If you are looking for a family getaway that’s not too far away but still seems like a real vacation, Woodward is just the place to go! From exploring caves to seeing an authentic sod house, you won’t find a more family-friendly way to make memories than this charming northwest Oklahoma town.
Crystal Beach Park
Woodward is a wonderful place for families because there is a wide variety of things to do and almost everything there is extremely affordable. For my kids, Crystal Beach Park (gowoodward.com/local-attractions/crystal-beach-park) was the highlight of the trip. This beautiful park is filled with trees and is a gathering place for the entire community. We saw families holding parties, having picnics and just enjoying the evening, but the park is large enough that it never seemed crowded.
My kids were immediately drawn to the unique play structures in the park, such as the giant climbing ropes (kind of like a ship’s rigging) and the hamster wheel. There are several different play areas throughout the park and they all have enough variety to be fun for toddlers and bigger kids alike.
If your children tire of playing on the playgrounds—which actually never happened with my kids!—there are several other attractions at the park that are sure to grab their interest. The Kiwanis run a train in the park each evening that’s only $1 per rider and is a great way to take a trip around the park. You can also tour the lake in the park on a paddle boat. If you prefer to stay on land, there is an 18 hole putt-putt golf course.
If you have the time, plan to spend a day at Crystal Beach because you’ll also want to check out the Crystal Beach Waterpark for a terrific way to stay cool during the hot summer afternoons. The main pool has a play structure and two large slides and also features a zero-grade entry. There are also deeper areas for bigger swimmers, but one of the things I love most about this pool is that the set up enables you to keep an eye on kids in both parts of the pool at the same time. If you have younger children, they’ll enjoy the shaded wading pool area, too.
Admission to the waterpark is extremely affordable, at just $5 for adults and $4 for ages 12 and under. If you need to eat while you’re there, the snack bar is stocked with yummy Dairy Queen goodies at affordable prices.
Grab a Bite
Once you’ve fully explored the park, there are several other great places in town you’ll want to visit. The downtown area boasts many shops and boutiques and is a nice place to spend some time. If you get hungry, try the Polly Anna Cafe (an old fashioned diner) or Cafe Eden, a quiet little sandwich shop with the most delicious paninis you’ll ever taste. When you’re planning your trip, check out the Woodward Theatre’s schedule (woodwardartstheatre.com) and see if anything will be playing in this beautifully restored theater while you’re in town.
Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum
Also in town, you don’t want to miss the Plains Indians & Pioneers Museum (www.pipm1.info). This museum tells the story of the settlement of northwest Oklahoma and the tribes who lived here before. Visitors might be familiar with some of the general information presented here, but the exhibits do an amazing job of telling stories about the town and its settlers that make the history come alive. You’ll leave wondering why you’ve never heard of Temple Houston before and identifying with stories from the 1947 Woodward tornado—the deadliest one in state history.
The museum also has a gallery with exhibits of an old fashioned bank, post office, doctor’s office, and other local businesses, as well as a fire house from nearby Fort Supply.
Boiling Springs State Park
Not far from downtown Woodward is Boiling Springs State Park (www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.672), one of the most beautiful parks in the state. Hike the meandering trails though the forest and be on the lookout for wildlife, because chances are good that you’ll spot a deer or other creature while you’re out. One of our favorite things from our hike was the log tepee located on the River Trail.
If you’ve worked up a sweat on the trails, cool off in the park pool, which features a large slide and a rock climbing wall. The park also has new playground equipment, too. If you enjoy camping, sites are available as well as RV hookups and cabins.
Woodward Elks Rodeo
Nearly 22,000 rodeo fans head to Woodward each July for the oldest professional rodeo in Oklahoma, the Woodward Elks Rodeo (www.woodwardelksrodeo.com). The rodeo features bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and children's activities. Be sure to catch the longhorn cattle drive through downtown, the parade, live music and more.
Not far from Woodward are some other sites you may want to see while you’re in the area. You can visit these venues on the way to or from town, or Woodward makes a great base if you want to take a day trip!
Just about half an hour from town is Alabaster Caverns State Park (www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.110), which features the world’s largest natural gypsum cave that is open for public tours. Tours of the cave leave every hour on the hour and it takes about 45 minutes to travel the 3/4 mile trail. The tour is a wonderful way to stay cool while taking in some absolutely amazing sights, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a bat or two. RV and tent camping is also available at the park if you want to extend your stay.
Little Sahara State Park & Sod House Museum
Just outside of Waynoka is Little Sahara State Park (www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.4581), which has over 1600 acres of ever-changing sand dunes that vary in height form 25 to 75 feet. This area is extremely popular with off-road vehicle enthusiasts, and if you’d like to give it a try, you can rent different types of vehicles at nearby Stewarts ATV & Buggy (www.stewartsatvandbuggy.com). If you’d just like to watch, be sure to visit the new observation tower, where visitors can use built-in binoculars (they even have child-sized ones!) to check out the action.
Just outside the small town of Aline is the Sod House Museum (www.okhistory.org/sites/sodhouse.php), which was built to preserve and display the only remaining sod house in the state that was built by a homesteader. Marshal McCully built the soddy in 1894 and lived in it until 1909, when he built a frame house and began to use the soddy for storage. The Oklahoma Historical Society acquired the building in the 1960s and built the museum around the sod house so visitors can tour it and see related items from the time period.
Woodward is just over two hours away so you can use your vacation time enjoying the sights instead of driving. Take I-40 west to Exit 108 for US-281 North and you’ll be there in no time. Happy travels!