Norman, Oklahoma, a city about 20 miles south of downtown Oklahoma City, is worth a visit. You may head to Norman for an Oklahoma Sooners game. Visitors will also find that there are many entertaining and interesting Norman attractions including museums, casinos, water parks, a chocolate festival, and more.
It's important to know that the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including Norman, is an area known for tornadoes. On average, the Sooner State receives 56 tornadoes per year. To avoid storms and tornadoes, don't plan your trip to Norman during the most active weather months of April and May and keep an eye on the forecast.
If you're not already in town to see a University of Oklahoma (OU) sporting event, consider one—Sooners football is the biggest draw: The successful team has been playing since 1895. Sports fans should check out Heisman Park to see the statues honoring each of the university's Heisman Trophy winners.
There's both men's and women's basketball, as well as all the other exciting OU sporting events.
The Sam Noble Museum/Oklahoma's Museum of Natural History is not just one of the top things to do in Norman; it's one of the best in all of the Oklahoma City area. One of the world's largest university-based natural history museums, The Sam Noble Museum is located on the University of Oklahoma campus and features interactive displays and fossils from the state and around the world, as well as seven galleries of artifacts and displays. It also boasts over 6 million items in 12 collection divisions. The museum offers lectures, presentations, adult field trips, family nights out, children's programs, and adult workshops.
The Norman area has a couple of good options for casino gaming. Operated by the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Thunderbird Casino is one of the oldest Native American casinos in the state. Conversely, Riverwind Casino, operated by the Chickasaw Nation, is newer and larger.
Not only do both feature Vegas-style slots, restaurants, and table games, but Riverwind, in particular, is a great place to go for live music as well. The Showplace Theatre often features well-known bands, comedians, and more.
Located east of Norman just off Highway 9, Lake Thunderbird State Park offers a variety of enjoyable outdoor things to do, everything from boating to swimming at two beaches to camping and hiking. You can also go kayaking or horseback riding, use the archery range, or just have a relaxing picnic. Kids can enjoy the playgrounds, and adults may want to visit the two marinas and the Lake Thunderbird State Park Discovery Cove Nature Center.
Peruse the Art at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Founded in 1936, the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is a beautiful facility that features several large collections of works in American, Native American, Asian, Contemporary, and European art, as well as photography. The museum boasts over 20,000 objects in its permanent collections, as well as educational tours and programs for students and non-students alike.
In addition, several gallery areas and pavilions within the museum are available for rental for special events, and a catering kitchen is available—you can even rent the whole museum and host up to 2,000 people.
Admission is always free.
The largest and likely most popular of Norman's city parks, Westwood Park is located on the southeast corner of 24th NW and Robinson. It features an 18-hole golf course, a tennis center, areas to have a picnic, playgrounds for the little ones, and more.
The family-friendly Westwood Water Park features a lazy river, a kid's splash zone, big spiral and family slides, and an area for toddlers 4 and under. The water park features an "Outdoor Movie Pool Series" and fun adults-only nights at the pool, among other events.
Oklahoma has always been known as a hotspot for some of the country's most dramatic weather. The local NBA team was named the Thunder, after all. And Norman has fast become a national leader in meteorology. So head to The National Weather Center, selected as a 2018 Editor's Choice for Best Science Attractions and Museums by TripSavvy.
The center offers seminars and events for those fascinated by weather—a unique and fun thing to do in Norman is to take one of the center's free tours which last about 60 to 90 minutes. You'll visit the observation deck and the weather labs. Schedule the tour at least 1-2 weeks in advance and review the website to be familiar with what items are allowed or prohibited in the building, holiday closures, and other important information.
Andy Alligator's Fun Park in between Norman and Moore is great for kid's birthday parties, but it's also a fun thing for "kids" of all ages. Have a blast on the go-karts, play Gator Golf, or ride bumper cars. You can also try the rock-climbing wall, batting cages, bowling, or just play video games and snack on pizza and more from the two eateries.
The facility has a water park as well which includes an obstacle course, a 45-foot tall, four-lane racer slide, an 800-foot lazy river, water play structures, and a splash zone for the little kids.
Shop the Sooner Mall
One of Oklahoma City's best indoor shopping malls, Sooner Mall is a Norman attraction in itself. There are plenty of shops, from specialty to big names such as JC Penney, Dillards, and Old Navy. The food court has many restaurants with all of your favorite mall-type foods. Sooner Mall also has a play area for kids, and the teen-oriented Hot Topic store often features live performances.
If you are in Norman in the winter and a chocolate lover, look for this annual fundraising event usually held in late January that supports education at Norman Public Schools and unites residents in a fun and sweet way. The tasty festival has been going on for over 35 years.
While there is no charge for admission, but if you buy tickets, you'll be able to sample from various restaurants and businesses and vote for your favorite chocolate item. Tickets are available in four, one-hour-long sessions. For example, Premiere ticket holders at the 10 a.m. session receive 15 tastes. The 11 a.m. and 12 Noon sessions allow ticket holders to receive 10 tastes. There's even a free "mini-ticket" for kids 12 and under attending with a regular ticket holder—the kids can taste three items.
In addition, the festival has free projects, games, and entertainment. No tickets are necessary to take part in these activities.