There are many reasons to love our great state: beautiful parks, rich cultural heritage and the adventures that await around every corner. And what better time to explore the great opportunities Oklahoma offers for education and entertainment than in the care-free summer months?
American bison once grazed upon the plains of modern-day Oklahoma. Today, these majestic creatures can be spotted in a few places around the state. On the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma, around 2,500 bison roam the land and help balance the delicate ecosystem on the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie left. More than 650 bison call the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge home in southwest Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. Pawnee Bill Ranch is home to a herd of bison that lives alongside other animals native to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is steeped in musical tradition. From the strums of Woody’s guitar to the raucous performances of Red Dirt, the state’s music festival scene offers audio stimulation for all. Enjoy tributes to the Dust Bowl Troubadour at The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival (July 8-12) in Okemah. The third annual Center of the Universe Festival (July 24-25) in downtown Tulsa will bring popular rock acts to the masses and provide a platform for local acts. The Backwoods Music Festival (Sept. 4-6) in Stroud is three days of music and camping with a variety of musical acts, from country to metal to electronic music. Dusk ‘Til Dawn Blues Festival (Sept. 4-6), began by the late blues legend D.C. Minner, celebrates its 25th year of bringing legendary blues acts to festival-goers in tiny Rentiesville. Medicine Stone (Sept. 24-26) is a celebration of Red Dirt music in Tahlequah and will feature festival founder Jason Boland and his band, The Stragglers.
There are also great museums featuring Oklahoma’s history in music.
Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa
Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee
American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma has plenty of shoreline, despite being a land-locked state, and with more than 200 lakes, water sports are popular in the state. The Blue Hole Park, located outside of Salina, is a summer destination for those seeking to cool-off from scorching summer temps. Floating the Illinois River is also a popular water activity for families and friends during the summertime. The Water-Zoo, located in Clinton, is Oklahoma’s first indoor water park and offers a splash pad, wave pool, lazy river and plenty of water slides. For those who enjoy being on top of the water instead of in it, the Cherokee Queen offers riverboat rides on Grand Lake.
There’s more than 400 miles of it here. And, of course, there are lots of sights to see along the vast stretch of the Mother Road. Consider stops at Stroud’s Rock Café, POPS restaurant and fueling station in Arcadia and the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.
In tiny Wakita, Okla., the Twister Museum commemorates the movie released in 1996 and set in Oklahoma.
Celebrate movies in downtown Oklahoma City at this year’s deadCenter Film Festival June 10-14.
Take a self-guided tour of sites featured in August: Osage County.
More than just a college mascot, Oklahoma cowboys brought national attention to the state, and the state is constantly celebrating cowboy culture. Will Rogers Memorial Museums, located in Claremore and Oologah, commemorate Rogers and his contributions to the stage, screen and written word. The Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum pays homage to Autry, a B-Western movie star, and to the other actors who popularized the craft. The Tom Mix Museum, located in Dewey, features movie memorabilia and other artifacts that belonged to the Western star. The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, located in Oklahoma City, is full of Western art, historical relics and American Indian artifacts.
The Arcadia Round Barn was restored two decades ago and now greets visitors along Highway 66 just east of Edmond.
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is the largest example of folk art in Oklahoma. Find it on Highway 28A in Chelsea.
The Blue Whale, located along Route 66 in Catoosa, is one of the most recognizable objects to those living in northeast Oklahoma.
A 20-foot replica of Paul Bunyan watches over Bud’s Cycle Salvage & Auto on Highway 8 in Aline.
A cement mixer tank painted like a space capsule can be found on Winganon Road near Talala.
Oklahoma has played a vital role in the history of space exploration. Learn about the aerospace industry and famous astronauts from Oklahoma at three great museums.
Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford
Tulsa Air & Space Museum & Planetarium
Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, housed in the Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.
Visit some of the world’s oldest artifacts at these sites.
Visit one of these museums to see works from world-renowned artists.
Oklahoma’s unique topography has created caves all over the state, perfect for exploring.
Robbers Cave State Park houses an infamous cave that reportedly hid famous outlaws in sandstone hills and cliffs.
Alabaster Caverns State Park has a cave made entirely of the rare form of gypsum, the only gypsum cave in the U.S., and it’s open for tours.
Turner Falls Park is tucked away in the Arbuckle Mountains and features three caves that are open for exploration.
Summertime in Oklahoma belongs to baseball and soccer. Catch Minor League Baseball teams, the Oklahoma City Dodgers and the Tulsa Drillers, and root them on during home stands at their respective downtown ball fields. The Oklahoma City Energy FC are enjoying a successful season at a new stadium, while in Tulsa, the Tulsa Roughnecks FC of the United Soccer League and the Tulsa Athletics of the National Premier Soccer League light up the pitch.
Escaping hectic city life is easy with urban hiking trails.
Martin Park Nature Center provides 2.5 miles of hiking trails that meander through woods and grasslands on the west side of Oklahoma City.
Oxley Nature Center, located in north Tulsa, offers 10 hiking trails for various levels.
Turkey Mountain in south Tulsa offers both hiking and biking trails.
The state’s parks are teeming with beauty. There’s nothing better than a family retreat or long weekend away at one of the lodges in these parks. Try the Lakeview Lodge at Beavers Bend State Park, The Lodge at Sequoyah State Park or Quartz Mountain Resort, Arts & Conference Center.
This summer, mark your calendars for the McLoud Blackberry Festival July 3-4, the Porter Peach Festival July 16-18 and the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival Aug. 8., to indulge in nature’s sweetest delights.
A few Oklahoma cities still offer the ultimate drive-in experience.
In cities large and small, architectural wonders abound. Tulsa Foundation for Architecture hosts Second Saturday tours, which meet at the Mayo Hotel and consist of an hour-long guide of Tulsa’s remarkable downtown buildings. Price Tower, in Bartlesville, is the only skyscraper designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Take a guided tour of the building and take a peek into a 19th-floor executive office as well as the H.C. Price Company Corporate Apartment. Claremore’s Belvidere Mansion was built the same year that Oklahoma became a state. Victorian design runs throughout the impressive home. Built prior to statehood in Billings, the Dr. Renfrow-Miller Museum, once known as the “Castle on the Prairie,” features a metal-domed roof, a hexagon-like exterior and four rock chimneys.
There’s plenty of proof all around. Several oil derricks and pumpjacks stand around the state, including on Main Street in Barnsdall, at the Oklahoma State Capitol, at the Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole and one of the tallest derricks on display: The Parker Drilling Rig #114 in Elk City.
And to their histories. Discover the past and present of Oklahoma’s tribes at the many heritage centers and museums dedicated to the American Indian’s legacy.
Museums and memorials pay homage to the thousands of Oklahoma veterans that have fought and paid the ultimate price in wars both stateside and overseas. Large or small, these tributes are worth a trip.