The Oklahoma Bucket List
Buy Your Own Western Wear
So, you have just moved to Oklahoma and are looking to fit into the delicate social fabric. You’re still riding the fence between OU and OSU, at least until you see the recruiting classes. But you’ve learned the important things. You know there is no chicken in Chicken Fried Steak. You now that church is not only on Sundays. And you have learned that ranch dressing is good on a whole lot more than just salad. Now comes time to look the part of an honest to goodness Okie. It starts with boots. Cowboy boots are as ubiquitous to Oklahoma garb as berets are to the French (or at least to French as envisioned by Okies). Getting fitted for cowboy boots made of leather from one critter or another is a rite of passage for many in Oklahoma. Just because you’re a late arrival doesn’t let you off the hook. And while you’re at it, since you really want to fit in, you will need to treat yourself to a whole Western wear makeover. Hey, it isn’t just for the extended cab and lasso crowd. In Oklahoma, Western wear occasionally substitutes for formal wear at fancy events. But don’t worry because Oklahoma is rich in cowboy couture shops with staff members willing to help you fit right in: Drysdales, Tener’s, Sheplers, Langston’s and many, many more. You might not feel quite like a million bucks walking out in your ostrich boots, but you should definitely feel like more of a native.
Be a Super in a Tulsa Opera Production
Got a voice that’s best left in the shower but a hankering for your chance at the big time? You could have a role in a Tulsa Opera production and never sing a note. Super is short for supernumerary. These are non-singing, non-speaking actors that are used to create the scene in an opera – in layman’s terms, an extra. You might be a picador in Carmen, a geisha in Madam Butterfly, a guest at a fabulous party in La Traviata or something decidedly less glamorous – a slave or prostitute, perhaps. Most operas require at least a few supers, so the company is frequently on the lookout for volunteers. Nope, you won’t get paid for your stage debut, and you’ll have to go to several rehearsals, but, hey, a superstar has to start somewhere.
Eat Fried Chicken At Eischen’s Bar
One could make a theoretical argument that tiny Okarche has only avoided being gobbled up by Oklahoma City because of this small bar and eatery situated in a long-closed grocery store that doesn’t put much emphasis on things like service or plates. But Eischen’s Bar is the oldest bar in the state of Oklahoma and famous for its secret-recipe fried chicken. Food Network’s program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives voted this fried chicken the best in the state of Oklahoma, and most diners agree. Served with a generous portion of pickles and white bread, it makes for a satisfying meal.
Survey The Panhandle From Black Mesa
At almost 5,000 feet, the state’s highest natural elevation provides panoramic views.
Root for a Home Team at a Union-Jenks High School Football Game
Sure, football is king in Oklahoma. But generally when you see a manic level of fan behavior associated with high school football, it’s in small towns where there is little else and where the entire population graduated from the one high school within 50 miles. But in a city where there are countless other activities, including semi-pro and pro sports? South Tulsa isn’t the panhandle, but still this noteworthy rivalry sucks in players, students, parents, families, alumni and even the unaffiliated who just happen to live in the appropriate school district, and fills them with swagger that reminds one of the relationship between “fan” and “fanatic.”
It isn’t that this extreme sport is exclusive to Oklahoma. There’s noodling going on across the southeast U.S. Noodling is particularly Oklahoma, though, because before 2001, it was largely a country curiosity that was practiced by a few stalwarts who had learned it from their dads. What happened in 2001? That’s when Oklahoma filmmaker Bradley Beesley blew the lid off the whole thing in his critically acclaimed documentary Okie Noodling. At that point, Oklahoma pretty much had to own it. It actually makes sense because Oklahoma has the perfect combination of resources for noodling to really take root: lots of murky creeks and streams, plenty of catfish and canned beer sold in what look like steamer trunks with flap handles. For the uninitiated, noodling is a type of fishing in which the noodler reaches into an underwater hole that presumably holds a large, stealthy catfish (usually), stuffs his hand in the fish’s mouth (or allows the fish to engulf his hand), reaches through the gills and pulls the fish out. Like snipers, noodlers often use spotters who help find good noodling holes and remove the fish from the gobbled fist. Presumably they are also on hand for those occasions when there is something else living in a hole. No, Hemingway never waxed poetic about noodling; but it’s only legal in a handful of states, and with our cultural association with it, it warrants consideration for the official state sport.
Chase A Tornado
Since these days they always seem to be chasing us, it’s time to turn the tables on these quintessential Okie squalls. Besides, there could always be a Helen Hunt sighting. We’ve got cows.
See the World’s Largest Peanut at Durant City Hall
Okay, so it’s a statue of a really, really large peanut that probably wouldn’t be the world’s largest even if it were organic. It’s still not something you see every day.
Every year there are inevitably a handful of reported Bigfoot sightings in southeast Oklahoma around Honobia, Talihina, the surrounding forests and Kiamichi Mountains. But while the primitive hominid manages to elude his local pursuers, the quest itself through the surrounding pristine wilderness can be terrifically exciting. Also, no chamber of commerce can let rumors of Bigfoot (Bigfoots? Bigfeet?) go to waste, so the Talihina Chamber of Commerce throws a popular Bigfoot Festival every year, complete with tchotchkes like Bigfoot Crossing signs and Bigfoot air fresheners.
Sling It at the World Championship Cow Chip Throw
Since 1970, the Town of Beaver has come to be known as the “Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World,” a piece of braggadocio not to be easily messed with.
Cheer On the Thunder at a Home Game
Who would have imagined a decade ago that professional basketball would reach Oklahoma before professional football? That’s exactly what happened when the troubled Seattle Supersonics NBA franchise was purchased by Oklahoma’s Clay Bennett, had a run-in with government out west and subsequently relocated to Oklahoma City and launched as the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008. After some struggling baby steps, the “new” franchise has taken off, qualifying for the playoffs in 2010 and in 2011. More significantly, Oklahoma has embraced the NBA, and the Thunder enjoys some of the most loyal crowds in the league.
Attend A Powwow
Have you ever been driving in traffic, gotten frustrated in the lane behind an out-of-state tour bus and thought, ‘Wow, tourists sure do come a long ways to see the world’s largest peanut in Durant!’ Well, they probably aren’t really here to survey gargantuan legumes. Instead, the impetus for Oklahoma’s rising popularity as a tourism destination is something that most states don’t offer much – a living and breathing Native American populace and culture that simultaneously embraces its storied past and its future.
Of course, lots of states have Native American casinos, so the future is readily visible elsewhere. But the history is here and, sadly, even many non-Native American residents here haven’t invested the time to really immerse themselves in the many tribal cultures that make their homes here.
The powwow is arguably the singular defining event for many Native Americans, a time when they shed their weekday identity and embrace the very best of their cultural legacy. Friends and families gather together, sing, dance, tell stories and eat traditional food. Although they differ based on tribe and specific ceremony, powwows are universally times of good, family, multi-generational celebration. They are also extremely welcoming of participants from outside the tribe, simultaneously passing on traditions to younger tribe members and delighting and educating all guests. Next time, it might be worth following that tour bus instead of just tailgating it.
Hunt For Rose Rocks
It’s barite crystal formations that lend these indigenous
(and official State) rocks their distinctive rose-like patterns.
Buy An Okie T-Shirt
The most prevalent t-shirts around the state tend to assert loyalty to either OU or OSU, but several artists, like Tulsa’s Steve Cluck and Oklahoma City’s Bombs Away Art and Warpaint, are creating real homegrown products that prompt civic and state pride.
Shake Hands With A Billionaire
There are no fewer than eight billionaires currently residing in Oklahoma, and with a population of roughly 3.5 million – give or take – that means that one in every 437,500 of the state’s residents is worth beaucoup bucks. You may have to do a little detective work (remember, stalking is illegal) to cross this feat off the list, but the odds are really not that absurd that you will be able to stand face-to-face with one of the state’s billionaires. It may be small, but we’re saying there’s a chance.
Visit A Museum
Oklahoma is as rich in museums as it is in sources of energy, cattle and Sonic Drive-Ins. Art, history, culture and the occasionally offbeat all warrant museums here, and it’s a challenge to spotlight just a few. Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum houses the most comprehensive collection of art and objects from the American West. But Muskogee’s Five Civilized Tribes Museum tells the flipside of the story, as do numerous other tribal museums. Of course then there is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Also in Oklahoma City there are the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the Oklahoma City Railway Museum and more. How could one survey state museums without mentioning Philbrook Museum of Art?
Find Bobo And Eat His Chicken
Finding Bobo is not dissimilar to searching for Waldo – if, when you found Waldo, you got some amazing food with only a slightly elevated risk of being assaulted by drunken club kids out on a post-bar closing adventure. Bobo is an OKC icon, the purveyor of some highly addictive honey-soaked, smoked-fried chicken and thick-cut fries. Bobo’s “restaurant” is a red trailer, and he tends to switch up locations, although generally in the vicinity of 23rd Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. He also keeps his own hours, something like 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The chicken is legendary. And rumor has it that it tastes better the later you go, leveling off when the bars close and a legion of revelers begin their nocturnal pilgrimages. Of course, the neighborhood isn’t Beverly Hills (or even Nichols Hills, for that matter), but it’s well worth the risk.
Take a Ride on the Heartland Flyer
The trip from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth is scenic and relaxing – and the only passenger train service available in Oklahoma.
Launch A Spontaneous Hootenanny at WoodyFest
Woody Guthrie was neither a cowboy nor a Native American, never struck oil, had an affiliation with Rodgers and Hammerstein or recorded a pop country CD. Instead the folk music icon embodied the working class progressive sentiments of the mid-20th century in Oklahoma and tragically passed away in 1967 before seeing how his music and activism influenced artists like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and many others. The “Dust Bowl Troubadour” was an Okemah native, and today the town annually hosts WoodyFest – the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, complete with the biggest and most legit folk acts of the day. What better place for a hootenanny?
The earliest published report of this visual phenomenon dates to 1936, although the story verbally goes back 70 years prior to that. To this day, many residents of “Devil’s Promenade” on the border between southwestern Missouri and northeastern Oklahoma west of Hornet, Mo., claim that looking west from just across the border in Oklahoma (parked on Oklahoma East 50 Road) will reveal a single ball of light or a tight grouping of lights shortly after dark. Spooklight chasers inevitably report that the lights disappear when approached, but the quest itself is the adventure.
Run Into Garth And Trisha
In Oklahoma, they need no last names. Rumor has it the best place for a random sighting is at a Braum’s in Owasso. Don’t tell them we told you.
Grab A Choc In Krebs
Until they find a way to incorporate gravy into a beer bottle, Choc Beer must be considered the quintessential Oklahoma beverage. Choc Beer dates back almost a century to when its Italian immigrant founder was first inspired by native Choctaw brewing styles and the abundance of golden wheat around his Krebs home. At first brewed for local coal miners, Choc has gone on to be enjoyed by locals and aficionados, despite all the legal hurdles of prohibition and of “home” brewing in state history. Now, it is a statewide treasure, with more than a dozen different handcrafted varieties, Choc Beer is the granddaddy of the Oklahoma craft beer renaissance.
Climb Rocks in the Wichita Mountains
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (WMWR) is one of the finest rock climbing areas in the southwest U.S. The WMWR’s high-quality granite and wilderness setting provide outstanding opportunities for vertical adventures. Thousands of climbing enthusiasts visit the WMWR each year to experience the exceptional climbing found at Mt. Scott, the Narrows, Elk Mountain, Crab Eyes, Lost Dome and other classic sites. It’s a good idea to remember that wildlife is intrinsic to a “wildlife refuge,” which can complicate things, when not accessing a cliff face.
Get Soaked at the Pawnee Bathhouse and Waterpark
This beautiful, historic 1939 WPA sandstone rock bathhouse at Pawnee Lake is on the National Historic Register but has some nice, modern flourishes that make it worth the trip from anywhere in the state. The structure is built from hand-cut and coursed native stone, and an intricate system of stone steps and walls lead from the building to a two acre fresh water pool complete with a sandy beach, water slide, high dive, water trampoline, diving board and paddle boats.
Eat Your Body Weight In Chicken Fried Steak
Every year either the state or its capital gets named as home to some of the unhealthiest people in the United States. Here, it’s a badge of honor. How else to explain away a state in which “buffet” could be named the official cuisine? The studies show that eating poorly is a major contributor to our low marks on annual health report cards. That’s no surprise considering that Okies delight in mammoth portions of beef and all things – emphasis on all – fried. But even here, where fried catfish is considered diet food and fried okra and pickles are perfectly acceptable vegetables, it has got to be Chicken Fried Steak that is ultimately responsible for bulging waistlines. Sure, fried chicken, barbecue and chili are also huge here, but other states can claim those as their own primary sin. In Oklahoma, though, even some Mexican restaurants also serve Chicken Fried Steak, and if it isn’t on your favorite Chinese buffet, it might be soon. Tenderize a slab of beef, season, coat and fry it fried-chicken style, then smother it with a gravy of choice and you have something that would repel First Lady Michelle Obama faster than an invitation to dinner at Rush Limbaugh’s house.
Many Oklahomans really, really look forward to the annual Oktoberfest bacchanalia in Tulsa. A clue to this is the countdown clock on the event’s official website that begins ticking down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the next Oktoberfest, which begins not long after the immediate past fest has wrapped up. What’s not to like at the fall festival celebrating all things Germanic (excepting that flirtation with fascism)? Beer is free flowing at the River West Festival Park, plus food, entertainment and general good cheer. But it’s the brew that gets most people doing the Chicken Dance, and which makes surviving Oktoberfest (with minimal day-after drunken regret) a challenge.
Tour the John Frank Home in Sapulpa
The Frankoma Pottery founder made sure his love for pottery was overtly reflected in this quirky home designed by architect Bruce Goff. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Catch A Foul Ball At ONEOK Field
The Drillers are great, but their wonderful new Art Deco-style stadium would be a great place to chase foul balls even were the team affiliated with the Dodgers.
Meander the OSU Homecoming Walkaround
OSU campus Greeks (think fraternities, not baklava) go all out decorating their houses for this annual mobile house party extravaganza.
Celebrate Bob Wills’ Birthday At Cain’s Ballroom
The House That Bob Built has become a top small venue destination for touring artists, legendary for its iconic past and place in history. While one is more apt to catch a rock concert there nowadays, in the ‘30s it was known as the home of Western swing, thanks to a Texas transplant by the name of Bob Wills. Each year since his death in 1975, Cain’s Ballroom has celebrated Wills’ birthday in March with a Western swing concert.
Ride The Silver Bullet At Frontier City
With the loss of Tulsa’s beloved Zingo, thrill-seekers’ roller coaster options in Oklahoma are going the way of elected Democrats.
Eat the Unhealthiest Item Available at the State Fair
The Oklahoma-Texas rivalry in, well, everything, extends to the food world, as it seems every year the states’ fairs garner some attention as home of the numbers one and two most unhealthy specialty food items at any state fair in the country. Deep fried bacon and fried candy bars? Pfft, childs’ play. Once Deep Fried Butter made it on to one fair’s menu a couple of years ago, the ante was upped. Grab a Zantac or six and get out to the Oklahoma State Fair or the Tulsa State Fair.
See Oklahoma! In Oklahoma At The Official Home Of Oklahoma!
If you have even a passing interest in theater, then there are reasons to take in the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece besides the obvious ironic kitsch of seeing it at our own Discoveryland. Oklahoma! was a game-changer with which its creators forever and fundamentally changed the nature of musical theater. Before it, dainty music was just a distraction from the plot; with Oklahoma!, the dainty music was actually integrated into the plot. Think that’s no big thing? Cultural historians point out that when discussing the history of theater, this variation is recognized as a change of epochs. How often does that happen?
Decode The Heavener Runestones
It’s a long shot, but since no experts have been able to come up with an explanation, why not try your own philology skills? Decades ago, runic script that appears Scandinavian was found on a stone in what is now a state park on Poteau Mountain; and smaller examples were found nearby. The runestones inspired many theories about the possible presence of pre-Columbian Scandinavians wandering the state, leaving the equivalent of Post-it notes. Scandinavians scholars reject the evidence of the script, but it has remained a curiosity for many years. Unfortunately, the state is set to close the Heavener Runestone State Park on Aug. 15 due to budget cuts, so hurry up.
Run Up Your Charge Card At Medicine Park
This quirky little oasis near Lawton is a great getaway for many reasons. The fun of explaining the charges at Chaps My Ass,
Rusty Buffalo, The Branded Bear and The Laughing Lizard to your significant other is just one.
Bass Fishing At Lake Keystone
Lake Keystone was initially envisioned to be much grander than it turned out to be, but bass sure do seem to like it. It’s referred to by some as the Striped Bass Capital of the World.
March in the Ghouls Gone Wild Parade
Almost 55,000 people attended this spooktacular Halloween parade in Oklahoma City last year, so there is a decent chance you might have already made the march. That number seems only likely to increase in subsequent years since Ghouls Gone Wild gets featured by entities like MTV, CNN and other media. Why not join in the cavalcade of creepy, kooky fun that comes complete with elaborate floats?
Take A Haunted Tour
Despite not being that old of a state, Oklahoma has had time to attract and retain a decent number of alleged Undead-Americans who haunt various homes, hotels and properties around the state. They are the oft-uncooperative stars of the scores of haunted tours available to the curious. What, scared?
Relive Ranch Days At The 101 Wild West Rodeo in Ponca City
There is no better place to relive the frontier era than at this annual rodeo and festival. That’s because the original 101 Ranch was home to what is believed to be the nation’s first rodeo, and it also exported a traveling show that introduced the wider world to American West life. The namesake 101 Ranch was established by Col. George W. Miller in 1879 on the banks of the Salt Fork River southwest of Ponca City, with thousands of acres of land both leased and purchased from his friends — the Ponca, Tonkawa and Osage tribes. In 1905, Miller’s sons staged what they called a “round-up” or “buffalo chase” as an entertainment incentive for a National Editorial Association convention. An estimated 60,000 people attended and were treated to a recreation of real ranch life. Over the decades to follow, the 101 Ranch Wild West Show went on the road, first around the country and then around the world. Beset by repeated tragedies and internal family conflict, the show eventually petered out completely despite affiliations with figures like Tom Mix, Bill Pickett and Buffalo Bill himself. Eventually the massive ranch was parceled and sold and the last remaining original structures destroyed. Still, the 101 Ranch remains inscribed in history, and the annual 101 Wild West Rodeo is a wildly popular means of commemorating this unique Oklahoma legacy.
Geek out at The Okie-Tex Star Party
Part genuine curiosity and part nerds on parade, this annual stargazer event sponsored by the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club brings out a whole different crowd than your average tractor pull, making it a verdant environment for astronomy enthusiasts.
Climb The Cavanal Hill In Poteau
Cavanal Hill is the world’s highest hill because at officially 1,999 feet in elevation, it is as tall as a hill can be; once it hits 2,000 feet, a hill becomes a mountain. How it is that an enterprising local hasn’t piled some even dirt across the top and become The Oklahoman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain remains a mystery.
Count The Mullets At Rocklahoma
Rocklahoma’s rich lineup of performers does attract fans of all stripes – as long as they’re fans of music played really, really loud. But as diverse an audience as the massive outdoor concert attracts out to Pryor, there is still guaranteed to be a gaggle of mullet-coifed locals who still really, really don’t get it.
Race Through Oklahoma’s Sand Dunes
An appropriate vehicle might be called for if you intend to race through the dunes at Little Sahara State Park or Oklahoma’s other under-exposed sand dunes.
When you think of locales with world-renowned, remarkable architecture, Oklahoma probably doesn’t rank high on that list. Heck, it probably doesn’t even make the list. But it should. In the perfect convergence of time, place and money, the Sooner state boasts one of the world’s top collections of Art Deco architecture, particularly in Tulsa and Bartlesville. Tulsa boomed in the 1920s at just the time Art Deco became all the rage. Flush with oil money, Tulsans constructed a range of buildings, from office towers to public buildings to private residences, in this cutting edge style. The trend continued into the 1950s, giving the city examples of all the various forms of Art Deco.
You don’t have to look far to go Deco in Tulsa. Perhaps the most spectacular example is the beautiful Boston Avenue Methodist Church – the largest Art Deco church in the world. Will Rogers High School, Union Depot, Fire Alarm Building and the Blue Dome building are also standout examples of the style, as are the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Westhope home, Adah Robinson studio and the John Duncan Forsyth residence. Bartlesville boasts Price Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, and a number of residences and buildings designed by Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff, a Wright protégé. The Tulsa Historical Society has developed a number of walking and driving tours of Art Deco attractions in Tulsa and Bartlesville to help you check this one off your list. You can find the lists at www.tulsahistory.org.
Have Dinner At The Haunted House
Word has it that it’s safer to dine at this converted Oklahoma City mansion than it was to live in it, given the less-than-savory end that came to the couple and their stepdaughter who died under mysterious circumstances and inspired the appellation. Oh, and you’ll need reservations.
See Your Shadow at Science Museum Oklahoma
The Shadow Stopper exhibit at Science Museum Oklahoma has been a favorite for decades. Strike your wackiest pose against a white screen, wait for the flash, and then run around to the other side of the screen to see your shadow captured. Repeat many times.
Visit The Oklahoma City Memorial
Remind yourself that the horrors of terrorism can strike anywhere.
Attend A Bedlam Football Game
As if anyone hasn’t attended one. Right?
Survive the Visual Onslaught of the Rhema Christmas Lights
Many “sophisticated” cities these days only permit white holiday lights, considering the standard multi-color ones garish. Wouldn’t it be fun to take the mayors from those cities to see the two million rainbow lights at Rhema Bible Church’s Christmas Lights Extravaganza?
Watch Eponymous Film At The Red Fern Festival
Believe it or not, there was a time when Oklahoma was portrayed on film without the appeal of grown men sticking their fists into underwater holes and shoving them into catfish’s mouths – and without a single rhythmic dancer from Brooklyn in a cowboy hat. Tahlequah area native Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows is a timeless classic young adult novel (and 1974 film) that brings to life early 20th century living in rural Oklahoma as much as it does the wonder and heartache of childhood. Before there were video games and urgent texts to be sent, young Billy Coleman’s sole desire for his own red-bone hound hunting dogs and his pursuit and ultimate destiny with them makes up both the backbone of the story’s plot – and the impetus for this annual festival. Participants relive the Red Fern era with hound dog field trials, car show, old-time games, entertainment, vendors and the ultimate fan experience – and outdoor screening of the movie. It’s a celebration of country life in Oklahoma and fun for the whole family. Even lifelong urbanites can’t help but get swept up in the wave of nostalgia this festival prompts and it’s best to suspend the cynicism and just go with it.
Eat A Meersburger (Or Two)
A hundred years ago, the Meers Store served a bustling population of miners, the support industry and the town that grew up outside the Wichita Mountains. Today, Meers Store and Restaurant is the last vestige of the tiny town. Although Meers Restaurant serves a wider variety of food now than it did back when it started dishing out the burger, it is still this big patty of Texas Longhorn beef served to order that packs in diners.
B&B in Oklahoma’s First Capital
The scenic and historic town is Oklahoma’s Bed and Breakfast Capital, with more than a dozen B&B options right in the middle of everything Guthrie has to offer.
Watch The Buffalo Roam on the Tallgrass Prairie
There isn’t all that much prairie left in the country at all considering it used to cover much of the American West, and the largest contiguous block of it is here near Pawhuska at The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy. Here you can see what Oklahoma looked like before chain restaurants, convenience stores and indoor plumbing. But to really capture the whole experience, you’ll need to watch some of the couple thousand bison on the preserve mosey along and somehow support 2,000-pound bodies by eating grass. Rethinking your Atkins Diet yet? Pack a salad for lunch and head out to graze with the buffalo. Last word of advice: Don’t taunt buffalo – that whole brush with extinction left them with no sense of humor.
Immerse Yourself in Native American Culture At Red Earth Festival
Many people already consider Oklahoma to be the center of Western Native American life. But there is no question about the state’s lofty position in Indian cultural terms during this mammoth annual festival. Representatives of tribes from all over the country assemble in Oklahoma City for a long weekend of arts and cultural showcases, sales, entertainment and demonstrations. The Red Earth dance competition features the very best in the art form pitted against one another. The art and culture are great, but the dance competition is a chance to cheer for Oklahoma’s first home team.
See a World Premiere at deadCENTER Film Festival
Earn some cultural street cred from this festival, dubbed by MovieMaker magazine as one of the world’s top 20 coolest festivals.
Spend The Night With Frank Lloyd Wright At The Inn at Price Tower
After all, it is Wright’s only skyscraper.
Ring in the New Year with Flaming Lips’ Freakout
Who said Oklahoma only produced country-Western music stars these days? The state’s unofficial house band, The Flaming Lips have made this annual Oklahoma City kick-off to a new year a musical and cultural classic. While the band has a vibe all its own, the raucous nature of Freakout can’t help but conjure up some of the feel of classic Lollapalooza or other loosely organized and offbeat musical festivals, evidenced by front-man Wayne Coyne urging the audience to mimic frog noises last year.
Wear Your Team Colors While Downing Billy Sims’ Boomer-Q
You have to hand it to Billy Sims. The former Sooners back might have had his Pro Bowl NFL career cut short by injuries back in the early 1980s, but that isn’t enough to keep the former Heisman Trophy winner down. Among his ventures is this statewide series of family-friendly barbecue joints serving up “Boomer-Q” complete with massive amounts of OU sports memorabilia. Sure, the theme might keep OSU fans away. But a better idea might be to sport your Cowboys hat right into the Billy Sims nearest you.
Detox in the Healing Waters Around Sulphur
They didn’t go outside the box when it came time to name the town of Sulphur in the heart of the scenic Arbuckle Mountains. After all, Native Americans were first attracted to the site because of the clear bubbling springs and the black mud of spring-fed creeks. White settlers also believed in the healing powers of the waters, congregating in the area and leading to the founding and flourishing of the town. Could that many people be wrong?
Dig For Crystals In The Great Salt Plains
But the real challenge is finding one that looks like Kate Middleton.
Beat the House in a Casino
Can you imagine that not that many years ago, one of the most-heard complaints residents would voice about Oklahoma was that there wasn’t enough nightlife? Ever since Native American tribes got the go-ahead for gaming, though, pursuing high-stakes entertainment has been as easy as taking the nearest highway. Once there, you’re sure to find a casino. Some are large and opulent, complete with stages, theaters and grand productions evocative of Las Vegas. Others are small and utilitarian like…well…the airport in Las Vegas. Wherever they are, they will usually be filled with people at all hours – all trying to beat the house odds and take home more than they arrived with. If that’s also your goal, then if casino conventional wisdom holds true in Oklahoma, your best odds are on the slot machines. For those dead-set against gambling, identifying the best casino restaurant buffet could be your assignment. With celebrity chefs’ upscale eateries taking over in Vegas, there needs to be a new home for the $6 steak dinner and the two-story buffet line.
Keep Your Hands off the Merchandise at a Rattlesnake Roundup
At worst, rattlesnakes in Oklahoma can be dangerous nuisances. At best they can be the source of great entertainment for the whole family. This, thanks to a number of rattlesnake round-ups historically held around the state each year, in Waynoka, Waurika, Okeene and a few other locales. You might want to ease into the rattlesnake roundup circuit initially, though, enjoying solid snake cuisine and serpent-laden demonstrations and “entertainment.”
Float The Illinois River
It’s a good idea to wait for the flooding to pass. Then the only threat is toxic runoff from chicken ranches and drunken frat boys. Still, the natural beauty of the river and the fun of getting all your buddies in canoes makes it worth it all.
Live Through Tulsa’s Day of the Dead Festival
This interpretation of the classic Mexican national holiday keeps getting bigger and bigger every year and comes complete with parade, arts and culture exhibitions, vendors, street dancers and both kids-oriented and edgy entertainment. It’s a fun time, particularly considering the holiday is meant to honor the dead, which might rankle the sensitivities of some non-Mexicans. Tulsa does ethnic celebrations big, and few bigger than Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos.
Visit the Original Hideaway in Stillwater
If your son or daughter is off at OSU and you need to find him or her fast, try Oklahoma’s oldest pizzeria, a Stillwater institution since 1957.
See Leon Russell Perform
If recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Lawton native Leon Russell was the only musician ever produced by the state, Oklahoma would still be way cooler than most others. Russell’s a legend and a quintessential sideman and collaborator, but even his solo tours attract millions. He’s worked with the biggest names in the industry during his career, from Sinatra and Dylan to Elton John. But it’s his unabashedly cool quotient, often stashed behind sunglasses and cowboy hat, that make him Oklahoma’s only coolest man in any room.
Live Like An Oil Baron
During Oklahoma’s Oil Boom days, there were scads of oil barons in the state building mansions and establishing a larger-than-life way of living in Oklahoma. Today, you can craft your own tour of some of Oklahoma’s notable spots that were created or popularized by oil barons.
Philbrook Museum of Art was originally built by Waite Phillips as a home for the oil pioneer and his wife. Today it houses a collection of world renowned art. Woolaroc, located outside Bartlesville, was built by Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Company. Originally built as a ranch retreat for the oil tycoon, Woolaroc is now a nature preserve and museum housing art collections, Western artifacts and items that tell the story of Woolaroc’s history. Just a short drive west of Woolaroc is Ponca City and the home of Marland Mansion, which was built by E.W. Marland, a baron who found oil on land leased from a Ponca Indian.
Known as “The Oilman’s Oasis,” Junior’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City was a haven for oil barons in the ‘70s, and is as famous for being the site of where some of the largest oil deals in Oklahoma City were struck as it is for its delicious steaks.
Frolick In The Flowers At The Azalea Festival
More than four decades ago, Muskogee’s Azalea Festival began as a one-day event in a park. Today, it garners national acclaim and takes place throughout the entire month of April with a wide array of activities and events ranging from passive entertainment to a parade and coinciding rodeo; and from surveying the flowers to a challenging chili and barbecue cook-off. One certainty is that the festival harkens the arrival of spring, which is always something to celebrate.
Spot Wayne Coyne In The Plaza District
The frontman of Oklahoma’s most legendary and psychedelic band, when he’s not on an international tour, can often be spotted dining or shopping at the many shops and establishments in this historic Oklahoma City neighborhood.
Ride A Horse
In Oklahoma, riding a horse is a close second to attending a Bedlam football game in the, “Hasn’t everyone done that?” category. But plenty of folks have long lived in – or are even natives of – Oklahoma, but still haven’t piloted their very own equine. This is a shame considering many other residents were riding horses well before ever riding a bicycle. There’s really no reason not to give it a try. There is no better (and easier) place to do it than Oklahoma. And if it’s a fear of horses stopping you, just consider this: since horses are both social and vegetarians, there really isn’t much harm they can do.
Go to a Drive-In Movie
Many Green Country residents lamented the tragic destruction of the Admiral Twin by fire last year and are hopeful that plans for its reconstruction work out. In the meantime, though, Oklahoma is home to a number of drive-in theaters from Chickasha to Oklahoma City. For some, drive-in theaters are strongly nostalgic. For others, they offer great, cheap family entertainment. There is most definitely something about seeing a movie on a big screen while enjoying a warm Oklahoma evening. The medium won’t last forever, so it’s a can’t-miss opportunity.
Guzzle the Green Beer at Tulsa’s St. Patrick’s Day Party
Going green doesn’t have to mean using poison light bulbs or bathing out of a coffee cup. In Tulsa, it’s synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day and beer – which pretty much go together as is. It doesn’t get any bigger than this annual, Guinness-soaked fest that leaves some to find their way home well after the sun has risen on March18.
Yacht Grand Lake
One “boats” other lakes. One “yachts” the state’s most popular lake.
Dress Up For The Renaissance Fair
You don’t have to be a 30-something video store clerk living in your parent’s basement, LOLing in your favorite chatroom and playing Dungeons & Dragons to appreciate the Renaissance Festival at The Castle of Muskogee while in costume. But it helps. So, put down your Hot Pocket, hit your mom up for some cash and head off to Ye Olde Costume Shop to get what you need. There just aren’t that many dress occasions that call for a cloak.
Sample the Haute Cuisine at Stillwater’s Annual Calf Fry
Nothing makes calf cojones go down easier than ranch dressing.