For centuries, Oklahoma City (OKC) has been known for its old-style cowboy culture and industrious population, most of who work in the surrounding oil wells. The city also became popular around the world in 1995 after the deadly bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
When you’re visiting OKC, find time to visit the magnificent Oklahoma City National Memorial to pay tribute to the victims of the heinous crime. If you want to know what else you can do in this great city, this article offers you a list of 12 Best things to do in OKC.
Interesting Facts about Oklahoma City
Located on the I-35 Corridor, slightly in the western extreme of the Upland South, OKC is the capital city of the state of Oklahoma. It’s also the largest city in the state and the 20th most populous city in the United States. By the year 2020, the city’s population was estimated to be 687,725, with its metropolitan area estimated to host 1,396,445 people.
The Oklahoma City-Shawnee Combined Statistical Area has a population of about 1,469,124 people, which makes it the largest municipality and metropolitan area in the city by population. The city’s residents are known for their friendly and resilient nature. They’re also very hard-working. Here are some other interesting facts about OKC.
1. Formation of the City
The OKC came together on April 22, 1889, when the U.S. government launched the first of its many “land runs”, allowing residents to claim sections of free land. In a single day, 10,000 tents had been erected within what is now referred to as Oklahoma City, forming a tent city.
2. Sooners and Boomers
The people who had sneaked into the area before the government launched the Land Run were referred to as the Sooners, while those who supported the opening of the city’s “unassigned land” were known as Boomers. These terms formed part of the popular song, Boomer Sooner, by a student at the University of Oklahoma.
3. College Ball Games
There’s a deep rivalry between the two main universities in the city: the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. This rivalry is often witnessed during college balls. It’s commonly known as the Bedlam.
It is not clear why this name became so popular, but some people suggest that it was coined from the chaos witnessed in the stands in the early 1900s during the infamous OU vs. OSU brawling match.
4. Dust Bowl OKC
The city’s residents are known to have a cunning sense of humor. They even find humor in the darkest aspects of their city’s history. For instance, they find the Dust Bowl OKC – the 12-lane 1970s-style bowling alley – funny. This alley even has a beer gallery out back.
5. Sonic Drive-In
The headquarters of Sonic Drive-In – a popular eatery that started as a hamburger and root beer stand in Shawnee – are located in OKC. The founder of the eatery wanted to name it Top Hat but realized that the name had already been trademarked. So, he settled for Sonic to reflect the business’s motto: “Service at the Speed of Sound.”
6. Ditto Wiley Post Airport
As you fly in or out of OKC through Ditto Wiley Post Airport, you might not pay much attention to the name, but it’s interesting to know that the airport is named after the vaudevillian Will Rogers, who lost his life in a plane crash.
7. Capitol Building
The city’s capitol building is the only building in the world that sits on an existing oil well. There’s an oil rig right outside the building.
12 Best Things to Do In OKC
Since OKC is the largest city in the state of Oklahoma, it offers a wide range of interesting areas to visit and fun activities to partake in throughout your stay. Whether it’s your first time visiting the city or you’re a repeat visitor, these activities will make your stay worthwhile and unforgettable.
1. Tour of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
This national memorial park is worth your every minute because it’ll remind you of the bombing tragedy and the names of the victims. Recently, the Memorial underwent a major face-lift, which included installing state-of-the-art technology in the museum, hands-on galleries, and new artifacts.
Visiting this Memorial will help you to develop a personal connection with the tragedy as you go through the evidence collected during the investigations.
2. Tour of the First Americans Museum
OKC hosts the First Americans Museum – home to the collective histories of 39 unique First American Nations. It has advanced displays in First American history, art, and culture.
You’ll also enjoy live public and informative programs, exclusive Native-inspired meals served at the full-service restaurant, and a fully stocked museum store with authentic artifacts, most of which were hand-made by the Natives.
3. Scissortail Park
The Scissortail Park is the latest outdoor recreation park in OKC, sitting on a 40-acre piece of land a few steps from the center of OKC’s downtown. You’ll enjoy strolling through the magnificent gardens and groves, as well as relaxing on the well-manicured lawn. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a live concert or music performance, while your kids have fun on the vast kid’s playground.
4. Ride the Bricktown Water Taxi
For over two decades, the water taxi has been serving as a major attraction in Bricktown. It’ll take you down the Bricktown Canal while your tour guide explains the canal’s history. This cruise will also allow you to explore the old Bricktown and the surrounding installations.
5. Factory Obscura’s Mix-Tape
Factory Obscura’s Mix-Tape is an interactive exhibit that adds to OKC’s booming art division. It’s a 6,000-square-foot exhibit that plays hits on an immersive art experience while highlighting the emotional connection to the traditional mixed tapes. Take a stroll through the color wheel of design and enjoy the immersive art with wonderful hits playing in the background.
6. Thunder Basketball
If you are a basketball fan, you shouldn’t miss out on OKC’s Thunder Basketball experience. The brilliance and dynamism of Thunder Nation will remain in your heart and mind for the rest of your life.
7. Tour of OKC Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia
This sanctuary is located in the southwest part of the larger OKC Zoo and it extends the current Asian elephant herd’s habitat, creating new habitats for other wild animals, including red pandas, langurs, raccoon dogs, Indian rhinos, cassowary birds, and Komodo dragons. The extended area features a two-story eatery with a perfect view of the wildlife.
8. Camping at Orr Family Farm
If you love camping, then you’ll find the Conestoga wagons and teepees at Orr Family Farm quite lovely and comfortable. The farm offers an overnight experience like no other by allowing you to camp or “glamp” under the country sky with a huge bonfire for roasting marshmallows. You’ll sleep in temperature-regulate wagons and teepees and enjoy deluxe amenities, as well as fun farm activities.
9. Tour of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Take a tour of this rich and artistic national museum to learn the history and beauty of classic and modern western art. The museum hosts popular works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell and James Earle Fraser. The interactive galleries in this museum tell the authentic history of the American Rodeo, cowboy, and Native American culture.
10. Visit the OKC Museum of Art
This museum hosts the most inclusive collection of Dale Chihuly glass, as well as the 55-foot Elenor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower. Chihuly was a renowned artist who used glass to create unique structures. This museum displays over three decades of his finest work.
11. Visit the OKC Contemporary Arts Center
If you love contemporary art, you’ll find Oklahoma City Contemporary Arts Center quite interesting. It’s an outstanding facility that offers beautiful exhibitions, educative materials, and performances by popular artists. It was designed to offer a wide range of artistic experiences. There’s an onsite café where you can enjoy your favorite meal after touring the gallery.
12. Tour Stockyards City
Stockyards City offers numerous shops that offer a mixture of Western experiences. For instance, you can explore vast ranches with cattle, buy your favorite cowboy boots, or enjoy a delicious steak.
Tips on Traveling to OKC
With so many exciting things to do in OKC, you need to prepare yourself properly for the trip. Therefore, you need to learn how to make your trip to this great city safe and enjoyable. Here are useful hints and advice on how to travel to OKC.
If you’re traveling with cash and other valuables, you need to find a safe place to keep them when you get to the city. Luckily, almost every hotel in OKC has a safe where you can put all your valuables. You can also deposit your cash and other valuables at the hotel’s reception for safekeeping.
2. Carry the Right Electronic Charger
You’ll need to charge your phone, laptop, tablet, camera, and other electronic gadgets while you’re staying in OKC. Therefore, carry the right chargers to ensure that they’re compatible with the sockets at the hotel. Fortunately, most hotels in OKC offer American standard-size sockets, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility with your chargers.
When you’re out there touring different attraction sites within the city, you should use public toilets located in public buildings like shopping malls, entertainment joints, etc. Choose public toilets located in safe spaces.
4. Giving Tips
If you’re satisfied with the services you get at an eatery, store, or spa, you are allowed to give a tip. In most cases, 10 percent of the total amount charged is enough for a tip. In an entertainment joint, you can offer 50 cent as a tip for every order you place. The same applies to spas.
5. Getting a Taxi
Hailing a taxi in the streets of OKC can be quite challenging. Therefore, you should use your mobile taxi hailing app to get a taxi. Most taxi drivers in the city expect you to give them tips. A 10 percent tip should be enough.
6. Finding a Guide
As a tourist, you’re advised to find company when touring the remote parts of the city, especially if you are touring these areas at night. Choose a local guide who understands the security situation in the city. If you are traveling along, stay away from secluded places, especially at night.
7. Hiring Important Services
Regardless of how tempting an offer seems, do not use services offered by individuals for safety purposes. You should work with well-established brands for accountability reasons.