Tulsa: Recreation


Tulsa boasts one of the nation's largest city-owned parks, 2,800-acre Mohawk Park. Along with picnic and recreation areas, the park contains the Tulsa Zoological Park with its Nocturnal Animal Building, Chimpanzee Colony, Children's Zoo, and North American Living Museum showcasing Native American artifacts and replicas of dinosaurs. The Tulsa Zoo has emerged as one of the most impressive zoos in the region and was named "America's Favorite Zoo" by the Microsoft Corporation. The Tulsa Garden Center features beautiful dogwood and azalea plantings. Nearby is the award-winning Tulsa Rose Garden. Tulsa's oldest landmark is a tree, the Council Oak, which still stands in the Creek Nation Council Oak Park as a memorial to the Lachapokas and Tallassee Creek tribes, the first settlers of what later became Tulsa.

Industrial tours of Tulsa are offered by several facilities, including the Frankhoma Pottery Factory, which uses Oklahoma clay for its creations; the Sun Petroleum Products Company; and the American Airlines Maintenance Engineering Base, which overhauls and repairs aircraft. Sight-seers may also tour the campus of Oral Roberts University with its unique Prayer Tower.

Arts and Culture

Long known as a cultural center and leading the state in the number and quality of cultural events, Tulsa offers the visitor year-round entertainment. A blooming arts scene is happening in the new Greenwood Cultural Center in the historic Greenwood District. Stage performances, art galleries, and the annual Juneteenth Jazz Festival are part of this area's resurgence. In 2004 the county announced the purchase of the district's Tulsa Union Depot, an historic train station, as the new home of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. The Hall was created to educate the public about the significant contributions of Oklahoma's jazz musicians. During Greenwood's heyday, such notable jazz and blues performers as Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lionel Hampton, all visited Tulsa to play at white clubs and then jam afterwards with local musicians on Greenwood Avenue. For performances of theater, dance, and music, the six-level Performing Arts Center (or PAC), located in the Williams Center in downtown Tulsa, seats 2,400 people in its music hall and 450 people in the performing theater. Among groups and programs in residence are the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra, Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Philharmonic, Tulsa Town Hall, and the Broadway series. Ten miles from Tulsa is the Discoveryland! Outdoor Theater, which presents the popular musical classic "Oklahoma!" during the summer.

Among the many museums and galleries in the Tulsa area is the Thomas Gilcrease Museum, which features more than 10,000 works by American artists from colonial times to the present. The centerpiece is the country's most impressive collection of works by famous western artists such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and George Catlin, plus maps, manuscripts, rare books, and prehistoric and modern Indian artifacts. The Tulsa County Historical Society Museum displays photographs, rare books, furniture, and tools representative of Tulsa's early days. Objects of Jewish art, history, ceremony, and everyday life are presented at the Gershon and Rebecca Fenster Museum of Jewish Art. The Philbrook Museum of Art exhibits Chinese jades, paintings of the Italian Renaissance and of nineteenth-century England and America, plus Native American basketry, paintings, and pottery. The center is surrounded by several acres of formal gardens. The Alexandre Hogue Gallery of Art at Tulsa University showcases traveling art collections as well as works by local artists, including students and instructors. The Tulsa Air and Space Center museum promotes Tulsa's rich aviation history; the center planned to move into a brand new facility near the Tulsa Zoo and Mohawk Park in late 2005.

Arts and Culture Information: Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, 2210 S. Main, Tulsa, OK 74114; telephone (918)584-3333; email tulsaarts@mail.webtek.com

Festivals and Holidays

Mayfest, a celebration of spring held in late May, is Tulsa's most prominent downtown event. The festivities include arts, crafts, music, and food. In late May, the Gilcrease Rendezvous Fair at the Gilcrease Museum is patterned after long-ago fur-trading events. The Tulsa Powwow, one of the largest Native American powwows in the world, takes place in early June. Highlights include authentic arts and crafts plus ceremonial dances and fancy-dress competitions. Every June, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inducts new members into its ranks during the Juneteenth Heritage Festival on Greenwood Avenue. The yearly festival draws more than 50,000 people. The end of September brings the Tulsa State Fair; with more than 1 million fairgoers, it is one of the largest in the country. Other celebrations include the Tulsa Indian Arts Festival (February), the Boom River Celebration (4th of July), the Bok/Williams Jazz Festival (August), the Chili Cookoff/Bluegrass Festival (September), Oktoberfest, and the Christmas Parade of Lights.

Sports for the Spectator

Fans of professional sports will find the Double A Tulsa Drillers, a farm team of the Texas Rangers, rounding the bases from April through August at renovated Drillers Stadium, where a capacity of 10,997 makes it the largest Double A ballpark in the country. The Tulsa Talons have been playing professional arena football since 2000, and the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League take to the ice, both at the Tulsa Convention Center from November through March. In collegiate sports, the University of Tulsa fields Golden Hurricane football and basketball teams. The football season lasts from September through November and games are played at Skelly Stadium. Both the Golden Hurricane and the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles play basketball from November through March. The Oral Roberts University Lady Titans play baseball at the Mabee Center from mid-February to mid-May.

Tulsa's numerous equestrian events include the Longhorn Championship Rodeo, in which the top money-winners on the rodeo circuit compete. Tulsa also plays host to several prestigious golf tours and championships at its challenging Southern Hills Country Club, including the 2007 PGA championship. Other spectator sports include tennis and horse racing as well as stock-car races.

Sports for the Participant

Public recreation opportunities abound on and around the seven large lakes surrounding Tulsa. The area has become known locally as "Green Country," encompassing thousands of miles of shoreline on Grand Lake, Lake Eufala, Keystone Lake, Lake Tenkiller, and others. In the River Parks system along the Arkansas River in the heart of Tulsa, visitors can enjoy more than 50 miles of hiking/biking trails as well as picnic and playground areas. Mohawk Park offers bridle trails and a polo field. Other facilities include several golf courses, more than 100 tennis courts, several municipal swimming pools, Bell's Amusement Park, and Big Splash Water Park.

Shopping and Dining

From nationally known stores to specialty shops, Tulsa provides shoppers with a wide range of choices. Three large malls serve the metro area, including the largest, Woodland Hills, as well as Eastland Mall and Tulsa Promenade. Utica Square is a tree-lined avenue of posh stores and diverse retailers. Just northwest of Utica Square, trendy boutiques and restaurants cater to more Bohemian tastes, while the Brookside area, a little south of the Square, offers still more individualized shopping, with some of Tulsa's best dining. The Cherry Street historic district has been restored and many small shops have opened there. Jenks, America is the city's antiques center near the downtown Jenks neighborhood. Smaller shops featuring Native American crafts and Oklahoma memorabilia abound. Saturday's Flea Market at Expo Square is also a favorite shopping destination.

Dozens of restaurants offer menus ranging from traditional American cuisine to those with an international flavor. Regional specialties include chicken-fried steak, Santa Fe-style Mexican food, and authentic western barbecues.

Visitor Information: Tulsa Convention & Visitors Bureau, 616 S. Boston Ave. #100, Tulsa, OK 74119-1298; telephone (918)585-1201; toll-free (800)558-3311; fax (918)592-6244; email TulsaCVB@tulsachamber.com