Whether you’re a lifetime Oklahoma resident or a brand new transplant, these sights, flavors and experiences put you on the Okie path.
Who Is an Okie?
At the very least, “Okie” is a term used for a resident or native of Oklahoma, and during the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s, the name was actually an insult. When thousands of Oklahomans fled the state for California, outsiders gave them the nickname, which wasn’t meant to flatter.
However, later in the century, the meaning of the term Okie changed as Oklahomans began using the term as a badge of honor and symbol of the the state’s attitude and survival over adversity. In fact, former Governor Dewey Bartlett led a campaign in the 1960s to make the Okie badge popular.
Since then, those who live, thrive or are from Oklahoma call themselves Okies with pride. Why? Because of the unique history, attitudes, destinations and food that make up our great state.
While Oklahoma is filled with thousands of ways to nurture that inner Okie, we could only pick out a few. If you are a new Okie, we hope this leads to you embrace your new home with enthusiasm. If you are an established Okie, the list should remind you of some reasons to have pride in the nickname.
Nurturing Your Inner Okie
Tucked away among the modern buildings and highways of Oklahoma City is a piece of history come alive. Step back in time and see how life was lived in Oklahoma Territory, even before statehood, at the Harn Homestead and 89er’s Museum. Located in the middle of the metro, the Harn Homestead is a hands-on and minds-on experience spanning more than 100 years of Okie history.
Kids can explore the territorial-era farm, sit in a one-room school house, experience life as a Land Run farm family while learning about the brave men and women who faced a wild, untamed land to make a home for themselves.
“It’s a place where kids can go back in time to see what life was like on the frontier,” said Melissa Gregg, executive director. “The Harn House is an original piece of Land Run property, and walking around allows families to experience what life was like then. We have so many hands-on activities – including milking a model milk cow.”
THE DETAILS: 1721 N. Lincoln Blvd. Regular hours are 10am to 4pm, Monday-Friday. Summer hours are 9am to 2pm, Monday-Friday. Admission is $5 for ages 4-64, $4 for seniors and military with ID. Guided tours of the Harn House offered at 11am, 1:30pm and 3pm.
Remembrance and honor are also part of the Oklahoma spirit, and our state has seen its share of tragedies and victory over those tragedies.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum urges all Oklahomans—and visitors from all over the world—to never forget the terrible day when 169 people were killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The memorial and museum honors those who were killed, those who survived and those who were changed forever on April 19, 1995.
The museum reveals the fateful event, yet strives to inspire hope and healing through the recovery and lessons learned by all who were touched that day. The outdoor memorial includes 169 symbolic chairs representing the children and adults who lost their lives. More than 1.6 million visitors have walked through the museum to learn the story of Oklahoma’s loss and also of the stories of hope and healing.
The 50,000-square-foot interactive museum leads visitors through the morning of the bombing, the experiences of rescuers and survivors and the aftermath and healing Oklahomans endured. Children will walk away with the knowledge that although tragedy and violence happens, the world is filled with more good than bad.
THE DETAILS: 620 N. Harvey Ave. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and charges no admission. The Memorial Museum is open from 9am to 6pm Monday-Saturday and from 1pm to 6pm Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors over 62 and for military and students with a valid ID.
Native American history is an integral part of Oklahoma’s history and culture. From the heartbreak of the Trail of Tears to the rich traditions of Oklahoma’s tribes, our culture is heavily influenced by the American Indian way of life.
Celebrate the culture and history of Oklahoma’s Chickasaw people at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. The center offers theatrical environments, interactive media, a performance amphitheater, a research center, an exhibit center, the sky pavilion, a garden village and cafe that explore the Chickasaw culture.
Families visiting the award-winning museum and cultural center can learn about the traditions and story of the Chickasaw people at the Chikasha Poya Exhibit Center’s collections, classes, lessons and special events.
“For more than two decades, Chickasaw people shared their vision of what a cultural center should be,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. “This is truly a center of our living culture, because it is built on the ideas, imagination and creativity of Chickasaw people from all walks of life.”
Kids can wind through a historically-accurate replica of a Chickasaw village at the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village or wander through the Aaholiitobli’ Honor Garden, which honors the elders, warriors and leaders of the Chickasaw people.
THE DETAILS: 867 Cooper Memorial Rd., Sulphur, OK 73086. The center is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, and noon to 5pm Sunday. Chikasha Poya Exhibits and Anoli’ Theater Films: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, students and military; free for children under 12 and Chickasaw citizens (theater shows are $3 for children, $5 for citizens); Combo passes are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and military; $4 for children under 12.
Nurturing Your Okie Foodie
Ask most people in Oklahoma where the best fried chicken can be found, and more than likely you’ll hear “Eischen’s in Okarche.”
Touted as Oklahoma’s oldest bar, Eischen’s was originally a saloon opened in 1896 by Peter Eischen. Prohibition put a stop to Eischen’s operations for a while, but as soon as the fire water started flowing again, Nick and Jack Eischen, son and grandson of the original owner, reopened the famous bar and the legends continued.
While Eischen’s still serves adult beverages to this day from an antique, hand-carved Spanish-back bar, the family-friendly restaurant is known statewide for its fried chicken. When you order that juicy fried chicken, you can choose sides ranging from fried okra and chili to nachos, pickles and white bread.
“Eischen’s is crispy and tender, never over/under cooked. It’s all they do, and they’ve been doing it that way forever,” said Oklahoma City fan Kyle Golding.
Others claim that the legend of the restaurant and pub is what brings Okies from miles around.
“The food is awesome but it’s the laid back, fun environment! It’s a destination,” said Oklahoman Jessica Stiles.
True to the legend of being the “oldest bar in Oklahoma,” be aware that Eischen’s does not take credit or debit cards—only cash or checks, but they do have an ATM available on the premises.
THE DETAILS: 108 S. 2nd St., Okarche, OK 73762. The restaurant is open from 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday.
For a true taste of Oklahoma history, head to the Stockyards City District of Oklahoma City to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse for chicken fried steak, grilled beef perfection and the famous lamb fries.
Cattlemen’s Cafe opened in 1910 to feed cowboys and cattle haulers in the Stockyards City area, where two major meat processors had set up shop. The café was home to colorful characters and cowboy legends, but it changed hands so many times in poker games and other nefarious dealings that it became its own legend.
Gambler Hank Frey owned Cattlemen’s in 1945. When he was down on his luck at a smoky poker game, he put up Cattlemen’s in a game in which a local rancher, Gene Wade, was required to roll a “hard six,” or two threes.
One roll of the dice made Wade the new owner of the Cattlemen’s Restaurant, and today, the eatery maintains its original Wild West feel.
THE DETAILS: 1309 S. Agnew, (Stockyards City), Oklahoma City, OK, 73108. Open 6am to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, open to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Nurturing Your Okie Adventurer
Whether you like to hike, swim, camp or even rappel off high sandstone cliffs, you’ll find it all at Red Rock Canyon State Park near Hinton, Oklahoma. The park and campsites are located among the canyon walls and the park itself offers hiking trails, a fishing pond, playgrounds, picnic areas and steep canyon walls for rappelling and open exploration.
One of the trails, the Rough Horsetail Nature Trail, follows a gentle stream that winds through the north end of the canyon. The rough horsetail plant grows wild along the trail, which can be used to access the rough red stone at the top of the canyon. Summer isn’t the only time to have fun at Red Rock. In the fall, the foliage turns fire red, and in spring, wildflowers bloom throughout the area.
This canyon oasis has a long history for Oklahomans. Early Plains Indians wintered in the canyon, which protected them from high winds and bitterly-cold weather. The California Trail ran through the park as well, and the ruts made in sandstone by wagon trains traveling westward can still be seen. So strap on your hiking shoes and explore one of Oklahoma’s historic state parks.
THE DETAILS: 116 Red Rock Canyon Rd, Hinton, OK, 73047.
Route 66, America’s most beloved highway, runs through Oklahoma, the state that claims the longest section of the famous roadway. Filled with Americana attractions, historical museums and monuments to America’s past, a trip down Route 66 is sure to bring up the nostalgia of your inner Okie.
One of the most notable stops along our section of Route 66 includes the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, which features the world’s largest curio cabinet, full of items found on Route 66 throughout its history. For a bit of whimsy, follow the Mother Road to check out the
Totem Pole Park near Foyil and marvel at the world’s tallest concrete totem pole. The park also is home to the unique 11-sided Fiddle House.
Perhaps one of the most unique and iconic figures of Route 66 in Oklahoma is the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Sporting a baseball cap and big ol’ smile, the Blue Whale is a giant statue built in the 1970s at a local swimming hole. The jovial whale still attracts fans, and today, families can picnic at the attraction and snap a family photo in front of a Route 66 icon.
THE DETAILS: Take Exit 65 off I-40 in Clinton to arrive at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Totem Pole Park is located northeast of Claremore on Hwy 28A, four miles east of the Route 66 intersection in Foyil. The Blue Whale of Catoosa is located one mile north of Catoosa on Route 66 on the west side of the road.
Okies have a spiritual tie to the land, and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve is the heart of the majestic beauty of the red dirt state. Located on 59,000 protected acres, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge offers easy and challenging hikes, as well as up-close experiences with an ancient buffalo herd, elk, prairie dogs, deer and more.
Families can find abundant fun with activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, camping and rappelling. The Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center holds a wealth of wildlife exhibits and families can also schedule nature and wildlife tours.
THE DETAILS: From I-44, take Hwy 49 (exit 45) or, from Hwy 62, take Hwy 115 (Cache exit) north to the Refuge gate. Open daily from dawn to dusk.
Oklahoma has thousands of ways to embrace and celebrate the history, food, culture, music and art that makes the state unique. Whether traveling the Mother Road or indulging in an authentic cowboy meal, go out and discover your inner Okie.