Oklahoma City, or OKC, as it is known in the local slang, is a rapidly growing city that has cultivated diversity and modern sensibilities without losing its frontier charm. Just over one million people call Oklahoma City home. This is a land of lakes, forests, rolling green hills, red rock canyons, big sky and beautiful sunsets.
Today, after a multi-year revitalization campaign, downtown OKC—dubbed "Bricktown" for its old-fashioned brick streets—has truly regained its status as the city's premier dining and entertainment district. Refined cultural pursuits like the distinguished
If Bricktown is the city's modern nucleus, then Stockyard City, adjacent to downtown, is the neighborhood of living Oklahoma history. A trip here is not complete without taking a meal at
North of Bricktown, around the area of 30th Street and Dewey, is OKC's only artists' district, the Paseo. Designed in the style of an old Spanish villa, the area's buildings house numerous galleries and studios, along with a few popular restaurants and coffee bars. One such popular meeting place is
Northwest, Nichols Hills and The Village
For the finest shopping experience, head to the twin communities of Nichols Hills and the Village, which hold a multitude of upscale boutiques and luxury services. Outlets like
Northeast OKC holds some of the city's most prominent establishments. As home to the
Oklahoma City is a sprawl, similar to Los Angeles, so keep in mind that seeing many of the sites requires renting a car or taking public transportation.
Myriad Botanical Gardens and Tropical Conservatory Downtown is home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, which honors the 168 victims of the Murrah Building bombing. Nearby you will find the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Tropical Conservatory and the Myriad Convention Center where most major sporting events, musical concerts and business conventions are held. Dine at The Varsity Sports Grill.
Oklahoma City Art Museum Along the canal in Bricktown, you'll find the Oklahoma City Art Museum, the State Capitol and the Ford Center entertainment complex. Tour the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, then dine at Spaghetti Warehouse Italian Grill, Bricktown's first restaurant.
Regatta Park Admire the architecture at the historic St Pauls Episcopal Cathedral, catch a performance at the Lloyd Noble Center and wander the ground at Regatta Park. Enjoy a meal at nearby Crabtown or Cocina De Mino.
State Museum of History Just west of the State Capitol is the State Museum of History and the impressive Governor's Mansion. Visit the historic Harn Homestead, then enjoy dinner at the Windy City Chicago Bistro.
Oklahoma Heritage Center Northwest Oklahoma City offers many different attractions. Relax at the Will Rogers Park and Garden Center, hike through the picturesque Martin Park Nature Center or learn about the city's history at the Oklahoma Heritage Center and the Overholser Mansion. Have dinner at the upscale Flip's Wine Bar & Trattoria.
Consult a professional tour company to ensure that you see everything, whether it's on a bus, on a boat or on foot.
Walking Tours Department of Wildlife Conservation Tours ( +1 405 521 3721/ http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/ ) Myriad Botanical Gardens Tours ( +1 405 297 3995/ http://www.myriadgardens.com/ )
Bus Tours Village Tours ( +1 405 427 8688/ http://www.villagetours.net/ ) Red Carpet Charters Inc ( +1 405 672 5100/ http://www.redcarpetcharters.com/ ) Time Lines LLC ( +1 405 741 8463/ http://www.timelines.travel/ )
Boat Tours Water Taxi of Oklahoma ( +1 405 234 8294/ http://www.watertaxi.com/okc ) Oklahoma River Cruises ( +1 405 702 7755/ http://www.okrivercruises.com/ )
Just over 150 years ago, Oklahoma City was little more than a wild plain and its history begins with the painful end of the way of life of America's native people. Beginning in the 1830s, Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes were forcibly removed from their own lands in the southeastern part of the country by the United States government and sent to a land that would one day become Oklahoma. There were few horses or wagons to accommodate the travelers, so this journey of many hundreds of miles was often made on foot and in all extremes of weather. Torn from the home they loved and saddled with a long, demanding move, people died in great numbers due to exhaustion and sickness. After this tragedy, the path to Oklahoma was named The Trail of Tears.
Throughout the next two decades, Oklahoma was known simply as Indian Territory, but after the Civil War, a change was on the horizon. Following the War Between the States, many frontiersmen settled in Texas and took up the lucrative career of cattle ranching. In order to transport their cattle back east, ranchers had to drive the herds into Kansas where the railroads were. Soon, the heart of Oklahoma was seeing hundreds of cattle drives, the most popular thoroughfare being a path named the Chisholm Trail. Texas ranchers took notice of Oklahoma in their travels, and saw its sprawling, open plains as a perfect place in which to expand their business.
Throughout the 19th Century, the majority of land that would one day make up the state had been given to Native Americans forced by the United States Government to move from their homes. However, one tract of these lands, located in the center of Oklahoma Territory, was never designated for a particular tribe and was soon dubbed the Unassigned Lands. As the century drew to a close and westward migration became increasingly popular, pioneers and cattle barons began clamoring for the government to allow for settlement in this vacant area. When they met with little response from lawmakers, these trailblazers made their own path into the Unassigned Land and established homes. This attempt to draw attention worked, and in March 1889, legislation authorizing settlement of the land was signed.
The very next month, the territory was opened to homesteaders in the most spectacular way: a race for land. For days, pioneers camped around the borders, waiting until April 22, the day of the Land Run. It is estimated that around 50,000 people were on hand to make a dash for the perfect piece of Oklahoma soil to call their own. Some eager settlers could not wait until the appointed day, and instead sneaked over the borders under the cloak of darkness to claim their plot in advance. Nicknamed "Sooners," these enterprising Oklahomans have forever left their mark on this city, both in name and in spirit.
The Land Run began on April 22, 1889 with a cannon blast at high noon. The ground shook with the thunder of footfalls, hoof beats from lightning-fast stallions and wooden wheels on covered wagons. This enduring image, captured in history books, Western art and the American imagination, defines the essence of Oklahoma and its residents. There is a lust for life and adventure here that is unmatched.
Oklahoma City began modestly, with 10,000 homesteaders and no city government. Soon realizing the need for leadership, residents came together to elect officials. Despite this effort to make the territory operate more like an established American city, outlaws flocked to this new frontier. Daring and flamboyant real-life characters, like the James brothers and Belle Starr, often called Oklahoma home. Oklahoma City was growing rapidly, due to a sharp increase in commerce and an influx of money obtained from railroads now coming through the area. In just 10 years, the city's population doubled from 10,000 to 20,000. Demand for settlement lands continued, and other land runs were held through 1906.
The new century found Oklahoma City prosperous, flush with the success of railroad commerce from the Frisco, Katy, Rock Island, and Santa Fe companies. Tracks crisscrossed the downtown area, bringing in and shuttling out grain, livestock, produce and other lucrative cash crops. Riding high, residents were jubilant when President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation granting statehood. Oklahoma became the 46th state in the Union on November 17, 1907. Guthrie, a town north of Oklahoma City, was named the state capitol. During the statehood celebrations, a mock wedding ceremony of a frontiersman and a Native American woman was performed there, symbolic of the new state's heritage.
Oklahoma City, with its thriving railroad and industrial businesses, continued to grow, with the population climbing to nearly 65,000 by the end of the decade. City dwellers desperately wanted the state's capitol to be in their bustling town, not in humble Guthrie. So Oklahomans, known for having a populist streak, took the matter into their own hands, circulating petitions and holding a vote to move the capitol. The effort was successful, and in 1910, the state capitol was relocated to Oklahoma City, where it has remained.
The following two decades saw an explosion of wealth and accomplishment in Oklahoma. Oklahoman and Native American Jim Thorpe astonished the world at the 1912 Olympic Games, when he took the gold medal in both the pentathlon and decathlon. Henry Ford opened an assembly plant in the city in 1915, and the machine revolution hit Oklahoma City. Downtown grew further still, moving its boundaries outward and constructing buildings that reached high into the Oklahoma sky. It is in this period of construction that red bricks were used, forever marking the downtown area as "Bricktown." America was introduced to Oklahoma's favorite son—a simple man named Will Rogers. The frontier equivalent of a Renaissance man, Rogers was an all-around entertainer who performed as a screen actor, radio personality, writer, philosopher, humorist and cowboy. Aviation also came to the forefront with legendary pilot Wiley Post. Post, who lost his left eye in an oil rigging accident, holds the distinction of being the first man to fly around the world alone. The nation mourned along with Oklahomans when Rogers and Post were killed in a 1935 plane crash.
Oklahoma City was enjoying its sunny economic climate when, on a fateful day in December 1928, oil was struck in Oklahoma City. Wildcatters flocked to the city and wells soon dotted the landscape. Millions of barrels of thick black crude left the state and money rolled in. The black gold boom days were here, but they wouldn't stay for long. The 1930s brought the Great Depression, and Oklahoma found itself one of the hardest hit by economic trouble. This was only compounded by the fury of nature. Drought and the fierce Oklahoma wind stirred up storms of red dirt that covered the landscape. Farmers and ranchers watched their livelihoods die in the parched "Dust Bowl" environment. Photographs depicting this era of Oklahoma history are still ingrained in the minds of Americans, and many still associate the present-day city with these images.
Oklahoma City never fully recovered from the Great Depression. The city struggled on, but the Second World War further depleted the city and its residents of funds, resources and spirit. The growth and expansion once celebrated was now a curse as families retreated to suburbs and adjacent small towns. The heart of Oklahoma City was in decline. Politicians and civic leaders strived to find a remedy for the ailing city, but numerous plans for renewal in the 1960s and 1970s were lost in the tumultuous social and economic climate.
The 1980s marked the lowest point for the city, when the oil bust wiped out hope for a turnaround. Despite this setback, the strong Oklahoma spirit, displayed from the Land Run on, prevailed. Mayor Ron Norick formed a panel of community leaders to solve the problem, and a plan called Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) was presented to the public. Residents knew this progressive plan had the potential to transform the city back into an attractive place in which to live and visit. In 1993, Oklahoma City citizens voted to impose a new tax to fund the project. It has been estimated that around $650 million in public and private funds have gone to make this project such a success. Initially, progress was slow. Modern-day pioneers led the way, most notably Spaghetti Warehouse, one of the first new residents in Bricktown. Once investors and companies realized the popularity of those initial establishments, the district began to rapidly fill. The Bricktown resurgence culminated in 1999 with the July 4 opening of the one-mile Bricktown Canal.
Oklahoma City has finally achieved a return to its former glory. This once simple homestead town is now America's Crossroads, located at the junction of I-35, I-44 and I-40, as well as being a prominent stop on historic Route 66. Cowboys are rarely seen outside of a museum these days, but the same unbreakable spirit of those Sooners remains.
Oklahoma City holds a wealth of accommodation choices, all with service, convenience and comfort as their top priorities. The highest concentration of hotels are found around Will Rogers World Airport, the Northwest side, and the Southside.
Bricktown lodgings are not as plentiful as in other areas of Oklahoma City, due to the city's airport not being located in the downtown area, as is common in many other metropolises. When staying downtown, two good options are The Renaissance and The Sheraton. Both are an experience in opulence and have a price tag to match. Pamper yourself with a few days and nights at one of these elegant establishments. Regardless of which hotel you choose, visitors are guaranteed to enjoy their stay and all the downtown area has to offer.
Northwest, Nichols Hills and The Village
Oklahoma City's northwest side offers travelers a more varied selection of hotels. Deluxe dwellings can be found here as well, but rates are a bit easier on the pocketbook. The Marriott chain is represented by a Courtyard hotel and the flagship Oklahoma City Marriott, as well as The Waterford. A perpetually fashionable place, tucked away in the chic Nichols Hills district, The Waterford often houses celebrities and the city's elite. The Hilton Oklahoma City Northwest is a similarly upscale and classy hotel, located on the Northwest Expressway. For those needing a more functional hotel service, check out two chains that cater to traveling businesspeople, the Extended Stay America and StudioPlus. Located around Quail Springs Mall, away from the bustling heart of the northwest side are Amerisuites, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. These three moderately priced establishments allow guests to stay in a more laid-back neighborhood, but still have easy access to the city's business districts and attractions. Oklahoma City also has an active gay community, with accommodations designed specifically for the gay traveler. The most well-known is Habana Inn, located just off I-44, which provides entertainment in addition to lodging, with two on-site clubs and a restaurant.
Hotels on the northeast side focus on simple comfort at a sensible price. Many well-regarded chains have their hotels located here, close to the city's famous restaurants and attractions. Among the more expensive is the Best Western Santa Fe Inn, which is decorated in a warm Southwestern motif. The Comfort Inn and Suites Lincoln Boulevard is a favorite of the corporate set. For trips on a budget, consider the Oxford Inn, standard Comfort Inn North, Days Inn or the Econo Lodge. One of the most popular hotels is Ramada Inn Remington, which sits just blocks away from Remington Park racetrack, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the County Line Barbeque Restaurant. Southside
As could be expected, if you are hoping to stay conveniently close to Will Rogers World Airport while in Oklahoma City, you will have a wide range of choices. More than 40 fine hotels with more than 4,000 rooms surround the airport area, with some just blocks away from the terminal. This convenience doesn't have to come at the sacrifice of luxury, as evidenced by upscale offerings at Amerisuites Airport and Embassy Suites Hotel. Marriott is established here as well, with a Courtyard hotel and Residence Inn.
While on the subject of trusted names, Holiday Inn brings their popular brand of service and quality to the Holiday Inn Airport. For a more moderate rate, visitors can choose to stay at one of many Southside hotels with the same high quality, including Four Points by Sheraton, Lexington Hotel Suites, and Wingate Inn, among others.
Another favorite is the Biltmore Hotel, a beautiful stone complex that provides a complete accommodation experience. Guests can choose from a room, suite or townhouse, and enjoy the hotel's many services and facilities, including two restaurants and three nightclubs.
Business travelers with a need for business facilities or long-term lodging are also covered. Extended Stay America follows a new trend in the accommodation industry by offering guests long-term, low-rate housing with all the comforts of home. Suites come equipped with a refrigerator, full kitchenette, dinner table and cooking and dining utensils. The Clarion Meridian Hotel and Convention Center also caters to and is popular with professional groups. Its three ballrooms, 16 meeting rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space can handle just about any type of business event.
Outside the City
Looking for quiet relaxation outside of the busy city? A short drive north of the city will take you to Guthrie, Oklahoma's bed-and-breakfast capital. For the royal treatment, complete with gourmet breakfasts and personal pampering, book a room at the Byrd House. Victorian Garden Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a charming white picket fence. The Seely House is one of the fanciest bed-and-breakfasts in town. Here you can relax in a room or the guest cottage and curl up next to a roaring fire at night.
If you long to return to a simpler kind of living, consider Victorian Rose, where guests can watch the sun set from the old-fashioned wraparound porch. Edmond, a suburb with tree-lined streets, is located between Oklahoma City and Guthrie and boasts an impressive bed-and-breakfast of its own. The Arcadian Inn is strictly for couples seeking a romantic getaway and no children are allowed.