My boys and I love to travel. We are always looking forward to our next big adventure, which typically consist of an international all-inclusive resort or a cruise so we can explore various destinations. We plan for our adventures years in advance. We have t-shirts made and have our swim gear on deck. This year we had a graduation cruise planned for my 18-year-old son. Due to Covid-19, we had to cancel. Of course, we were disappointed, but it prompted me to reflect on our staycations and how much joy they brought us.
In our day to day life, with work and school, I realized I did not truly know Oklahoma and what she had to offer. I have been living here most of my life and we have yet to establish a meaningful relationship. So, out of the blue, I decided to rent an RV and go on a road trip with my boys. This is a big deal because driving my car can be somewhat challenging to me! However, I was determined, and they were excited. We loaded up the RV and we were mesmerized to discover the hidden gems in our beautiful state.
Although I like to plan and have everything mapped out, one of the things I love about staycations and local road trips is that there is little planning needed; you can be spontaneous!
- Turner Falls is about an hour and thirty minutes away from Oklahoma City, in the Arbuckle Mountains on Honey Creek, and is one of Oklahoma’s tallest waterfalls, plunging 77 feet into a natural swim hole. Now to what we loved about Turner Falls. First, it is absolutely breathtaking. The waterfall cascading and glistening was mesmerizing. Second, the natural caves were very adventurous. We had a great time climbing the rocks to discover what were in the caves. Third, we felt like we were climbing the highway to heaven as we were determined to get to the rock castle. Fourth, I was particularly impressed with the sandy beach areas and shallow water areas that allowed me to sit in the water and catch the cool breeze while watching the boys have a blast. Lastly, the boys enjoyed the water slide. However, I was not as adventurous as them, as I did not go down the slide. But they went down several times and said they had an amazing time. I will take their word for it! Turner Falls also has a zipline and camping sites. It is a perfect quick, cheap, fun and memorable get away.
- Another one of our favorite jewels we discovered was in Mannford, Oklahoma. The fun and memories we had were totally unexpected. We ventured off to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park on Keystone Lake. We only had to drive roughly 24 miles to this adventure! Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park has camping sites for RVs and tents and they also have cabins to rent. Nevertheless, we just made it a day trip. The kids and I loved everything about it. We absolutely enjoyed what my children called the “obstacle course in the water.” The kids climbed and jumped their hearts out. They provide kayaks and paddleboards, which was an adventure in itself. We enjoyed their waterpark as well with several slides and pool basketball. We enjoyed being tourists in our own backyard.
- On our next adventure, we ended up at Natural Falls State Park. It was only an hour and 15-minute drive to Colcord Oklahoma, nestled near the Oklahoma/Arkansas border. The park was literally a stunning breath of fresh air. The spectacular 77-foot waterfall was calming and tranquil. The waterfall cascades through rock formations and allowed us to enjoy the serene ambiance. We admired the waterfall from a railed observation platform, and at the bottom of the fall we were able to sit on a bench to enjoy the scenic marvels of Green Country. The boys and I enjoyed the trails and the scenery. It was nice to enjoy each other and nature at peace. No electronics, just a mom pausing time with her boys.
- Since we were already at the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, we decided to venture out and drive 28 minutes to the Wild Wilderness Drive-through Safari. This detour was everything! We had an absolute blast with memories to last a lifetime. We totally did not expect animals to roam freely and greet us in our car. Yes, I said “in.” We had our windows down and before we knew it there was an ostrich’s whole head in the car. My middle son hollered, “Drive mom, drive,” as he franticly tried to roll up his window. My youngest son tried to have a conversation with the ostrich. I laughed so hard I was literally in tears. After we rolled up the windows, we enjoyed several animals up close and personal. It was educational and entertaining. A win-win for everyone. *Editor’s note – Wild Wilderness has closed. If you are looking for an animal adventure, check out this article about animal encounters in Oklahoma or visit another drive-thru safari like Arbuckle Wilderness Park.
I love my staycations and road trips with the boys. I have learned that it is not always about the destination. The adventure is in the journey. We don’t have to stick to a schedule, we save money on flights, there’s no airport drama and we can pack whatever we want.
Road trips don’t always have to be a cross country trip. Vacations don’t always have to be international. Adventure lies in the most unanticipated locales. Dare to explore your own back yard and see what jewels you may discover.
Dr. Tamecca Rogers is a resident of Tulsa and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Tulsa Technology Center, where she has worked for 10 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in business administration and a doctoral degree in educational leadership. Prior to her time at Tulsa Tech, Dr. Rogers served five years as a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy and a combined six years as a high school instructor and college enrollment counselor. She has also held adjunct professor positions at multiple post-secondary institutions. She is mom to three boys who love to discover adventure together.