Why Oklahoma City Should Be Your Next U.S. Vacation

11 Reasons We’re Obsessed with Oklahoma City

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There was a time when I spent half of each month out of the country. These days, however, I’d much rather stay closer to home and exploring domestic hotspots like Oklahoma City that are truly multi-faceted, doable over a long weekend and capitalize on so many of my interests: food, spirits, the outdoors, art and urban culture.

A Peek at Oklahoma City's Outdoors Scene

We spent four days on the ground during our inaugural visit to OKC, and within hours of touching down, we were smitten with this truly delightful place. Why? Well, I’ll tell you:

It’s a big city with a small town vibe

Oklahoma City is one of the most sprawling cities I’ve ever visited—625 square miles to be exact—but it doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s one of the largest cities in the United States landmass-wise and boasts a metro population of 1.3 million people. But most everything a visitor would want to see is consolidated within a few adjacent neighborhoods downtown so it’s also extremely manageable. Bonus: Traffic is virtually non-existent, and parking is incredibly easy to come by, so exploring by car is a breeze.

Aerial View: Why Oklahoma City Should Be Your Next U.S. Vacation

It’s not Southern but has that Southern hospitality

OK, I thought people in Tennessee were friendly, but my people have got nothing on the fine folks of OKC. Need directions? They’ll draw you a map. Looking for a brewery recommendation? They’ll go one step further and escort you there. Everywhere we went, the locals chatted us up, and it was the perfect context we needed for discerning Oklahoma City’s vibe.

It’s on the verge of a food renaissance

I was expecting a lot of things out of OKC, but a restaurant scene that rivals Nashville was not one of them. Every last place we ate, from beloved local institution Cheever’s Cafe to The Jones Assembly, was five stars-worthy on Yelp.

The Jones Assembly: A Peek at Oklahoma City's Dining Scene

It’s an urban outdoor oasis

Our first stop after arriving on a Sunday afternoon was Myriad Botanical Gardens, 15 acres of verdant green space right smack in the city center. And our second stop was Riversport Adventures, where you can try your hand at whitewater rafting—right downtown! I’m never one who wants to be cooped up inside, particularly as blissfully warm and sunny it was during my visit, so I very much appreciated the abundance of outdoor recreation.

Myriad Gardens: A Peek at Oklahoma City's Outdoors Scene

It’s got an entire museum dedicated to cowboys

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum as I’ve never so much as seen an old Western (sorry!). But man, I could have spent all day here! The 30,000-object museum spans costumes, cinema, art, artillery and so much more, and I can’t wait to go back and lose myself in its various exhibits.

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum: Why Oklahoma City Should Be Your Next U.S. Vacation

It boasts numerous boutique hotels

While there are plenty of hotel chains I’m loyal to like Hilton and Fairmont, I do love me an independent boutique hotel that’s chock full of character. On this visit, we stayed at the Colcord, which encompasses all the facets of a truly great hotel in my mind: a friendly staff, a bold color palette, a central location, a killer restaurant and bar, and Art Deco accents for days.

Where to Stay in Oklahoma City: Colcord Hotel

It’s got breweries, y’all!

You know this excited SVV and me. Just a year prior, a state law was changed that made it legal for craft breweries to sell full-strength beer in Oklahoma. As such, there is now a handful of worthy contenders—and we tried to hit them all. On this visit, we made it to Twisted Spike, Stonecloud and Anthem, but we still have to get to COOP, Roughtail and a few others next time we’re back.

Stonecloud Brewing Co.: The New Wave of Breweries in Oklahoma City

Its street art is on point

Have you gotten the impression I’m a not-so-closeted mural chaser? There’s little I like doing more in a new city than going on a photo safari for the best street art in town. OKC had plenty to track down, a good chunk of it woven throughout the Plaza District.

Hunt Down These Murals in OKC

It’s a city invested in its future

I’ve lived in several places where it felt as if the city’s residents’ needs and wants were a mere afterthought to the politicians’ own (and truth be told, it often feels that way in Nashville nowadays). But not in Oklahoma City. The city government launched its MAPS program nearly 25 years ago as a way to revitalize downtown, improve its national image and “provide new and upgraded cultural, sports, recreation, entertainment and convention facilities.” The next phase of this will be the development of a brand new convention center breaking ground next spring.

It has a Ferris wheel purchased on eBay

I couldn’t make this up if I tried. This former Santa Monica wheel is also now one of the most Instagrammable spots in OKC!

The eBay Ferris Wheel: Why OKC Should Be Your Next U.S. Vacation

It’s right smack in the middle of the country

As much as I love going to, say, Seattle, six hours on a plane (and then a time change) just isn’t my favorite way to spend an afternoon. I love that OKC is so central that you can be there from just about anywhere in the United States in a matter of hours.

Looking for more Oklahoma City inspiration? I’ve got travel tips galore:




11 Reasons You Should Visit Oklahoma City on Your Next Vacation
11 Reasons You Should Visit Oklahoma City on Your Next Vacation
11 Reasons You Should Visit Oklahoma City on Your Next Vacation
  • September 19, 2017

    Wow, I never would have guessed that OKC had so many cool things to do. I’m especially impressed that there’s a botanical garden and river rafting right in the center of the city. Your blog always gives me such inspiration to visit your part of the U.S. 🙂

    • September 21, 2017

      Ha, well Oklahoma City is hardly my part of the US! The Great Plains is a vastly unexplored region on my part, but I hope to see more of it. And I really want to organize a group trip to OKC next year! Fingers crossed…

  • September 19, 2017

    Not somewhere I would have thought of going, but I feel like it would be cool to explore lesser-known/visited places like OKC. It definitely looks like a good place to spend a couple of days exploring and relaxing!

  • September 19, 2017

    I’ve been hearing great things about OKC.I love discovering cities like this that offer the food and vibe of a small city without the expensive price tags, traffic, and crowds.

    • September 21, 2017

      You hit the nail on the head! I love that it doesn’t have all the things that annoy me about, say, San Francisco or even Nashville (crowds, awful traffic, expensive parking).

  • September 19, 2017

    OKC has been on my radar for years, I have someone special there I want to visit. Now with these 11 reasons, it seems ridiculous that I haven’t done so yet – maybe I was just waiting for the culinary revolution to take place!

  • September 19, 2017

    This has me so excited to get back to my home state next month! I somehow missed The Jones Assembly opening and now I can’t wait to check it out! Glad you enjoyed yourself in OKC!

    • September 21, 2017

      Oh girl, LOVE doesn’t begin to describe it. I’m so excited to go back again next year! Hope you have a fun trip home =)

  • September 20, 2017

    When I think of Oklahoma, I usually think of the musical! Is that naff or what? Eek!

    As the only girl in my family with 3 brothers, I had no choice as a young girl, but to watch ALL the spaghetti Westerns and Bruce Lee films! I’m no longer into cowboy films of course, but that wouldn’t stop me from visiting the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, which does sound like fun!

    p.s. You’ve never seen an old Western! Not even with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kurt Douglas, Charles Bronson, or films such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, etc. How did that happen you lucky girl?

    • September 21, 2017

      Not just you! The whole time I was there, I was busting out in a little, “Oooooooklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!” And now that I’ve been there, I definitely need to watch it again 😉

      My parents just weren’t into Westerns, but Scott’s were so he’s seen a lot!

    • August 28, 2019
      Cynthia Marshall

      I love old westerns. Some of my favorite actor’s Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy, of course The Duke. I’ll definitely be checking it out.

  • September 20, 2017

    You had me at breweries! I’ve never been to Oklahoma and wanna go, with you!!

    • September 21, 2017

      Brewery Tour of Oklahoma 2018?

  • September 20, 2017

    Looks like somewhere that has something for everyone. My husband and I would enjoy the Botanical Garden and the breweries, but I think the kids would like the Cowboy Museum & the Botanical Garden. Will have to add OKC to our USA Bucket List.

    • September 21, 2017

      That botanical garden has this amazing sandwich shop (with homemade Popsicles and ice cream!) called Pitchfork in the Park, so yes, I think your kids would definitely like that 😉

  • September 21, 2017

    Wow, all place is wonderful this place is great.I like to travel as like this city. Wonderful weather and culture. Your 11 responses are very helpful for any new traveler. Thank you, dear, sharing your information.

  • September 22, 2017

    Yes, yes I get it… Another place to add to my already super extensive list of places to visit in the US 😉 I already knew Oklahoma State because it’s the birthplace of Blake Shelton *grins*. Now I’m hooked because it has a cowboy museum! Thanks 😉

    • September 26, 2017

      Aaaaaand Blake is opening a Honky Tonk there with the Opry this month!

      • September 28, 2017

        I have to be honest. I had to google what a honky tonk is! How could I not know about something which I need in my life so much 🙂

  • September 22, 2017

    A big city with no traffic and plenty of parking? Shut the front door!

    • September 26, 2017

      Right?!? It’s what Nashville used to be and why I left San Francisco…guess I’m just going to have to move to OKC next!

  • September 24, 2017
    Natalie Karousatos

    Thank you for the fantastic review of my city. I moved here, reluctantly, or shall I say, kicking and screaming, because I had my eyes on Atlanta or Dallas, from my then tiny hometown of Nashville. And, wow, just wow! What an incredible 18 years it has been! I have witnessed the incredible birth of a powerful city. I have made the most wonderful, genuine friends, and love my little/big city life. I’ll be happy to join you for a tour.

    • September 26, 2017

      Ahh, funny, I’m from the Nashville area, too, and I definitely thought it tiny growing up! I think that’s why I like OKC: It’s like Nashville was 10 years ago just when it was getting cool but before it reached “unmanageable” level. I think you just had some crazy foresight to know that OKC was going to morph into an awesome place, Natalie! =)

  • September 25, 2017

    I lived in OKC as a kid (I actually lived there during the bombing and it’s one of my earliest childhood memories) and I’m so happy to see that the cultural renaissance they’ve been discussing for a decade is finally occurring. We definitely need to get down there soon.

    • September 26, 2017

      Have you been back since you moved? The National Memorial & Museum was one of the most inspiring and simultaneously heartbreaking places I’ve ever visited.

      • September 26, 2017

        I haven’t been back as an adult, but it’s on my list now that I read your post. I’ve always wanted to go to the memorial anyway, especially since I can remember it fairly vividly, including the Scooby Doo episode I was watching when the news interrupted.

  • September 26, 2017

    Great blog!!.. It seems like OKC is really the awesome city to visit. Your blog is much helpful for all Travelers. Thanks for your wonderful information. Eager to visit Oklahoma city.

  • September 27, 2017

    I drove through Oklahoma City once. However never had the time to explore it. Sounds like a very nice city.

  • September 28, 2017

    Really?! The Santa Monica ferris wheel is now in OKC!?

    I was just in Venice/Santa Monica, and I’m raking my brain….

    I can’t remember seeing it. I never would have believed it though unless you told me. Sold in 2008, no kidding, almost 10 years ago.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • October 16, 2017

      I guess it’s the same one? Unless Santa Monica had a second one they did away with, ha!

  • September 28, 2017

    Me and the wife do real estate in Oklahoma City. We absolutely love the area. As a native Texan, that used to hurt saying it! Not so much anymore. It really is a great town with lots of fun areas to visit. Something for the adults and something for the kiddos, too!

    • October 16, 2017

      Ha! Now you can root for both teams, right? 😉

  • October 9, 2017

    Interesting and informative article. This blog is useful for everyone. Keep on sharing like this. – sameday shirdi flight package from bangalore, bangalore to shirdi sameday flight package

  • October 10, 2017
    Kelly Staten

    You should also check out Tulsa too! It has a fun Brady Arts District and has really changed over the years.

    • October 16, 2017

      I would love that! I’m hoping to spend a lot more time in Oklahoma in the years to come =)

  • June 26, 2018
    Bobby Joe

    Welcome to Oklahoma City! I’m afraid we are still in the South though…

    • June 27, 2018

      Ha, believe it or not, I asked around before publishing this post and all the city employees I polled said they were NOT Southern. But then I got an angry email from a reader saying OK is definitely the South, so now I don’t know what to think after also seeing your comment 😉

      (For the record, I grew up in TN and we consider the South to be southern VA, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and northern Florida.)

      • July 2, 2018
        Bobby Joe

        Well I apologize on behalf of the misguided soul who wrote you in anger about it, as it’s not something to get too worked up about!

        In 2014, Esquire said “Oklahoma City is a southern city, but not in a stereotypical ‘aw-shucks’ way.”

        I tend to agree with that description.

        We don’t really have a general consensus about what region Oklahoma is located in; people here use the word “Midwest” to vaguely describe the “Central” states from Texas and Arkansas to the Dakotas and Minnesota. This is not really the same use of the term “Midwest” that you find people using up in Illinois and Michigan where they have a definite idea of what it means to be “Midwestern.” But regardless of accuracy, the term “Midwest” gets a fair bit of mileage in Oklahoma.

        A century to half a century ago, “Southwest” was the most common regional designation. It originally meant both “South” and “West” and this use was common in Oklahoma and Texas. It is quite logical; Southern accents and cowboys coexisting is exactly what Oklahoma was all about for a good while. We invented the Honky Tonk for Pete’s sake! Oklahoma publications like the Oklahoman most commonly use “Southwest” even today to talk about our region. However, it seems like young people associate it more with the desert Southwestern states like Arizona and New Mexico (and Texas to some degree).

        But calling Oklahoma part of the South seems to get the most people on both sides riled up. Oklahoma was obviously not a state during the Civil War, but the 1860-1865 iteration of Oklahoma was an Indian Territory that was incorporated into the Confederacy and had delegates in Richmond. For some reason nobody learns this in school in Oklahoma or in the rest of the country. After the Civil War, when the South was rebuilding and Oklahoma was being settled, most of the people flocking here came from the South. Many folks left the family farms in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississipi, etc. for new opportunities in Oklahoma and in then unsettled West Texas, which is why we all have the same amount (if not more per capita!) of Baptists and Southern-accented citizens than many places in the “traditional” South. Of course nobody around here likes to talk about the nasty era of Jim Crow, but Oklahoma shares that legacy in common with the South (although it was markedly less controversial here compared to Alabama, Mississippi, and even Arkansas). The physical topography of the state might actually be what is limiting Oklahoma from being associated with the rest of the South; open prairie land is not quite what people imagine when they think of the South, but how much Spanish Moss is there in Tennessee!?

        Anyway, sorry for writing a tome here. I’m just glad y’all enjoyed OKC so much!

        • July 2, 2018

          That’s a very thorough and interesting description of Oklahoma’s geographical history! And I totally agree: I think of it as equal parts Southwest, Midwest and South—but lumping it into any one region doesn’t make sense as it seems like a fusion of them all. Then again, I wrote for Southern Living for years, and it was one of the states we covered (though so was Maryland, which I definitely don’t consider the South). Maybe the answer is that Oklahoma needs to designate its own U.S. region because it’s truly unique? 😉

          Unrelated, but I had this same problem when I went to the Dakotas earlier this year—no one seems to know where to put them in terms of geography! Midwest? Great Plains? Another area entirely?

          P.S. Definitely no Spanish moss here in Tennessee! But plenty of mountains and foliage nonetheless.

    • June 27, 2018

      Either way, I love OKC all the same. Such a great town with a cool, creative vibe!

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