Planning Your Trip
Things to Do
What to Eat & Drink
The capital city of Oklahoma successfully straddles the line between past and present, honoring its proud history and heritage while at the same time pursuing forward-thinking approaches to meet the needs of its residents and visitors. The Modern Frontier nickname sums it up well—a savvy metropolis steeped in Native American and Wild West culture, yet brimming with contemporary attractions, one-of-a-kind city districts, restaurants, and green spaces to enjoy.
Planning Your Trip
Best time to visit: With plenty of incentives and enticements on the menu, Oklahoma City makes an appealing destination to explore at any time of the year. However, summers can swelter with humidity and temps reaching upwards of 80s and 90s Fahrenheit. Fortunately, there are lots of options for water recreation, shaded patios, and pools to dip into if you’re in need of cooling down. OKC winters are fairly mild with temperatures usually staying in the 30s and 40s and not much snow to speak of, making it easy for visitors to partake in al fresco holiday festivity and seasonal fun. If outdoor recreation is what you’re after, the moderate springs and falls may be the best times to plan a trip—spring to enjoy the return of blooming flowers and trees (in spite of a few rainy spells) and fall to delight in football, colorful foliage, and Halloween activities. During tornado season from late spring through early fall, you’ll want to stay safe by immediately taking heed of any watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
Language: English is the primary language spoken in Oklahoma City, but it’s not the only one you’ll hear. One of the most diverse cities in the state, OKC is home to a growing Hispanic population that rose 85 percent between 2000 and 2010. In addition, a significant influx of Vietnamese immigrants settled here during the 1970s, bringing along their cultures, customs and cuisine to populate what is now the city’s vibrant Asian District.
Currency: The U.S. Dollar. All major credit and debit cards are widely accepted as well.
Getting around: It’s easy to find convenient parking in paid garages and lots, or at metered parking spaces (many of which you can now pay for and monitor via a mobile app) across downtown and the greater Oklahoma City area. Fun fact: The very first parking meter anywhere was installed in Oklahoma City in 1935. Oklahoma City offers several public transportation options. EMBARK system busses run weekday and weekend routes all across the city; an unlimited day pass is your best bet. The Oklahoma City Streetcar follows Bricktown, Downtown and Midtown loops.
Travel tip: A must see while in town, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art curates one of the largest collections of Dale Chihuly glassworks in the world.
Things to Do
Offering outdoor recreation, parks and green spaces, museums, restaurants, and historical attractions, Oklahoma City caters to visitors of all ilk and interests. These are a few of the must-see local sights and experiences:
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum: Oklahoma City was forever changed on April 19, 1995, when a massive explosion ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, taking the lives of 168 people. The moving Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum now stands on the site where the tragedy occurred, including a reflecting pool and the Field of Empty Chairs memorial that represents the lives lost. Inside, the museum educates about the impacts of domestic terrorism through displays, exhibits, and stories of hope that emerged from the aftermath of that heartbreaking day. There is an admission fee charged to enter the museum, but visitors can explore the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial features for free all year long.
City districts: OKC is full of friendly neighborhoods and distinctive districts, each with its own particular flavor and appeal. The world’s largest cattle breeder and stocker market, historic Stockyards City is where you’ll find western wear, cowboy boots, and great steak; or explore the Asian District for lively dining and culture. Arts-minded visitors will want to spend some time checking out the galleries and studios of the Arts District and Film Row and the Paseo Arts District, while the Plaza District lures in fashionistas with chic shops and boutiques. Bricktown boasts buzzy bars, restaurants, dance clubs, and other after-dark entertainment options, and the Deep Deuce neighborhood honors its proud past as a legendary blues/jazz hotspot. Immerse yourself in Americana/Route 66 nostalgia in the Uptown 23rd District, and keep the car theme going with a spin through dealerships turned hipster eateries, clubs, and hotels of Oklahoma City’s reimagined Automobile Alley row.
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum: Giddy up, partner! The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum embodies the spirit of the Old West with gallery exhibits and interactive activities. Embracing Oklahoma City’s American Indian and Western heritage, this museum is the place to admire art, artifacts, and cultural items including classic and contemporary paintings, sculpture, firearms, and a vast array of American Rodeo photographs, memorabilia, and trophies.
Find other suggestions to fill out your itinerary with the 10 best museums to visit in Oklahoma City.
What to Eat and Drink
With hearty meat and potatoes, a wealth of authentic Asian fare, and a thriving coffee culture, OKC stands ready to satisfy pretty much any appetite and craving. Come hungry.
Steak: Oklahoma City is surrounded by prime cattle country, making it easy find a great steak pretty much anywhere in town. You’ll find red meat on many menus, but the iconic Cattlemen’s in Stockyards City and Mickey Mantle’s in Bricktown are perhaps two of the most reputable steakhouses if you’re in the mood for a big beefy dinner with all the trimmings. Keep your eyes open, you never know who you might spy at the next table over—movie stars, musicians, athletes, and even presidents have been known to frequent these OKC dining institutions.
Pho and banh mi: Thanks to a Vietnamese population that settled here and flourished during the 1970s, the vibrant Asian District radiating around Claussen Boulevard is home to Pho Lien Hoa and Pho Ca Dao dishing up steamy bowls of Vietnamese noodle soup. Or order fresh banh mi sandwiches at Lang’s Bakery and Quoc Bao Bakery. There’s also a tempting lineup of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food and other global fare in the neighborhood.
Chicken fried steak: Steak and chicken fried steak are not one in the same. A different dish entirely, chicken fried steak (a.k.a. country-fried steak) is basically a tenderized piece of cube steak that’s been dredged in seasoned flour and then pan-fried to crispy, crunchy perfection. Served alongside a mound of mashed potatoes and a side of green beans or okra, the whole plate gets a generous ladle of white cream gravy before it’s brought to the table. Ann’s Chicken Fry House and Cheever’s Café both serve up dependably good interpretations.
Fried onion burgers: Press thinly sliced onion into a beef patty, grill it to lacy-edged perfection, top it with your favorite garnishes and you’ve got the classic OKC fried onion burger. Tuck into one at Tucker’s Onion Burgers or Nic’s Grill with a pile of fresh-cut fries and a milkshake.
Plan your meals in OKC with the 15 best restaurants in Oklahoma City.
Where to Stay
Visually anchored by the soaring Devon Tower, downtown Oklahoma City rolls out the red carpet to guests with a choice of brand-name and boutique hotels in a range of price points to fit all budgets. It’s easy to walk to adjacent districts, or to catch a ride on the Oklahoma City Streetcar to reach Midtown and Bricktown.
I-35, I-44 and I-40 converge in Oklahoma City at the middle of the state, offering easy highway access. Or fly into the artsy Will Rogers World Airport just southwest of downtown, the major local air travel hub serviced by most major commercial airlines. It’s a quick 6-mile trip into downtown OKC by car, taxi, or rideshare.
Money Saving Tips
Finding fun in Oklahoma City doesn’t have to blow your budget. Some museums and other admission-charging attractions waive their entrance fees on certain days of the month; call ahead to find out if your visit falls during any.
- Shop for less at OKC Outlets, where visitors can find up to 70 percent off retail prices at name-brand stores like J. Crew, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, Vera Bradley and more.
- Anyone who’s planning to visit Oklahoma City for an extended period of time or wanting to travel throughout the state might want to look into setting up a PIKEPASS account to save money on interstate tolls.
For (many free) OKC parks and green spaces to discover, read city parks in Oklahoma City.