Oklahoma City: Pioneering past meets modern metropolis in Oklahoma’s capital city

OKC Sign
OKC sign, Oklahoma City, Okla. Credit: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Oklahoma City (OKC) offers a spirit unlike any other destination. The city embraces its history and Western charm while also keeping on trend as a modern metropolis. Named one of the “50 Best Places to Travel in 2020” by Travel + Leisure, Oklahoma City welcomes groups with culture, cuisine and attractions.

Distinct districts

Oklahoma City is made up of 12 unique districts.

In Bricktown, a former warehouse district turned entertainment district, groups find plenty of restaurants and nightlife. Groups can hop aboard a Bricktown Water Taxi to cruise the mile-long Bricktown Canal.

Bricktown OKC
Bricktown, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Credit: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Boathouse District, located along the Oklahoma River, is the spot for outdoor recreation. It’s the official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for rowing and canoe/kayak. With a RIVERSPORT Adventure Park day pass, groups can enjoy canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. RIVERSPORT Rapids, a state-of-the-art whitewater rafting and kayaking facility, offers rafting and kayaking experiences for beginner and expert rafters.

Just west of the Boathouse District is the Wheeler District. There, groups can ride the former Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel, now called the Wheeler Ferris Wheel. The wheel overlooks the downtown skyline and stands 100 feet above the south bank of the Oklahoma River.

RIVERSPORT Rapids, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Credit: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Learn more about each district at visitokc.com.

Western culture

With world-class museums, festivals, working stockyards and horse shows, Oklahoma City is rich in authentic Western experiences.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has more than 28,000 Western and American Indian artworks and artifacts. Interactive galleries bring the history of the American cowboy, rodeos, Native American culture, Victorian firearms and Western performers to life.

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Credit: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

The museum’s group tour options are plentiful.

“There’s a variety of evening options that are perfect for groups at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, including a Date with the Duke, which is a private tour, dinner and John Wayne movie,” said Sandy Price, vice president of tourism at Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. “In March, the museum debuted the new educational experience, Liichokoshkomo’, which means ‘Let’s play’ in Chickasaw. It is perfect for kids and adults alike. Liichokoshkomo’ is an indoor/outdoor interactive cultural experience.”

At Stockyards City, a historic commercial district located just minutes from downtown , groups will find a variety of Western shops and Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Oklahoma City’s oldest continuously operated restaurant. Cattlemen’s is known for its perfectly aged steaks, its breakfasts and its coffee.

In the Choctaw language, Oklahoma means “Land of the Red People.” More than 39 tribal nations call the state home. Each June, representatives of more than 100 North American tribes gather in the city to share the diversity of their heritage during the annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival. The largest Native American event of its kind, the festival includes a parade, art market, dance competition, food and more.

Oklahoma City’s cultural offerings are every-changing.

“Coming May 2021, First Americans Museum will open at the crossroads of I-35 and I-40,” Price said. “Covering all 39 tribes of Oklahoma, the museum will showcase exhibitions in history, culture and art and will include a full-service restaurant presenting unique Native-inspired cuisine.”

OKC must-sees

A symbol of strength in the wake of unspeakable violence, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is an itinerary must. The memorial and museum 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. Even those who have visited before will find inspiration; the memorial recently underwent a $10 million renovation upgrading the museum with state-of-the-art technology, hands-on exhibits and new artifacts.

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Credit: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

“Group offerings at the Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum are one-of-a-kind, including a first-person stories of hope experience and an archives tour,” Price said. “The museum provides an uncover-discover STEM lab, discovering lessons learned from the Oklahoma City bombing.”

Other OKC group tour options include Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Myriad Botanical Gardens and Scissortail Park, just to name a few.

“The Group Tour Planner is available online for group tour operators at visitokc.com/groups,” Price said. “The Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau will help in itinerary planning and hotel leads.”

Food scene

OKC’s culinary scene appeals to the cravings of all visitors. Whether the group is looking for an upscale meal, a no-frills local favorite or something in between, Oklahoma City is known to serve up something tasty.

Many of OKC’s brick-and-mortar restaurants started out as food trucks. The city has become a hub for food truck activity, even hosting America’s biggest food truck event each year. More than 125 trucks deliver delicious dishes throughout the city. In the Midtown District, groups can check out Bleu Garten, an outdoor food truck park with covered seating and a state-of-the-art bar.

Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau