Hot town, summer in the city—but OKC is far from dirty and gritty! If you’ve been following along these past two years, you’ll know how deep of a relationship we’ve fallen into with our favorite Southwestern-meets-Southern-meets-Midwestern spot. And despite all the places we’re traveling this year, SVV and I agree upon one thing: We were most excited to experience summer in Oklahoma City.
You see, we could have never expected that Oklahoma City would speak to us the way it did—its authenticity, its people, its hospitable environment, its safety factor, its innovative approach to funding new development—but there are just so many things we love about this mid-sized city and a laundry list of places we still need to check off. Luckily, our first trip there two Augusts ago was just one of many; in fact, we’ve already been back an additional three times with a fifth visit planned for the fall. You can definitely say we’re smitten!
On this past trip, however, we got to take a few friends along for the ride, including one of my favorite kids ever: Augustine, age 3.5. How fun to see how much she enjoyed OKC, and in a totally different way than us. This just further reinforced my belief that Oklahoma City is for everybody: families, kids, solo travelers, DINKs like us.
Heading to Oklahoma City in summer? You’re in for a treat. There’s no shortage of seasonal events—check out this calendar for OKC happenings—that will keep you busy, in addition to all the year-round offerings, from breweries to murals, museums to memorials.
We compiled a highlights reel, plus some of our favorite OKC summertime activities in list form, to make your trip-planning as easy as ever.
Soak up all the offerings of the Boathouse District
On our inaugural visit to OKC, our very first stop of the weekend was at Riversport to try our hand at urban whitewater rafting. And we had such a blast that SVV begged and pleaded to go back and try kayaking the rapids solo this time instead. Spoiler alert: He didn’t have time to learn to roll, so they sent him down the rapids in a “duckie,” a rubber inflatable for one that, while vaguely insulting to my sporty husband, gave him an appreciation for the challenges of this Olympic-level course. Those who do want to kayak and have no formal training should enroll in a whitewater kayaking training course first, because the dips are deep and the eddies real.
bottom photo by Southern Fatty
Of course, there’s plenty more to do in the Boathouse District than the rapids alone; there’s a zipline course over the Oklahoma River crew boat training and racing area, the SandRidge Sky Trail, a pump bike track, SUP, bouncy houses and a greenway path.
For event planners and business travelers, the bookable Central Boathouse, the bookable Devon Boathouse, the bookable Chesapeake Finish Line Tower and the bookable McClendon Whitewater Center—which overlooks the rapids and the river—are stunning venues for gatherings. Riversport passes also include all attractions at nearby Lakes Overholser and Hefner.
Experience the downtown oasis at Myriad Botanical Garden
Completed in 1985, the enormous cylindrical Crystal Bridge Conservatory in Myriad Gardens is full to the gills with rare tropical plants and multiple waterfalls. Outside on the rest of the 15 acres, there is a tranquil pond surrounded by sitting areas, a couple of kid-friendly interactive water features, a dog park and the Devon Lawn & Band Shell, a one-acre, bookable green space with an iconic sculpture at one end that doubles as a stage.
See the National Memorial lit up at night
These hallowed grounds are an extraordinary tribute to the lives lost, the destroyed buildings and the strong community cooperation that occurred after the bombing. The vibe isn’t as sad as you’d think, but rather a peaceful, beautiful place to stroll while paying your respects. Be sure and visit the museum during daylight hours.
Also, take an archives tour if you can
This was our second time inside the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, and I was surprised to find there’s an entire archive of information, much of it that the FBI donated to the museum, that lives just below ground level in the basement. It was fascinating tacking on that additional 45 minutes with the archivist and seeing everything involved in the bombing that led to the arrests, from tire tracks to shrapnel and much more, as well as belongings of the victims that the families had given the museum. This special peek into the archives isn’t always on offer—typically, just for groups and upon special request—so if you’re going solo or with your family, call the memorial and see if you can get in on an archives tour that’s already organized. When we went, the museum staff did say they were considering opening this offering up to the public once or twice a week, which I really hope they do.
Take a Spokie for a spin
Scattered throughout the urban core of Oklahoma City, this city-funded bike share is a handy way to traverse wide swaths of the region and explore the extensive trails found here. Bike along the Oklahoma River, ride out to Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser, or simply take a self-guided tour of the extensive collection of murals we’ve mapped across the city.
See the art at the 21c Museum Hotel
The 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever stayed, but beyond the hotel rooms, the museum is a must-see, particularly because the art rotates out every nine months or so (though the resident purple penguins are always there to stay!). In an effort to make art accessible to anyone, the owners opened museum galleries in the lobbies of each of their hotels and also offer a bevy of free events such as docent tours and an indie film series in the summer months.
Stock up on greenery at the Plant Shoppe
A plant shop that has a coffee shop component, delicious food and Instagrammable vignettes spread throughout? We couldn’t have been more in heaven. If you’re a local, you should greenify your life with the many plant varieties and planters for sale at the Plant Shoppe (formerly Okay Yeah); if you’re passing through, you should stop in for a latte and homemade pop-tart.
Plan your own brewery tour
Due to some changes in state law, the brewery scene is booming in OKC—at least compared to what it once was. In the past two years, Stonecloud, Twisted Spike, Prairie Artisan Ales, Vanessa House Beer Company and Elk Valley Brewing have all opened their doors, and others like Anthem and COOP have continued to expand their offerings. With the Oklahoma City Streetcar now an option, it’s easier than ever to bop from one brewery to the next. Note: Many of the breweries are kid- and dog-friendly.
Tag along for the Bikes + Brews Tour with RideOKC
Spread out over three leisurely hours, this five-stop brewery tour includes beer samples and a guided historical tour of some of the most interesting districts of OKC by a resident architect. The bikes themselves are super comfortable cruisers that can also be rented for solo expeditions. RideOKC’s Cookie tour has proven popular among sweet lovers, as have its Art + Architectural tours.
Take a stroll out onto the SkyTrail
The SandRidge SkyTrail is touted as the tallest adventure course in the world, and at 80 feet up, we believe it. From the snaking dry slides that accelerate a human body to 22 miles an hour to the rope bridges and balance beams that incrementally get more difficult the higher you climb, this safe and secure extreme adventure activity is killer for group bonding over seemingly near death experiences. Access to the SkyTrail is included with the purchase of a day pass to the waterpark.
Attend a baseball game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark
A Los Angeles Dodgers affiliated Triple-A baseball team, the Oklahoma City Dodgers play from April through September in the Bricktown District stadium. Filled with modern amenities and an intimacy that only a feeder team to the MLB can provide, excursions to the ball game are a great way to spend an evening or afternoon between meetings or travel through OKC. Also available for private or corporate events, the team that runs the facility have a ton of tools in their arsenal for a wide range of conventions, trade shows, festivals or parties (including booking out the whole place. #lifegoals).
Peek into #MixTapeOKC at Factory Obscura
Born from the creative mind of The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, this psychedelic twist on an art gallery and performance space provides ethereal visuals that mix in tactile and auditory sensory experiences. The mission behind the entire factory is one that resonates deeply with us. Exposure to wonder and art and verve are transformational to the human mind and the folks behind this eclectic collective understand the power these things can have on our society. Phase 1 is up and running with free admission—though we highly recommend you buy a pair of the glasses for a couple of bucks—through September 21.
Go up, up, up on the Wheeler ferris wheel
A Ferris wheel purchased on eBay? It’s true! Some enterprising folks scooped up the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel and brought it over to Oklahoma City. Wheeler District also has a summer concert series with food trucks, a cycling festival every Tuesday from March through September and pop-up shops galore (with a brewery on tap to open within the next year!).
Take a lap around downtown via the streetcar
Linking most of the major neighborhood districts is the newest addition to the urban transit options in OKC, the streetcar. This brightly colored and ADA-accessible train reminds us of living in Europe, where a car is a luxury and not necessary. We love the sleek, new train smell of these rail lines and the ease with which they can be used to go shopping, to dinner, to a ballgame or to just take an air-conditioned tour around town with a large group. We created a handy reference map that can be used to hit our favorite spots along the OKC streetcar line.
Cruise the canal on the Bricktown Water Taxi
Operated like the hop-on, hop-off bus lines popular in other cities, this unique touring and transit option includes narratives by the captains of the boats along every step of the journey that dives into the history of the district and the path to its present place as a major tourist draw. Pro tip: Take the 45-minute, full-length ride to rest your legs at mid-day while scouting out spots you’d like to visit next.
Paddle around Lake Overholser
Another gorgeous spot to breathe on the open water not far from downtown is Lake Overholser. Connected to the center of the city via an extensive trail system, this lake is due west of the urban core and perfect for group activities or is a quiet oasis for contemplative thought. Multiple options abound for solo or guided kayaking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), zip line, rock climbing and various other group sessions.
Get a run in at Lake Hefner
With more than 80 miles of interconnected trails, OKC has plenty of options to get outside for a little sweat and exercise. Lake Hefner offers a 9.4-mile section the encircles the beautiful and windswept water that is often filled with sail boats and kite surfers. The trail plays host to runners, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and parents out for a stroll with their children along the immaculate parks, golf course, lighthouse and two restaurants that huddle up to the shoreline.
Sip a sunset cocktail on the patio at O Bar
Situated with an incredible view of the Devon Energy Center tower, itself a masterpiece of crystalline skyscrapers, this elevated bar in the penthouse of the Ambassador Hotel dishes out wine from its large cellar, small apps and fancy cocktails. Don’t miss the sunset if the weather cooperates. The golden hour glow from the glass and steel of downtown is electric, and it’s the perfect spot to plan a private event for your meeting or business group.
Go on a culinary journey at Grey Sweater
This brand new epicurean adventure is unlike anything we’ve experienced in any of our travels. Chef Black turns up the volume on elevated dining at this spot, and it quite reminded us of the Catbird Seat in Nashville, with an intimate view of the kitchen preparations and open discussions with those preparing the meal. Stay tuned for our next post on dining in OKC, in which we’ll go into greater detail about this four-hour journey. Grey Sweater debuts mid-summer, and you’d better go ahead and get on the waiting list if you want to dine there this year.
Venture out to the Adventure District
By combining the forces of a horse racing track, a golf course, a zoo, a casino and one of the greatest cowboy museums we’ve ever seen, the Adventure District brands itself as a destination unto itself, both for family and large groups.
Take a self-guided scooter tour of downtown
What we love about the electric scooter craze is how easy these devices make it to get around cities quickly. Places like OKC, that have manageable downtowns, wide roads and dedicated bike lanes, are the ideal scenario for randomly hopping onto a skid plate with wheels and a handlebar after a couple touches to your cell phone app. You’ll feel 10 years old again, we promise. Just go slow until you figure out how to stay safe!
Rock climb inside (or outside) a grain silo
Just about the most epic thing we can think of is scaling the outside of a grain silo at Summit OKC—with permission. The fact that it has a gargantuan mural painted on it only seals the deal for us. The interior is climate controlled so if you’re not into the weather or the exposure that scampering up the outside will provide, the inside is like a traditional climbing gym—just round and totally awesome.
Cap off a great day with drinks and lawn games at Bleugarten
With a distinctly American twist on a beer garden, this outdoor fun zone comes with food trucks, a standalone bar with beer and wine, and lawn games aplenty. Dedicated restrooms, shade and attempts at outdoor climate control like heaters during winter or misters during summer make it a good location to spend an afternoon with a large group of friends or colleagues. The food truck schedule can be found here, and we’ve never been disappointed by any of the selections.
Hunt down OKC’s hundreds of murals
We’ve spent hours on scooters and in vehicles tracking down the public art scattered about Oklahoma City. Take a look at the best murals in OKC here for your own DIY tour or learn more about the ever-changing Plaza Walls via private tour with Oklahoma Mural Syndicate Project co-founder Kris Kanaly (also known as @PyramidGuy), which is a really fun, out-of-the-box idea for a conference group activity. Email plazawalls AT gmail DOT com to book your tour. Tell Kris we sent ya!
Test your skills via FlashBack RetroPub’s many video games
My sporty husband also grew up slotting quarters into 7-11 store video games and geeking out over the latest versions of computerized fun boxes at the local putt-putt course. Seeing these retro games put him into a trance and he disappeared for at least an hour, hammering buttons on the free-to-play arcade machines at FlashBack RetroPub (I sat at the bar and nursed a beer or two). This is a raucous place that blasts 80’s and 90’s music, and for fun groups that don’t mind singalongs to Poison, the Beastie Boys or Def Leppard, this spot is for you.
Pose with the Land Run Monument
The Sooners, as many Oklahomans proudly call themselves, were a group of … let’s just say enterprising folks who snuck across the starting line before the first of many Land Runs in this part of the United States. Anyone who showed up was given a flag to stake a claim on previously outlined portions of land, and at the belch of a cannon these people swarmed the state, slamming their poles into the ground and receiving up to 160 acres of territory. The monument pays special homage to the frenzy that occurred during the late 1880s in Oklahoma, which laid the foundation of every major city across the state.
Grab a seat at the Sunday Twilight Concert Series
Featuring big bands, jazz, bluegrass and pop, this free outdoor activity in a grassy field is presented by the Chickasaw Nation at Bicentennial Park at Myriad Gardens every Sunday from June through late August. Blankets, chairs and picnics are encouraged.
Have you been to Oklahoma City in summer? Any must-do activities we missed? We’re always looking to add to our to-do list for our next OKC adventure!
For further Oklahoma City trip-planning tips, check out these posts:
- The Best Murals in Oklahoma City
- Urban Whitewater Rafting in Oklahoma City
- 11 Reasons We’re Obsessed with OKC
- Oklahoma City’s Art Game is Strong: Check Out These Creative Stops
- How to Explore OKC by Streetcar
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside: The Best Indoor Winter Activities in Oklahoma City
Our trips to Oklahoma are part of a long-term content partnership with Visit OKC. All opinions are our own.