Your comprehensive Tulsa travel guide
In his hit “Tulsa Time,” Don Williams sings about an Oklahoma native who chases his dreams to California. The man quickly realizes that the people in California “don’t need me in the movies” and that he’s “just a-wastin’ his time.” So he sets his watch back to Tulsa time and, presumably, heads home.
I don’t know if that song places Tulsa in the most favorable light. However, because COVID has resulted in so many canceled travel plans, it seems relatable! Who else has dreamed about a trip to DisneyLand or the beach only to realize that a simple weekend getaway might be more in the cards?
But don’t worry: There’s so much to do and experience in Tulsa that a road trip here won’t disappoint! Here are some of my top Tulsa travel tips.
Get Your Kicks
Tulsa has seen a lot of new development along Route 66 in the past couple of years, from neon signage to shopping opportunities!
- Mother Road Market has become a favorite foodie destination, housing multiple food vendors selling everything from homemade ice cream to Thai tacos. MRM offers covered patio seating and an easy online ordering service as well as curbside pickup. Next to the main food hall, you’ll find The Shops at Mother Road Market. These tiny retail spaces are packed with unique gift ideas. Browse an incredible selection of children’s books at Eleanor’s Bookshop, organic beauty products at Graham Collective or purchase homemade Mexican cookies at Felizsta!
- The Tulsa area is home to several landmarks, including the iconic Golden Driller and the Blue Whale of Catoosa. For a fun photo opp, don’t miss Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios, home to Buck Atom, Space Cowboy. Buck stands 21 feet tall, and, according to his official biography, was a rodeo cowboy before being beamed up onto an alien spacecraft in 1953. We’re glad he’s found his way back home to Route 66! Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios itself is a gift shop specializing in Route 66 memorabilia and is located inside a converted PEMCO gas station. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to book a stay at Buck’s Cosmic Crash Pad, an adorable Air BnB adjacent to the gift shop.
- Other can’t-miss Mother Road stops include the Decopolis DISCOVITORIUM. You’ll find plenty of unique gifts for kids and adults, and the whole shop is designed to be an immersive experience. The “Mesmer Island” area houses dinosaurs and fossils, and even a dig site where kids can try their hand at identifying rocks and minerals! Another section of the store is designed to resemble an art deco-era main street, complete with a sweets counter selling old-fashioned candy! Next to Decopolis is The Sky Gallery, which sells local artwork from jewelry to fine art, woodwork and more.
- Mother Road Market, Buck Atom’s and Decopolis are all within a mile of one another. But if you have a train-loving family member, make sure to motor west to the Route 66 Historical Village. Here, you’ll find a restored Frisco 4500 Steam Engine, a 194-feet-high oil derrick, a replica of an early Phillips 66 gas station and more. If you’re hungry after all this exploration, head to Ollie’s Station Restaurant. While the food is your typical diner fare, the entire restaurant is decorated with model trains, old train signage, etc. There are even working tracks that run along the ceiling!
- Oklahoma Aquarium has made its mark for having the world’s largest collection of bull sharks. But besides the eerie shark tunnel, there is a ton to sea (get it?!) at the aquarium! The newest exhibit, Secret World of the Octopus, has a cool steampunk vibe and gives a 360-view of the Aquarium’s giant Pacific octopus. Other recent additions include the Polynesian Reef, Sea Turtle Island and an outdoor, aquatic-themed playground.
- The gorgeous Philbrook Museum is easily accessible in midtown Tulsa. Even if you don’t feel comfortable visiting an indoor attraction during the pandemic, a family could spend a few hours just enjoying the gardens! Admission on Fridays after 5 p.m. is just $5, and the museum frequently hosts family-friendly events outdoors, such as storytimes and sing-alongs. Philbrook’s newest exhibition, From the Limitations of Now, opens March 14 and features the work of local and national artists spread throughout the villa. The work will “reflect on the violence of American history, the power of ancestors who worked in the face of violence to forge a more just world, and speculate on visions of a future that is still yet to be.”
- No list of Tulsa attractions would be complete without a mention of Gathering Place, which won “Best New Attraction” in USA Today’s 2018 10Best contest. The 5-acre Chapman Adventure Playground, with its towering climbing structures and whimsical elements (like my favorite, the banana slide!), probably could have won Best New Attraction all on its own! But beyond this, there are beautiful walking trails surrounded by native flora, relaxing seating areas along the pond, indoor exhibition Cabinet of Wonders and more.
- Other top local attractions include Gilcrease Museum, which also resides on some beautiful grounds you can visit for free; Discovery Lab, the local science museum and the Tulsa Zoo. Tulsa Zoo’s newest addition is the impressive “Behaving Like Animals” playground. This colorful space encourages kids to think about animal behavior and to imitate it (in an appropriate way!) through climbing elements, swings – all your classic playground equipment, but reimagined in a totally unique way!
Head to the Sticks
- If you want to spend some time in nature, Tulsa has several fantastic options. Turkey Mountain has several color-coded trails ranging in length and difficulty. Whichever route you take, you’ll be able to enjoy the natural beauty of this “urban wilderness.”
- Oxley Nature Center is known for having wide, flat trails perfect for a family hike. Wear sturdy shoes if it’s rained lately because those trails can get muddy! The trails at Oxley wind through several different types of terrain, including marsh and grassland. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as herons, beavers, turtles and deer.
- Keystone Ancient Forest in Sand Springs is home to centuries-old cedar and post oak trees. Washington Irving traveled this area back in 1832 and wrote about it in his book A Tour on the Prairies. The trails are difficult enough that the park website recommends visiting hikers be in fourth grade or older. Entry is free, and the forest is open for hiking Thursday through Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Finally, Tulsa Botanic Garden is a particularly vibrant place to visit in the spring! Each year, TBG gardeners plant thousands of tulip bulbs in the Tandy Floral Terrace Garden, and residents eagerly await their blooming. In addition, children will love the Children’s Discovery Garden, home to the friendly Spring Giant and other critters. Plus, families can hike the 1.5-mile Cross Timbers Trail for a “wilder” nature experience.
For any of these attractions, visit websites in advance for the latest information about their COVID safety policies. Many popular attractions currently require advance, timed tickets. You can also find the City of Tulsa’s COVID-19 resource center at cityoftulsa.org/covid-19 if you are curious about local safety measures.
Finally, if you’re looking for kid-friendly fun, visit TulsaKids Magazine’s calendar to find plenty of free or low-cost events in the area.
Enjoy your visit!
- Eleanor’s Bookshop, 1102 S. Lewis Ave., Ste. D
- Fulton Street Books and Coffee, 210 W. Latimer St.
- Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market, 8210 S. Harvard Ave.
- Magic City Books, 221 E. Archer St.
- Whitty Books, 2407 E. Admiral Blvd.
Children’s Boutiques and Toys
- Lolly Garden, 2046 Utica Square
- Kathleen’s Kids, 8212 S. Harvard Ave.
- Kiddlestix Toys, 3815 S. Harvard Ave.
- Learning Express Toys, 7891 E. 108th St.
- Tulsa Toy Depot, 10114 S. Sheridan Rd.
Shopping Malls and Districts
- Brookside, Peoria Ave. between 31st and 41st Streets
- Cherry Street, 15th St. between Peoria and Utica Ave.
- Kendall Whittier, Admiral and Lewis Ave.
- The Tulsa Arts District, downtown Tulsa
- Utica Square, 21st and Utica Ave.
- Woodland Hills Mall, 7021 S. Memorial Ave.
- Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge, 10 N. Greenwood Ave. S101
- Chimera Café, 212 N. Main St.
- Topeca Coffee, multiple locations
- Triangle Coffee, 314 S. Cincinnati Ave.
- The Coffee House on Cherry Street, 1502 E. 15th St.
- Vintage Key Coffee, 111 E. Main St., Jenks,
- Antoinette Baking Co., 207 N. Main St.
- Common Tart, 1717 E. 17th St.
- Cricket & Fig Chocolate, 5800 S. Lewis Ave. Suite 131
- Frio’s Gourmet Pops, 105 N. Greenwood Ave.
- Glacier Confection, multiple locations
- OK Cookie Momster, 3324 E. 31st St.
- Pancho Anaya Bakery, Multiple Locations
- Rose Rock Microcreamery, 502 E. 3rd St.
- Cabin Boys Brewery, 1717 E. 7th St.
- Nothing’s Left Brewing Co., 1502 E. 6th St.
- Pearl Beach Brew Pub, 418 S. Peoria Ave., pearlbeachbrewpub.com
- The Tap Room, Marshall Brewing Company, 1742 E. 6th St.
- Welltown Brewing, 114 W. Archer St.
- Andolini’s Pizza, Multiple Locations
- Blue Moon Café, 3512 S. Peoria Ave.
- Kilkenny’s Irish Pub, 1413 E. 15th St.
- Lone Wolf Banh Mi, Multiple Locations
- Mother Road Market, 1124 S. Lewis Ave.
- Queenie’s, 1816 Utica Square
- Roka, 1616 S. Utica Ave.
- Ron’s Hamburgers & Chili, Multiple Locations
- Ambassador Hotel Tulsa, 1324 S. Main St.
- Best Western Plus Downtown Tulsa/Route 66 Hotel, 707 S. Houston Ave.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, 111 N. Main St.
- Hotel Indigo, 121 S. Elgin Ave.
- POSTOAK Lodge & Retreat, 5323 W. 31st St.
- The Campbell Hotel, 2636 E. 11th St.
- The Mayo Hotel, 115 W. 5th St.
- Tulsa Club Hotel, 115 E. 5th St.