Oklahoma’s state capital was a major stop along Route 66 at its early-20th-century height. Meanwhile, its position along the primary corridor into Texas and Mexico has further fuelled its growth and cultural identity.
You’ll find Wild-West culture still leaves its mark, with live cattle auctions taking place in the Stockyards district weekly and a museum dedicated to the USA’s cowboy and Western heritage. The American Indian Cultural Center helps you explore the city’s American Indian influences.
For a more modern look at the city, you can take in distinct, up-and-coming districts filled with independent cafés and galleries and emblazoned with street art, or join locals in watching live baseball or basketball games.
Lying in the middle of mainland America, Oklahoma City is well connected to the country’s north and south. A major pin in the map along the historic Route 66, its name appears in the 1946 jazz song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, originally sung by Bobby Troup and, more famously, Nat King Cole.
While the city has seen periods of decline, areas have now been rejuvenated. You can walk between districts with distinct characters, from the bohemian Paseo Arts District with its pastel-shaded buildings housing boutique shops, independent cafés and cocktail bars, to Automobile Alley, where former car factories — still sporting original Buick and Pontiac signs — now host shops, bars and restaurants.
Probably the best-known area is Bricktown, one of the oldest parts of the city and split into two by its canal. Here, old meat-packing warehouses line cobbled streets, now the venue for restaurants, bars and galleries. For younger visitors, Brickopolis is an entertainment complex that includes attractions such as bowling and video-game arcades.
Just outside the city is the Wild-West-influenced Stockyards, where you can see the weekly cattle auction take place as it has for centuries.
The city’s past is tainted by the memory of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. You can visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum to find out more about what happened before, during and after the attack, and those affected.
Videos, news footage and interactive touch-screen computers piece together a timeline of what unfolded, while outside the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial offers a place of contemplation.
Elsewhere, a visit to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art gives you a chance to see a varied collection of European and American art spanning five centuries. The works include paintings, photographs and sculptures by artists such as Alexander Calder, Francis Hayman, Henry Moore and Georgia O’Keeffe. There’s also a repertory cinema, where you can watch international, independent and classic films.
We also recommend a visit to the American Indian Cultural Center, where you can gain an understanding of Oklahoma’s different American Indian tribes, their beliefs and traditions, through objects and interactive displays. The museum tracks the history of these tribes, from their origins to conflicts with European settlers.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, around a 25-minute drive out of the city, also touches on American Indian history, but from a different perspective. Here, you can discover the history, art and culture of America’s Wild West, including the role of cowboys, rodeos, Western performers and frontier military.
Among the museum’s collections are cowboy clothing and equipment, American Indian objects and artwork, historical firearms and archive photographs.
Whichever time of year you visit Oklahoma City, you’ll have the chance to attend a live sports game. Between October and April, you can join Oklahoma City Thunder fans in cheering on their beloved basketball team at the Chesapeake Arena.
Or, if you’re in the city between March and October, you might be able to experience a live baseball game at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. From the chanting supporters and hot dog vendors to the pre-game entertainment, the feeling of excitement in these stadiums is contagious.
Best time to visit Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City sits within the USA’s Tornado Alley, with tornadoes most commonly occurring in spring and early summer. Summer (June to August) is a good time to go if you don’t mind the higher temperatures, while September and October are still mild and less busy.