydiving team provide the match ball, our experience watching the Energy FC team was memorable for all the right reasons.
Be social (use the #UseYourEnergy hashtag), be vociferous in supporting the Energy and most importantly, have a great time!
Unfortunately, our visit to Taft Stadium ended with a sour taste as they succumbed to a disappointing 2-1 defeat against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. Regardless of the result, we had a great time and look forward to a return visit to cheer on the Energy!
If you love extreme adventure thrills, then head over to the new Boathouse District where you can experience an amazing zip line across the Oklahoma River or perhaps head downstream on a kayak.
The center will be a state-of-the-art aquatic adventure facility – one of only a few in the world
An impressive new feature that is opening in May 2016 is the whitewater rafting and kayaking center known as RIVERSPORT Rapids.
Even if extreme adventure is not your thing, taking a stroll by the river is a relaxing experience while watching adventurous folks do their thing in this relatively new part of OKC’s downtown neighborhood.
Arts & Culture
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Located outside of downtown OKC, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum offers visitors to the area an opportunity to learn all about this ‘cowboy’ stereotype associated with Oklahoma.
Heading to this museum, I have to admit I was a little skeptical because I had visions in mind of a large barn with horses running around outside and a few artifacts depicting Buffalo Bill and other iconic legends of western heritage.
I am so happy to say that I was so wrong! This experience is anything but the stereotype you may imagine, rather it offers a legitimate historical perspective on how society lived in recent decades in the heart of the American West.
In fact, the museum is home to the world’s largest collection of rodeo photographs and even barbed wire! I never imagined learning about the various types of barbed wire could actually be pretty interesting. You better experience it to believe it.
Both inside and outside the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a cool experience.
Outside you can learn about Buffalo Bill himself along with marvel over the perfectly manicured gardens and water features that make this a relaxing environment to stroll around.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
If you love art, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art will entice you through its doors and provide an exhilarating experience as you are taken back through history with a number of gorgeous works and brought forward to modern day artists and their intricate compositions.
We were fortunate to experience this museum when the Chihuly exhibit was taking place on the third floor and this in itself is worth the admission fee alone.
For those of you unfamiliar with Chihuly, the glass works that he produces are breathtaking masterpieces and some of these on display are incredible to imagine how they were sculpted.
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Who would have thought that downtown Oklahoma City would be home to a gorgeous botanical garden? I know I was surprised to hear that directly opposite the tallest skyscraper in Oklahoma is the Myriad Botanical Gardens. The 17-acre botanical garden is an interactive, urban area of green space.
A lake, various tiers of densely populated landscaped areas and of course, the focal point – Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, are the main highlights here. We visited on Easter Sunday which gave us free admission to Crystal Bridge though I have to admit we were both a little disappointed by the overall experience.
The greenhouse effect that is apparent inside this conservatory enables a myriad of tropical plants to grow here but I was just a little overwhelmed with the amount of plant life visible here.
However, we can certainly see the attraction here to young children who would learn valuable information on plant habitats and the associated processes behind the development of various species.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
We wanted to save the best until last! April 19, 1995 was just a normal day in Oklahoma City. At least that was the case until 9:01AM that morning, until the tragic event of a bomb exploding at the Murrah Federal Building.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum stands on the location where this bomb exploded and provides a chronological experience for visitors to follow exactly how the events unfolded.
I have experienced a couple of poignant museums before such as the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, but this experience was something far more emotional than anything else.
Whether it was the vivid images or the audio effects provided to visitors, it was a distressing and emotional experience walking through the museum but one that we both valued and can recommend to anyone visiting Oklahoma City.
This museum and memorial are also an awesome experience at night as the lights illuminate the reflecting pool with the Oklahoma City skyline in the background.
Oklahoma City is a plethora of diverse neighborhoods with each one being unique and offering an eclectic mix of attractions that make them worth visiting. Automobile Alley is an intriguing part of downtown OKC as it was the former location of car dealerships that have since been transformed into bars, restaurants and boutique establishments.
The beauty of Oklahoma City is that many of these neighborhoods and located within walking distance, or a short drive away, so be sure to get on your walking boots and explore these parts of the city.
We walked to the Bricktown neighborhood which is typified by the gorgeous canal that winds through the district and offers a water taxi ride that is a really cool way to experience this district. Our tour guide shared some tips on restaurants and bars around this part of OKC, along with a few history lessons on the bronze statues that represent the Oklahoma Land Run participants of 1889.
If you are looking for a little Spanish extravagance, head over to the Paseo Arts district and experience the vibrant colors of the architecture. You won’t need to head to Barcelona to see Gaudi inspired work when you can wander around this community and visit art galleries and restaurants in the Paseo district of OKC.
These are just a couple of examples of neighborhoods that you can spend some time exploring. Be sure to check out our post focused on highlighting some of the best neighborhoods in Oklahoma City that you won’t want to miss.
Arriving in Oklahoma City, we were both ready to experience some local cuisine. But what is the local food in Oklahoma that we all associate with the Sooner state? Whether it’s Tex-Mex cuisine, BBQ or just any food that is deep-fried, we were ready to sample all of it.
We don’t want to share all our secrets just yet but if you are looking for some authentic Mexican cuisine, head over to the Midtown district and try Iguana Mexican Grill. The queso and guacamole are delicious!
If you are an early riser and particularly if you are staying at our recommended hotel, perhaps Waffle Champion is the perfect option…if you have a sweet tooth, please trust us when we say you won’t regret it.
And then there is Pops 66 Soda Ranch. Two locations, the original in Arcadia, OK located north of Oklahoma City and a newer store that recently opened in the Nichols Hills neighborhood. Both have over 700 bottled sodas to choose from and the food will have you salivating as you walk through the door.
But that’s not all folks…there are plenty other options to choose from, so be sure to check out our post on our recommended best places to eat in Oklahoma City.
As you can see, there is A LOT to do in Oklahoma City and perhaps spending only a weekend here isn’t enough time to fully experience everything this booming city has to offer. We managed to experience everything listed above in a little over 48 hours. Yes, we are exhausted and yes, you need to have a plan before heading to OKC if you want to accomplish everything but we just want to encourage you to give this city a chance.
Regardless of how much time you allocate to spending here, you can certainly see a lot of cool attractions, museums and other experiences that will have a positive impact on your opinion of Oklahoma City. In fact, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how beautiful a city OKC really is.