The Perfect Two Day Oklahoma City Itinerary
February 12, 2020
Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma, and is historically known for its western and cowboy history and culture. While there are many western activities that can be done, Oklahoma City also has a great art scene, great food and a lot to offer for couples and families alike. Oklahoma City is only a three hour drive from Dallas, but often gets overlooked for more popular nearby cities like Austin. After living in Dallas, I feel that there is a bit of a negative stereotype of traveling to Oklahoma, but I was so impressed by everything Oklahoma City had to offer.
The 21C Museum Hotel currently has locations in nine US cities, all of which are an interesting intersection of a contemporary art museum and hotel. The lobby and surrounding space features local artists along with famous and current contemporary artists. Each location has their own colored penguin mascot. There are large human sized penguins that are scattered throughout the building, with their locations constantly being moved by guests and staff (In a different color for each location). It sounds creepy but I promise it’s fun.
The Oklahoma City 21C is located within a former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant and you really feel the industrial vibe throughout all of the details. It was beautifully done, I highly recommend this hotel for couples looking for something slightly higher end and unique.
We got free drink vouchers for signing up for the hotel's loyalty program and enjoyed looking at the art while we drank cocktails. I’ve visited the 21C in Cincinnati OH without staying there, but after my first stay at a 21C, I definitely want to stay a night at every single one.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is a must-see while you’re in town. It is a heavy place to visit, as it commemorates the victims and heroes involved in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The museum is very well done and you’ll learn a lot. Outside, the memorial has a large reflecting pond that is beautiful and moving. You can also admire the survivor tree outside, and an American elm tree that survived the blast and remains as a symbol of resistance. You will also see a beautiful ongoing remembrance of those who died in the bombing on a fence outside of the museum.
Historic Route 66 runs just north of Oklahoma City and there are a few nearby attractions that will make you feel nostalgic for the open road. Eat lunch at Pop’s Arcadia for burgers (there are veggie burger options too) and admire over 700 kinds of soda. They are all for sale, so perhaps you will leave with several. Pop’s was established in 2007 so it’s not exactly historic, but the huge, light-up soda bottle makes for a great photo opportunity.
Just a bit further east on Route 66, look for the Arcadia Round Barn. This structure, built in 1898, has a small museum and gift shop and is supposedly the only truly round barn in the United States.
Don’t plan to spend long at the Arcadia Round Barn, but when you’re on route 66, why not check out the quirky roadside attractions?
As you drive back into Oklahoma City, drive by the Milk Bottle Grocery, a historic building built in 1930 with a milk bottle on the roof. Interestingly, the milk bottle was never connected to the business of the place, it was rented separately for advertisements while the building has been home to a variety of businesses, from a realty office to a Vietnamese Sandwich shop.
After exploring Route 66, spend a couple hours at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. As someone who isn’t super interested in cowboys and western heritage, this museum really surprised me. It is large and has all different types of cowboy art, memorabilia and an interactive model of a western town. When we visited in early 2020, there was a great Andy Warhol exhibit there.
Check into 21C and explore the modern art museum on the ground floor. You can grab a drink at Mary Eddy's Kitchen x Lounge and carry it around while looking at the art. After enjoying happy hour, go to dinner at one of the many great restaurants in town. There are a lot of restaurants to choose from, but we decided to have dinner at Cheever’s Cafe. Cheever’s Cafe is located inside of what used to be a home with a flower shop. The storefront is a beautiful Deco style, and the restaurant is elegant and charming. I specifically went to try the vegetarian cauliflower bread pudding and it was delicious.
I’m still dreaming about the Cauliflower bread pudding, served with brussel sprouts, goat cheese and a delicious red pepper sauce.
Have breakfast around the corner from 21C at Stitch Cafe. This adorable restaurant is attached to a plant shop and has a large breakfast menu including bagels, breakfast tacos and Hand Tarts. Breakfast burritos are one of my favorite things and this one did not disappoint; stuffed with sweet potatoes, spinach and black beans with a side of breakfast potatoes. The decoration was beautiful and the service was fantastic.
Factory Obscura is full of interactive art, photo opportunities and even has a telephone to another state. The immersive experience is part of an Oklahoma City based art collective and they launched the permanent installation Mix-Tape in 2019. If you enjoy “touching the art,” this is the place to go. The experience is full of details and you would probably need to go many times to discover all of it. You can open the drawers and read a journal in a teenager’s bedroom, slide down a light-up, color-changing slide and walk through a tunnel made of books. There is something different in every nook and cranny in this place; it is honestly a bit overwhelming, but is definitely worth visiting. Nearby, also look for the Architectural DNA sculpture on NW 10th st, a suspended staircase that came from the Marion hotel across the street.
My favorite room was the first one that you enter into, an ethereal experience full of rainbow lit clouds, a disco ball and a cozy cushion to lay down on and drift into your imagination while staring up at the ceiling.
Check out Bricktown for an industrial-feeling area full of things to do including an arcade, mini golf and a water taxi that goes around the Bricktown Canal. The neighborhood is a great area to grab some lunch, have a drink at Bricktown Brewery, get a photo next to a mural or engage in some healthy competition over mini golf.
Another neighborhood to check out is the Paseo Arts District. Paseo has more of a bohemian feel as opposed to the sporty feeling in Bricktown. Here you will find adorable art galleries and boutiques that are perfect for a midday stroll. At night, there is a great mix of dive bars and cocktail lounges.
The Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 17-acre space that includes a greenhouse and urban park. At the gardens you can admire relaxing waterfalls and interactive water displays in the outdoor portion, or enter the beautiful Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory and discover endangered palm trees, a Japanese koi pond and much more. The large, glass, cylindrical greenhouse is a sight to behold and a feat of engineering in order to create the right environment for the rainforest portion of the gardens. It also has an LED lightshow at night.
If you are driving from Dallas like we did, stop at the Turner Falls Park on the way home. After driving down a flat highway with nothing but oil rigs and large fields, this hilly area right off the highway is a nice escape. The park has hiking trails, swimming holes and notably the highest waterfall in Oklahoma. Make sure to see the waterfall while you’re there, but you can also swim, hike and get some great views overlooking the hills of Oklahoma. There is also a Rock Castle near the waterfall which was built by a quirky professor who lived in it in the 1930’s. The structure has mostly crumbled away, is full of graffiti and not very well taken care of. I found it a little strange. Also note that in order to drive into most of the park, you’ll have to drive over a river. We were a bit nervous with a small car but it ended up being alright.
Note that the price to enter Turner Falls ranges widely between the summer and winter. When we went in March, it was $6 per person but in the summer, it is $16 a person and is a much more a crowded destination.
For more fun couples destinations that are close to Dallas, check out my blog on romantic trips for couples in North Texas and nearby.
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