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Outstanding Things to Do in Oklahoma

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.

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01Visit the Center of the Universe

Tulsa downtown vortex digidreamgrafix / Getty Images

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.”

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02Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Cheyenne

washita battlefield cheyenne milehightraveler / Getty Images

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.

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03Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation

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. Visit 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.

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04Talimena National Scenic Byway, southeast Oklahoma

talimena scenic byway Tamara Harding / Getty Images

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.

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05Tallgrass Prairie Reserve, Pawhuska

prairie reserve bison LightShaper / Getty Images

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.

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06Gloss Mountain State Park, Fairview

mountain red dirt gelpilot / Getty Images

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.

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07Bricktown District, Oklahoma City

bricktown district canal chrisp0 / Getty Images

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.

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08Route 66, Quapaw to Texola

route historic texola Ingo Dörenberg / Getty Images

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.

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09Mount Scott, Lawton

mount scott wilderness GracedByTheLight / Getty Images

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.

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10Crystal Bridge Conservatory, Oklahoma City

crystal bridge conservatory KatieDobies / Getty Images

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.

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11Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA)

This attraction in Oklahoma City is one you won't want to miss. The OKCMOA displays a full range of exhibits, showcasing organized collections from the world over. OKCMOA's own diverse exhibits cover North American, Asian, and European artworks, with an emphasis on American renderings and postwar abstracts. Featured artists include Dale Chihuly (glass displays) and Brett Weston (photography). Visit the museum's Samuel Roberts Noble Theater to see the latest in classic films, documentaries, and independent films.

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12Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Located at 1720 W. Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore, Oklahoma, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum pays homage to the well-known Oklahoman. Visitors to the 16,652 square foot facility can see countless photos and manuscripts that record the events in Rogers' life, recounting his contributions as a Vaudeville performer, radio commentator, newspaper columnist, movie celebrity, writer, and philosopher. You can explore 12 galleries — rooms that display Rogers memorabilia and artifacts, including the entertainer's collection of saddles. The museum's site was first bought by Rogers for building a retirement home but was donated by his family after his death. The grounds of the museum also feature the entertainér's tomb. Rogers' well-known quotation, "I never met a man I didn't like," is carved on the stone marker.

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13Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum immerses its visitors in the folklore and history of the "Mother Road," U.S. Route 66. If you stop in Oklahoma on a Route 66 adventure, you don't want to miss a chance to visit this iconic museum. The museum gives visitors a chance to learn how the road's influence has given it its distinct and unique reputation as a revered American highway. Visit the attraction Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. The museum is closed during state holidays and the first week in January.

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14Woody Guthrie Center

Located in Tulsa, the Woody Guthrie Center commemorates the songwriting and folk songs of Woody Guthrie. Established in 2013, the museum and archive are located on 102 E. Reconciliation Way. It also features the archives of social activist Phil Ochs. Visitors to the Center can watch a 15-minute film about Guthrie, which gives a brief introduction about the folksinger's life. A timeline wall at the attraction follows Guthrie's travels from Oklahoma to Texas and, afterward, to Los Angeles and New York. The site's Music Bar gives patrons a chance to sit back and listen to Guthrie's music.

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15Beavers Bend State Resort Park

You can get indoorsy or outdoorsy at Beavers Bend State Resort Park, located next to Broken Bow Lake in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. A favorite of campers and RV vacationers, the nature preserve and park feature fishing, a petting zoo, and a zipline that travels at a speed of 35 miles per hour -- giving you a thrilling view of the park's trees and scenery. Who knows? You might even spot a bald eagle when ziplining or hiking at the natural attraction. You can also visit the park's restaurants, casinos, distilleries, and wineries while staying at the campgrounds or one of the accommodations at the site.

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