Oklahoma may be one of the youngest U.S. states, yet every part of it offers unique must-see places for history buffs and trendy travelers alike. Nature lovers will find a landscape filled with wide-open prairies, rolling green hills, and wilderness areas to explore. Oklahoma is also home to man-made and natural lakes offering a variety of water sports and recreational activities. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a sight-seeing adventure, or an array of unique shopping experiences, you’ll find a long list of things to do in Oklahoma.
Few visitors would expect to find an acoustical vortex in downtown Tulsa. Yet, this small disc of cement at the center of a swirl of brick pavement is just that. If you stand on the disc and speak, and you’ll hear your voice echo back, but it’s much louder. Those standing outside of the circle hear a distorted version of your voice. No one has come up with a reason why this sound anomaly occurs, but many theorize the sound bounces off nearby planters. You’ll find this anomaly northwest of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and north of the giant, black metal sculpture, the 73-foot “Artificial Cloud.”
Oklahoma has the second-largest Native American population in the country. More than 67 different American Indian tribes have lived here, with its first inhabitants settling in the area 30,000 years ago. The Washita Battlefield in Cheyenne is the site where the 7th U.S. Cavalry, led by Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, attacked Peace Chief Black Kettle and his people in 1868. Today, the site is a peaceful and respectful remembrance of the lives that were lost. A self-guided 1.5-mile trail allows visitors to view the historical site of Black Kettle’s village and the Washita River. Visit the Native Garden, filled with the plants, trees, and shrubs the local tribes used for medicine, food, and ceremonies.
Tahlequah is a unique destination for travelers who want to learn more about Cherokee culture and history. Cherokee survivors of the Trail of Tears founded their capital city in 1839. Explore the 50-block Original Townsite and its historic architecture, entertainment, and shopping just west of the downtown area. Visit Dilidwa, a living village that allows visitors to observe Cherokee life during the 18th century. Several areas nearby offer outdoor recreation as well. Lake Tenkiller covers 13,000 acres of water and has 130 miles of shoreline to enjoy. Just a short 10 miles from Tahlequah, visitors will enjoy camping, fishing, scuba diving, bicycle rentals, and much more in this beautiful area.
If it’s breathtaking views you’re after, few compare to those in southeastern Oklahoma. One of the best ways to view its splendor is the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a 54-mile route between Talihina, Oklahoma and western Arkansas. The best time to explore these magnificent vistas is in the fall when the foliage erupts into vibrant colors of red and gold. Several scenic viewpoints and turnoffs provide spectacular photo opportunities. Take time to stop at one of the many outdoor areas and national forests, such as the Cedar Lake Recreation Area or the Ouachita National Forest. Enjoy backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and more.
Few people have experienced the opportunity to see a large herd of buffalo in a natural setting. The Tallgrass Prairie Reserve is just under 40,000 acres of protected prairie north of Pawhuska. This prairie once spanned 14 states, but now, a section of the last 4% is in Oklahoma. More than 2500 bison roam this ecosystem. Visitors can drive through the reserve, but rules prohibit them from leaving their cars. May is the best time to visit, according to locals. The wildflowers are in bloom, and visitors can watch 600 to 700 new bison calves play in the tall prairie grass. You’ll likely spot other wildlife species as well, including bobcats, hawks, eagles, deer, and coyotes.
Although you’ll be on your own when you get there, the Gloss Mountain State Park in the western part of the state is a magnificent destination. The unattended park, also called Glass Mountains, gets its name from the high selenite content across the terrain. Selenite has a glass-like exterior creating the glossy appearance that flashes as the sunlight shines across it. Cathedral Mountain is the largest mesa in the park. Visitors can trek the staircase to the top of the mesa to take in the spectacular views of the red-dirt terrain across the 640-acre park. There’s no camping here, but there are picnic sites available and family-friendly hiking trails.
This area was the city’s first warehouse and distribution center established after the Oklahoma Land Run in 1889. The city revitalized Bricktown District in the 1970s. Today, it is the city’s entertainment hub. The canal is a popular highlight of the Bricktown District. In the Visitors can hop aboard a water taxi for a 40-minute tour of the sights and sounds of this cultural district. Plan a holiday trip and catch the Downtown in December event. Enjoy snow tubing, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, live music, a Winter Market, and more.
Who hasn't dreamt of a road trip following Route 66? Sadly, that adventure is a 2400-mile trek, and few have the time to explore the entire route. The best parts about Route 66 are the callbacks to its historical past. The five-hour trip along the old Route 66 from Quapaw to Texola allows visitors to get their fill of small towns, diners, abandoned roadside motels, museums, neon signs, truck stops, and kitschy Americana. Every town along the route has a story. Stop off in Miami to see the Coleman Theatre, built in the 1920s and still in operation.
Most travelers don’t plan a trip to Oklahoma for the breathtaking mountain views. But that’s just because they’ve never been to Mount Scott, a 2464-foot summit in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton. Reach the top, and you’ll catch awe-inspiring panoramas of the surrounding Wichita Mountains Wilderness. Rock climbers will experience high-level climbing challenges, but craggers will find thrilling opportunities as well. If you enjoy off-road mountain travel, there are trails for both hikers and cyclists. The park allows overnight camping in the wilderness area with a permit.
Oklahoma City offers everything you’d expect from a large city filled with 643,000 people. Restaurants serve every cuisine imaginable. Music venues offer live performances. Art and cultural centers, historical landmarks, natural history museums add to its charm. But not every city has a tropical garden designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. He modeled the 15-acre Myriad Botanical Gardens after the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The Gardens’ centerpiece, the cylindrical Crystal Bridge Conservatory, is home to thousands of tropical and desert plants and a cascading waterfall.