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Some of what you’ve heard about Oklahoma City is true: The winds do whip through the plains. But there’s so much more you haven’t heard. OKC, as locals like to call their city, has a thriving food culture, a competitive urban whitewater park and an eclectic arts scene. If you think of it as a landlocked fly-over destination, we’re pretty sure our guide to a great weekend in the Sooner State will change your mind.

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Arrive at traveler-friendly Will Rogers Airport, pick up your rental car and head to the Plaza District, where you can spend several hours (or more) shopping, check out some of OKC’s bright, artsy outdoor murals and eat lunch. This quirky, fun neighborhood has lots of dining options, such as The Mule, but whatever you do, leave room for dessert at Pie Junkie.

From here, check in to your room at one of several interesting hotels. As its name suggests, the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City has a world-class contemporary art museum inside its walls. Built in a former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, the 21c offers a quirky vibe, spacious rooms and excellent on-site restaurant and bar Mary Eddy’s, not to mention free shuttle service to many downtown locations. (Even if you don’t stay at the 21c, you can tour its art exhibits for free.) The new AC Hotel Oklahoma City Bricktown is closer to the business district, and equally stocked with modern charm.

Oklahoma City’s reputation as a meat-and-potatoes town is well-deserved; this is cattle country. If you’re craving an old-school steak, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse is the place to get it. This is Oklahoma’s oldest restaurant, and the décor is decidedly retro. The meat and potatoes are solid, and the restaurant’s entrance sports some of Oklahoma City’s great neon signage. If you prefer something a little more updated, check out nearby McClintock Saloon.

Head to Jones Assembly for a nightcap. This bar, restaurant and nightclub books some of the best live music in the city. Buy tickets in advance if there’s an act you want to see. If not, just stop by for a drink.


Since 1946, Brown’s Bakery has been the place where locals have gotten their birthday cakes and other classic baked goods. But you don’t want to miss the vibe on a Saturday morning. While here, you’ll see members of the Oklahoma City Bicycle Club on their doughnut run, essentially stopping halfway to carbo-load. The BFD (Big Fat Doughnut) is as big as your face and will do the job.

Hopped up on sugar and caffeine, make your way to OKC Riversport Adventure Parks, a manmade water paradise, here you can go whitewater rafting (with an experienced guide), float or tube down a river, standup paddleboard, kayak, zipline, rock climb and more. The park is part of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation’s initiative to get more people active in the city. Once you are done exerting yourself, you can stick around and cheer others on, as it is a US Olympic & Paralympic Training Site. You may see rowers, kayakers, dragon boaters and others practicing while you play. A day pass lets you play as you want in one day, and when that Oklahoma summer sun beats down, you’ll want to be in the water for as long as possible.

This playground for outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t be missed, but if you are looking for an on-water experience with more natural scenery and a more laid-back vibe, opt for Riversport Adventure Parks locations on nearby Lake Overholser or Lake Hefner.

ALSO: Heading to the Great Plains? Joining Orbitz Rewards is just plain smart!

After blissing out from your frolic in the sun and water, change into your clothes (there are showers and lockers to keep everything safe and dry while you are playing) and head to Bleu Garten, Oklahoma City’s, food truck park. Two different trucks each day rotate in, so it is never the same place twice. The park has two bars, outdoor games, and TVs, perfect for watching sports (this town loves its college football).

If you’re the kind of person who likes to post on Instagram, you have your afternoon and evening cut out for you. Skydance Bridge, a pedestrian bridge, spans across I-40. Designed to look like the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state bird, it lights up in color at night, but the sculpture is also marvelous during the day. From here, your evening activity is just a few blocks away, in the Wheeler District, where the Santa Monica Ferris Wheel has been relocated. Go for a ride on the wheel, and take photos of it lit up at night behind giant OKC letters. There are also lawn games, snacks and great views in the park, not to mention terrific people watching.

The Bricktown area is a more developed entertainment district, with lots of bars, shops, hotels and restaurants, many of which are chains also available in other cities. If that’s your thing, great. It has a good energy and there are lots of options for the family. If not, consider taking a water taxi ride through the area before heading elsewhere. The boat tour includes fun facts on OKC and you’ll ride by more of the city’s great mural art.


Up and at ’em early! The lines will be long at Waffle Champion, but it’ll be worth the wait. Feast on a s’mores waffle or an upside down cake waffle. Most dishes are made from local ingredients. If you’re not a wait-in-line-outside sort, Mary Eddy’s, at the 21c hotel, has a kitchen with equally fresh ingredients and more emphasis on savory dishes. Mary Eddy’s is popular (not just for its Bloody Marys), but also for accepting reservations, which Waffle Champion does not.

The bulk of your day could be spent at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, an institution dedicated to the bombing that took place here on April 19, 1995. Yes, this is a somber place, a memorial to the 168 Oklahomans who died in the attack. It is exceedingly well-done and powerful, with meticulous detail about the motivations of the bombing, the lives of those who were lost, and the resilience of the city and its citizens. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, on the former site of the Murrah Building, is open 24 hours a day, so you can visit it even if you don’t make it inside to the museum, although the museum is strongly recommended.

If you think the museum is too intense for your crowd, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum tells tall tales of the American West.

After a museum, treat yourself to some tasty eats and scenic views. Tucker’s Onion Burgers is an Oklahoma City-must. It may look like a fast-food joint, but inside hides an onion burger, an Oklahoma tradition since the 1920s containing thinly shredded onions mixed into ground beef to help stretch the meat farther during the Great Depression. People still eat them because they taste amazing. Tucker’s has great shakes, too, but it really is all about the burger.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens are urban gardens in the center of the city, meaning these outdoor gardens with views of the skyline are completely free. There’s even a dog park. The Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory has more than 750 types of plants inside a glass tube that connects buildings and provides a sculptural element in the park (there is an admission charge for the Conservatory). If you didn’t souvenir shop in the Plaza District or near Bleu Garten, check out the garden’s gift shop before headed backing home.

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Margaret Littman
Margaret Littman is both an old-timer and a relative newcomer to Nashville. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she left Tennessee for points north over the course of her writing career. But after 17 years she could no longer resist the siren song of the Parthenon, bluegrass music, or fried pickles, so she returned to Nashville, where she writes about Music City, Southeast travel, food, entrepreneurs and more. She's the author of Moon Tennessee, and the upcoming Moon Nashville to New Orleans, a guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Margaret Littman

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