The "Big Friendly" is one city that definitely lives up to its name. Oklahoma's capital is small enough to cover in a short weekend getaway but large enough to offer everything that vacationers need. From museums and galleries to horse tracks, animal attractions and fine dining, you'll be surprised by what's available in this charming western destination.
If you are traveling with kids, the Adventure District has everything. Watch sea lion shows at the zoo, racing contests at Remington Park and learn about the Wild West at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Or just visit nearby Frontier Park, where there are enough roller coasters to delight any adrenaline junkie.
There are more up-market attractions as well - including an unbelievable range of fine dining options. From the beautifully cooked gourmet steaks at Red Prime Steak to the authentic Chinese dishes at Grand House, Oklahoma City has a restaurant scene as diverse as anywhere else in the USA.
So if you are looking for a friendly vacation destination with great transport links, affordable prices, and family-friendly attractions, look no further.
Oklahoma City isn't famous as a sporting city, but if you want to experience the atmosphere of an NBA match, the Chesapeake Energy Arena is a great option. With affordable prices, passionate local support and an entertaining team, catching a Thunder match is well worth it.
Oklahoma City is one of the Midwest's finest dining centers. It may have passed under many a foodies radar, but with high-quality Ethiopian restaurants like Queen of Sheba competing with all-American restaurants like Cheever's (and much more besides), the city is packed with gourmet attractions.
Oklahoma City celebrates the Old West like few other cities. You can learn all about how the west was forged at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, learn about old-time music at the American Banjo Museum or just have a great time on the Wild West-themed rides at Frontier Park.
If you feel the urge to dance the night away and you have a taste for cocktails and locally brewed beer, Oklahoma City won't disappoint. Head to Bricktown for the liveliest spots, with places to drink like the Bricktown Brewery and Drinkz Bar and Lounge, along with nightclubs like Coyote Ugly.
Oklahoma City also caters for outdoor enthusiasts like few American cities. If you want to spend a few days with rod in hand, head to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Bricktown and stock up on bait and tackle. Rent kayaks and paddle along the Oklahoma River or rent bikes from the Spokies OKC bike-share scheme and tour the city's downtown neighborhoods in the sunshine.
Honoring those affected by the Oklahoma City bombing, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, attracts thousands of visitors each year. The memorial includes the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, which includes The Gates of Time, twin bronze entry ways, the polished black granite Reflecting Pool, the Field of Empty Chairs - representing the 168 victims of the bombing, the Survivors' Wall with the names of the 600 survivors, and the Survivor Tree - a hundred-year-old American elm. The memorial also features the Rescuers' Orchard populated with redbuds, maples, and elms, plus the Children's Area with 5,000 tiles hand-painted by children after the bombing.
A renowned institution of Western art and culture, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, founded in 1955, celebrates the legacy of the American west with a collection of arts and crafts that focuses on the American cowboy, Native American culture, Victorian firearms, frontier military, and rodeos. Featured artists include nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Edward S. Curtis and James Earle Fraser, among others. The museum also houses the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms with its collection of Colt, Sharps, Winchester, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Marlin, and Parker Brothers weapons, as well as the Hall of Great Westerners, the Hall of Great Western Performers, and the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
A 17-acre botanical garden and park, the Myriad Botanical Gardens encircle a sunken lake. Featuring a striking collection of palm trees, tropical plants and flowers, exotic animals and waterfalls, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory is a living plant museum. The gardens offer a variety of educational programs for children and adults, including the interactive Rainforest Ecology Activity Program - which focuses on biology and ecology, the Roaming the Rainforest program - which addresses conservation, and the Junior Master Gardener program - which centers on horticulture and preservation. The gardens also house numerous distinguished sculptures, including Gateway by Hans Van de Bovenkamp, Childhood is Everlasting by Robin Orbach, and Flying Fish by Kenny McCage.
Built in 1917, the Oklahoma State Capitol, which accommodates the Oklahoma legislative and executive branches, was constructed in white limestone and pink granite. The building also houses a cafeteria, a barber shop and a museum with changing art exhibits. The halls of the capitol are decorated with murals, restored stained glass, and tribal flags. Flight of Spirit by Mike Larsen, a Chickasaw artist, is displayed in the rotunda and honors the Five Moons, a Native American ballet company. Throughout the building, visitors can observe a collection of Wayne Cooper paintings, which depict the state's oil heritage. On the first floor, discover The Earth and I Are One by Enoch Kelly Haney.
Built in 2002, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art has quickly become a highly-regarded, world-class art museum. With a permanent collection that explores five centuries of European and American art, the museum also features a growing contemporary art selection. On the first floor, the gallery hosts traveling exhibits from renowned artists, such as Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, Fabergé and Chuck Close. The museum also houses the largest collection of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures in the world. Visitors can also enjoy its cinema, which screens international, independent, and classic films, as well as its children's art programs, café, rooftop terrace, and gift shop.
Most locals advise traveling to Oklahoma City in late spring (May is ideal) or the fall (September and October). Mid-summer can be a little too hot for many visitors, while winter brings low temperatures and very high winds. April is also a good time to go, with generally fine weather and the added bonus of events like the city-wide Festival of the Arts.
Will Rogers World Airport connects Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and plenty of other American cities. The easiest way to get into town from the airport is to book a place in an Airport Express shuttle (which provides door to door service) or arrange a taxi. Expect to pay $20-30 to reach the center of town.
The city's Amtrak station is a stop on the Heartland Flyer service, which links Oklahoma City with Fort Worth to the south and takes 4 hours to complete the journey.
Oklahoma City can be easily reached by road from all directions. If you are coming from the north or northeast, take I-70, change to I-44 and then take the Will Rogers Turnpike. From the west, just take I-40 straight into the city, while I-35 connects Oklahoma City to Texas.
Greyhound runs intercity bus services into Union Station in Downtown Oklahoma City, and also has a few suburban stops and an airport stop, which may be convenient.
The best hotel in town is probably the Marriott Oklahoma City, not least thanks to its beautiful lakefront views and proximity to attractions like Oklahoma Zoo. However, it's not the most central option. If you want to be right at the heart of the action, try the Skivin Hilton, Courtyard Oklahoma City or the Colcord Hotel - all of which are in the Downtown neighborhood.
Downtown – Oklahoma City's business district, Downtown is filled with oil companies and agribusiness offices, but there's more to the area than commerce. Visitors can relax at the Myriad Botanical Gardens, watch the city's philharmonic orchestra at Civic Center Music Hall and eat the city's best wieners at Coney Island. It's also the best place to look for accommodation.
Bricktown – Oklahoma City experienced a downturn in the 1980s, and many warehouses were left empty, particularly in the Bricktown neighborhood. However, since 1990, this area has been reborn as a lively cultural district. Don't miss the American Banjo Museum, local institutions like Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse and find time to catch the Thunder play in the NBA at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Adventure District – The city's tourist hub, the Adventure District lives up to its name. Home to museums like the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the National Softball Hall of Fame, it's also where you'll find most of Oklahoma City's family attractions, like the city zoo and the Science Museum, which has plenty of hands-on child-friendly exhibits.
The public bus system is an excellent way to get from Downtown Oklahoma City to areas in the northeast of the city like the Adventure District. Fares cost $1.50 and day passes are $4. However, don't count on being able to reach other parts of the city. If you are staying in the west or south, having a car or using taxis is a must.
With a patchy public transit system, taxis are an essential part of life in Oklahoma City. The meter drop is generally $2.75; then you'll be charged $2.20 per mile, with one-hour waiting charges of $15. Alternatively, you could use Uber, which charges $0.75 as a meter drop, then $0.70 per mile (for its basic UberX service).
Oklahoma City is a city that seems designed for motorists and it's a good idea to arrange a car rental during your stay. The city is laid out in a regular grid, with street numbers increasing from zero in the center upwards as you move both north and south. There are few one-way streets and parking is cheap (around $10 per day in the center).
Penn Square Mall is the city's premier shopping spot. Located just to the north of the Downtown neighborhood, it can be reached by city buses fairly easily. Shopping fans won't be disappointed, with chain stores like Hollister, J.C. Penney and Sunglass Hut represented. For a slightly different shopping experience, head to the 23rd Street Antique Mall or head to some of the city's many independent book and record stores, like Book Beat and Company and Guestroom Records.
Oklahoma City has a wide range of supermarkets, with a few Walmart Supercenters, a Crest Foods, Whole Foods and ethnic supermarkets like Super Cao Nguyen. So if you are self-catering, shopping for groceries shouldn't be an issue. Expect to pay around $3.75 for a gallon of milk and $2 for a pound of apples.
Dining is one of Oklahoma City's greatest strengths, and there's a wide variety of American, Mexican and Asian eateries to choose from. If you want a traditional American sit-down meal with high-quality desserts, Luby's is the place to go. Earl's Rib Palace is the best BBQ joint in town, Cafe Bella serves up Cajun delicacies, while Grand House in the Asia District is the finest Chinese restaurant in the city. But don't feel limited. There are Ethiopian, Greek, French, Japanese and Middle Eastern restaurants dotted across town. It's a fantastic place to eat, and it's affordable too, with a mid-range meal coming to about $10-15.