A recent weekend tennis tournament gave my family the opportunity to visit Duncan, about 80 miles southwest of the Metro. The downtime between our son’s matches gave me a chance to explore the area for daytrip activities. Established along the famous Chisholm Trail, Duncan has the bragging rights to an award-winning interactive museum celebrating this cattle drive and trader trail.
The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
The day we visited was a typical hot and muggy Oklahoma summer day. The coolness of the Heritage Center was a welcome relief. Leah Mulkey, the museum’s Education Coordinator/Office Manager, was kind enough to give me a personal tour. The multi-sensory Chisholm Trail Experience Theatre, where visitors see, hear, feel and smell the trail-drive adventure (rain and all), added to my relief from the heat. What an illustrative and informative way to learn about life on the cattle drive trail.
Recently named as one of the top ten Western museums in America by True West Magazine, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center includes the Garis Gallery of the American West and interactive displays that will keep the kids interested for hours. A video game where participants test their skills at rounding up longhorn cattle, an old country store, branding stamps, life-sized talking figures all help to make this heritage center a unique (and cool) way to learn about history and life on the Chisholm and other cattle drive trails. A gift shop provides an opportunity to take some of this trail history home.
The museum is located at 1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway. Open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm. Admission $6 for adults, $4 children age 4-17 ($17 for families of four), $5 for seniors. Discounts are available for tour and school groups with advanced notification.
Western Spirit Celebration
The family-friendly annual Western Spirit Celebration is the perfect time to experience the Heritage Center. The event will kick off Friday, September 18, when Buffalo Soldier re-enactors and real cowboys lead a herd of longhorn cattle onto the property, where they will remain for the event. A performance by nationally-recognized singer/songwriter Dan Roberts will be held in the Simmons Center next door. The weekend Celebration is packed with a variety of western-themed activities and fun for all ages.
Admission to the Celebration and museum is free during the weekend with the exception of the Dan Roberts performance on Friday and the chuck-wagon feed tickets. For more information about the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center or the Western Spirit Celebration, contact Leah Mulkey at Trail Heritage Center website at OnTheChisholmTrail.com. Other Duncan Activities:
Other ways to beat the heat include visiting any one of Duncan’s five lakes: Clear Creek, Duncan, Lake Fuqua, Lake Humphreys or Shady Oaks at Duncan Lake. All have camping facilities and standard lake recreation. Located next to Duncan Lake, The Big Oaks Stables rents horses by the hour. Horse trails surround the lake. For more information, contact the stables at 580-255-2613.
KiddieLand Park is operated by the local Kiwanis, providing rides for the youngest ones. Open during the summer, Thursday-Sunday 7-9pm (an hour later on Friday and Saturday), weather permitting. Fuqua Park at Beech and N Hwy 81. 580-252-8215.
The Stephens County Museum (next to KiddieLand Park) is a free museum includes county artifacts and photograph display dating back to 1892, a replica sod/log home, and antiques. Open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 1-5pm. 800-782-7167.
Dining and Hotels
Duncan has delicious options for lunch and dinner.
• The Merchant Eatery, Deli and Coffee House (926 W Main). A small but inviting eatery offers unique sandwiches (served with movie theatre style popcorn, not chips), soups, salads and desserts. Open Monday-Friday 9am-3pm. 580-475-0881.
• 360 Bistro (1206 N Hwy 81, Suite 51A). Don’t let the outside fool you. This restaurant is bigger and aesthetically pleasing on the inside. The menu is pleasing as well with appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks and Italian specialties including pizza. Open daily 11am-9pm., Friday-Saturday until 10pm. 580-470-9393.
• Eduardo’s (1304 N Hwy 81) offers great Tex-Mex food. Open daily 11am–10pm, Friday-Saturday until 11pm. 580-255-0781.
Planning to spend the night? Call ahead for reservations at one of these locations:
• Chisholm Suites Hotel (1206 N. Hwy 81); 580-255-0551.
• Hampton Inn and Suites (2301 N. Hwy 81); 580-255-1700.
• Holiday Inn (1015 N. Hwy 81); 580-252-1500.
For more information on Duncan, visit DuncanOK.org or call Lois Dawn Jones, Director of the Duncan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 800-782-7167.
Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband, Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh Corgi. Daughter, Megan, attends college in Stillwater.