Oklahoma City: Recreation


Oklahoma City offers the visitor a full range of sights and activities. Frontier City Theme Park offers more than 50 acres of rides and western shows. The Oklahoma City Zoo, one of the top zoos in the nation, features more than 2,100 exotic species on 110 lushly-planted acres, including a children's zoo, and state-of-the-art primate and lion exhibits. The Oklahoma City Stockyards represents one of the largest cattle markets in the world. The State Capitol Building stands out as the only capitol with producing oil wells on the grounds, while Enterprise Square, U.S.A., explains America's free enterprise system and features a spacecraft landing. The Martin Park Nature Center offers self-guided trails, and its Garden Exhibition Building and Horticulture Gardens bloom with azaleas, roses, and orchids, and showcase collections of cacti and succulents. The Myriad Gardens features a unique 224-foot Crystal Bridge and a 17-acre outdoor park with a 1.5-acre sunken lake. Crystal Bridge, a seven-story enclosed botanical garden, displays an interesting array of more than 1,000 horticultural specimens from all over the world. The tropical atmosphere is enhanced by the roar of water cascading down a 35-foot waterfall. Kirkpatrick Planetarium at the Omniplex provides views of the heavens, and Celebration Station, a family amusement center, provides family fun.

Guided tours are offered at several attractions, including the Oklahoma Governor's Mansion, the Oklahoma State Capitol, and the Overholser Mansion, which was the first mansion in Oklahoma City.

For those who enjoy exploring on foot, Oklahoma City's Metro Concourse offers a unique way to see downtown. The concourse, an underground tunnel system connecting most of the downtown buildings, is lined with offices, restaurants, and shops. The renovated Bricktown historic site features shops, restaurants, and entertainment spots.

Arts and Culture

Oklahoma City provides year-around enjoyment for the visitor interested in arts and culture. In 2002, with the success of a $40 million Legacy Campaign that included a $14.5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in the Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center opened. This 3-story, 110,000 square foot facility features 15 galleries, 3 education rooms, a library/resource center, a store, a cafe, and the 252-seat Noble Theatre. Since relocating to its new facility, the Museum hosts approximately 100,000 visitors annually and has tripled its membership and increased its staff from 8 people in 1994 to over 60 at present. The Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums for 28 years and houses an extensive permanent collection of European, Asian, and American art, featuring such artists as Pierre Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, Maurice de Vlaminck, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Moran, Robert Henri, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and Frank Stella. The Museum also owns the largest, most comprehensive collection of Chihuly glass in the world, including a 55 foot tall tower, commissioned for the atrium of the new facility in memory of Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick.

Civic Center Music Hall is home to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs classical and pop music; a professional ballet company, Ballet Oklahoma, with an October through April season; and the Canterbury Choral Society, a 140-voice chorus that performs the major choral masterworks with full orchestral accompaniment during its 3-concert series. The Prairie Dance Theatre performs three times annually (in February, May, and November) and tours throughout the remainder of the year in nine states. Musical theater is performed by the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Opera and Music Theatre, and the Oklahoma Opry.

A variety of works from contemporary playwrights is presented by the Carpenter Square Theatre, and African American productions are offered by the Black Liberated Arts Center. Oklahoma City's oldest community theater, the Jewel Box Theatre, offers performances from August through May.

Many other Oklahoma City area's museums and galleries display a wide variety of art and artifacts. The 1889 Harn Museum and William Fremont Harn Gardens commemorate the land run of 1889 with a restored homestead. Objects and equipment unique to Oklahoma's citizen soldiers from past to present are exhibited at the Forty-Fifth Infantry Division Museum. The history of Oklahoma from prehistoric times to the present is preserved at the State Museum of History.

The Omniplex, a cultural, educational, and recreational center with craft and zoological exhibits, maintains three art galleries featuring African, Native American, and Japanese art. The center also houses the Air Space Museum, which documents Oklahoma's contributions to aviation; the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, which displays photographic prints from around the world; and the Kirkpatric Science Museum, a blend of science exhibits, shows, and displays.

Art and cultural materials representing several Native American tribes are highlighted at the Red Earth Indian Center. The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center showcases a collection of fine western art by Frederick Remington, Charles Russell, and others, and portraits of western television and movie stars; each June the museum hosts its annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition to showcase the work of the country's finest contemporary western artists. Approximately 300 works of art, by more than 100 artists, are featured in the exhibition. The history of softball is the focus of the National Softball Hall of Fame, which also includes a softball library and research center. Turn-of-the-century fire engines are displayed at the Oklahoma Firefighters Museum.

Festivals and Holidays

A variety of annual events are held in Oklahoma City, and horses are a prime attraction. Each January the International Finals Rodeo brings the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls in for the Professional Rodeo Association's season finale. The March Oklahoma Youth Expo has more than 5,000 animals for competition and auction. In April the OKC Centennial Horse Show at State Fair Park features Morgans, Arabians, National Show Horses, American Saddlebreds, and a Hack-ney/Harness division. Designated as one of the top outdoor festivals in the United States, the Oklahoma City Spring Festival of the Arts at Myriad Gardens and Festival Plaza displays works of art from across the nation in downtown Oklahoma City. In June, Red Earth at the Myriad Convention Center attracts thousands of Native Americans, who display their heritage and culture through artwork, crafts, and traditional and modern dancing. Aerospace America, held each June at Will Rogers Airport, features a mix of aerobatic acts, military aircraft, and displays. Held during mid-September, the State Fair of Oklahoma is one of the largest in the country. Festivities vary from celebrity shows and carnival activities to livestock, arts and crafts, and home economics exhibits. Also in September, Septemberfest at the Governor's Mansion is a celebration of Oklahoma's heritage. The November World Championship Quarter Horse Show is the largest out-of-state visitor attraction held in Oklahoma City, with more than $1 million in prizes handed out over 15 days of competition. Opening Night in downtown Oklahoma City is an annual family New Year's Eve celebration with live country and rock music, magic shows, theater, and fireworks at midnight.

Sports for the Spectator

Oklahoma City is home to four professional sports teams. The Oklahoma RedHawks are a Triple A baseball farm team for the Texas Rangers who play their games at the Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark. Hockey action is the forte of the Oklahoma City Blazers, a Central Hockey League team, who play 35 home games per season before an average of 9,300 fans per game at the new Ford Center arena. The Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs, a professional arena football team, also play before packed crowds at the Ford Center. The University of Oklahoma Sooners is a member team of the Big Twelve football conference and compete in a wide variety of sports on campus in nearby Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners' football program is legendary and consistently ranks near the top of the NCAA's Division One.

Spectators enjoy auto racing at the Fairgrounds Speedway and parimutuel betting at Remington Park's $97 million racetrack. Oklahoma City is home to the Amateur Softball Association and the International Softball Federation, which govern the sport, maintain the National Softball Hall of Fame on 50th Street, and hold events such as the Women's College World Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Several national and international horse shows and competitions are held each year at State Fair Park, Lazy E Arena, and Heritage Place. The World Championship Quarter Horse Show is held in November at the State Fair Arena and the International Finals Rodeo takes place in January.

Sports for the Participant

Public recreation opportunities abound in and around Oklahoma City with its many municipal parks, swimming pools, picnic facilities, public and private golf courses, softball diamonds, soccer and baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, fitness trails, and recreation centers. The area's lakes offer boating, fishing, sailing, and water skiing. White Water, a 20-acre water park, provides a wave pool, rapids, and water slides. Lake Hefner is an excellent place for sailing and sailboat racing, and Bird watchers treasure its 17-mile shoreline for bird migrations that make this one of the best locations in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City Community College Aquatics Center has hosted the U.S. Olympic Festival and is open to the public for classes, state and community competitions, and major national competitions.

Shopping and Dining

Just a block east of the Myriad Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City is Bricktown, Oklahoma City's newest entertainment, shopping, and dining district. Oklahoma City has four major enclosed shopping malls, each anchored by major department stores. They are Crossroads Mall, Northpark Mall, Penn Square Mall, and Quail Springs Mall. Upscale shopping is the attraction at 50 Penn Place and the Nichols Hills Plaza on Western Avenue. Sportsmen throughout the region come to the massive new Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World near the I-35 and I-40 Interchange. Choctaw Indian Trading Post features silver and turquoise jewelry, Indian paintings, Kachina dolls, rugs, and blankets. Shepler's Western Wear on W. Meridian is the world's largest western store and catalog, carrying a vast assortment of boots, jeans, shirts, and hats for the entire family, plus accessories and home decor. Fancy western wear can be found at Tener's Western Outfitters. The Spanish-style Paseo Artist District is the showcase for the works of Oklahoma artists and also features restaurants and shops. Shoppers can immerse themselves in western culture at Stockyards City, a National Register Historic District near downtown that features western shops, restaurants, art galleries, and crafters producing boots, spurs, hats, belt buckles the size of hubcaps, and other western gear.

Oklahoma City restaurants offer menus ranging from the city specialty—Oklahoma-raised beef—to French and Vietnamese cuisine. The specialty of the house at the city's oldest restaurant, Cattlemen's Café, is calves brains and eggs. Steaks and barbecue lead the way at Cimarron Steak House, Earl's Rib Palace, Murphy's Chop House, and Nikz high atop the United Founders Tower. Diners will also discover authentic Mexican food at Abuelo's, sushi at Sushi Neko, fine dining at the award-winning Mantel Wine Bar & Bistro, and Japanese fare Musashi's.

Visitor Information: Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau, 189 W. Sheridan, Oklahoma City, OK 73102; telephone (405)297-8912; toll-free (800)225-5652; email okccvb@okccvb.org