If you visit New York City, you might go to the Statue of Liberty. In St. Louis, it's the arch. So what do you just have to see and do in Oklahoma City? Well, it starts with a poignant monument that tells our story and ends with plenty of fun and games. Here are the things you just can't miss in OKC, and after you've checked off each one, make your way to the metro's lesser-known, underrated points of interest.
Perhaps more than anything in Oklahoma City, the National Memorial defines us. In remembrance certainly but also offering strength and peace as the years separate our memories from that horrible day, the beautiful grounds and symbolic design will touch even the hardest of hearts.
Don't Miss...: While the Outdoor Memorial will certainly have an emotional effect, also make sure to check out the National Memorial Museum. Get a complete background of the event, including the FBI investigation.
By now, many across the country have heard about the revitalization in Bricktown, and it has become one of the top Oklahoma City attractions. Take a water taxi ride along the canal, eat at one of the great restaurants or simply enjoy the beautiful outdoor atmosphere. Bricktown has become OKC's top tourist attraction.
Don't Miss... Riding along the canal gets all the publicity, but Bricktown also has horse-drawn carriage rides. Relax and enjoy the patter of horse hooves as you cruise along the bricked streets.
The Oklahoma City Thunder is one of the top teams in the NBA. From the moment the franchise arrived in 2008, even before winning began behind superstars Durant and Westbrook, fans have packed "The Peake" for each and every game. It's fun and loud, a great venue for sports action.
Don't Miss... If you're not a sports fan, don't forget that the Chesapeake Energy Arena hosts a variety of other events throughout the year. Headline concerts, family shows and monster trucks are only a few of the things you can catch at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
There have been discussions around the state trying to decide our "signature food." Well whether it's a signature or not, Oklahoma City is a great place to get some of the best steak around. Enjoy a trip to the historic Cattlemen's or have top steaks at Mickey Mantle's in Bricktown, Boulevard in Edmond, Red Prime in Automobile Alley or any of the other great steakhouse choices.
Don't Miss... Maybe you're a bit more adventurous than I am. If so, all the locals rave about Cattlemen's lamb fries, something I couldn't bring myself to try but may be just what you need as an appetizer for your steak.
It's been called one of the top 10 zoos in the U.S. and is one of the oldest in the southwest. With a beautiful landscape and a number of exotic animals, the Oklahoma City Zoo is a great place to take the family while in town. Check out the Elephant Habitat, Cat Forest, Great EscAPE, Oklahoma Trails and the fantastic Aquatics shows.
Don't Miss... It's not quite animal-related. Well, I suppose it depends on the act. But the Zoo Amphitheater has a number of great outside musical performances during the summer.
It's hard to believe this was once little more than a glorified drainage ditch. Now, the Oklahoma River is a top city attraction, a recreational gem with kayaking, trails, adventure courses, zip line, top annual events and more.
Don't Miss... Take a fun, relaxing Oklahoma River Cruise. They run about 45 minutes, and there are special holiday and themed cruises that feature entertainment and cash bar.
Oklahoma City gets a bad rap sometimes in regard to culture, but frankly, that comes from the uninformed. From the amazing works at the OKC Museum of Art to the depth of the Oklahoma History Center or the Sam Noble Natural History Museum in Norman, the area has a number of excellent options.
Don't Miss... Long known as the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum was established in 1955. It's an amazing facility that showcases the area's rich Western history, art and culture.
The Chesapeake Energy Arena is great, but if it's a nice spring or summer day in Oklahoma City, why not get outside. You won't find too many better minor-league baseball facilities in the U.S. than the Bricktown Ballpark, known by locals as "The Brick." The Oklahoma City Dodgers are typically in action from April to early September.
Don't Miss... We all love the ballpark food. Watch the players warm up as you snack on hot dogs, pizza and much more.
While OKC certainly isn't an amusement park capital by any stretch of the imagination, you can still find a pretty good time on the rides at Frontier City or the slides at White Water Bay. Western-themed shows, rollercoasters, wave pools or leisurely floats... Ahh, just try them all.
Don't Miss... I think several parks around the country do something similar, but you should get a souvenir from your trip to Frontier City. So consider having your family portrait taken in "Old West" attire at Matthew Brady's Old Time Photography.
Science Museum Oklahoma, formerly called the Omniplex, is a great educational experience for the kids, but it's quite an enjoyable Oklahoma City attraction for the adults as well. Don't tell the science teachers, but who knew it could be this much fun? Get hands-on with the exhibits, see World War II airplanes or experience the visual wonders of fractal art. And that's only the beginning.
Don't Miss... The Kirkpatrick Planetarium takes visitors on a trek through the night sky in mesmerizing fashion.
Catch a Show at the Civic Center Music Hall
Redesigned as part of the original MAPS initiatives, the Civic Center Music Hall features year-round arts and entertainment from companies such as the OKC Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Ballet, Lyric Theatre and touring Broadway productions.
Don't Miss... The widely publicized shows are going to be in the main theatre, but look for some great, lesser-known fare in the smaller black-box "CitySpace" theatre in the basement.
While it may not be the great fun of some other items on this list, it's still an opportunity to see an important OKC site. For those that don't know the history, the capitol building was finished in 1917 but did not have a dome. It was supposed to, though a lack of funds prevented it. It was finally constructed in 2002.
Don't Miss... If you have a nice zoom on your camera, try to snap a shot of the statue on top of the Capitol dome. Called the "Guardian," the 17-foot tall bronze Native American statue was designed Master Artist Enoch Kelly Haney.