Oklahoma has a storied history of adventurers and innovators. Take some time this month and follow their path—over land and to the stars—with a trip out west. The towns of Elk City, Clinton and Weatherford all have chronicled the journeys of these brave Oklahomans in some unique and interesting formats that are both educational and entertaining.
While adults may be more interested in the history of the Mother Road (aka old Route 66), any child who has seen the popular animated movie “Cars” will understand how the historic road lost its luster when Interstate 40 was constructed. They may even want to watch the story of Lightning McQueen, Mack and Mater again before hitting the road.
Any of these venues would be a simple day trip, or you can make a bigger trip and see all the sites at once. After making the trip myself with my kids, ages 10 and 5, I can recommend driving out to Elk City first to get your biggest drive out of the way (about two hours from the metro), and then after that you will just have a short drive back to Clinton, then a short drive to Weatherford, then back to the metro. Since all of these towns are on I-40, you don’t have to worry about toll money. Fill up the gas tank and enjoy your trip down Oklahoma’s famed road!
Elk City is home to the National Route 66 & Transportation Museum, which details the stories of those who traveled America’s highway in the mid-twentieth century. As visitors stroll through the museum, they pass through the eight different states Route 66 traversed, and they’ll see some of the same things along the way, too! Vehicles, documents and other artifacts help bring visitors along for the ride. Children will love the chance to hop into a 1950s pink Cadillac and drive the Mother Road (via a simulation screen) or to take in part of a black and white movie at the mock drive-in theater.
The National Route 66 & Transportation Museum is part of Elk City’s Old Town Museum Complex, which invites visitors into the daily lives of early settlers in Western Oklahoma. The Old Town Museum exhibits display a variety of items used by pioneers and early townspeople along with memorabilia from some of Elk City’s most famous residents. Also in the museum complex are the Farm & Ranch Museum and the Blacksmith Museum, which both explain some of the details of farming life more clearly.
The National Route 66 & Transportation Museum
2717 W. 3rd St., Elk City
Adults, $5; ages 6-16, $4; under 5 are free
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located just across the street from the museum complex, Ackley Park (N. Pioneer Rd. & W. 3rd St., Elk City) is a great place to spend a little time before you hit the road again. There are covered picnic pavilions and play equipment for kids of all ages. During December weekends, the park opens its carousel to riders during the town’s Christmas in the Park celebration, which begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and continues through Jan. 1. Weekend visitors also can ride a double-decker bus through the park, purchase hot chocolate and visit Santa.
The Route 66 Museum in Clinton tells the story of the Mother Road through a variety of formats. The museum is divided into areas representing different decades and showing how Route 66 changed over those years, from its days as a dirt road to its major role in American history and beyond. It also shares the stories of the people who made Route 66 famous and who still work today to preserve the legacy of this great piece of history. Visitors are immersed in sights and sounds of the time with photos, videos and music, as well as expertly crafted displays of roadside attractions. There are plenty of chances for children to touch and pick up items, so don’t worry about your younger ones being bored! My 10-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed the Oregon Trail-type game where he was a traveler on Route 66 trying to make it to California with the few dollars he had from selling off his household items. My 5-year-old daughter loved the music that accompanied each section.
Route 66 Museum
2229 W. Gary Blvd., Clinton
Adults, $5; seniors, $4; students, $1; under 5 are free
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays during December and January, all state holidays and the first week of January.
If you’re looking for a unique way to keep your kids entertained and active during these cold months, head to the state’s only indoor water park, The Water Zoo, located just off I-40 in Clinton. Zoom down the multi-
story slides, jump the waves in the wave pool, or relax on the lazy river without a care about what the weather is like outside. For a fun local dining experience, head downtown to The Brick on 66 for some of the best pizza around. The restaurant closes from 2 to 5 p.m., so you need to watch the time if you’re planning on a late lunch, but you won’t be disappointed by the slight extra effort!
The Water Zoo
1900 Boulevard of Champions, Clinton
Hours of operation vary by season and holiday breaks. Check online calendar for hours.
The Brick on 66
116 S. 10th St., Clinton
Open daily 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
Weatherford is home to the Heartland of America Museum, which has preserved artifacts and memorabilia from the area from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Follow the footsteps of early western Oklahoma settlers as you pass through the many different displays of everything from children’s toys to household items to a veterinarian’s office and a general store. What makes the Heartland Museum stand out from other small historical museums is the wealth of information available to visitors about the items in the displays. Many of the areas also have numbers next to the items along with a key so moms and dads who are too young to have used these things themselves will be able to easily find out about them and share with their kids. This would be a great museum to visit with older family members, too, since they might be able to add some personal stories.
The Heartland of America Museum
1600 S. Frontage Rd., Weatherford
$6 adults; $2 ages 6-18; 5 and under are free
Open Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Stafford Air & Space Museum
Oklahomans also have blazed a path into space and at the Stafford Air & Space Museum you can follow along. The museum is named for General Thomas P. Stafford, a Weatherford native and NASA astronaut. Several of the exhibits are dedicated to General Stafford’s career and amazing accomplishments, including holding the world record for the highest speed ever attained by man! Many of Stafford’s own personal items are on display along with photos, videos and other artifacts.
The museum also has exhibits on the history of flight and space travel that are arranged chronologically so visitors can see the advancements made over time. There are many large items on display, such the Apollo Command and Service Module, rockets, aircraft and other large-scale models. Pick up a tour map when you enter the museum and watch for the numbered stars for more information on specific items. There are also opportunities for hands-on exploration throughout the museum that children will especially enjoy.
Stafford Air and Space Museum
3000 E. Logan Rd, Weatherford
Adults, $7; 55+, $5; students, $2; 5 and under are free
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Take a little extra time when you’re in Weatherford and eat at Lucille’s Roadhouse. Modeled after Lucille’s, the famed Route 66 attraction in Hydro, the “replica” Lucille’s features a variety of food at a good price in a fun atmosphere. Choose between the ‘50s diner or the steakhouse area, and either way, you won’t be disappointed.
1301 N. Airport Rd., Weatherford
Open Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.