Travelin’ on Tulsa Time - MetroFamily Magazine
MetroFamily Magazine

Where OKC parents find fun & resources

Travelin’ on Tulsa Time

by Tara Rittler

Reading Time: 7 minutes 

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!

Top Picks

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

SHOPPING

Indie Bookstores

Children’s Boutiques and Toys

Shopping Malls and Districts

DINING

Coffee

Treats

Brews

Meals

SLEEPING

more stories