I’d love to say this was my first time in the Midwest, however, I was schooled very quickly that Oklahoma isn’t the Midwest at all. It’s actually the Southwest. My brain grew. It was pointed out that I was wrong and sent a map for proof.
Me: “CITE YOUR SOURCE”
But alas, my first time to the South in general, Oklahoma definitely had its initial shock factor.
As you may already know, I’m obsessed with the mountains. I had never been to a place where mountains didn’t exist.
But no fear, my dear readers, I’m known for finding the best and most unique places no matter where I travel.
While this post doesn’t include mountains, it does include some amazing things to do in Oklahoma City!
So without further ado, I bring to you, the top 8 things to do in OKC. (In no particular order.)
1. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
I know I said in no particular order, but I stand corrected on this one. If you only do ONE thing in Oklahoma City, this should be it.
It’s also #1 on the list of 127 things to do in OKC on Tripadvisor.
And for good reason.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum stands as a symbol of strength in the wake of unspeakable violence.
This museum is extremely well put together. It follows the entire story before the bombing, after the bombing, the capture of the terrorists, and even the trial and outcome.
It’s interactive, detailed, and powerful.
I teared up multiple times in the museum. Hearing about the personal stories, the people lost, and the people affected by this tragedy was really overwhelming.
It’s by far one of my favorite museums I’ve ever experienced.
Directly outside of the museum, you’ll find the Oklahoma City Memorial. The outdoor symbolic memorial stands on the now-sacred ground where the events of April 19, 1995, unfolded.
What was once the footprint of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Fifth Street, the Athenian Building, and Oklahoma Water Resources Board, now stands a field of empty chairs, a reflection pool, and the rescuer’s orchard.
On one side of the reflection pool, you’ll see a gate that reads, “9:01”, and on the other side, a gate that states, “9:03”.
The Gates of Times frame the moment of destruction at 9:02 AM.
The 9:01 Gate is a symbolic reference that represents the last moment of innocence for our nation.
The 9:03 gate represents the first moment into the aftermath and hope for the future.
You’ll also see The Survivor Tree, an American elm that bore witness to the violence of April 19, 1995, and miraculously withstood the full force of the bombing.
What was once an ignored, unassuming urban tree is now an iconic symbol of hope.
You can see the memorial grounds map here:
Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum Details:
- Museum Cost – Adults: $15, Seniors (65+): $13, Military: $13, Students: $12, Children (5 & under): Free.
- Free Parking at Memorial Garage
- Hours: 9-5 Monday – Saturday, 12-5 Sundays.
- The outdoor memorial is FREE and open 24 hours a day, 365.
Keep in mind that with the pandemic, ticketed timing is in place. There are a limited number of tickets available per hour, so reserving your tickets online will ensure your spot.
Click here to purchase Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum tickets:
2. Myriad Botanical Gardens
The Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City bring you to a stark contrast of what the real outside world looks like (if you visit when everything outside is dead like I did).
Did you spot me in that last photo?
I’m wearing camo.
Not only are the Oklahoma City Botanical Gardens beautiful, but they’re also extremely educational! Every plant type and species here are identified. That makes it fun for the entire family.
After wandering through the bottom floor jungle, you’ll make your way up to the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. It’s a cute bridge that lets you look down on the entire botanical gardens.
Oh, and take a photo. I have to keep up my image of being a national back model.
Don’t want to disappoint the fans.
Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Gardens Details:
- Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory cost – Adults: $8, Seniors (65+): $7, Military: $7, Students: $7, Children (3 & under): Free.
- Hours: 9-5 Monday – Saturday, 11-5 Sundays.
- The Myriad Botanical Outdoor Grounds are FREE and open daily from 6 AM – 11 PM.
Click here to learn more about the Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Gardens:
Since I visited the end of February where everything outside was sad and dead, here’s an image of the free outdoor gardens when they spring back to life.
Again, get it?
I know, groan.
Welcome to who I am as a person.
It also shows what the outside of the indoor botanical garden looks like.
I pointed at it and said, “LOOK! BIO-DOME!” (If you haven’t seen the “Spaceship Earth” documentary on Hulu, you should change that.)
Anyway, I digress.
Bricktown is (supposedly) a lively entertainment district, with repurposed warehouse spaces home to restaurants, piano lounges, and chic wine bars.
When I visited in late February 2021, it was a ghost town. I imagine this was a mixture of the pandemic and the fact that it was pretty miserably cold outside.
I imagine that the appeal would be sitting outside next to the canal and enjoying the weather. Ya know, when plants are alive.
At Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, you’ll find 45 restaurants, bars, retail shops, family-friendly attractions, public art, museums, galleries, and more.
They also have a water taxi that provides entertaining and historically-themed cruises through the heart of downtown Oklahoma City’s Bricktown entertainment district. They also feature private charters and dinner cruises!
You can also walk the entire area around Bricktown and see neat street art and murals.
Bricktown really comes to life at night, as the shops and hanging lights illuminate the sky. Some of the most popular photos of Bricktown you’ll see online are taken at night!
4. Lake Arcadia
Arcadia Lake is a reservoir in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. It’s just northeast of Oklahoma City in Edmond, just east of Interstate 35.
Recreational opportunities at Arcadia Lake include fishing, boating, camping, mountain biking, hiking, disc golf, pavilions, boat ramps, designated swim beaches, and an enclosed and heated fishing dock that is handicapped accessible. You’ll also find RV campsites with full hookups and tent campsites.
Facts: Arcadia Lake is a relatively young body of water. The lake was constructed as a cooperative effort between the City of Edmond and the U.S. Army Corps and opened in 1987.
Functions: Arcadia Lake acts as flood control for the Deep Fork River Basin, provides habitat for fish and wildlife, and supplies water to the City of Edmond.
5. Paseo Arts District
The Oklahoma City area is crawling with street art and art districts.
The Paseo Arts District in particular is home to over 20 galleries and more than 80 vibrant artists all within walking distance of each other.
This two-block street is lined with original stucco buildings and clay roof tiles. Along with the galleries and street art on every corner, you’ll also find restaurants, art schools, boutiques, and other businesses.
Other than the amazing street art and shops, my hands-down favorite part about the Paseo Arts District was Up-Down!
This place is a bar that features more than 70 arcade games from the ’80s and ’90s, along with pinball machines, classic skeeball alleys, a life-size Jenga and Connect Four, along with an outdoor Nintendo 64 console gaming where I played my favorite old-school video game: Mario Cart.
I also may or may not have played a zombie shooting game until I couldn’t feel my fingers.
The cherry on top is that they have some of the best pizza I’ve literally ever put in my mouth.
I had the Mona Lisa and Pepperoni. Freaking delicious.
6. Lake Hefner
Found on the Northwest side of Oklahoma City, lies the popular Lake Hefner.
You’ll find walkers, runners, bicycles, roller-bladers, skateboarders, and more enjoying the trails that circle the lake.
It definitely serves as one of the top spots to see a glorious sunset in Oklahoma City.
The most popular and iconic part about Lake Hefner is the lighthouse.
Standing at 36 feet tall, the Lighthouse at East Wharf is built of concrete and inspired by the second oldest lighthouse in the country.
It’s also one of the most spectacular places to watch a sunset and one of the most photographed spots in Oklahoma.
Lake Hefner, Oklahoma City Details:
- For a list of quality dining with a beautiful view of the lake, click here.
- To book a vacation rental in Lake Hefner Park, click here.
- For Lake Hefner Boathouse, which offers sailing camps along with paddleboarding and kayak rentals, click here.
- For a list of art classes & workshops, click here.
- For a full map and details of Lake Hefner Trail (9.4-mile loop around the lake) click here.
7. Factory Obscura Mix-Tape
If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that when it comes to experiencing things, the more strange and random, the better.
It’s kinda my jam.
That’s the only real introduction I can give to this place because random is an understatement.
Unique, weird, and random.
So naturally, I loved it.
So, what exactly is Factory Obscura?
According to their website, it’s an “Oklahoma City-based art collective creating immersive experiences that awaken wonder, build community, and make the world better”.
It’s 6,000 square feet of hand-crafted, immersive art that will definitely have you saying “Um..but why though?” a few times.
Which is probably why I loved it so much.
I found it to be a nostalgic trip back in time with a spin of interactive Alice in Wonderland vibes.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should hit up this place, the answer is yes.
Keep in mind that since this is a hands-on, climbing around, touching things kinda place, they are strict on limiting the number of people that go in at set times to follow social-distancing guidelines and allow for cleaning between groups.
You’ll want to purchase your tickets online prior, to ensure you get a spot. Attempting to get tickets in person isn’t recommended.
To purchase your tickets online, click here:
8. Oklahoma State Capitol
The Oklahoma State Capitol is the house of government of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. It is located along Lincoln Blvd in Oklahoma City and contains 452,508 square feet of floor area inside.
I’ll be honest here, I geek out so hard on any capital building. I’m obsessed with the architecture.
What sets this State Capitol Building apart is that it’s the only capitol building in the WORLD surrounded by working oil wells.
The architecture is Greco-Roman and is made up of 650 rooms complete with murals, restored stained glass, a tribal flag plaza, and changing art exhibits.
The Oklahoma Veterans Memorial is also located on the Northside of the capitol complex. Four walls depicting the scenes of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam wars are featured, along with a bronze statue of “The Big Guy” who stands eight and a half feet tall on a three and a half foot pedestal.
His bronze face has the features of a Native American and he wears the gear of a Vietnam soldier.
Please note: The Capitol Building is currently under renovations and COVID-19 protocols. Call the Welcome Center at (405) 521-3356 prior to your visit.
The enhanced ADA accessible east entrance is now open. The Welcome Center also provides a brochure for self-guided tours.
Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City Details:
- General admission: Free
- Hours of operation: 9 AM – 3 PM Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4 PM Saturdays and Sundays.
- Tours are conducted M-F 9 AM – 3 PM. Call to see if this is currently available before you go.
- To learn all about the Oklahoma Capitol Building history, including genealogy, records, photographs, newspapers, and more, click here.
Keep in mind that everything listed here you CAN do right now (March 2021) despite the travel restrictions and COVID protocols.
That being said, we all know that things literally change in seconds these days, so please utilize the links in this article to ensure you are still able to experience these things mentioned in the article before you head out to explore.
Have you been to any of these places in Oklahoma City? Tell me in the comments!