Top 12 Things to Do in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Oklahoma gets an unfair bad rap as simply a flat, boring flyover state. However, the capital and largest city Oklahoma City paints a far more dynamic portrait of the state, full of rich history, culture, cuisine and natural beauty waiting to captivate visitors. Nicknamed “The Big Friendly”, OKC charms with its warm hospitality, revitalizedmodern urban pockets, and dedication to showcasing its Western roots.

ActivityDescription
National Cowboy MuseumExplore cowboy culture and history.
Myriad Botanical GardensVisit the urban park and conservatory.
Oklahoma City Museum of ArtView art collections and installations.
Dining SceneTaste diverse and evolving culinary offerings.
NBA GamesExperience the energy of Thunder basketball.
Shopping DistrictsDiscover unique local boutiques and galleries.
River CruisesEnjoy scenic views along the Oklahoma River.
State CapitolLearn about Oklahoma’s history and architecture.
Civic CenterCatch shows and performances.
Cattlemen’s SteakhouseDine at a historic steakhouse.
Riversport Rapids ParkEnjoy outdoor adventures and water sports.

Whether you appreciate the arts, sports, science, or great outdoors, Oklahoma City delivers memorable adventures sans massive crowds. Here are 12 of the top things to enjoy on a getaway to the up-and-coming destination of OKC.

Discover Western Heritage at the National Cowboy Museum

Name and Location: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City

History and Significance: Founded in 1955, this world-class museum preserves and exhibits Western heritage including cowboy culture and Native American connections. Extensive collections and archives.

What to Expect: Guests are immersed in the history and romance of the American West. Galleries feature art, artifacts, saddles, spurs and working ranches spanning rodeos to music.

Visitor Information: Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas. Admission fees. Guided tours available.

Gain an enriched understanding of the enduring spirit of the American West at this world-class history hub dedicated to pioneer culture. Browse expansive galleries filled with vivid murals, Native artifacts, rodeo memorabilia, and fine art interpreting the frontier’s myths and realities. Glimpse Hollywood magic in the Prosperity Junction, a recreated movie town façade on the lot’s backlot. Outdoors, stroll through replicated historic villages and sculptural gardens that further bring cowboy history to life. Make sure to snap a photo “riding” Patsy Montana’s gorgeous palomino horse out front too!

Stroll the Brilliant Botanical Gardens

Name and Location: Myriad Botanical Gardens, downtown Oklahoma City

History and Significance: Myriad Gardens is a 17-acre urban green space with specialty gardens, water features and blossoms galore located in the heart of downtown OKC since the 1980s.

What to Expect: Visitors delight in strolling through lush, brilliant seasonal floral displays in a peaceful setting right in the city center. The crystal bridge conservatory showcases exotic tropical plants and palms.

Visitor Information: Free to walk gardens. Conservatory has admission fee. Open daily, seasonal hours.

In the heart of downtown, the Myriad Botanical Gardens provide a gorgeous urban escape where couples, families and friends convene to take in ecological beauty and events. The centerpiece Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory teems with fascinating flora like palm trees, bromeliads and orchids within its 224-foot-long living greenhouse. Wander curving paths through specialty theme gardens blooming in vibrant color. On Thursdays and Sundays from May through October, catch live music on the Backyard Place lawn. Visitors consistently rank this inner-city darling as one of OKC’s top attractions.

Explore OKC’s Dynamic Arts Scene

Name and Location: Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Other Venues

History and Significance: OKC is home to a blossoming arts scene. The Museum of Art opened in the 1990s, housing modern collections. Venues for performing arts also abound.

What to Expect: Guests can browse an array of compelling permanent collections and rotating exhibits at OKCMOA spanning photography, sculpture and more by acclaimed artists. Theater, music, dance and cultural performances happen year-round at various downtown venues.

Visitor Information: Museum hours daily, closed Mondays. Ticket prices vary by performance at performance art theaters.

Oklahoma City’s blossoming arts and cultural community provides plenty to appreciate for virtuosos and novices alike. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art downtown houses a tidy but potent collection of international pieces including towering glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly in the atrium. At the eclectic Factory Obscura in the Midtown district, imaginative installations transport you down quirky rabbit holes. And the fully restored Heritage Hills neighborhood provides a free outdoor gallery of majestic Queen Anne, Tudor Revival and Craftsman homes.

Taste the Evolving Culinary Scene

Name and Location: Evolving Oklahoma City Dining Scene

History and Significance: Oklahoma City dining has expanded vastly in recent decades, moving beyond its steakhouses and barbecue joints to welcome creative chefs and restaurants offering diverse, worldly cuisine.

What to Expect: Foodies find fun discovering OKC’s blossoming culinary scene, from intimate farm-to-table bistros to hip food halls to concepts blending global flavors from Thai to tacos and more.

Visitor Information: OKC dining spans fine dining to food trucks. Attire varies from casual to elegant. Reservations often needed at higher end establishments.

Long gone are the days of OKC dining being defined exclusively by chicken fried steak, fried okra, and little beyond basic Americana fare. The capital’s dining scene has flourished with acclaimed chefs and diverse global flavors. Find James Beard recognized Mediterranean sharing plates at Oliver’s Public House or cheeky twists on dim sumand ramen at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ. Trendy Paseo Arts District tempts with everything from Lebanese kebabs to empanadas to churros. And Ludivine’s whitewashed farmhouse digs in northwest OKC plates up inspired Southern abodes using regionally sourced ingredients.

Cheer with the Thunder at an NBA Game

Name and Location: Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Basketball

History and Significance: The Thunder NBA franchise moved from Seattle to OKC in 2008, fast becoming fan favorites across the state. Games feature high-flying athleticism, rivalry and entertainment.

What to Expect: Catch the beloved Thunder in action at downtown’s Paycom Center where stars like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lead fast, high-scoring gameplay in an electric atmosphere amid roaring fans.

Visitor Information: Regular season runs Oct-April. Tickets start around $50. Box office information online. Expect energetic crowds.

The small market Oklahoma City Thunder punch well above their weight in NBA prowess and fan fervor. And catching a game at the downtown Chesapeake Energy Arena allows you to witness that electric energy firsthand. Marvel at artful passing, high-flying dunks, and timely threes from the Thunder’s star-studded lineup led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Hoist signs and giant foam fingers to cheer the team onto victory, all while enjoying convenient downtown walkability. Can’t catch a live game? Tour the state-of-the-art facility instead to go behind the scenes of this beloved team.

Stroll through Eclectic Shopping Districts

Name and Location: Shopping in OKC Districts

History and Significance: Diverse, vibrant shopping areas like Midtown, Automobile Alley, Plaza District and Paseo Arts have blossomed beyond mainstream malls, offering locally owned boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.

What to Expect: Wander pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods housing indie shops featuring Oklahoma artists and makers. Browsers find stellar people watching and inventive architecture too.

Visitor Information: Free parking. Hours vary by shop. Several districts located just north and east of downtown, within a few miles.

Beyond ubiquitous big box chains, Oklahoma City offers locally-owned boutiques, foods, art galleries and more awaiting your discovery in concentrated neighborhoods ideal for strolling. Find home goods, women’s clothing and oddities in Midtown then poke into The Drake concept restaurant space. Paseo Arts District tempts with galleries, specialty stores and cool eats between bright murals and street art. Uptown 23rd (similar to LA’s Melrose Ave) proffers chic apparel, beauty stops, antiques and cute cafes. Or peruse the Asian shops and eateries concentrated in the city’s “Little Saigon” district too.

River Cruise Along the Boathouse District

Name and Location: Boathouse District Along Oklahoma River

History and Significance: An Oklahoma River transformation delivered water recreation right through the heart of OKC. The Boathouse District nourishes adventure spirit with world-class training facilities, competitive racing, public access and fun.

What to Expect: Paddle a kayak, relax on scenic river cruises, cross the Skydance Bridge, cheer races, grab riverside dining and enjoy concerts along the shores in this lively district.

Visitor Information: Year-round district access. Individual operators have varying hours/seasonality. Website organizes the many options.

For fresh air and relaxing views of the cityscape, journey down the Oklahoma River walking/biking trails or aboard a scenic river cruise. Oklahoma River Cruises offers afternoon sightseeing tours floating past Boathouse Row, the skyline and lush riverbanks from their climate controlled riverboat. Prefer more active endeavors? Rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, bikes and surrey cycles from Riversport Rapids facility to explore on your own schedule. At night, glowing bridges create even more scenic vistas worthy of enjoying from the waterway.

Appreciate Local History at the State Capitol

Name and Location: Oklahoma State Capitol

History and Significance: The towering Capitol building opened in 1917, anchoring OKC’s growing governmental district. It houses historic chambers and symbolic artwork inside limestone walls topped by a dome over 100 feet tall.

What to Expect: Guests soak up ornate spaces like the Senate, Supreme Court, Rotunda and more via free self-guided tours daily or complimentary guided tours on the hour.

Visitor Information: Open weekdays 7am-5pm for walkabouts. Guided tours given daily on the hour 10am-3pm, no reservations needed.

History buffs flock to Oklahoma’s towering state capitol both to explore its unique architecture as well as soak in stories significant to the state and nation at large. The dome standing 452 feet tall from its base makes it the tallest capitol building in the U.S. Behind the marble and granite façade visitors find ornate allegorical murals, intricate tile mosaics, and exhibits highlighting Oklahoma’s transformation from territory to statehood. Free guided tours provide enriched stories and access to additional restricted areas like the House and Senate public galleries too.

Catch a Show at the Civic Center

Name and Location: Civic Center Music Hall, Arts District

History and Significance: Opened in 1937, the Civic Center Music Hall stands as Oklahoma City’s historic performing arts centerpiece hosting theater, dance, concerts, comedy and Broadway productions of all scopes in a majestic setting.

What to Expect: Patrons enjoy one-of-a-kind shows from intimate to spectacular in the sweeping art deco theater or more casual CitySpace venue on site. Bars and restaurants nearby.

Visitor Information: Year-round diverse programming. Individual show details online list dates, tickets, parking tips.

This performing arts venue downtown hosts Broadway musical touring productions, concerts by renowned artists, ballet and opera shows, standup comedy acts and more within its visually stunning multi-tiered theater space. Competitively priced tickets make catching blockbuster orchestra, play and music performances here surprisingly accessible for you or as the ultimate unique couples, family and friends night out. Upcoming hot tickets span entries from Cats the Musical and Blue Man Group to Alton Brown’s food entertainment extravaganza tour.

Dig into Steakhouse History at Cattlemen’s

Name and Location: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Historic Stockyards City

History and Significance: Oklahoma City stockyards launched in 1910. Cattlemen’s opened in 1910, swiftly becoming renowned for aged beef, Wild West décor and lining up celebrities through the decades from presidents to movie stars.

What to Expect: Carnivores sink their teeth into juicy classic cuts or try lamb, ribs and more prepared impeccably along with loaded baked potatoes, salad and desserts. Live music nightly.

Visitor Information: Open daily serving dinner. Reservations recommended, especially weekends. Western wear welcomed but not required.

For the quintessential Oklahoma dining experience reflecting the state’s beef cattle roots, grab a table at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. This Stockyards City institution lives crammed to the brim with cowboy memorabilia gifted by decades worth of patrons. Open since 1910, flipping through their guest registry reads like a who’s who of 20th century celebrities and politicians who indulged in flawlessly grilled steaks and lamb fries while in town. Even amid expansions, Cattlemen’s retains its nostalgic charm, archetypal menu favorites and hospitality making diners instantly feel like VIPs and locals.

Find Adventure at Riversport Rapids Park

Name and Location: Riversport Rapids Park along Oklahoma River

History and Significance: An ambitious river transformation brought thrilling recreational water opportunities including Riversport Rapids downtown where the public can raft year-round through challenges earning medals.

What to Expect: Raft, kayak or stand-up paddle through an exhilarating white-water course running rapids from Class II to IV skill levels. Adventure awaits along with Olympic training inspiration.

Visitor Information: Rapids park open Wednesdays-Sundays. Season passes or single session rates. All gear provided. Release waivers required. 8 years+ can participate.

In the Boathouse District downtown, this adventure hotspot leverages OKC’s location along the Oklahoma River to deliver heart-racing fun for families and thrill-seeking couples. Test your battle prowess at axe throwing, scale an aerial adventure course, or face whitewater rafting right in the city sans needing to travel hours to outdoor destinations. The navigable rapids course changes configurations regularly to keep visitors of all skill levels challenged. When worn out, replenish with on-site food truck bites and sweets while people watching.

Oklahoma City proves itself far beyond a sleepy plains stopover with rich attractions appealing to roadtrippers of all interests. This cowboy culture hub serves up history alongside dynamic arts, dining and fast-growing urban neighborhoods. And its friendly Midwestern vibe instantly embraces visitors to feel a part of the city’s success. Come discover for yourself why OKC makes an underrated gem for your next heartland getaway.

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