It takes longer than just a weekend to fully immerse yourself in and appreciate everything the Modern Frontier has to offer, but 48 hours allows for a good introduction to Oklahoma City, one that will whet your appetite for future revisits. The capital of Oklahoma manages to unite its Old West character and American Indian heritage with contemporary amenities and attractions for a well-rounded adventure that’s packed with history, culture, fun, and food.
Day 1: Morning
10 a.m.: The Will Rogers World Airport serves the greater Oklahoma City metro region from its location about 10 miles southwest of downtown. Opened in 1911 and renamed in 1941, the facility sees plenty of air traffic with nonstops heading to and coming from points across the entire country. From here, it’s easy to grab a rental car or rideshare from designated airport pickup stations to get wherever you want to go in town. Downtown OKC offers a nice selection of reputable hotels including the Skirvin Hilton, the Colcord, a Sheraton, and an Embassy Suites, along with proximity to the Bricktown Entertainment District and the Arts District. Plus, you can always hop on the Oklahoma City Streetcar for quick, convenient navigation to Midtown and Automobile Alley via two looping routes.
11:30 a.m.: Fuel up with a taste of what’s to come during your Oklahoma City sojourn. Lunch options are available to accommodate pretty much any taste and craving. However, to experience a uniquely representative flavor of the city, head to the nicely revitalized Uptown 23rd area where the legendary Route 66 corridor crosses through town. Here you can take your pick of Southern comfort food at Cheever’s Café, a few Big Truck Tacos, some smoky Back Door BBQ, or an OKC original onion burger with all the fixings at Tucker’s. Just look for the Tower Theatre and the iconic Milk Bottle building and you’ll know you’ve arrived.
Day 1: Afternoon
1 p.m.: It’s been 25 years since the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing forever changed the landscape of downtown Oklahoma City, but for many locals, the painful memories of April 19, 1995, are still fresh and raw. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum educates visitors on the lasting impacts of domestic terrorism while honoring the heroes, survivors, first responders, and the 168 victims who lost their lives in this tragic event through respectful exhibits and informative displays. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial now commands the spot where the federal building once stood, maintaining a reflecting pool, a peaceful overlook, the Field of Empty Chairs, the Gates of Time and other serene green spaces for quiet contemplation. It’s a fitting first stop for those who want to pay tribute and appreciate the true resilience of Oklahoma City residents.
4 p.m.: Venture south back into the City Center for a breath of fresh air and a little bit of communing with Mother Nature at the 15-acre Myriad Botanical Gardens, a verdant oasis in the heart of downtown OKC. Follow up a wander through the Crystal Bridge Conservatory’s tropical and desert-climate plantings with a restorative stroll around the outdoor grounds and gardens.
Day 1: Evening
6:30 p.m.: Beef rules local restaurant menus, attesting to the fact that Oklahoma is indeed prime cattle country. There are plenty of steakhouses here to choose from, but Cattlemen’s in Historic Stockyards City is the oldest and perhaps the most storied, serving up satisfying slabs of expertly prepared red meat to hungry ranchers and cowboys since 1910. The people-watching opportunities are as much of a draw as the food itself—an impressive clientele of movie stars, U.S. presidents, musicians, and athletes have passed through this hallowed dining room for meals through the years. Mickey Mantle’s in Bricktown is another solid choice for high-end steak and seafood, honoring the native OKC son and baseball great with walls of mementos from the legendary baller’s own family collection.
8:30 p.m.: When the sun goes down, the music heats up in the Deep Deuce neighborhood adjacent to Bricktown. The range of musical performances isn’t quite as diverse now as it was during the predominantly African-American district’s heyday as a jazz and blues hotspot back in the 1920s and 30s, but visitors can still find tunes (and smooth cocktails) flowing at venues like the Deep Deuce Grill and the STAG Whisky Bar and Cigar Lounge.
Day 2: Morning
8:30 a.m.: With a mouthwatering lineup of bakeries, donut shops, diners, and cafes to consider, Oklahoma City definitely doesn’t skimp on tasty options when it comes to the most important meal of the day. HunnyBunny loads up flaky biscuits with combinations of eggs, bacon, Nashville hot chicken, cheese, avocado, sausage gravy, and all sorts of other yumminess for breakfast sandwiches like you’ve never seen before. Or caffeinate for the day at a trendy local java spot like Elemental Coffee, Vintage Coffee, or Clarity Coffee.
10 a.m.: Tracing some of America’s deepest roots, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum offers an immersive look into Oklahoma’s indigenous cultures with permanent collections of classic and modern Western art, traveling exhibitions, annual events, and family-friendly programming. Across the multiple galleries, highlights include original works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, handcrafted Native American artifacts, military paraphernalia, and Hollywood western memorabilia. Stockyards City is where you’ll find souvenirs like real-deal cowboy boots, hats, and western wear. If you time your visit just right, you might even get to enjoy an actual livestock auction at the Oklahoma National Stockyards, the largest feeder and stocker cattle market in the world.
Day 2: Afternoon
1:30 p.m.: A large community of Vietnamese immigrants chose to settle in Oklahoma City back in the 1970s, laying the foundations for what has over time evolved into OKC’s vibrant Asian District. Bring your appetite to sample some of the most authentic Asian cuisines you’ll find this side of the Pacific, particularly top-notch Vietnamese pho and fresh banh mi sandwiches. Pho Lien Hoa, VII Asian Bistro, and Pho Cuong all come highly recommended by the locals.
3 p.m.: Outdoorsy types can experience Oklahoma City’s great outdoors by renting kayaks, canoes, and pedal boats from the boathouse; signing up for an outdoor fitness class; or skating on the outdoor Sky Rink at downtown’s showy new Scissortail Park. If the weather’s not cooperating, perhaps a little indoor fine art appreciation is in order. As the city’s premiere arts venue, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art anchors the Arts District with three floors of spacious galleries, a sunny soaring atrium, the Samuel Roberts Noble Theater, a museum store and an on-site café. Prepare to be dazzled by the Dale Chihuly permanent collection, one of the world’s largest assemblages of the renowned glass artist’s output. Also notable are the Brett Weston photography holdings and works on display by Washington Color painter Paul Reed.
Day 2: Evening
6 p.m.: Treat yourself to a memorable meal from any one of OKC’s innovative upscale restaurants. For a romantic date-night dinner, Metro Wine Bar and Bistro delivers elegant Continental fare with an exquisite list of vino to wash it down. Flint in the Colcord Hotel welcomes guests with warm hospitality, beautiful plates of modern American cuisine, and a popular outdoor patio. At the 21c Museum Hotel sited within the old Ford Motor Company assembly plant, Mary Eddy’s Lounge restaurant transforms seasonal regionally sourced ingredients into works of art that rival anything you’ll see in the adjacent gallery.
8 p.m.: After dinner, of course, it’s time for a show. OKC’s performing arts offerings cover everything from opera and ballet to concerts, plays and touring Broadway productions. The Civic Center Music Hall and the Criterion host most of the biggest shindigs; for a more intimate experience, check local events calendars to find out what’s going on at the Plaza Theater or the Jewel Box for theater in the round.
10:30 p.m.: Keep the party rolling on into the wee hours by exploring the Bricktown Entertainment District’s buzzy bar scene, where you’ll find nightcap options galore. Raise a glass and sing along to the dueling pianos at Michael Murphy’s, or if you’re feeling more energetic, dance the night away at Club One15 or the Dollhouse Lounge.
Day 3: Morning
9 a.m.: Start the day off right with a leisurely morning repast. Hatch Early Mood Food sets the tone for a chill day with a.m.-appropriate cocktails, poutine, waffles, and pancakes and Benedicts “flights” for customers who just can’t make up their minds. Meanwhile, Café Kacao in the Asian District gives brunch a Latin twist with fresh tostadas; omelets stuffed with carne asada, chorizo and beans; pupusas; huevos rancheros; and traditional Guatemalan breakfast plates.
11 a.m.: If you’re traveling with kiddos (or even if you’re not), the Oklahoma City Zoo appeals to visitors of all ages with opportunities to observe animals across a variety of habitats. Take a walk on the even wilder side by signing up for flamingo, elephant, or giraffe feedings and up-close encounters with grizzly bears, rhinos, Galapagos tortoises, and sea lions. Or cap off your OKC adventure with a farewell stroll through the Paseo Arts District, where you can embark on a DIY walk to admire the colorful murals and street art between popping in and out of galleries and boutiques set within an enclave of handsome Spanish Revival-style architecture.