7 Must-See Hot Spots in Oklahoma
Everything you could ask for a great spring break—unless you’re set on skiing or deep-sea fishing—you’ll find here in Oklahoma. Whether you’re looking for outdoors adventure, a history lesson or just a place to kick back, we’ve got it. We’ve skipped over the big cities—their attractions are numerous—but here are seven spots a little more off the beaten track.
Longhorns roam on the range at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Photo by James Pratt
Everything that makes up a great spring break is available to you here in Oklahoma.
Museums, cultural centers, mountains, even old-school towns in the state provide fun for the whole family.
Chickasaw Country, Will Rogers Country, Guthrie, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Quartz Mountain, Beavers Bend, and Marland Mansion offer unique destinations for a great trip.
Fun starts at I-35 exit 55 where you can watch chocolates being made at Chickasaw-owned Bedre Chocolates. Stop at this Visitor Center for directions and information.
On the west side of Sulphur, visit the magnificent Chickasaw Cultural Center and take time for lunch in the Aaimpa’ Café. The best deal is the Chickasaw Special—an Indian taco, pishofa (cracked pearl hominy and pork), grape dumplings and a drink.
Allow time to take in all the video presentations and visit the traditional village.
For great outdoor activities, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur is ideal. There are hiking trails, a nature center, picnic areas and more. Rent a bike across the street from the park entrance at the main Chickasaw Visitor Center.
You can make a day trip—or longer—in this area. Camp or RV in the park or stay in the luxurious Artesian Hotel.
For more Chickasaw history, drive to Tishomingo to the National Capitol Building and Council House Museum.
Will Rogers Country
Plan a trip to the Will Rogers Memorial Museums in Claremore and Oologah to learn more about Oklahoma’s Favorite Son. Many people only know Rogers as a humorist and are amazed to realize that he was successful in radio, newspapers and movies. Plan to spend enough time to watch some of his films.
If you go in the morning, stop at Hammett House in Claremore for home-cooked favorites for lunch. Be sure to leave room for a piece of fresh-made pie.
After lunch, head north to Oologah to the Will Rogers Birthplace. Moved from its original location because of the building of Oologah Lake, the house, restored to the period of Rogers’ childhood, stands on a hill overlooking the lake.
Take a step back in time in one of the best-preserved, largest historic districts in the country. Start your visit at the Territorial Museum—it will give you great background.
Saturday trolley tours at noon or 2 p.m. offer a lot of history, share fun facts and point out the great variety of architecture in Guthrie.
Stroll the streets and enjoy the historic facades. Check out the elegant oriel windows on East Oklahoma then review the show schedule for the Music Hall across the street. West on Oklahoma, you’ll find unique museums such as the Oklahoma Frontier Drug Store Museum and a tribute to Oklahoma’s great athletes at the Territorial Capital Sports Museum.
If you’re visiting during the week, schedule a tour of the Scottish Rite Temple, one of the largest and most lavish Masonic buildings in the country. You’ll see rooms decorated in many styles—the Pompeiian Room, the Assyrian Room and a Gothic library that would feel like home to Harry Potter. Stained glass, crystal, marble and precious metals have all been used in the construction
Sticking with a historic theme, eat at Stables, originally part of an 1800s livery company. Back then you could rent a horse or a hack. Today people go for the Texas-style barbecue, the giant baked potatoes and the salad bar.
In the southwestern part of the state, trees are scarce and the sky is huge. Go outside on a clear night and marvel at stars you never see in the city. Quartz Mountain Resort is a great place to rest body and soul.
The resort, home to the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, is full of wonderful pieces of art created by visiting artists and students. Guests are greeted in the lobby with eight large murals by artist Mike Larsen. Other works are found throughout the property and guest rooms all have colorful prints to add to the rustic décor. The indoor pool at the lodge offers a spot to splash even in chilly weather. Quartz Mountain State Park has an 18-hole golf course and driving range. Hiking is popular as is rock climbing. Nearby, a mini-golf course will be open during spring break.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
For a look at local history, take a jaunt south to Altus. The Museum of the Western Prairie has great exhibits on the geology of the area, Native Americans, homesteaders and more.
Trips here are as tame or as wild as you want. Just drive through and look for bison, elk, deer and longhorns or bike or hike where the buffalo are actually roaming.
Fishing, picnicking and camping are popular and primitive camping is available by reservation. Drive to the top of Mt. Scott for a fantastic panoramic view of the area.
Rock climbing areas range from easy climbs to more technically challenging. The Visitor Center in the middle of the refuge has a good film and interesting exhibits. Rangers there can answer questions and the gift shop is well-stocked with information.
An added treat in the area is the charming cobblestone town of Medicine Park. Still mostly a weekend destination, there are cute shops, eateries and the picturesque Bath Lake to explore. Cap off your spring break with the Medicine Park Stomp, March 17 – 19, for lots of music, arts, crafts, food and fun.
With over 1 million visitors a year, this place isn’t exactly a secret. Choctaw Electric Cooperative member, Charity O’Donnell, executive director of the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce/McCurtain County Tourism Authority says, “We have new tourism-related businesses opening up every month; over 100 cabins and eight to 10 new businesses are under construction right now. Adding so many new things keeps people coming back to the area.”
Beavers Bend State Park and Broken Bow Lake are main attractions. From fishing, hiking, horseback riding and golf, you can have an entire vacation without leaving the park.
The northern Hochatown part of the park is where Lakeview Lodge is located. Cabins are available in the southern—Beavers Bend—section. Popular riverside cabins have the rushing Mountain Fork River at their front doors.
Museums in the area include the Forest Heritage Center in the park and the Museum of the Red River in Idabel. The later is undergoing major construction but is still worth a visit to see artifacts from native peoples of North and South America.
Abendigo’s is a big favorite for fine dining; Greatful Head is a top pizza shop. There are lots of other eating options from healthy to everything fried.
For more adventure, sail over the treetops at Rugaru Adventures’ zip line course.
Without a doubt, the Marland Mansion in Ponca City is Oklahoma’s most impressive historic home built by oilman, later U.S. Congressman and Oklahoma Governor, E.W. Marland. The Italian Renaissance-style stone structure is filled with treasures.
The ceilings range from coffered, rare, English oak from royal forests to 24-karat, gold-leaf and Waterford chandeliers in the ballroom.
Docents take guests on regularly scheduled tours. According to David Keathly, executive director, “Visitors will see approximately 30 of the home’s 55 rooms including the whisky room and poker room.” You’ll get a lot of history of the house and its owner—a real roller coaster ride of highs and lows.
Marland’s first Ponca City home on East Grand is also open to the public. Though it pales in comparison to his “Palace on the Prairie,” there are interesting exhibits there about the 101 Ranch and Native American artifacts.
Marland lost his oil company in a hostile takeover. The resulting company became Conoco which has a company history museum in Ponca City, an interesting but slightly bittersweet tour after learning the Marland story.