The self-proclaimed “Modern Frontier,” Oklahoma City rolls out the red carpet for guests intent on exploring its many storied districts and rich history. Past meets present here with intriguing destinations that marry the indigenous Native American and Western culture with contemporary art, innovative amenities, and appealing attractions. Bonus: the convenience of the Oklahoma City Streetcar system that loops through Midtown, the City Center, and Bricktown makes it easy to get around town for just $3 a day.
Paseo Arts District
Defined by its traditional Spanish architecture, this arts destination is the first port of call for visitors whose idea of fun is gallery hopping and boutique shopping. Currently home to more than 80 artists across 20 gallery/studio spaces, the Paseo originally took shape back in the late 1920s and has lived through several incarnations before revitalization in the 1970s permanently established it as an arts hub to be reckoned with. A compact footprint makes the district a breeze to navigate, with a handful of appealing restaurants and bars on site for refueling breaks. In addition, Paseo artists and businesses open their doors every month for First Friday shindigs from 6 to 9 p.m.
The home of Oklahoma Baptist University, Deep Deuce carries a proud Black heritage. This historic downtown neighborhood was a hotbed for jazz and blues clubs back in the 1920s and 1930s, and a Civil Rights site where Black students protested by sitting at segregated lunch counters in the 1950s. Now enjoying a renaissance, Deep Deuce is attracting crowds with its roster of thriving restaurants, hometown shops, and art venues. Pop in the Deep Deuce Grill to sample some of the local flavors, or enjoy gourmet corndogs at Anchor Down, an innovative eatery in a repurposed shipping container. Just to the south, the Bricktown entertainment district keeps the party going with even more restaurants, nightlife, the Chicksaw Bricktown Ballpark (home to the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers), and an urban beach.
Boasting the historic Tower Theatre as its showy centerpiece, Uptown 23rd brims with Route 66 Americana, diners, and architecture. Economic development and the Oklahoma City University population keep these Mother Road digs lively and engaging for both locals and tourists. Casual eateries, cafes, and watering holes like Cheever’s Café, Ponyboy, Big Truck Tacos, and the Pump Bar serve up tasty grub and refreshing drinks before or after a show at the theater, or any old time.
The beating commercial heart of OKC, City Center’s where you’ll find the skyscrapers that inform the downtown skyline along with museums, upscale dining, hotels, shopping, urban green spaces, and outdoor recreation. Head downtown to visit the scenic Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, or spend an afternoon discovering Scissortail Park’s verdant trails, gardens, playground, and boathouse. Visitors can take a somber moment to honor the lives lost in the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing with a trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
Formerly a row of the city’s most prestigious car dealerships and showrooms, Automobile Alley is a proud entry on the National Register of Historic Places. You no longer have to be in the market for a new ride to appreciate this bustling neighborhood that radiates out around North Broadway Avenue. The neon lights still glow after dark, guiding folks to trendy nightclubs, brewpubs, wine bars, specialty shopping and chic residential housing developments. If you can time your visit accordingly, the Auto Alley Shop Hop revs up the district for a big block party every month.
Get a taste of the Old West in Stockyards City, appropriately located just west of downtown. Ranch wear is high fashion in this Western-oriented district, where you won’t have any trouble finding a cowboy hat or a pair of boots to take back home. Check out a live auction at the Oklahoma National Stockyards to take in the biggest feeder and stocker cattle market in the world. For dinner? Beef, of course. Cattlemen’s Steakhouse is an OKC dining institution, having fed visiting celebrities, athletes, musicians, and a President or two. Cap off the night with a shot of whiskey at the McClintock Saloon & Chop House and some live music at the Rodeo Opry.
Shop ‘til you drop along this well-heeled Oklahoma City thoroughfare. Whether your tastes run more toward high-end national clothing stores of Classen Curve, unique local boutiques, antiques, elegant furniture, or vintage vinyl, Western Avenue offers any kind of retail therapy you need. Make a day of it by wandering this Art Deco district and keep your strength up for shopping with tasty sustenance at the Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, Sushi Neko, or Republic Gastropub.
Find your favorite Asian cuisines, or taste something new, in the Asian District along Classen Boulevard between Northwest 23rd and 30th Streets (pho and banh mi are required eating). Vietnamese refugees settled into the area back in the 1970s and the Brothers in Arms monument memorializes the shared efforts of American and South Vietnam soldiers during wartime. There’s always some kind of cultural festival or event happening at Military Park, and Super Cao Nyugen—the oldest ethnic supermarket in town—holds all sorts of authentic food treasures to take home as souvenirs.
Movie buffs and budding auteurs gravitate to the forward-thinking visual and performing arts venues of OKC’s Arts District, complemented by Art Deco architecture, public art, galleries, local businesses, and swanky restaurants. In the past, Film Row on Sheridan maintained production offices for a number of major Hollywood studios. For music fans and museum-goers, the Civic Center Music Hall and Oklahoma City Museum of Art offer a one-two cultural punch. Keep the glow going with an overnight stay at the art-driven 21C Museum Hotel in the reimagined Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant.
The Adventure District
Traveling with kids? Keep them happily busy, active, and entertained in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District at the northeast corner of town. Between the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Science Museum Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Railway Museum, and other family-fun attractions, there’s absolutely no chance of anyone being bored.