Explore Tulsa with Kids



When I made my list of Oklahoma travel resolutions in January, there were some holes in my Oklahoma repertoire that seemed understandable, like the fact that I haven’t seen all 11 of Oklahoma’s eco regions. But what kind of travel-loving local has never explored Tulsa—one of the state’s two major metropolitan areas? As humbled as I am by this admission, I’m sure that I am not the only one who is Tulsa-deficient, so let’s plan our trip together. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Museums & Attractions

When I think of Tulsa, I think of the arts, so visiting one of the area’s two major museums tops my list. The Philbrook Museum of Art showcases a collection of American and European work within the halls of an historic estate built in 1927 by oilman Waite Phillips. The permanent exhibits are diverse and frequent visiting collections add to the museum’s broad appeal. The Philbrook offers Heyman Family Adventures in Art activities on Saturdays from 1-3pm—vist their website for a schedule of activities.

The Gilcrease Museum, also built with oil money, has a more Western focus and includes a large anthropology collection and archives of important American documents. In July the Gilcrease opens a new exhibit, 101 Ranch: The Real Wild West. It will feature over 3,000 items from one of America’s most profitable ranches which spun off a popular wild west show. Young cattle rustlers are sure to enjoy the exhibit, open through January 2009. The museum’s hands-on Family Art Workshops are held Saturdays from 10:30am-noon; online registration is
available.

If art gives your crew a case of ants-in-the-pants, the Oklahoma Aquarium and the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium are great options. The Oklahoma Aquarium is truly an impressive facility that will leave you in awe of nature’s diversity. Kids love the bull shark exhibit, the stingray petting area, and the new Hayes Family Ozark Stream, which features beavers and other river mammals.

Move from the deep blue sea into the wild blue yonder at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. Their aircraft displays and interactive exhibits include a robotic space shuttle arm and a wind tunnel. The brand new planetarium is state-of-the-art, pulling families into space with a domed screen that provides a three-dimensional viewing effect.

The Great Outdoors

As great as these attractions are, to say you’ve truly seen Tulsa (and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather) you’ve got to get outside. The Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum is another great choice for children. Besides the usual contingent of creatures, the zoo has a few animals you won’t see anywhere else in the state, such as a polar bear and penguins. Their educational areas include a replica of an African village, a collection of Oklahoma’s native flora and fauna, and the Helmerich Discovery Center, which is host to a number of interactive displays. The zoo’s Nature Exchange area invites children to bring in natural treasures which staff and volunteers examine. Budding naturalists are rewarded based on how much they can tell the staff about what they’ve found.

Cherry Street and Brookside are two of Tulsa’s best-known and most colorful areas filled with restaurants, quirky stores, and antique shops. Families with older kids might enjoy shopping the day away, but at night Brookside becomes a club-hopping district for adults. Both areas have farmers’ markets which kids may enjoy. If you’re having trouble building excitement around the idea of veggies, remember that farmers’ markets offer taste tests, live music, crafts, and a level of community interaction all their own.

The Linnaeus Teaching Gardens in Woodward Park offer another outdoor activity option. The volunteers who maintain the space are happy to share their knowledge about the vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants growing in the garden. The 45-acre park, with over 15,000 azaleas, is gorgeous this time of year.

Researching my Tulsa trip has given me a healthy case of spring fever! It seems like every corner of the city is ready to burst into bloom, and I’m ready to cross one more Oklahoma travel goal off my list.

Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S Rockford Rd
918-749-4941; Philbrook.org
General admission $9; children under 18 free. Free admission for everyone the second Saturday of each month through June.

Gilcrease Museum
1400 Gilcrease Museum Rd
918-596-2700; Gilcrease.org
$8/adults, $6/seniors & military, $5 students, 18 & under are free. Admission is free for everyone on the first Tuesday and thurd Sunday.

Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr, Jenks
918-296-FISH (3474); OKAquarium.org
Admission $15.95 for adults; $13.95 for seniors/military $11.95 ages 3-12.

Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
3624 N. 74th E. Ave
918-834-9900; TulsaAirAndSpaceMuseum.com
Basic admission $12 for adults; $10 for students/seniors/military, $7 for children ages 4-12 and includes one planetarium show.

Farmers’ Markets
Cherry Street Market (15th and Peoria) open Saturdays 7-11am beginning April 8. Brookside Market
(41st and Peoria) open Wednesdays 8am-noon beginning May 2.

Cherry Street area
7 block area of 15th Street between Peoria and Utica.

Brookside area
Peoria between 31st and 51st.

Linnaeus Teaching Gardens at Woodward Park
2435 S Peoria
918-746-5151; TulsaGardenCenter.com
Free admission.

Tulsa Parks
Find a list of parks and a schedule of classes and events at CityOfTulsa.org/Recreation/Parks.

Chelsey Simpson is an editor who lives in Edmond with her husband and her miniature schnauzer, Ellie.

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