The Best of the Best 2014

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18 Holes

When the weekend arrives, there’s nothing more relaxing than 18 holes on an infinite carpet of green. Southern Hills Country Club has hosted major golfing championship tournaments since it opened in 1936 and is still regarded as a premier course. It’s no wonder that golfers say it’s the best in Tulsa. The Golf Club of Oklahoma is another favorite for its challenging game and beautiful design, along with Cherokee Hills Golf Club and its history-steeped grandeur. Golfers live for those summer days at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, a sports tradition in Oklahoma City that goes back more than a century and that has more than proven its excellence and reputation. Only the most passionate players can concentrate on the game when on the greens of the Gaillardia Golf and Country Club, with its European-inspired clubhouse and gardens. In Edmond, they’ve got the River Oaks Golf Club course on which to play. Boasting a championship design and layout, the native trees and nearby terrain make it memorable.

Art Gallery

Tulsa’s arts scene seems never to take a break, and the city’s galleries are constantly lit up with patrons and shoppers eager to see the newest exhibitions. In Tulsa, the M.A. Doran Gallery is known for showing some of the finest works by artists challenging the constraints of media. The gallery’s reputation is A-plus. Tulsans also like Living Arts of Tulsa, bringing thought-provoking artists and their work to the spotlight. Audiences also applaud Aberson Exhibits, with its exhibitions on contemporary style, and Joseph Gierek Fine Art, the art collector’s best friend. The Howell Gallery of Fine Art took the vote in Oklahoma City for its representation of artists in a variety of media, subjects and styles that collectors love. Art is most definitely alive at the Norman Firehouse Art Center, which not only presents art shows, but also offers classes to the community. Finally, the IAO Gallery, favored for its fun exhibits, receptions and annual sale shows gets the nod as an Oklahoma City favorite.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Best Museum. Photo courtesy OKCMOA.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Best Museum.
Photo courtesy OKCMOA.

Casino

It used to be that you had to fly to Las Vegas or hop aboard a Tunica steamboat to play a mean game of poker, but these days, Oklahoma has a jackpot of tribally operated casinos, each a self-contained playground unto themselves. In the Tulsa metro, the Hard Rock Tulsa Hotel & Casino is that neon-lit beacon attracting would-be black jack champs, bachelorettes-ready-to-party and locals looking for recreation. With its music-themed décor, a full-service hotel, theater and amenities, it’s a winner. Guests, however, appreciate Osage Casino, its proximity to downtown Tulsa, live shows and accessible 24-hour gaming. The ever-expanding River Spirit Casino also catches the imagination in south Tulsa, while the play at the impressive Quapaw’s Downstream Casino & Resort is a must-see stop in the extreme northeast corner of the state. When folks want lights, entertainment and gaming in the Oklahoma City area, they go first to Riverwind Casino in Norman. Its location along I-35 makes it an easy trip for those lucky-streak urges. Shawnee’s Grand Casino Hotel Resort offers the ultimate in games, but when in need of a break from the slots, the dining and hotel accommodations are as good as they get. Situated comfortably between Oklahoma City and Dallas, the Winstar World Casino is big in every sense with thousands of electronic games, 88 tables and a stage attracting some of the biggest entertainment acts around.

Concert Venue

The stage is the thing that entices major music stars, bands and other entertainment heavies to towns looking to fuel the economic machine. The BOK Center did wonders for downtown Tulsa, which floods with sound and activity every time a big-ticket performer visits. For its design, location and cool factor, it’s our readers’ favorite concert spot. Another top pick, Cain’s Ballroom has a cherished music tradition that grows with each show. Speaking of tradition, the Brady Theater has seen better days, but it remains one of the best halls for music and stand-up comedy in the region, if you ask us. The Chesapeake Energy Arena is home court for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it’s also awesomely ideal for watching everyone from James Taylor to Justin Timberlake, and that make its Oklahoma City’s No. 1 concert venue. Riverwind Casino also offers a rockin’ concert spot for those in the Norman area.You just can’t beat a venue that was built to have great acoustics. Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall is that spot.

Hotel

Amenities means more than tiny bars of glycerin soap to take home at our top-ranked hotels. The Mayo Hotel makes the top of the list in Tulsa for many reasons, but it’s the modern luxuries found throughout that do it for us. Not far away, the Ambassador Hotel impresses with its cozy elegance, fine service and helpful staff. You’ll find plenty of flash at the Hard Rock Tulsa Hotel & Casino, but when it’s time for relaxation, posh suites and rooms do the trick. Oklahoma City’s Skirvin Hilton Hotel is a sumptuous reminder of the days when moguls bought and built up lavish properties later transformed into libraries and musuems. The Skirvin’s thoroughly modern essence, however, makes it stands out. The Waterford Marriott gets the big approval for its boutique atmosphere, easy luxuries and proximity to several key districts. The Colcord Hotel is a great historic hotel, but it isn’t stuck in the past as the contemporary touches throughout demonstrate.

Osage casino, Best Casino. Photo courtesy Osage Casino.

Osage casino, Best Casino.
Photo courtesy Osage Casino.

Local TV Station

Styles, practices and faces come and go in broadcast, but some local television stations develop a rapport for reliability and credibility with viewers and community maintained for years, even decades. KOTV Channel 6 has been tops in Tulsa’s ratings for a long time with reporting and programming viewers find useful. The CBS affiliate is our reader’s top choice for that reason. Viewers also tune into the KJRH Channel 2 with its fresh approach to news and entertainment, but they also like the familiarity of KTUL Channel 8, a classic for local television. Oklahoma City’s CBS station KWTV Channel 9 won with our readers, too. Home to Gary England and his weather forecasts for many years, the station is still a leader in meteorology. Station KOCO Channel 5 ranked high on the list of bests, as did KFOR Channel 4.

Museum

As institutions housing important artifacts of art, history and science, museums are some of the most-visited attractions in communities and cities. They can reveal much of the places and people of a town. Philbrook Museum of Art’s tells a story of generosity and creativity with its permanent and temporary exhibitions of pieces by great artists (Picasso, O’Keefe), designers and artisans of old. Readers said it: Philbrook is a work of art. For its collection of art of the American West and its cultures, Gilcrease Museum made the list as well. Tulsans also like the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, displaying some of the coolest aircraft and pieces of flight history. For world-class art, go to a world-class museum, and Oklahoma City Museum of Art is one of them. Exhibiting incredible art from centuries ago to contemporary pieces, OKCMOA gets the vote for its diverse programs that keep the community involved in creativity. Oklahoma City is a cowtown: It’s the perfect location for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and its paintings, sculpture, photography and grand collection of work capturing the essence of the American West and old frontiers. Finally, and certainly not least, the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art fascinate viewers of all ages with artifacts opening eyes to nature and man’s marvels.

Place to Catch a Flick

As Hollywood and the film industry roll out one summer blockbuster after another, where you choose to see your flick can make or break the movie-going experience. With its recently redesigned seating and concessions, AMC Southroads 20 is where Tulsans live it up in reclining comfort. The film choices aren’t bad, either. Some prefer a more personal experience of film, and the smaller, historic Circle Cinema brings a unique selection of fascinating movies from all over the world along with screening of live theater and opera. Cinemark Tulsa gets the vote, too, for making movies into an event with IMAX screens and seat-rumbling sound systems. AMC Penn Square 10 in Oklahoma City also added cool new reclining seating into their screening theaters. The multiscreen venue is the top pick for Oklahoma City, followed by Moore Warren Theatre with its nod to grand movie houses of last century’s golden era and the spacious AMC Quail Springs Mall 24 in northern Oklahoma City.

Place to See and Be Seen

Whether it’s at a place or event, there are some things that demand your presence. With its elegant shops, great restaurants and more, Utica Square is one of those locales where you want to be seen either browsing or dining. You’ll also look good strolling Brady Street and its growing district of restaurants, galleries and entertainment spots during the First Friday Art Crawl. And people-watching is prime at the BOK Center on an event night with people walking all around downtown Tulsa. You definitely want to be in on the day-after rap over last night’s game, and being at an Oklahoma City Thunder game will let you score big time. Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City is another place to be seen at a baseball game, hot new restaurant or one of the entertainment halls. And you’ll definitely want to be observed shopping the Classen Curve and its stores filled with designer gloss.

Beavers Bend Resort Park, Best Resort in Oklahoma.

Beavers Bend Resort Park, Best Resort in Oklahoma.

Professional Sports Team

When it comes to sports, support is a state-wide effort – except, of course, when it comes to those college Bedlam games. Oklahomans all over come together to cheer the Oklahoma City Thunder, the state’s only NBA team. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and the rest the team are Oklahoma’s favorite. Another favorite, the Tulsa Drillers are a big attraction to downtown Tulsa every summer, and this baseball season is no different. Over in Bricktown, the OKC RedHawks make fans stand and root, while the Tulsa Shock and its players inspire their audience through tenacity and persistence.

Resort in Oklahoma

Tulsans enjoy the little luxuries of life, and they’ve found them at the Hard Rock Tulsa Hotel & Casino, which goes to show you don’t have to travel far to get away from it all. But when readers do want to put some miles behind them, they head for Western Hills Guest Ranch at Fort Gibson Lake north of Muskogee or even to Quartz Mountain Resort Arts and Conference Center, that southwestern Oklahoma gem. For pampering, readers voted eco-friendly The Canebrake, also on Fort Gibson Lake, to the top of our list, while Beavers Bend Resort Park on Broken Bow Lake is beloved for it scenery. Oklahoma City voters also like Beavers Bend Resort Park, and put it at the top of our list, but Quartz Mountain Resort Arts and Conference Center wasn’t forgotten. The serenity lending itself to rest and creativity was a winner. Echo Canyon Spa Resort in Sulphur was favored by readers for romantic atmosphere and fine dining and spa retreats.

Stop on the Radio Dial

Whether it’s music or information, radio continues to be an important media in Oklahoma. Tulsans locate 740 AM KRMG on the tuner for talk radio and news and weather alerts. Up-to-the-minute reporting is why KRMG takes the category. Others prefer the variety of talk, reporting, music and local programming over at 89.5 KWGS, a National Public Radio station. Readers then rock out to the long-standing 97.5 KMOD. When Oklahoma City feels like dancing to today’s pop hits and jams, they find 102.7 KJYO. Cowboys and cowgirls, however, go to their presets on 101.9 KTST, playing “new country.” Those OKC listeners can never get enough music, and their final top radio vote goes to pop station 98.9 KYIS.

Wedding or Party Venue

Many dollars and hours of planning go into a wedding, so it’s no wonder that recommendations are always welcome. Tulsans can’t recommend two locales more highly than they do the Cox Business Center, with its renovated ballroom and spaces and excellent services, and Philbrook Museum of Art, for its romantic settings indoor and out. Readers also like The Mayo Hotel’s classic-meets-modern atmosphere and the fact that it’s a hotel. Classic venue Harwelden Mansion also gets a thumb’s up along with the brand new, modern-designed Hardesty Arts Center. Norman’s The Red Room event center takes the prize among Oklahoma City readers who recommend the venue for wedding receptions. From the 49th floor of the Devon Tower, everything really does look Vast, and readers say that makes this venue a great place for receptions of all sorts. Not to be outdone, the Skirvin Hilton Hotel rates high as well for service, ambiance and the perfect backdrop for photos. Weekend

Getaway Destination

For those weekend trips out-of-town, Oklahomans are fortunate to have so many options. A state with such varying terrain is sure to have plenty of destinations just a tank of gas away. The beauty of Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees makes the forested region a favorite. Beautiful waters ideal for outdoor sports, boating, swimming and relaxing along the more than 1,300 miles of shoreline make it both ideal and idyllic. For a quick break, readers also like The Canebrake, the secluded eco-resort known for its “green” approach to everything from exercise and spa treatments to dining and lodge lifestyle. Arkansas’ lovely Eureka Springs also attracts the weary for its natural Ozark grandeur, architectural Victorian charm and outdoor attractions.

Chesapeake Energy Arena, Best Concert Venue.

Chesapeake Energy Arena, Best Concert Venue.

Winery

Not everyone in the world knows it, but Oklahoma has a wonderful and thriving wine industry. Tulsans can try out the newest generation of wines created at Girouard Vines in downtown Tulsa’s East Village. The urban wineries’ Tulsa Deco series and tasting facilities are both ultra sophisticated and right here, and that’s very cool. You have to drive a bit to visit Summerside Vineyards, but the trip to Vinita is worth it to sample new wines and meads. You get that sense of vine-to-bottle ingenuity with Whispering Vines Vineyards & Winery, a surprisingly short trip over to west Tulsa. Norman’s Redbud Ridge Vineyard & Winery, with its casual, accessible approach to wine-making, makes it a readers’ favorite in Oklahoma City. The charm and fun of wine drinking is the hallmark of Put A Cork In It Winery in OKC, while fans of Canadian River Winery, also near Norman, put this vintner of “chocolate merlot” at the top.

Don’t forget to promote your win on social media! #OKMAGTBOB

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