If you are going to be in Oklahoma City, the "Horse Show Capital of the World" and the state's capital during Labor Day weekend, there are plenty of things to do in addition to soaking up the local cowboy culture. A number of annual Oklahoma City events and popular activities fall during Labor Day weekend. Whether swimming in a lake, attending a Western festival, or watching a local sports game, this Great Plains city is guaranteed to provide an excellent finale to your end-of-summer plans.
Explore the Area's Lakes
One of the best ways to enjoy Labor Day weekend in Oklahoma City is to get out of the city. If you have access to a vehicle, you can reach any one of a number of scenic lakes that are all within easy driving distance from the city center.
Whether it's the swimming beaches of Arcadia Lake, the trails around Lake Overholser, the fishing piers and water skiing at Lake Stanley Draper, or sailing and having a picnic at Lake Hefner, Labor Day is a perfect time and perhaps one of the final moments of the season to get out and enjoy Oklahoma's natural beauty. Labor Day is a popular time for locals to go out and relax by the lakes, so be sure to head out early for a good spot if you plan to visit on this busy weekend.
Check Out Amusement Parks
A great way to have fun is at Oklahoma City's water park, Hurricane Harbor OKC, featuring over 25 acres of pools, rides, and slides. In mid-August, the park usually goes to a more limited schedule, but they are open Labor Day weekend. It's generally a send-off to the season for many. You can also check out the Wild West-themed Frontier City for rides, bumper boats, and a Ferris wheel, among other entertaining activities. They also reduce their hours in August but are open Labor Day weekend.
Both parks, which are a part of Six Flags, require advanced reservations in order to visit for summer 2020. The maximum capacity is limited and only a certain number of tickets are sold each day, so if you want to visit on a busy weekend like Labor Day, be sure to get your tickets well in advance.
Dive Into Aquatic Centers and Spraygrounds
The community pools in Oklahoma City close in early August, but the city does run two aquatic centers that are open until Labor Day weekend with waterslides and other aquatic attractions to keep kids entertained and cool in the summer heat. The Will Rogers Family Aquatic Center is open the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, September 6, 2020, while the Earlywine Family Aquatic Center is open Saturday and Monday, September 5 and 7, 2020.
If you can't make it to one of the water parks, there are also spraygrounds scattered all around the city, usually attached to city parks. These smaller-scale aquatic parks are free and perfect for younger kids or anyone who wants to play around in the water to escape the heat. They offer water cannons and jets that shoot up from the ground, and since there's no pool, they're perfectly safe for all ages.
Enjoy a University of Oklahoma Sooners College Football
The Sooners football season has been delayed in 2020 and will start after Labor Day.
You may have a flat-screen television and a comfortable recliner at home, or something similar at your hotel, but that can't take the place of the game-day atmosphere. The University of Oklahoma Sooners—with a history dating back to 1895—typically host their opening game during Labor Day weekend.
The team has a rich history in football that includes many players having won the Heisman Trophy, an award given each year to the most outstanding college football player in the U.S.
Watch an Oklahoma City Dodgers Baseball Game
The 2020 Minor League Baseball season is canceled.
Speaking of sports, Labor Day is like a transition time from baseball to football. Around the holiday is often the final opportunity to see the Oklahoma City Dodgers play for the year. The team formerly known as the Oklahoma City 89ers is often a contender for the league title and has numerous notable players.
Get to the Arcadia Western Heritage Festival & Rodeo
The Arcadia Western Heritage Festival and Rodeo is canceled in 2020.
Arcadia, about a 30-minute drive from Oklahoma City in an area east of Edmond, has an annual longtime Labor Day weekend favorite called the Arcadia Western Heritage Festival & Rodeo at Arcadia Park. The highlight of this family-friendly event might be the live blues music, but you'll also find gospel singers and other entertainment, vendor booths, a talent show, and a parade. The rodeo closes things out.
Head out for Some Shopping
Labor Day weekend isn't nearly as crazy as the winter holidays, but it still tends to be one of the bigger shopping times of the year. Bargain-hunters should find plenty of sales and events throughout Oklahoma City as stores release their end-of-summer and back-to-school discounts.
Quail Springs Mall is one of the biggest shopping centers in the entire state and you can find most big-name stores there. The OKC Outlets are located about 10 miles west of downtown on Highway 40 and draw visitors from across the Great Plains states for their killer deals. For a more unique shopping experience, check out 50 Penn Place, a shopping center inside of the atrium building with one-of-a-kind shops, art galleries, and eateries.
See the Sam Noble Museum
The Sam Noble Museum is a branch of the University of Oklahoma and considered the state's museum of natural history, where your family can learn about over 500 million years of the state's natural and cultural history. The museum has an impressive 10 million specimens and artifacts among its current and permanent exhibits, plus programs for people of all ages.
After Alaska, Oklahoma has more Indigenous residents than any other state by proportion, and the Sam Noble Museum houses a collection of books, recordings, lesson plans, and other items that showcase over 175 Native North American languages. It's one of the most comprehensive collections of Indigenous languages in the country.
In 2020, only a limited number of guests are allowed into the museum at a time and all visitors are required to reserve their tickets in advance. While the first Monday of the month—including Labor Day—is typically free for all visitors, that promotion is temporarily on hold.
Ride to the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo
If you are up for an exploratory drive about 90 minutes east of Oklahoma City, your family can enjoy a Labor Day rodeo in the small city Henryetta, the "Rodeo Cowboy Capital of the World." Sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association and the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, the event offers traditional competitions in steer wrestling, barrel racing, bareback riding, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, and team roping.
The Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo at Historic Nichols Parks was named after the former 16-time World Champion cowboy who lived in Henryetta until his death.
This year's rodeo takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 5–6, 2020, and begins at 8 p.m. each evening at Historic Nichols Park.
Visit a Growing Arts District
The Arts District in downtown Oklahoma City used to house film distribution offices for some major Hollywood studios. Today it's a worthwhile area to visit the businesses related to the arts, or just to enjoy the charming art deco architecture that defines the neighborhood. If you want a more curated experience, you can also visit The Oklahoma City Museum of Art which is right in the heart of this trendy district. The Civic Center Music Hall is another neighborhood favorite for theater and concerts, but the 2020 season is on hold until further notice.
The restaurants in the area are some of the best in Oklahoma City, not only for good food but also a hip ambiance. The Flashback Retro Pub is a venue and bar dedicated to 80s nostalgia and is always a hit with locals and visitors. You can rock out to classic Madonna while playing vintage arcade games including Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.
Dance at the Rentiesville Dusk 'Til Dawn Blues Festival
Though it's a nearly two-hour drive east of Oklahoma City, the Rentiesville Dusk 'Til Dawn Blues Festival is always a fun family activity for Labor Day weekend and is even dubbed "the world’s largest backyard party." About 3,500 people celebrate the blues festival in this small town with a lot of history, as it was one of the 50 all-Black towns established in Oklahoma in the early 20th century (and one of only 13 that still remain). The town was also the longtime home of Oklahoma blues legend and event founder, D.C. Minner.
The festival typically entertains the crowd with over 200 musicians, including nationally-acclaimed headliners, plus workshops and a barbecue feast. However, the 2020 Blues Festival is a virtual event that will be held online from September 4–6, so you can tune in and listen from anywhere you are in the world.
Try the Midwest City Doggie Paddle
In Midwest City, just 15 minutes by car heading east of Oklahoma City, Reno Swim & Slide offers special public events throughout the summer. On Labor Day, that special event is for humans and canines, as the pool allows dog-owners to bring their four-legged friends to go for a dip at the annual Doggie Paddle. It's held in the evening on the Monday of Labor Day weekend, September 7, 2020.
As long as your dog has tags, is current on shots, and is on a leash when not in the water, you may bring your fuzzy friend to participate. Humans can enter for free with up to two dogs, but each animal has to pay admission of $6. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and a limit of 150 dogs are allowed per session.