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.
Last month, SVV and I spent four days there on 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Have you been to OKC? Were you as blown away with its diversity as I was?
This post is part of a partnership with Visit OKC.