What to Add to Your Oklahoma City Bucket List

I’m just going to get this out there. There’s a lot more to Oklahoma City than you think. As in, there’s more than tornadoes, the 1995 bombing, maybe OKC Thunder basketball.

It’s also a really big city, like 620 square miles, so you’ll definitely need more than a weekend to see and do and taste all you can and should in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

There’s sports and arts and food and culture. You definitely won’t be wondering what to do next in Oklahoma City (unless it’s simply because there’s too much to do).

Things to Do in Oklahoma City

If you’ve got Oklahoma City on your mind, here’s a bucket list just for you. How many items can you check off in one visit? Here’s the ultimate list of things to do in Oklahoma City.

Go Whitewater Rafting

Yes. Like world-class rafting on class III and IV rapids. It was definitely no theme park ride, like White Water Canyon at Kings Dominion.

No seat belts. No center bar to hold onto for dear life. The rafting at RIVERSPORT Rapids was every bit legit.

The rafting also wasn’t well outside of town. It was literally in downtown Oklahoma City on a man-made river that was once a ditch and now runs through town.

You will need to paddle (hard). You will get very wet. You may even fall out (I nearly did). But that’s what makes it so authentic and incredible.

I’ve been rafting in Colorado and West Virginia, so I had a general idea of what to expect. This was so much more. This was no theme park ride. No way.

Don’t leave Oklahoma City without rafting at RIVERSPORT Rapids. At the Boathouse District, you can also kayak rapids or flatwater, get high on a ropes course or fly 700 feet across the Oklahoma River on a zipline.

Take a Spin on the Ferris Wheel

Head to Wheeler Riverfront Plaza for a spin on the 100-foot-tall Wheeler Ferris Wheel. It’s cool on its own, but it’s even cooler to know that this Ferris Wheel once graced the Santa Monica Pier in California.

Okay, one more cool fact, the city bought the Ferris Wheel on eBay, then invested more than $1 million to refurb the Wheel.

Buy a single ride, a day pass or a season pass. Hang out on the massive green space in front of the Wheel in between rides. So relaxing.

There’s a snack bar there too, so you can buy water or soda, as well as chips, granola bars and candy. They even sell kites.

Snap an OKC Photo

On the grounds in front of the Wheeler Ferris Wheel, snap a photo or three of or with the massive white OKC letters that are just begging to be hashtagged (use #SeeOKC). You really can’t miss them.

You won’t be the only one in line for a photo. It’s definitely what you do when you find yourself at Wheeler Riverfront Plaza.

Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket for an afternoon snooze, then snap a few more photos of the OKC sign before you leave the grounds.

Pay Your Respects at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

I’d be remiss if I went any further without suggesting (mandating) a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which sits on the site of the 1995 bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

When I visited Oklahoma City, this well-known Oklahama City museum was my first stop on landing and picking up my rental car.

There are two components. Yes, a museum and a memorial. The museum is a privately-funded space dedicated to educating the public on the events that began the morning of April 19, 1995.

The museum also honors the 168 victims, including 19 children. Meanwhile, the outdoor memorial is a place of reflection that’s run by the National Park Service.

The museum takes visitors on a self-guided tour, telling the story of the events that shaped history in the minutes, hours, days and weeks following the bombing (and beyond).

Even the moments before the bombing took place, preserved in a tape recording of a water board meeting across the street that began just two minutes before the explosion.

Outside, a Reflecting Pool sits peacefully between the Gates of Time, representing one minute before and one minute after the bombing.

A Field of Empty Chairs symbolizes each of the victims that lost their lives that day, including 19 smaller chairs that represent the children whose lives were taken that morning.

Eat an Onion Burger at Tucker’s

So, it’s kind of a thing. It’s a thing that dates back to the 1920s when Oklahoma restaurants looked for ways to cut costs in order to stay alive during the Great Depression.

This led to pressing thinly sliced onions into beef before frying them up. This saved money on beef, but also added a tasty new level of deliciousness to the burgers.

Naturally, I had to stop for one at Tucker’s (and a chocolate milkshake too). I could have eaten two, but I knew that would lead to a food coma, so I had to call it a day with one.

Got a serious hunger? Try the triple-size Mother Trucker, a one-pound burger with all the fixins. It’s definitely one of the key things to do in Oklahoma City.

Related article: One Food Your Kids MUST Try in Every U.S. State.

Snap Photos of Murals Across Town

There’s a lot of colorful artwork across Oklahoma City as Kristin at Camels & Chocolate can attest first-hand. She did loads of homework and snapped photos of street art. Oklahoma City’s mural scene is on fire. It’s even at the airport.

I spotted some very cool murals in the Bricktown entertamant distrtict, a popular section due east of downtown Oklahoma City, but Kristin also found some fantastic murals near the Paseo Arts District and along Western Avenue. 

Related article: Austin with Kids: 5 Must-Do Activities (Murals, Junk, Food Trucks)

Get Schooled on the Banjo

Oklahoma City is home to the American Banjo Museum. Here you’ll find loads of exhibits across two floors that educate on the history of the banjo.

A special exhibit that ran through August 2019 featured one of the most famous banjo players – Kermit the Frog.

The exhibit is focused on the life and work of Muppets visionary, Jim Henson. You’ll find original artwork, rare photographs and pop culture artifacts.

As a bonus, the museum is next door to Exhibit C, a Chickasaw Nation-owned art gallery and gift shop that sells chocolates shaped like the state of Oklahoma.

Explore the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum features more than 28,000 cultural and historical artifacts of great significance of the American West to our nation’s history.

A range of rotating exhibits at this Oklahoma City are dedicated to western heritage ensure there’s always more to learn and experience upon each museum visit.

Colors of Clay, a colorful exhibit dedicated to the cultural and religious diversity of indigenous ceramic vessel traditions, is on display through May 10, 2020.

Caballeros y Vaqueros is an exhibit tracing the roots of the iconic Western cowboy from Africa, through Spain, then on to the New World (through January 5, 2020).

Walk Myriad Botanical Gardens

There’s nothing as relaxing as a walk on the grounds of the city’s colorful botanical garden.

This 15-acre green space is a delightful urban escape complete with a children’s garden and playground, a carousel, an off-leash dog park, ornamental botanical gardens and splashy water features for children.

In the center of Myriad Botanical Gardens is Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, which is home to thousands of tropical and desert plants.

It’s free to walk the grounds, but it’s $8/adult and $5/child to enter and explore the indoor conservatory.

Get Versed on Oklahoma’s Military History

There’s a lot to learn about military history in the State of Oklahoma at the 45th Infantry Division Museum, the nation’s largest indoor/outdoor military history museum.

It’s also a state-run museum, so admission is free (woo-hoo, wallet-friendly).

Here you’ll find all kinds of displays, including military artifacts through Desert Storm.

You’ll also be able to see the third-largest collection of historic U.S. military firearms and the world’s largest assembling of items once owned by Adolf Hitler.

As you can imagine, it’s quite a museum. Plan wisely, the museum is closed on Mondays.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Oklahoma has more driveable miles of Route 66 than any other state, and as good fortune would have it, the Mother Road goes right through Oklahoma City.

There are also more than a few gram-worthy stops to make, like Tucker’s Onion Burgers.

A few must-snaps include the Gold Dome Building and Milk Bottle Grocery, as well as the Round Barn and Pops 66 Soda Ranch (for more than 700 varieties of soda), both in Arcadia to the east.

Go west past Oklahoma for a stop in El Reno, home to three more restaurants serving up onion burgers, then move on to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.

Related article: Itinerary: Family Road Trip Across Arizona’s Route 66

Go Deep Into Oklahoma State History

At the Oklahoma History Center, you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the State of Oklahoma.

Situated on an 18-acre parcel across from the Governor’s mansion, the Oklahoma History Center is operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Numerous exhibits and collections educate visitors on all things Oklahoma.

Exhibits range from the struggle for equal rights in Oklahoma to the history of free enterprise in the Sooner State.

There’s even a colorful exhibit currently on display in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the debut of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.

Get Nachos at Iguana Mexican Grill

Okay, so maybe this is just for my bucket list, but the nachos topped with fajita chicken at Iguana Mexican Grill were insanely delicious. I was in town four days and I literally stopped here for nachos on three of the days.

Pop in Factory Obscura next door to Iguana Mexican Grill. It’s a wildly colorful and wacky immersive art experience. Phase One is now open.

It’s also free and features King’s Mouth, which is described as an “immersive head trip fantasy experience.” In late-September, the full experience called Mix Tape at the Womb will open. An admission fee will apply.

Go Hiking at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

For a bonus bucket list idea, drive 90 minutes southwest to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Yes, there are mountains in Oklahoma. I was shocked too.

I hiked the six-mile Bison Trail. There were waterfalls, wildflowers and stunning views aplenty. Absolutely worth the drive out of town for much-needed self-care.

There are multiple trails at the wildlife refuge of varying lengths. On the Bison Trail, keep your eyes open for bison as you turn corners.

I saw plenty in the park, but none on the trail (though I could tell they were there in the not too distant past). So fabulous.

While in town, a couple of other notable things to do in Oklahoma City include the hands-on Science Museum Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Zoo, which is home to nearly 2,000 animal species and a massive botanical garden.

While in Oklahoma City, I stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel. It’s a hotel and a contemporary art museum.

It’s kind of a chain – a Midwest chain – with eight locations (OKC, Louisville, Nashville, Kansas City, etc). Three more are coming soon (Chicago, Des Moines, St. Louis).

Want to check out more hotels in Oklahoma City? Four-star review hotels start at $45 per night. Check out the latest hotel deals for your travel dates.

What’s on your Oklahoma City bucket list? Let me know in the comment section below.