- 1 Oklahoma City – state capital
- 2 Ardmore – town that is a regional center in Southern Oklahoma
- 3 Broken Arrow – Tulsa's largest suburb.
- 4 Edmond – Oklahoma City's northern neighbor, the location of the University of Central Oklahoma
- 5 Lawton – adjacent to historic Fort Sill and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
- 6 Moore – a rapidly growing suburb just south of Oklahoma City
- 7 Norman – Home of the University of Oklahoma
- 8 Stillwater – home of Oklahoma State University
- 9 Tulsa – the second largest city in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has a rich Native American past. In the 1830s, Oklahoma was the end of The Trail of Tears: over 16,000 Cherokee Indian people were forced to move from their eastern homes by the United States government and were relocated to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. In addition the Five Civilized Tribes were relocated from the southeastern United States. Oklahoma's name is taken from two Choctaw words. "okla" means people and "humma" meaning red, so Oklahoma literally means "red people". Thirty nine tribes and Indian nations have their headquarters in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma was settled by non-native people later than most other territories, and has a recent pioneer past. There are people alive today in Oklahoma that remember it as a frontier. The cost of living is among the lowest in the US and this is also reflected in the low cost of tourist-related activities. Lodging, rental cars, fuel, and restaurants are lower in cost than nearly anywhere else in the US.
The Coastal Southern drawl is rare. The South Midlands accent is more common. This accent ranges from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and into Texas. Cherokee is common in Tahlequah but English is dominant even there. The Indian tribes are completely integrated in Oklahoma and Indian languages are seldom heard outside Indian events. It is also very common to hear a "twangy" accent in most parts of the state. It sounds very similar to a Texas accent, but with a flair. A trained ear can distinguish between the Texas and Oklahoma accents. There is also a difference in accent between inhabitants of the larger cities and those of the smaller towns and rural areas.
Will Rogers World Airport (OKC IATA) in Oklahoma City and Tulsa International Airport (TUL IATA) in Tulsa are the two major state airports for domestic and international air travel. Minor airports with limited domestic transport are in Lawton and (sometimes) Ponca City.
The major interstates of Oklahoma include:
- Interstate 35 connecting Wichita, Kansas and Dallas, Texas via Oklahoma City.
- Interstate 40 connecting Fort Smith, Arkansas and Amarillo, Texas, also via Oklahoma City.
- Interstate 44 connecting Joplin, Missouri and Wichita Falls, Texas via Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
- Historic US Route 66 closely parallel to I-44 between the Kansas state line to Oklahoma City and I-40 from Oklahoma City to the Texas state line.
Along with Texas, Oregon, and Missouri, Oklahoma is one of the few U.S. states that allow foot traffic on all toll-free Interstate highways. This makes hitchhiking relatively easy.
- Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City. The memorial is both one of the most visible attractions in the city as well as the saddest, which has posed some problems for the city's tourism department. The outdoor symbolic memorial commemorates the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, in which a domestic terrorist set off a car bomb in a federal government building and killed 168 people. It is free and open 24 hours a day, while the very well done Memorial Museum , right next door, can be visited for a small fee.
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Indiahoma. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.
- The architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed several ... interesting ... buildings in Oklahoma and elsewhere. His tallest skyscraper is the Price Tower in Bartlesville.
- National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Here you can walk down the streets of Prosperity Junction, a turn-of-the-century Western town. Visit the American Cowboy Gallery, the American Rodeo Gallery, and the Western Performers Gallery. Visit www.nationalcowboymuseum.org for information on special exhibits.
- Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. The largest collection of Western art in the world.
- Talimena Drive. From Talihina, Oklahoma to Mena, Arkansas. A 54-mile scenic drive in Oklahoma and Arkansas along the ridge of the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest. The drive has frequent turnouts so you can enjoy the scenery. Convenient access to the drive near the midpoint can be accessed from Poteau by taking Hwy 59 south.
- Oral Roberts University in Tulsa is among the nation's largest collections of futuristic architecture.
- Lake Eufaula The largest lake in Oklahoma 102,000 acres of water.
- Oklahoma is home to dozens of sacred sites of the native Kiowa tribes.
Oklahoma is known as a great place to live and visit. There are a lot of things to do in Oklahoma and it has all kinds of terrain. You will find mountains, pine woods and lakes in the eastern third of the state, plains and grasslands with rolling hills in the center of the state and plains and semidesert in the west and panhandle. There are all kinds of activities available from hunting, fishing, hiking, to gambling in one of the hundred or so casinos and bingo parlors, and metro activities in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City is also home of the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
- Oklahoma Aquarium, 300 Aquarium Drive, Jenks, ☏ . Check out more than 200 exhibits featuring thousands of salt and fresh water marine species and also mammals. The aquarium also houses the Karl and Beverly White Fishing Tackle Museum, billed as "the largest and most comprehensive fishing tackle collection in the world!"
There are over eighty casinos in Oklahoma including the largest casino in North America, WinStar World Casino and Resort. In addition there are three para-mutual race tracks for the horse-racing fan. In addition to slot machines, most of the casinos have gaming tables. All the casinos are on Native American Indian lands, most are run by the tribes and have tobacco shops nearby where you can purchase cigarettes cheaper, and tax free. You will also find big name live entertainment at their on-site event centers, and card tournaments at most of the casinos. Some of the biggest names in casinos for the state include,
- WinStar World Casino and Resort. Owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation and the largest casino in the world, with over 500,000 square feet of gaming floor.
- River Spirit Casino: Owned and operated by the Muscogee-Creek Nation
- Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: Originally named the Cherokee Hotel and Casino, Hard Rock bought the name and theme rights to the location; however, under Oklahoma law the Cherokee Nation still owns the land. It is the only casino Hard Rock operates
- Cherokee Casino and Resort: Owned and operated by the Cherokee Nation
- Osage Casino: Owned and operated by the Osage Nation, they have seven locations throughout Osage County, with three featuring a hotel
Wichita Mountains of Southwest OklahomaEdit
These mountains are older than the Rockies, now ancient and worn down, but still beautiful and majestic. The Wichitas are the site of the oldest National Wildlife Refuge in the United States, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is the second most visited refuge in the national wildlife refuge system and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. At the turn of the century, the American Buffalo was nearly extinct.
President Theodore Roosevelt became concerned. Through the efforts of the American Bison Society and the New York Zoological Society, an offer was made to donate 15 bison to the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve. Congress set aside $15,000 for this purpose, and on October 11, 1907, 15 of the finest buffalo from the New York Zoological Park were shipped by rail to Oklahoma. Seven days later, these six bulls and nine cows had safely returned to the plains and mountains. The bison herd is now maintained at approximately 650 animals. Along with bison, there are many other species of wildlife: more than 50 mammal (including elk and deer), 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.
The Wichitas attract rock climbers from the entire region, particularly Texas because of its amazing granite peaks and faces. Mt. Scott has a paved road all the way to the top and provides a great view of southwest Oklahoma. Also in the area you can catch America's longest running passion play each Easter weekend at the Holy City of the Wichitas, hike the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area, camp alongside beautiful lakes, and be sure to try the famous Meersburger at the Meers Store north of the Refuge.
The small historic town of Medicine Park is found at the main entry to the wildlife refuge on State Highway 49. It is widely known as "America's Cobblestone Community" and was Oklahoma's first planned tourism resort, founded July 4th, 1908. Today, the community is experiencing a major revitalization and attracts thousands to visit its quaint shops, dine in restaurants, taverns, winery and stay in its bed and breakfast inns and numerous cottages. The area of the Wichita Mountains has been designated as the Wichita Mountains National Scenic Byway.
Oklahoma food has two main influences, both imported from neighboring regions:
- Tex-Mex cuisine and slow-cooked barbecue come from south of the border. These are popular and available in a range of spiciness that ranges from painfully hot down to mild enough for children (but possibly not mild enough for people from the upper Midwest). Fast food is especially popular in Oklahoma, and Tex-Mex favorites such as hard-shell tacos and burritos are well-suited to speedy service. The most popular regional chain is Taco Bueno. Barbecue joints, which are often locally owned and operated, can be found in most areas.
- From the foods of the southern US and Native Americans, there is another influence that brings fried chicken, cornbread, beans, and other foods. These are common in diner-style restaurants and large chains of steakhouses. Frybread, a high-fat Native American bread that resulted from the reservation system, can be bought at most large events. The popular Indian taco is frybread with taco ingredients inside it. Chicken-fried steak is a breaded beef steak, and it usually comes drowned in a thick, milk-based gravy, unless you ask for the gravy to be served in a bowl "on the side".
Oklahoma's agricultural strengths are in cattle ranching and wheat farming, and the popularity of beef and carbohydrate-rich foods reflects this. As a landlocked state, seafood is available only if it's flown or trucked in. Deep-fried catfish is the most popular fish, and some restaurants raise their own to be certain of freshness. Especially in the eastern half of the state, which gets more rain, you can get locally grown produce normally associated with southern states, such as peaches, watermelons, and pecans during the appropriate seasons. If you're looking for something that you won't find just anywhere, keep an eye out for fried okra. If you're looking for something truly unusual, then Rocky Mountain oysters are served at Stillwater's annual festival, The Calf Fry, as well as at some steakhouses. Rocky Mountain oysters are also called calf fries (if they're from cattle) or lamb fries (from sheep).
To finish off the meal, consider a piece of pecan pie or peach pie, or go out for ice cream. Braum's Ice Cream, a regional chain based in Tuttle and with more than a hundred stores throughout the state, is "the" place to get ice cream in Oklahoma. If your interests run towards the old-school style, then deep-fried hand pies and root beer floats are venerable Oklahoma traditions.
For breakfast, large plates of eggs, meat, and potatoes are available in every part of the state. The favored local doughnut chain is Daylight Doughnuts, which was founded in Tulsa and now has about 150 stores within the state.
Sweet drinks, including both sodas (also called "pop") and fruit juice, are popular. "Coke" is used as a generic term, rather than an indication of a Coca-cola brand soft drink. If someone offers you a coke, they may then ask you whether you would prefer a Dr. Pepper or a Pepsi. Some residents will insist that they can taste the difference between sugar and corn syrup in their carbonated beverages, and if you search a bit, you'll probably run across sugar-sweetened ones.
In October 2018, the previously restrictive liquor laws changed to permit beer and wine sales (but not hard liquor) in grocery stores and similar establishments. The change also allows beer (of up to 9% alcohol by volume) and wine to be sold under refrigeration. Before then, any alcoholic beverage of more than 3.2% alcohol by weight (4.0% by volume) sold for off-premises consumption had to be sold at room temperature. The best-selling beer in the state is Bud Light. Among relatively few Oklahoma breweries, the Tulsa-based Prairie Artisan Ale produces a highly rated, high-alcohol imperial stout, and Roughtail Brewing Company in Midwest City is known for its hop-centric IPAs.
Crime against travelers is not a big problem in Oklahoma. It is safe to walk in the evenings in almost all Oklahoma cities. Some care should be taken in the major cities of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Edmond, and Lawton due to a higher crime rate in some areas of these cities. There are many areas of Oklahoma City that are not well lit at night or which have no sidewalks. Travelers should exercise common sense in walking in well-lit areas, staying on busy streets, removing valuables from vehicles, and locking vehicles.
Most Oklahomans will readily help anyone in need, regardless of whether they are known to them or a stranger. There is very little "ice" among people in Oklahoma. A traveler in need of assistance should expect a helpful and friendly attitude.
Travelers in need of assistance on the highway may contact the Oklahoma Highway Patrol by dialing *55 on their cellphones.
Oklahoma is in "tornado alley". During the spring and summer seasons, this region is often the hub of very violent thunderstorms which can quickly become life-threatening to anyone who is unprepared and in the path of a storm. If you are traveling through the state during the spring and summer months, it is crucial to be vigilant of the weather conditions because they can change rapidly. It is a good idea for the independent traveler to purchase a weather radio that receives the NOAA weather broadcasts to keep yourself regularly informed.
If you are staying in Oklahoma for a period of time, take note that the state possesses state-of-the-art radar and warning systems for tracking severe weather. These systems are the best systems in the country. If you have access to a television or the internet then you will be able to readily obtain up-to-date weather information from these sources.
Refer to the Tornado safety page for more information regarding this matter.
"Just" rain can cause its own problems, especially if you're in a rural area or in the greater Tulsa area. You may notice tall, thin signs on the side of the road in some low-lying areas, with numbers that count up from the bottom. Those are flood gauges, and you should take note of two things: first, if there has been a lot of rain, then you probably will want to try an alternate route for your departure, because they put those flood gauges in places that tend to have problems. Ask around; anyone familiar with driving in that area will be able to suggest another path, and Oklahomans like to help each other. Second, those signs are called "idiot sticks" by the farmers, because only an idiot tries to drive through the "little puddle" that it's standing in, if he can't see the very bottom of the sign (where the zero would be). Flood waters can look deceptively flat and still after the storm is over, even if the road – or bridge – you were planning to drive on was washed away underneath that placid-looking puddle. Also, remember that all the car insurance companies know what those signs mean, and they don't usually cover claims caused by "idiots" driving into flood waters.
About one out of 16 Oklahomans self-identify as being descended from the original inhabitants of North America. There is no single name that is always acceptable for referring to these people collectively, although Native American, American Indian, or Indigenous are the most common options. Because of the ugly history of tribes being driven out of their homelands all over the continent and forced to settle in Oklahoma, the cultural diversity between the tribes in Oklahoma is significant. Many people identify primarily as being part of their own specific culture and history. You should follow the lead of the person you're talking to. For example, if you're talking to someone who says that they are Cherokee, then you should stick with that term, instead of trying to guess whether "Indian" will be tolerated or offensive.
- Kansas - North of Oklahoma, Kansas is generally considered the center of the country, at least in geographical terms, and is nicknamed "the Heart of America."
- Missouri - The state's northeastern neighbor also has much to see, from the natural beauty of the Ozarks to the major metropolitan areas of Kansas City and St. Louis. Everything's up to date in Kansas City.
- Arkansas - Oklahoma's eastern neighbor is "the Natural State", home to the Ozark Mountains in the northwest while the south and east of the state has flatter land and shows more of its agricultural heritage.
- Texas - America's second largest state borders Oklahoma to the south. With a rich history and culture, this fiercely independent state measures over 267,000 square miles in area, making it slightly larger than France.
- New Mexico - Oklahoma's western neighbor was a Spanish and then Mexican colony until the Mexican War of the 1840s, and retains a culture that is heavily influenced by its native and colonial past.
- Colorado - The Rocky Mountain state borders Oklahoma to the northwest and offers a mind-boggling array of outdoor activities.