Visiting the capital of the Sooner State
Pride in the city’s Western heritage is on display in Oklahoma City, Okla., but the locals aren’t mired in the past. A vibrant entertainment district called Bricktown, an Olympic training center and a renovated downtown reflect an investment in the city’s future. The best time to visit OKC is in the fall, when it's neither too hot nor too cool in the state capital.
Q: What should I see in Oklahoma City?
A: Indoor and outdoor attractions in Oklahoma City celebrate and memorialize the city’s history and culture.
- The Oklahoma National Memorial Museum, on the site of the 1995 Murrah Building terrorist attack, combines a somber outdoor area with water features and chairs erected in memory of those who died, along with a museum featuring 35 interactive exhibits. A mobile app provides tours, general information and interactive content.
- Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 15-acre oasis in downtown Oklahoma City. The 13,000-square-foot Crystal Bridge, an enclosed cylindrical structure, contains thousands of desert and tropical plants. Thunder Fountain, an interactive water feature, is open during the warm months.
- Head to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum north of downtown and immerse yourself in cowboy culture. Exhibits explore the workings of everyday life and Western art as well as Native American life and culture. The museum is home to the Rodeo Hall of Fame, and halls of fame for famous Westerners and performers.
Q: When is the arts festival in Oklahoma City?
A: Held in late April since 1967, the Festival of the Arts showcases the arts with exhibits and live performances. The six-day celebration, beginning on Tuesday and ending on Sunday, plays out on multiple stages and artist booths in Bicentennial Park in downtown Oklahoma City. Food vendors line Couch and Concord Drives, and local wineries offer tastings. The Festival of Arts is free to attend, though there are charges for food and beverages, as well as any artwork for sale, of course.
Q: Where should I eat in Oklahoma City?
A: For a quick bite, look for one of the city’s more than 125 food trucks. Bleu Garten in Midtown is a collection of food trucks with a variety of foods. The area has seating for diners, restrooms, misters for summer cooling and heaters for winter warming.
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the Stockyard City section has been serving food to Oklahoma City residents for more than a century. Drawings on the walls depict famous diners like Ronald Reagan and Reba McEntire who have stopped in for a steak over the years.
The State Fair settles in for its annual run in Oklahoma City in September. Hundreds of food vendors offer old favorites like corn dogs and caramel apples as well as a long list of deep-fried and “on a stick” specialties.
Q: How far is it from Kansas City to Oklahoma City?
A: Downtown Kansas City is about 350 miles northeast of downtown Oklahoma City. The most direct route by car is Interstate 35, a drive that takes around five hours. Airlines don’t typically offer direct flights between Kansas City International Airport and Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, instead making stops in cities like Dallas or Denver where passengers have to change planes to continue to their destination.
Travelers can board Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Kansas City, but must disembark in Newtown, Kan., to pick up thruway bus service to Oklahoma City. Other train options are available, but they require multiple transfers, and some can take as long as 20 hours. Greyhound operates between the two cities. The ride takes about seven hours.
Q: What is Oklahoma City known for?
A: College football is a big deal in Oklahoma City, The University of Oklahoma Sooners play in Norman, 20 miles south of downtown. The National Championship-winning team plays at the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, one of the 15 largest in the country.
Oklahoma City is the state capital. The state capitol building faces a large green space flanked by state office buildings and the Oklahoma History Center, a museum with Native American, military and genealogical exhibits. The Oklahoma Veterans Memorial is nearby. Inside the capitol, more than 100 artworks portray the state’s history and people.
Q: Where is Oklahoma City Thunder located?
A: The Thunder, Oklahoma City’s NBA basketball team, plays at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The 581,000-square-foot arena, located just off Interstate 40 at 100 W. Reno Ave., opened in 2002. The Thunder, formerly the Seattle-based SuperSonics, played their first games at the arena in the 2008-2009 season. Forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook are among the team’s notable players. Chesapeake Energy Arena also hosts rock concerts, amateur sports championships and touring shows like Cirque du Soleil and Sesame Street Live.
Q: What river runs through Oklahoma City?
A 7-mile stretch of the North Canadian River between dams near Eastern, Western and May avenues became the Oklahoma River when the project was completed in 2004. The entire length is navigable, and public boat launches are available. Boaters and anglers must have a permit. Hiking and biking trails parallel the river, and a manmade whitewater course for rafting and kayaking is adjacent in the Boathouse District.
Commercial companies operate cruises on the Oklahoma, offering adult cocktail cruises, private charters and special events like Halloween and Mother’s Day trips.