12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Oklahoma City
State capital Oklahoma City is a bustling hub on the southern Great Plains, roughly in the center of the oil-rich state. Known as "The Big Friendly," the city was settled during the 1889 "Land Run," though Native Americans lived in the region long before. In 1995, the capital sadly became famous when a bomb attack claimed 168 lives. A national memorial now remembers the victims and survivors of that tragedy.
Many of the city's top tourist attractions are set in the historic former warehouse district of Bricktown. Museums, event venues, and restaurants create a picturesque neighborhood on the Bricktown Canal with its small water taxis. And for a true taste of ranchland life, you can plan your trip to catch a stockyard auction.
See also: Where to Stay in Oklahoma City
1 Oklahoma City National Memorial
This outdoor memorial is a tribute to the victims, survivors, rescuers, and others affected by the events of April 19, 1995, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed. The reflecting pool and field of empty chairs have become well-known symbols of the city, and visitors can walk through the solemn setting. To find out more about the tragedy, you can tour the exhibits at the nearby Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.
Address: 620 North Harvey Ave, Oklahoma City
2 Oklahoma City Zoo
In operation for more than a century, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden engages tourists and families with more than 500 animal species, including rhinos, gorillas, lions, and tigers. Throughout the grounds, you can also see impressive displays of plants from Oklahoma and around the world. Both kids and adults enjoy interactive experiences, such as lorikeet and giraffe feedings, sea lion shows, elephant demonstrations, a walk-through wallaby enclosure, and a stingray touch tank. Budding zoologists can also get up close to animals like grizzly bears and Asian elephants at special behind-the-scenes experiences. Boat and train rides provide adventurous ways to explore the expansive park grounds.
Address: 2101 NE 50th Street, Oklahoma City
3 Science Museum Oklahoma
Packed with interactive exhibits, Science Museum Oklahoma presents ever-changing displays of science-themed topics intended to engage, entertain, and educate. Though kids are the main audience, adults, too, love learning and exploring here. Step into a tornado simulator, build with giant Legos, invent and test your own creations, walk a tightrope, and even learn to ride a Segway. A theater and planetarium both present regular shows, and the expansive grounds are a lovely place for a picnic, with a Japanese garden, children's garden, and lawn games.
Address: 2100 NE 52nd Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
4 Oklahoma City Museum of Art
The core collection at this Oklahoma gallery focuses on 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, but visiting works widen the scope. Touring national and international exhibitions complement permanent displays, like the bright art-glass work of the Seattle-area's Dale Chihuly. Other featured artists in the permanent collection include luminaries like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Henry Moore. The museum also runs a popular film program.
Address: 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City
5 National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Also known as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, this large museum uncovers life in the Wild West with its large collections of historical materials, pictures, and sculptures. The Rodeo Hall of Fame features rodeo champions, but on-screen cowboys are also given a tip of the hat in their own hall of fame. Children can test the ranch-readiness of their skills in the Children's Cowboy Corral. To follow the cowboy theme, also plan a visit to the Oklahoma City Stockyards, where outdoor cattle pens fill for auctions every Monday and Tuesday.
Address: 1700 NE 63rd Street, Oklahoma City
A fantastic example of a successful urban renewal project, Bricktown is the city's premier entertainment hub. The once-abandoned red-brick warehouses are now converted into funky shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and attractions. In addition to enjoying all the fabulous shopping and dining opportunities, you can catch a baseball or basketball game at one of the sporting venues, attend a concert, see a movie, stroll along the river walk, or explore the American Banjo Museum. Narrated cruises and dinner cruises along the canal are other popular things to do here. Be sure to stop by the impressive Centennial Land Run Monument, which commemorates the state's heroic settlers. Bricktown also makes a great base for exploring the city, with plenty of hotels nearby.
7 Myriad Botanical Gardens
Covering 15 lush acres near the downtown center, Myriad Gardens is a wonderful spot for a quiet outdoor stroll amid flowerbeds and horticultural displays. Other features at these beautiful gardens are a children's playground, bubbling fountains, and jogging and walking paths. Even Fido is welcome at the off-leash dog park. After a walk, dine at the garden restaurant and patio, or go ice-skating at the wintertime Devon Ice Rink. Indoors, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory cultivates plants in hot-weather climates (both of the wet and dry varieties). The conservatory's acrylic panels allow plenty of Oklahoma sunshine to brighten the space. Admission fees apply to the conservatory, but the outdoor gardens are free.
Address: 301 West Reno, Oklahoma City
8 Museum of Osteology
If this tourist attraction seems unusual, it's because it is. The bones of hundreds of animals make up the displays at the only skeleton museum in the United States. Thoughtfully presented specimens span big mammals to small critters, from apes and kangaroos to snakes and penguins. Most of the specimens are in life-like poses, so you can see how the animals move. You can stand under a giraffe or elephant skeleton or see a sloth skeleton hanging from a tree. Fun activities like treasure hunts are geared towards curious kids.
Address: 10301 S. Sunnylane Road, Oklahoma City
9 Oklahoma History Center
The Smithsonian-affiliated Oklahoma History Center displays an astounding diversity of fascinating exhibits covering all facets of Oklahoma history. It's also a hub for archival and research materials. Exhibits cover everything from Native American history, pioneer life, and cowboys to the Crossroads of Commerce and even Oklahomans and Space. Excellent traveling exhibitions round out the collection, and plenty of interactive features keep little hands busy. The center also offers lovely views of the domed Capitol building from its galleries. Outside, you can explore botanical gardens and stroll among beautiful sculptures and native plants on the Red River Journey, a quarter-mile walking tour that conjures the diverse terrain of Oklahoma's Red River Valley.
Address: 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
10 45th Infantry Division Museum
The 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City is a must-see for military history buffs. It's located in the Lincoln Park Armory, which dates to 1937. Exhibits at the museum include uniforms and firearms displayed in an expansive facility that you can explore on a self-guided tour. The pieces tell the history of not only the 45th, established in 1920, but many worldwide conflicts. Perhaps most impressive are the dozens of military vehicles presented in a 15-acre outdoor park.
Address: 2145 NE 36th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
11 State Capitol
The seat of government for the state, the Oklahoma State Capitol building was designed and built between 1914 and 1917, though its grand central dome wasn't completed until 2002. The classic Greco-Roman structure has an Indiana limestone exterior and an Oklahoma pink and black granite base. Guided and self-guided tours are available daily. Government business keeps the campus a busy place. Currently, the building is undergoing a major restoration scheduled for completion by March 2019.
Address: 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
12 Overholser Mansion
Founder of Oklahoma City, Henry Overholser built the first grand home in the city, and the lovely 1903 structure still stands as the Overholser Mansion. The three-story French chateau-style house features English carpets, French stained glass, and Antwerp fine oak paneling. Visitors can walk through the furnished rooms. There are also tales of hauntings at the house.
Address: 405 NW 15th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Where to Stay in Oklahoma City for Sightseeing
To explore the sights, the best place to stay in Oklahoma City is the city center, where there are several upscale neighborhoods, including Bricktown and the Business District. This is also where many of the city's attractions are located. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: Built in 1912, the 12-story Colcord Hotel was Oklahoma's first skyscraper and today combines some of the original charms with updated, modern luxury. The hotel is centrally located near the Cox Convention Center and within walking distance of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The posh Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City, Autograph Collection is in a 1920s Art Deco building in Midtown, just a short stroll from the Bricktown Entertainment District. In a fabulous, historic landmark building, The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City was recently renovated and restored and has a great central location in the downtown area.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the heart of Bricktown, Homewood Suites by Hilton is an all-suite hotel with full kitchens, an indoor pool, fitness center, and business center. Nearby, the Aloft Oklahoma City Downtown Bricktown is a stylish, contemporary hotel with a small pool, large fitness center, and plenty of casual space for meeting other travelers. Near the Myriad Botanical Gardens, in the Business District, the Sheraton Oklahoma City is well positioned for sightseeing.
- Budget Hotels: True budget hotels are found a short distance from the city center. A 15-minute drive outside the downtown area, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, near the airport, is a great choice, with comfortable rooms and reasonable prices. Near the junction of I-35 and I-44, the Sleep Inn & Suites offers good value and is only about 15 minutes from downtown. South of the city center, off I-240, the Hampton Inn and Suites Oklahoma City-South features comfortable, spacious suites.
More Must-See Destinations near Oklahoma City
Oklahoma is the heartland of America, with charming small towns, as well as big-city bustle. About a 90-minute drive away from Oklahoma City, Tulsa lies on a legendary portion of Route 66. This iconic American driving route also runs through small towns and cities in Missouri, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. For more big-city excitement, Dallas lies about three hours south of Oklahoma City, and Wichita in Kansas is only 160 miles to the north, with a multitude of museums, shops, festivals, and fabulous restaurants.