Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is chock full of history, beauty, and brick. I wasn’t prepared to be taken aback at what I saw when I rolled into the city on my way towards the city I call home. I wasn’t expectant of the audible gasps that I would emit when I drove past the Skydance Bridge or the joy that I would have while walking through the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Even the sadness and feeling of hope that I vacillated between couldn’t keep me from realizing what a gem Oklahoma City is to travelers. What follows are my thoughts on some of the places we visited in our hosted stay.
I’m going to admit that I am very disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to stop in Oklahoma City on our way west. Our short time there was well spent, but there was SO much to explore and 36 hours just wasn’t enough time to see all that the city had to offer. I will do my best to tell you exactly what we DID see, and do, and eat. Because we did a lot of it.
Where We Stayed
21 c Museum Hotel – 900 W Main St
This wasn’t my first time in the 21 c Museum Hotel franchise, but this was my first time staying in the one located in OKC. First impression? HOLY BRIGHT ROOMS BATMAN!!! This room was HUGE and bright, and it was a pleasure to rest in while we were in town. The building is the former home of the Ford Motor Company assembly plant, and the way that they have renovated it is amazing. While on the phone with Mr. Houseful, I had to explain just how wide the hallways were, because – space. There was no standing in the middle of the hall and being able to touch both walls here. You could have a party in the hallway. I’m not even joking. For those of us who appreciate not hearing what other folks are doing in their hotel rooms, this is a HUGE deal.
If you couldn’t tell by the name of the hotel, it’s also a museum. Various art exhibitions are available to check out every day of the year. Best part about it? It’s free and open to the public.
Much more than just a place to spend the night, 21c is an inventive union of genuine hospitality, thoughtful design and culinary creativity – all anchored by a multi-venue contemporary art museum with thought-provoking exhibitions, interactive site-specific art installations and a full roster of cultural programming. 21c Oklahoma City boasts more than 14,000 square feet of exhibition space. Galleries are open every day and exhibitions rotate, so make plans to visit often.
Few things to remember. In our standard room, there was no refrigerator or microwave, so if you’re that type of traveler, this is your heads up. However, the tub is a soaker tub and phenomenal for getting rid of those aches and pains from sitting in a car or on a plane for several hours.
There is ample self-parking around the hotel, or you could use valet. Either way, your car will be safe.
Where We Ate
Cheever’s Cafe – 2409 N Hudson Ave $$
Described as an elegant bistro offering upscale Southwestern & Southern cuisine plus cocktails & wines, Cheever’s has
Hatch – Early Mood Food – Buick Building, 1101 N Broadway Ave $
Breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day, and the one we often eat whenever we check out a restaurant. Hatch was a suggestion of the OKC Tourism Bureau, and I’m glad that we decided to check it out. I was told to order their famous PanOKcake – made with sweet cream batter, bacon local pecans, bourbon maple glaze & marscapone butter. The pancake was fluffy, and the addition of the pecans were just right to get me ready for our day exploring. Because I can’t NOT be me when I go out, I did order a side of avocado, which was a bit steep at three bucks for half. Still tasty though. The kids enjoyed their breakfast with the signature hash brown tumblers. I’d return in a hot minute JUST for the ambiance.
While you’re there, you’d want to go ahead and walk on over to the bathroom. Trust me. Like most of the buildings in OKC, it’s a renovated building, but this time, it’s the form of an auto dealer. Yep, the neighborhood we dined in was Automobile Alley, and as with our hotel – cars played an important role in the area. The building is the Buick Building, and there’s a sweet Buick sitting in the middle of the hall.
Where We Went
620 N. Harvey Avenue
Monday-Saturday 9 – 6pm Sunday 12 – 6pm
$15 adults $12 seniors (62+), Students, and Military (ID)
Children 5 and under free
To keep with our trip, we did make sure to see some places on Route 66 like the Gold Dome and the Milk Bottle Building as well as the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. One place that we visited that stuck with all of us was the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum which was created to honor those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. I was a freshman in high school when the bombing happened, and I remember the media frenzy that surrounded the entire tragedy, including the arrest of the domestic terrorists who carried out the bombing.
My daughters were very quiet while walking around the museum – which consists of three floors of artifacts and pieces of evidence. Jessica honed in on the loss of the lives of children, while Penelope chose to focus on the good that came from the event. Oklahomans banding together to help each other, and keep each other safe after the bombing. It was a time to focus on the good of humanity and what we can do as good stewards of the world. Zachary was another story. He heard museum, and had a bit of a time understanding the depth of what he was seeing.
I do think that children are able to come and visit, as long as an adult is along really explaining things on their level. Otherwise, they’ll just react the way that Zachary did, and see it as just another museum with things to look at. He wasn’t disrespectful, just not as serious as I thought he should have been. But maybe that’s the joy in being a kid. Being able to visit a space such as this and see it for what it is. A memorial for something that happened long before he was born, and still has no comprehension of. When discussing, he realized that life was lost, and that “it was a sad day, but we have the museum to help us remember not to be bad guys.”
I do have suggestions about what shouldn’t be missed, and that’s the entire outdoor memorial. It’s open 365 days a year, all day (24 hours) and charges no admission. You can view the Gates of Time which frame the Reflecting Pool which was once NW 5th Street. The lone Survival Tree is another point of interest and encourages a message of resolve as it’s almost 100 years old and still standing despite the blast. It symbolizes strength and resilience. There is also a survivor wall, and the field of empty chairs – arranged in 9 rows and
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday: Noon – 5:00 p.m.
Adults $12.50, Seniors (62+)/Students w/ID – $9.75, Children 6-12 $5.75
Children under 5 – free
When I discuss the nostalgia that Route 66 takes me on, the National Cowboy & Heritage Museum ranks highly. If you read my earlier post, you’d know that this trip is something that my grandfather would have loved to do with our family. He would have regaled us with stories of riding cross country on his motorcycle and all of the people he met as he crossed state lines.
When you first enter the museum, you are met with this wonderful sculpture. Recognized by many as the End of the Trail sculpture. Depicting a Native American on horseback it is a glorious sight to behold. If you travel, you’ll know that this isn’t the only spot you can see it, but it’s probably the closest you will get.
Choosing the latter option, Fraser replaced the buffalo shield that appeared in earlier versions of the piece with a medicine bag. Combined with the presence of a strong wind whisking behind the figure and his horse, these details represent the spiritual side of the Native people. Another prominent change made specifically for this piece was the removal of part of the buffalo hide robe, exposing the musculature of the figure and representing the strength of the Native American.
It’s quite interesting to me that this President happens to be the most recognizable one to my children – outside of
Something else I noticed about the museums in Oklahoma City, the outside is just as beautiful and interactive as the inside. The garden area of the Cowboy Museum is still full of history and facts, but with enough space to stretch your legs or let little ones get the wiggles out. It also provides great backdrops for dramatic posing.
The favorite space for the littles happened to be Prosperity Junction. The area is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town built in an area of the museum where a 40′ high ceiling allows two story structures. The Children’s Cowboy Corral was a close second. I happened to find the Western Performers exhibit to be my favorite. It’s a 4,000 square foot presentation that dives deeply into how the west was interpreted on screen and in literature. It also honors those Hollywood performers who helped secure the love of the west into the hearts of many. I was surprised that they even mentioned the roles that Native Americans played on screen and the erasure of them in later years.
The Cowboy Museum is directly on Route 66 and carried us out of the city into Arcadia, but it definitely left an imprint on my heart.
Have you been to Oklahoma City before? If so, share what you did, and where you went! We’re always looking for recommendations for when we return!