Your Guide to a Fun Family Weekend in Tulsa
Looking for a weekend getaway that offers something for everyone in the family and won’t bust your budget? Head up the Turner Turnpike to Tulsa!
Tulsa has a rich history dating back to the first oil boom in the early 1900s. As wealthy businessmen moved to town, Tulsa became an amazing example of Art Deco architecture. The Tulsa
Historical Society is a wonderful place to visit to learn more about Tulsa’s history and they offer walking tours of the downtown area on the last Friday of each month. If you can’t make one of their tours, check out www.visittulsa.com and click on maps to print a self-guided walking tour.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Do you have nature lovers in your family? Tulsa has some gorgeous places to enjoy the outdoors. Oxley Nature Center, located in Mohawk Park, will always be one of my son’s favorite nature centers because of the deer we saw up close on our very first visit. There are almost nine miles of trails you can hike, and most of them are wheelchair and stroller friendly. The Interpretive Center is a great place to take a break after your hike to explore interactive exhibits about the area wildlife.
The River Parks are the best place in town if you enjoy spending time outdoors. Paved trails extend along the east bank of the Arkansas River (from 11th Street to 101st Street) with several playgrounds and splash pads along the way. Our favorite is the 41st Street Plaza, which has several fountains for splashing and a unique playground full of equipment that moves. My favorite thing about the area is that both of my children (3 and 8 years old) can entertain themselves for hours and everything is close enough that they can do what they want while I sit underneath one of the huge trees and keep an eye on both of them. This water area also stays open later in the season, which is great since we all know that Oklahoma’s summer weather can last well into the fall.
Watch Some Wildlife
The Tulsa Zoo is always a fun place to visit and it’s even better now with the addition of the Helmerich Sea Lion Cove. On Labor Day weekend, the zoo will be having an “Elebration,” a celebration of their elephants with different “missions” for guests to complete and earn their own elephant ears!
The Oklahoma Aquarium is the best attraction in the state to see aquatic animals of every shape and size. If you haven’t visited before, you definitely need to make time for it. Exhibits range from sea life to local rivers and lakes. Our favorite is Ozark Stream room, where you can get up close and personal with the otters. Several different areas have touch tanks (free) or feeding tanks (for an extra cost) that are great fun, too. If you visit before Labor Day, check out the aquarium website for a link to the Extreme Water Park on the aquarium grounds for a limited time.
Admire the Art
The Philbrook Museum of Art and Gilcrease Museum are well known for their wonderful and diverse collections and exhibits, but you may not be aware of all the programs they offer for families. On the second Saturday of each month, Philbrook admission is free and they offer free art projects for families. If you’re not able to make it then, enjoy scavenger hunts and activity backpacks tailored to specific parts of the museum available any time you visit. Don’t forget to sign your kids up for a MyMuseum program, where kids get a free art supply each month when they return with their MyMuseum kit. The gardens and outdoor sculptures are enjoyable throughout the year. There are many steps, which can make strollers or wheelchairs challenging, but there are ramps in most parts to allow everyone to explore.
Gilcrease offers free admission to all visitors on the first Tuesday of each month and also has several family-friendly ways to explore the museum. You can check out a Trailblazer Bag, which has art and artist information and activities, or explore the collections with SmART Cards (which are like art-themed trading cards). There is also a terrific children’s room with many hands-on activities, art, and books. Photography is not allowed inside Gilcrease, so leave your camera behind and just enjoy the experience.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
If you have shopaholics in your family, Utica Square and Cherry Street offer interesting shops that you likely won’t find anywhere else. Utica Square has a mix of local and national retailers and several upscale restaurants. This beautiful shopping center also has different events throughout the year, such as the upcoming Art in the Square on Saturday, October 6 from 10am–5pm, where local artists will display their works along the sidewalks. The Cherry Street District has a variety of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, plus a great farmer’s market each Saturday morning through October.
Where to Stay
Our favorite place to stay in Tulsa is the Wyndham Hotel, home to Leapin’ Louie’s Lagoon, an indoor pool and play area with something from toddlers to big kids and an outdoor pool. The rooms are nice, the location is great and you are sure to have fun. The only tricky thing about this hotel is trying to get you kids out of the water to go tour Tulsa!
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 South Peoria
Admission $5 adults; $3 seniors; children and students free.
Oxley Nature Center
5701 East 36th Street North
Free admission; specific programs may have a small charge. Mohawk Park charges a $2 fee (cash only) per car on weekends and holidays April through October.
Tulsa River Parks
Riverside Drive from 11th Street to 101st Street
5701 East 36th Street North
Admission $8 adults; $6 seniors; $4 ages 3–11; age 2 & under free. Mohawk Park charges a $2 fee (cash only) per car on weekends and holidays April through October.
300 Aquarium Drive, Jenks
Admission $13.95 adults; $11.95 seniors & military; $9.95 ages 3–12; age 2 & under free.
Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S. Rockford Road
Admission $9 adults; $7 seniors; ages 18 & under free. Free admission for all visitors the second Saturday of each month.
1400 Gilcrease Museum Road
Admission $8 adults; $6 seniors & military; $5 college students; ages 18 & under free. Free admission for all visitors the first Tuesday of each month.
Utica and 21st Street
Cherry Street District
15th Street between Peoria and Utica
The Wyndham Hotel, Tulsa
10918 E. 41st Street
Jennifer Geary is a homeschooling mom from Broken Arrow, formerly of OKC, who loves to have adventures with her family. Read her blog at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/adventures-in-homeschooling.