Oklahoma City is the capital and principal city of the state of Oklahoma, located in the central Frontier Country region of the state. The sprawling city and its suburbs offer multiple sports venues, museums, regional food, and a mix of Native American and cowboy culture.
The central business district, with multiple attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options in the Bricktown, the Plaza theatre district, and other neighborhoods. Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Civic Center Music Hall, Oklahoma City National Memorial, and the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
The Northeast features the Adventure District, a thriving visitor-friendly area that includes the Oklahoma City Zoo, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Science Museum Oklahoma, National Softball Hall of Fame and Stadium, and Remington Park Racing & Casino. The Paseo Arts District offers galleries, a sidewalk cafe, restaurants, and craft shops.
Including the Capitol Hill Historic District and the Hispanic downtown of Oklahoma City, on the Southside.
|Northwest, including the NW 39th Street Enclave |
The stretch of Western Avenue from NW 36th to Britton Road that features locally owned restaurants, bars, retail shopping, and live music venues. The Asian District has the largest Asian population in the state and is a cultural area, along Classen Blvd from about 22nd Street to NW 30th. The 39th Street Enclave is largest LGBT community in the state and a thriving entertainment area with dance clubs and bars and the largest gay resort in the Southwest.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Oklahoma City is the largest city in the state, as well as its political, cultural, and economic engine. The city is the nation's third largest city in land area (620 sq miles), just behind Jacksonville, Florida (759 sq miles) and way behind Anchorage, Alaska (1698 sq miles). It is about the same size as Greater London, an urban area with 13 times as many inhabitants.
After decades of suburban sprawl and attempts at "urban renewal", a burst of investment during the 1990s gave it additional big city attractions and a pleasant quality of life that often surprises visitors from other cities, making Oklahoma City more of a tourist destination in itself.
Oklahoma's state capitol building is the only capitol in the world with an oil well under it. Although its legal description is Capitol Site #1, it is referred to as Petunia #1 because it was drilled in the middle of a flower bed.
Oklahoma City is in the Frontier Country region of central Oklahoma, in the Southern Plains of North America. Contrary to popular belief, the geography is not flat and treeless (like in the true high plains) but rather gently rolling hills covered in places by dense low trees, shrubs, and grasses. The weather ranges from cold and windy in the winter to hot and windy in the summer, with a chance of flash floods and tornadoes in between.
The city is roughly bisected by the North Canadian River, which has been partially renamed the Oklahoma River in a flight of civic exuberance. The North Canadian is not very impressive as rivers go. It was once substantial enough to flood every year, wreaking destruction on surrounding homes, until the 1940s when the Civilian Conservation Corps dammed the river and turned it into essentially a wide ditch for the next 50 years. In the 1990s, as part of the citywide revitalization project known as MAPS, the city built a series of low water dams, returning water to the portion of the river that flows near downtown. The city also has three large lakes. Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser are in the northwestern part of the city. The largest, Lake Stanley Draper, is in the far southeastern corner of the city.
- 1 Will Rogers World Airport (OKC IATA). This airport offers over 180 flights a day, including non-stop service to over 30 cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. The international airport (built in the 1960s) has completed the first phase of a major expansion and modernization project and is implementing the second phase of the expansion, adding additional gates and visitor amenities.
- 2 Wiley Post Airport (PWA IATA) (Off Rockwell Ave, between NW 50th and NW 63rd St. About 10 miles north-northwest of Will Rogers.), ✉ email@example.com. Control tower operations, 7AM–10PM. If you want to fly in yourself, this is the place to go. Nine runways handle more than 200 private planes and corporate jets arriving and departing each day. After you land, taxi over to the Oklahoma Museum of Flying in Hangar 24, and then go to the Runway Café in the main terminal for a huge cinnamon roll, or to find out what the lunch special is. Open to the public, including people who arrive by car.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Amtrak offers daily service from Fort Worth, Texas via its Heartland Flyer train, which can be boarded at 3 Santa Fe Depot, along E.K. Gaylord Blvd between Sheridan Ave and Reno Ave in the Bricktown neighborhood of downtown. The Heartland Flyer has connections to other regional Amtrak lines in Fort Worth. Plans have been proposed to expand the line north to Wichita, KS, and eventually onward to Kansas City.
Oklahoma City is at the intersection of two of the nation's longest continuous interstate highways, I-40 and I-35, as well as I-44. It is also on historic Route 66.
Getting around Oklahoma City is easy by car. If you're coming to OKC, you will likely want to either rent a car or plan on staying around downtown, because public transportation is rather limited. There is pretty good bus service around downtown, to the airport, and to the cluster of museums and attractions in the northeastern part of the city, but if you want to explore the rest of the city without renting a car, you'll either have to use the not-too-stellar parts of bus system or call a cab. A streetcar system operates in downtown.
If you happen to have or rent a car, then getting around OKC is very simple. The streets are laid out in a grid, with named streets running north and south and numbered streets running east and west. The main thing to remember when driving the city is that when you're on the north side, the numbered streets increase from south to north, while on the south side they increase from north to south. (NW 23rd street is a very different place from SW 23rd street, and you don't want to get them confused.) Aside from that minor issue, navigation is a breeze: there are very few one-way street mazes or "Texas Turnarounds" to worry about, and the interstates in town are usually not congested, except during rush hour and construction.
The city is reasonably bicycle-friendly in the Midtown areas of Oklahoma City due to the numerous through residential low-traffic streets. In other areas of the city, bicycle travel is more difficult due to the lack of low-traffic through streets.
By bus: Embarkok provides local bus service. The most helpful bus routes for tourists are:
- Route 050 Downtown Discovery runs from the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum to Bricktown, with stops near the downtown transit center, Red Earth Museum, Myriad Gardens and Amtrak station.
- Route 003 N Kelly goes to the zoo and science museum from the downtown transit center.
Many of the attractions are near downtown or on the north side of town. Highlights in downtown are Bricktown, the city's fast growing entertainment district and tourist showpiece, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, home to the largest collection of Chihuly glass in the world as well as an arthouse/revival theater and a restaurant, and The Myriad Gardens, an impressive urban park with a seven-storey botanical garden. North of the museum is the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The memorial is one of the most visible attractions in the city, and its saddest, which has posed some problems for the city's tourism department. The outdoor symbolic memorial is free and open 24 hours a day, while the very well done Memorial Museum (in the former Journal Record Building next door) can be visited for a small fee.
Many of the neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of Downtown are textbook examples of urban blight, but to the northwest of downtown is a cluster of interesting early 20th century neighborhoods near the campus of Oklahoma City University. In the Northwest, the most notable are The Paseo, a ramshackle artist colony in a 1930s-era urban neighborhood, and "Little Saigon" or as it's officially known, the Asian District, home to the city's large Vietnamese and East Asian community. The Paseo was built in conscious imitation of Kansas City's Country Club Plaza in the early 20th century, but has since developed a gritty bohemian character that can feel like a breath of fresh air. Dozens of art galleries, restaurants, clothing stores and other related businesses are clustered in the area. The Paseo is actually only a single street lined with Art Deco Spanish revival buildings, but theme had been applied to much of the surrounding neighborhood, including a stretch of storefronts on NW 23rd street, sort of the main street of the Northwest side.
West of the Paseo along Classen Boulevard is the Asian District, home to the city's majority Vietnamese Asian community. After the fall of Saigon in 1976, one of the cities picked by the US government for the relocation of refugees was Oklahoma City. Since then, these refugees have been joined by later immigrants from Vietnam and other southeast Asian nations, and by Vietnamese Americans from elsewhere in the country. The district is home to many great restaurants, and to Super Cao Nguyen Supermarket, the largest Asian market in the state.
Just west of the Asian District is Oklahoma City University which features a small art museum and a variety of cultural events and programming.
To the north of Oklahoma City University is the NW 39th Street Enclave, the largest LGBT neighborhood in the state, Crown Heights and the Western Avenue District, which are home to businesses and restaurants catering to young urbanites (Sushi Neko, a fine sushi bar and Will's, a coffee shop, both inside the restored art deco Will Rogers Theater complex, are worth a look).
On the northeast side of the city is the capitol complex, which is interesting in itself, and the Oklahoma History Center. There is a medical research cluster northeast of Downtown centered on the OU Health Science Center that is large and growing, but unless you're a patient, a doctor, or a scientist, you're unlikely to spend much time there. (However the historic Lincoln Terrace neighborhood that is between the OUHSC and the state capitol is worth looking at if you enjoy historic architecture.) The Harn Homestead is also located nearby on NE 16th street.
North of the capitol is the Adventure District with the highly ranked Oklahoma City Zoo, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Kirkpatrick Center (which features a children's science museum, an air and space museum, a photography museum and more), Remington Park and Casino a thoroughbred and quarter horse racing track with a Casino and off-track betting.
The Southside is notable primarily for Capitol Hill, a large Hispanic district, and the Stockyards, a neighborhood built around one of the largest cattle markets in the world. Cattle are still bought and sold there every Monday morning, much to the dismay of PETA and other local activists who can sometimes be spotted protesting nearby. The Stockyards resembles in some ways a Wild West-themed amusement park, sans rides. There are stores selling just about anything western themed that you could imagine, from saddles to belt buckles to truly giant hats. One of the few places in the city where your newly purchased giant hat will go mostly unremarked upon is the venerable Cattleman's Steakhouse, which has been serving up hearty steaks and "lamb fries" (a polite term for fried bull testicles) for over a century.
Capitol Hill to the east is one of the city's great contradictions; rife with poverty and violence, it can also be one of the liveliest and most welcoming neighborhoods in the city. Capitol Hill's main street along SW. 29th Street is full of bustling Mexican owned shops and restaurants, as well as the somewhat out of place seeming Oklahoma Opry.
- 1 Edward L. Gaylord - Boone Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum, 1400 Classen Dr (Corner of NW 13th Street and Shartel Avenue), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 Harn Homestead Museum, 1721 N Lincoln, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 3 International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum, 2100 NE 52nd St (Inside Science Museum Oklahoma, 2nd Floor), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 4 Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W Reno, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 5 Stockyards City, 1305 S Agnew Ave, ☏ .
- Canterbury Choral Society, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 6 Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (professional theatre company,), 1727 NW 16th St, ☏ .
- 7 Oklahoma Opry (traditional country and gospel shows.), 404 W Commerce St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 9 Chesapeake Energy Arena (formerly Ford Center and Oklahoma City Arena), 100 W Reno, ☏ .
- 1 Frontier City (Amusement Park) (I-35 between NE 122nd and Hefner Road), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Saddle up for some good ol' Wild West fun at Frontier City. You'll find over 50 thrilling rides and attractions to explore, featuring ErUPtion!, Oklahoma's tallest thrill ride, four nail-biting roller coasters, fantastic water rides, and hours of fun for tthe kids. Buy your tickets online for $19.99, a savings of $8 off the full-price admission! And with Print-N-Go, you can print them at home then visit the park..
- 2 Hurricane Harbor OKC (formerly White Water Bay) (3908 W Reno Ave), ☏ . Water park.
- 3 Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, 620 N. Harvey St, ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 1PM-6PM, but the last ticket is sold at 5PM. The outdoor memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and security is always on-site. A three-acre site memorializing the 1995 bombing of the Alfred F. Murrah Federal Building--the most devastating act of terrorism on US soil until September 11, 2001--the memorial includes the remnants of the federal building, as well as a reflecting pool, a collection of 168 hand-cast bronze chairs (one for each person who died in the blast), and the Survivor Tree, a 100-year-old American elm that survived the blast. Admission to the outdoor memorial is free. The museum, which boasts an impressive collection of artifacts pertaining to the Murrah building site, the bombing, and the investigation and recovery efforts. $15. $12 for seniors, students, and military. Free for children under 5.
- 4 Museum of Osteology, 10301 S Sunnylane Rd (south of I-240), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–F 8AM–5PM; Sa 11AM–5PM; Su 1PM–5PM. The Museum of Osteology displays over 300 real animal skulls and skeletons!. $5 Adults, children three and under are free.
- 5 American Banjo Museum, 9 E Sheridan, ☏ . M–Sa 11AM–6PM; Su noon–5PM. The American Banjo Museum's interpretive exhibits tell the history of the banjo which included its African roots, jazz era, Bluegrass, and folk. The American Banjo Museum houses one of the largest collections of banjos on public display anywhere in the world. $6 adults.
- 6 Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots, 4300 Amelia Earhart Ln, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 7 Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Dr, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 8 Oklahoma History Center, 2401 N. Laird Ave, ☏ , ✉ OKHC@OKHistory.org.
- 9 Oklahoma Railway Museum, 3400 NE Grand Blvd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. entrance free; train rides usually $12.
- 10 Red Earth Museum, 2100 NE 52nd St (Located inside Science Museum Oklahoma, 2nd Floor), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 11 Oklahoma City Dodgers, 2 S. Mickey Mantle Dr, ☏ . The local Triple-A Pacific Coast League minor league baseball team plays at 12 Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. $8-24.
- 1 Oklahoma City University, 2501 N Blackwelder (Northwest Oklahoma City, near downtown), ☏ . Small university associated with the United Methodist Church
- 2 Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City, 900 N Portland Ave (Northwest Oklahoma City). Large satellite campus for one of the two main state universities
- 3 Oklahoma City Community College, ☏ . Local college offering a wide variety of entry-level classes and some short-term classes.
- 4 Oklahoma Christian University, 2501 E Memorial, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Four-year private university.
- 5 University of Oklahoma, Norman. Oklahoma's premiere research university and home of the Sooners.
- Village Park South. On North May Avenue, between Hefner and Britton. It has the best resale shop in the village, a local Curves, Hi Performance Sporting goods, and many other shops.
Oklahoma City can hold its own with any other cosmopolitan city with its availability of diverse and quality eateries, but what is true Oklahoma City fare is probably its bar-b-que and steakhouse options. Some, like Cattleman's, are iconic, and guaranteed to add that special touch to your Oklahoma City trip. For eating on the fly, there are several franchises like Rib Crib and Freddy's Frozen Custard around the city that will take care of bbq and dessert cravings in a pinch.
"Last call" is 2AM in Oklahoma City and its environs. Liquor stores are permitted to open six days a week from 6AM to 9PM (by state law) and on Sunday from noon to midnight (depending upon the county). Oklahoma's prices for spirits and wine tend to be lower than that of nearby states, including Texas. Beer and wine can be sold at grocery stores and other shops, but hard liquor is sold in bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.
That being said, Oklahoma City has a lively nightlife scene in places like Downtown and the 39th Street Enclave.
There are Henry Hudson's locations throughout OKC and surrounding suburbs which offer a casual bar atmosphere with occasional karaoke. Also, monthly drink and appetizer specials.
- 6 Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, 189 W. Sheridan, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 7 Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, 123 Park Avenue., ☏ .
A little bit of common sense goes a long way. On the whole, the city is quite safe, but you shouldn't take that as a cue to be careless. If you're downtown or in what looks like a sketchy neighborhood, nothing will probably happen to you, but you should still lock your car door, keep your valuables secure, and not put yourself in potentially dangerous situations. Some of the worst areas are in the inner-city districts just surrounding downtown, particularly parts of Mulligan Flats (SE-SW 15th Between I-35 and Western), NE 23rd St., NE 36th Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard, NW 10th Street, South Central Avenue, South Shields Boulevard, and South Robinson Avenue; you might want to avoid being there after it gets dark. Also steer clear of particularly seedy-looking bars, although not all are created equal. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine almost anywhere in Oklahoma City.
You might want to check the Tornado safety page if you are visiting Oklahoma City, as it sits in the heart of "Tornado Alley", but the local media are always all over any developing severe weather. Peak tornado season is in the spring, with April and May being the months with the most severe storms.
Summertime heat is also a concern, as average high temperatures during July and August are typically in the mid 90s °F (mid 30s °C) though humidity levels are usually not as high as parts of the adjacent deep south. Temperatures over 100 °F (38 °C) are also very common during the summer months, but all businesses are air conditioned, as well as hotel rooms and other public places. While snow is not uncommon in the winter, it typically falls only a few times and in small amounts, but just a few inches of snow can be enough to cause much more havoc than in more northern locations... drive safely!
- Norman, a short drive south of downtown Oklahoma City, is its largest suburb and the home of University of Oklahoma, which has beautifully landscaped Victorian campus and several fine museums.
- Edmond Is a rather affluent suburb due North of Oklahoma City. It has some great qualities, including nice restaurants, the third largest university in the state University of Central Oklahoma and some quaint, quiet neighborhoods near its uniquely successful downtown business district.
- Tulsa is a 100-mile 1.5-hour drive east on Interstate 44, and is known as the Oil Capital of the World.
- Dallas and Fort Worth are only 3-4 hours south on Interstate 35.
- You can also follow Route 66 to Los Angeles and to Chicago.
|Routes through Oklahoma City|
|END ←||N S||→ Norman → Fort Worth|
|Wichita ← Edmond ←||N S||→ Moore → Dallas/Fort Worth|
|Amarillo/Liberal ← Yukon ←||W E||→ Del City → Van Buren/McAlester|
|Wichita Falls ← Newcastle ←||W E||→ Chandler → Tulsa|
|Lawton ← Newcastle ←||W E||→ Midwest City → Muskogee|
|END ←||N S||→ Newcastle → Wichita Falls|
|Amarillo ← Bethany ←||W E||→ Edmond → Tulsa|
|Jct N S ← Newcastle ←||W E||→ Moore → END|