About two hours east of Oklahoma City sits a quaint town with top-notch family attractions that beckon visitors for Christmas fun. Muskogee is the ideal day trip from the Oklahoma City metro and December is the perfect time for a visit.
Travel to this Oklahoma destination at night and you’ll likely see the town glowing with holiday lights before you even arrive! A top Christmas destination in Muskogee is Castle Christmas, a holiday celebration complete with lights, entertainers, visits with Santa and many other family-friendly activities. From Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve, The Castle of Muskogee (3400 W. Fern Mountain Rd., Muskogee) is transformed into a winter wonderland. The Castle is open from 6 to 10 p.m. for visitors to drive through Castleton Village, which is full of lights and holiday displays.
Additional activities taking place Dec. 4-7 and 11-31 include carriage rides, hayrides, camel and pony rides and Santa’s Workshop, where visitors can make an ornament. The light display is free (donations accepted) but there is a small cost for some of the holiday activities, so check the website for prices when planning a trip.
Another brilliant light display sits just minutes away at Honor Heights Park (W. Shawnee St. & N. 40th St., Muskogee). From Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, there are more than a million shimmering Christmas lights strung throughout the park. Scenic ponds and waterfalls beautifully reflect the twinkling lights in the impressive drive-through light show. Gates open each evening at 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
Muskogee visitors are in for much more than just some holiday lights, though. The town is home to Muskogee War Memorial Park (3500 Batfish Rd., Muskogee), which houses the USS Batfish. Launched in May 1943, this 311-foot submarine was responsible for sinking 14 enemy vessels during World War II, including three submarines. Visitors can take a step back in time as they enter the submarine and see where the men ate, slept and worked to win the war—all in extremely close quarters. Even for those not intimately acquainted with the history of the naval war, the glimpse into life on a submarine makes the historical facts seem much more personal as you think about what it would have been like for the men aboard.
Another unique and very special artifact at the park is the mast from the USS Oklahoma, which was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The park is also home to several other pieces of equipment such as torpedoes and cannons ranging from World War I to Vietnam. The museum on the grounds chronicles American military history and has several documentary clips for visitors to watch.
You don’t have to know much (if any) military history to enjoy your trip to the War Memorial Park, but there are some practical tips that will make your visit more enjoyable. First, know that you will be in some very small, tight spaces If you’re claustrophobic, you may want to enjoy the park but skip the interior tour. Also, wear good shoes and appropriate clothing. You’ll be climbing up and down some very steep steps and through tall doorways, so make sure you’re not going to get tangled or tripped. If you have little ones who can’t walk, you may want to have a way to wear or carry them safely so that your hands are free to hold onto railings. Finally, if you like to souvenir shop, bring a little extra cash because there are some fun goodies in the gift shop.
If your family enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, be sure to include some time at Greenleaf State Park (located just off OK-10 southeast of Muskogee) in your itinerary. Known as Oklahoma’s Family Fun Park, Greenleaf offers a wide variety of activities including boating, fishing, hiking and even paddle boating. The park also is home to a nature center and a park naturalist who offers programs on astronomy, nature hikes and storytelling.
Cabins, RV sites and tent sites are available for guests who wish to stay overnight. The park even has discounted rates during the week in the winter season. Even after Christmas, the park has plenty of family-friendly winter fun. On Jan. 1, enjoy a 1.5-mile New Year’s Day hike led by a naturalist. The hike encourages guests to start the year off with a healthy habit. Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Kids’ Fishing Pond.
On Jan. 9, the park will host a special Winter Waterfowl and Eagle Watch. Pack the binoculars and head out on tours at 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. These special events are free, but visitors should call 918-487-5196 in advance to make reservations. Even if the weather is mild, bring jackets as it can be pretty chilly near the water!
Muskogee is an easy drive from the Oklahoma City area; just head east on I-40 and then north on US-69 and you’ll be there in just about two hours. There’s so much fun to be had this season in Muskogee!