The Getaway
20 Best Things to Do in Tulsa

Embrace Tulsa's rich heritage, from the poignant reminders of its past to the bright moments of triumph, on your next journey to this captivating city. Snap a selfie with the iconic Golden Driller, a nod to the former Oil Capital of the World, and cruise along Route 66, where vibrant murals come to life. Immerse yourself in Tulsa's melodic and architectural legacy, offering a harmonious blend of history and modernity, making it an unforgettable destination.

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01 Traverse Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area

When you want to get out in nature and escape it all, a city's green spaces are a gift. Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area is a retreat next to the Arkansas River. Hike the trails with different elevations, listen to the sounds of blue jays, and breathe the fresh air while you stretch your legs or walk your dog. You can also cycle or ride horses here. Apply bug spray liberally before adventuring.

02 Feel the music at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Tulsa's Union Station will take you on a musical journey through the city and state's jazzy past. Here, African American history is not tragic but celebratory, focusing on the likes of Charlie Christian and Ernie Fields Senior. The grand concourse used to be segregated, but Sunday concerts have long been open to all. Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame underwent remodeling in 2022 to make the building and exhibits more user-friendly. Check the event schedule for classes, camps, and jam sessions.

03 Learn at Greenwood Rising History Center

Greenwood Rising and Greenwood Cultural Center educate the public about the "Black Wall Street," the heavily armed Tulsa Race Riot perpetrators, media misinformation, and the shoddy treatment of victims when the ashes settled. It's a crucial chapter in the city's history that should be front of mind in a contemporary context. You'll be disturbed, moved, and hopefully inspired toward social justice.

04 Chow down at Mother Road Market

Mother Road Market, Oklahoma's first food hall, is a fantastic place to grab lunch or dinner. Whether you're in the mood for barbecue, sushi, pizza, tacos, or ice cream, the grub here is bound to hit the spot. Play a round of Route 66–themed mini golf after satisfying your cravings. The Global District is an alternative dining spot with diverse cuisines, including Mexican eateries and Burmese restaurants. Try Pancho Anaya Bakery's artisanal breads and scrumptious pastries.

05 Make a wish at Philbrook Museum of Art's fountains

Head south of Tulsa to see an art museum housed in an oil magnate's pretty Italian villa. The museum opened in 1939 when one would imagine it had an inauspicious beginning, but it's since flourished. The manicured grounds add immeasurably to the appeal, and you can picnic after absorbing the impressive art collection. Kids will cherish the outdoor tree swings.

06 Have a moment of silence at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

Over a century ago, Tulsa experienced a dark chapter in its history with the tragic 1921 Race Massacre. The prosperous Greenwood District, known as "the Black Wall Street," was devastated as resentful mobs caused destruction and took hundreds of lives. Fast forward to today, Tulsa has made significant progress in healing and offers visitors a wealth of historical and cultural experiences.

The events of the Tulsa race Riots resulted in the destruction of 190 businesses and the homelessness of about 10,000 African Americans, but they were obscured for decades, as was the subsequent state violence. Consider that Brady Street in Tulsa's Art district was named for a member of the KKK until 2013, when the honor was shifted to Mathew Brady, a civil war photographer. Once a thriving community, Greenwood continues to struggle and bears the physical and mental scars of 1921. The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Greenwood is beautiful, haunting, and informative and pays tribute to the victims and resilient survivors.

07 Further your musical history at the Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan Centers

  The University of Tulsa and the George Kaiser (remember the name) Family Foundation bought Bob Dylan's archive in 2016, and the Bob Dylan Museum opened in the city in 2022. The voice of a generation gets his due and then some. Also in the Tulsa Arts District is the Woody Guthrie Center which outlines the legacy of the folk singer and songwriter.

08 Come together at the Gathering Place

Michael Van Valkenburgh is a landscape architect with a deft touch and an affinity for gardens with an Olmstedian spirit. His influence is all over Gathering Place, Tulsa's $465 million public park forged primarily with private funds from the philanthropist George B. Kaiser. The democratic park seeks to right the city's legacy of segregation and create spaces without racial, geographical, and class barriers. The city's children can take great joy in 160 innovative play structures like pirate ships and imaginative slides.

09 Contemplate Prayer Tower

Ever heard of Googie architecture? It's a futuristic style embodying elements of the Atomic and Space Age. Frank Wallace's take on the mid-20th-century trend is located at Oral Roberts University. Prayer Tower is imbued with religious symbolism—it looks like the Star of David from above and like a cross when viewed horizontally. The latticework represents a crown of thorns with red blood. Come to pray or to walk the peaceful gardens.

10 Appreciate the art at Gilcrease Museum

The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art is closed as of 2023, but that's because it wants to come back bigger and better. With a collection worth $2 billion, it makes sense to show it off optimally, and doing so requires a multi-year revamp. The museum will hopefully reopen in 2025. Its collection comprises the world's most extensive art collection from the American West, including Native American relics. The museum also holds pieces from South and Central America and has a pond and trail.

11 Add to the applause at Tulsa Performing Arts Center

Tulsa Performing Arts Center (PAC) covers all the bases—it has four theaters, an art gallery with 76 permanent artworks, and a studio space for lectures and master classes. The theaters showcase ballet, opera, and the symphony orchestra, featuring big-name performances from artists like Kelly Clarkson and Michael Bublé.

12 Stare up at the sharks at Oklahoma Aquarium

Would-be marine biologists and casual enthusiasts alike will enjoy spending at least three hours at this well-maintained aquarium. The shark tank glass tunnel is large and mesmerizing. You'll also encounter river mammals like otters and raccoons, not just oceanic creatures. A kids' playground ensures little ones have something to occupy them once they've raced through the wheelchair-friendly exhibits. Add-on experiences include feeding interactions. Keep an eye out for the divers who clean the tanks.

13 Bop your head at Cain's Ballroom

This historic and intimate venue used to be a garage before "Daddy" Cain transformed it into a dance academy in 1930. The wooden floors here are almost a century old and add an extra dimension to live music shows. Security makes patrons feel safe at this nostalgic, divey gem that's a must-visit for music fans. Fun fact, Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols once punched a hole in the green room here, and you can see it.

14 Splash around at Paradise Beach Waterpark

Midtown Tulsa promises unbridled fun under the sun. After taking over from Safari Joe's in 2022, Paradise Beach Waterpark is set to delight locals during summer with old favorites and upgrades. Enjoy the big wave pool, speedy slides, kid zones, and lazy river. Cool down and make sunblock-scented memories. Note that outside food and drinks aren't allowed.

multiracial friends at pool kali9 / Getty Images

15 Test the acoustics at Tulsa Center of the Universe

Center of the Universe sounds hyperbolic, and unusual sounds are exactly what you'll get at this Tulsa attraction. Stand in the eight-foot circle and say something. Whatever you utter will echo loudly, so it may be in your best interest to keep it clean. But here's the catch. People outside the circle will hear a distorted version of what you said if they hear anything at all. Take your buddies along and try it out.

16 Stop at Decopolis if you're into Art Deco

Art deco aficionados should follow up a visit to the Boston Avenue Methodist Church with a stop at Decopolis in downtown Tulsa. A museum and souvenir store in a hotel lobby, this little nook is full of books, candy, and collectibles. The art deco Philcade Building is across the street, so pick up a walking map from Decopolis and start appraising architecture that reflects the French Arts Décoratifs movement.

17 Peruse pieces at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art

The stained glass windows from a synagogue are a striking feature of this museum. But you'll also get a sense of five millennia of Jewish history and culture. Ancient archaeological objects work alongside holocaust exhibits and refugee artifacts to paint a picture of the trials and triumphs of the Jewish people. You might see Jewish comic books, contemporary fine art from local artists, and Judaica, the Jewish ceremonial art that elevates various rituals. Purim masks are one example.

18 Space out at Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium

Crazy about NASA and debating whether Pluto is a planet or not? The Tulsa Air and Space Museum has more astronomy facts in store for you. And galaxies aren't the only subjects under examination. You can inspect an F-14 Tomcat and sit in a flight simulator. This nonprofit museum housed in a hangar had it tough during COVID-19 but is hanging in there. Support its work preserving the Sooner State's aerospace heritage by attending live tours and events such as the Aviator Ball.

19 Explore Oxley Nature Center

Oxley Nature Center in Tulsa's northeast has over nine miles of trails and themed areas for an urban escape. You can view wildlife at this 800-acre preserve—look out for armadillos, deer, beavers, woodpeckers, and other feathered cuties. The Oxley Yetter interpretive center has a drinking fountain, gift shop, and hands-on exhibits, and you can examine a fascinating see-through beehive. Take precautions against ticks before you go hiking.

20 Giddy up to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

If you're in the mood for a day trip, head out of Tulsa to Oklahoma City. There, you'll find a faux frontier village and a series of sculptures and paintings that will transport you back to the Wild West. This is not a hobbyist's assortment of artifacts but a 28,000-strong collection of works, including pieces by Charles M Russell and Frederic Remington. American Indian art, rodeo trophies, different types of boots, barbed wire, and guns are sure to grab your attention. Kids can do the scavenger hunt.

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