Oklahoma City is highly regarded as one of the foremost family tourist destinations in the United States. There are several hidden gems that you must consider for your family next time you’re in the OKC area because every time we visit, we enjoy these favorites time and again.
Bricktown in Oklahoma City is likely most notable for its home stadium to the OKC Dodgers. Surrounding the stadium is a legacy of cast-iron head busts of many famous baseball players open for public photograph.
Horse-drawn carriages are regularly scheduled for rides around the stadium as well as other parts of Bricktown during several hours of the day, and they make the perfect attraction while giving tired feet a welcomed rest. Stick around for when the stars come out, and sometimes they’ll have a lit up Cinderella pumpkin carriage for an even more exciting ride into the night.
Aside from the famous OKC stadium, Bricktown is also home to Sonic Headquarters, where visitors are allowed to tour the Sonic facility as well as dine there. One of the most interesting exhibits is Sonic’s “Test Kitchen” where all new Sonic meals and drinks are tested before making it to your local drive-thru menu. They may even let you try a sample of your own before it’s released.
Bricktown is also home to many other restaurants including the famous Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, The Melting Pot Fondue, and Marble Slab Creamery, where ice-cream is always home-made fresh everyday and delicious quality. We always stop in for a couple of scoops.
One of our favorite Bricktown eateries is Bourbon’s Street Cafe, a jazz-themed restaurant with the true ambiance and experience of Oklahoma City. Aside from the delicious alligator appetizers and amazing gumbo, try the Norwegian Salmon, caught wild and fresh.
This restaurant is also a great destination for the whole family due to it’s ambiance of actually sitting on Bricktown’s man-made river, which flows through the very heart of Oklahoma City. We found it interesting as to why so many ducks and geese dined at the Bourbon’s Street Cafe until we saw that the chefs will actually feed the ducks leftovers from the kitchen to keep the feathery friends around for the youngsters, which only makes the experience even more fun.
Bricktown’s man-made river is such an attraction that many families like us, will take regularly-scheduled Water Taxis to and from the fantastic dining and activities along the water. These amazing Water Taxis will take you on a fantastic guided tour through the history of Oklahoma City, with elaborate cast-iron statues of life-sized cowboys, horses, wagons hugging the river banks, and lots more. The tour guides are excellent and will give you a wonderful background on the city and on area activities so it is a really good option when you first arrive in town to get oriented and to plan your stops.
Along these wonderful Water Taxis, you’re bound to find many gorgeous, Oklahoma City red cardinals flying by. Your guide will also point out a beautiful, 650,000 piece mosaic, each piece painted by hand. It’s quite incredible.
Each water taxi pass is good all day, so you and your family are free to ride as many times as your hearts desire, and hop off whenever you’d like to catch a fun restaurant along the river, or the HeyDay bowling alley which is also fun for all ages.
If the kids are getting fussy and you need a date-night at your home away from home, check out the Harkins Bricktown Cinemas 16, one of the largest screens in all of Oklahoma, where supervised childcare is provided in the movie theater. The theater is amazingly clean, offers very comfortable seating, and is set at a comfortable temperature when we had actually expected uncomfortably cold temperatures, like most other theaters. This was one of the best attractions we enjoyed on our most recent visit to Bricktown.Another attraction you may want to consider is Climb-Up, an indoor rock climbing attraction.
It’s elaborately painted towers aren’t too hard to spot from Bricktown. This is also kid-friendly, and you don’t need any rock climbing experience, whatsoever.
One unique hotel we had the opportunity to experience in central OKC was 21C, literally a hotel inside of a museum—or rather, a museum inside of a hotel. Formerly a Ford Motor Company assembly factory, each room is designed to appeal to the modern eye. But the best part is that the 24-hour museum to accessible literally from your room’s door. Be sure to check out 21C’s famous Mary Eddy’s Kitchen and Lounge for the utmost culinary appeasement. You can even order room service from the restaurant to your door which might prove perfect for a tired clan from a full day’s activities.
When we ordered room service we found the watermelon popcorn to be a rare specialty you will have to try to appreciate. Again, uniqueness seems to be the theme at this property.
Lovely staff are extremely attentive and the rooms are, in fact, spacious suites with plenty of room for parents and kids with comfortable amenities like excellent coffees and teas, deep tubs, huge showers, large TV’s, sumptuous bedding, quality toiletries, and free WiFi.
Anytime you want an art fix, you can just walk the lobby or step outside your door for a constant diet of art 24/7.
If you’re interested in finding a true historic hidden gem, you will need to dine at family-friendly Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. Sold to the Wades during the 1940s during a game of craps by rolling a double 3, the original bar still stands today, and the owners have done well to even preserve the upstairs bar (which was in use during prohibition for illegal betting and liquor) and have turned it into a fun waiting room for family. We recommend their famous T-bone steak, ordered by George H.W. Bush, himself, which is their largest 20 oz. steak and definitely won’t leave you hungry. That is, unless, you save room for their special made-from-scratch coconut cream pie for dessert, which is equally famous as well.
If you’re a fan of Rocky Mountain oysters (if you think it’s seafood, you’re in for a surprise), give their lamb fries a try. Starting out as a creative, culinary way to use the “parts” from the stockyards next door, the owners started using them as garnish on each entree. That is, until, they became so popular that patrons were ordering lamb fries by the plateful. Yummy!
Cattlemen’s doesn’t fail in making home-made croutons which are made from the excess of their fresh, home-baked rolls—home-whipped butter, their own aged cheese, and a special secret salad dressing infused with garlic oil. Is your mouth watering yet?
Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Reba McEntire have called this their favorite Oklahoma Steak house for over 100 years, and your family will too. If you don’t dine there during your Oklahoma City stay, you haven’t really experienced true OKC. It is literally incredible.
Another museum that isn’t too far from 21C is the amazing, elaborate National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum of Oklahoma City. You’ll spend hours astounded by the fascinating Cowboy Hall of Fame, with notable figures such as Ronald Reagan, Sam Elliot, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and beautiful cowboy and Native American art, culture, and history. Drop by on a Wednesday from the months of August to November, and you’ll score a free all-day pass for the whole family. The dining court offers healthy salads and choices which we found a delightful surprise and the entire staff of the museum were extremely helpful, informative, and friendly.
Gorgeous saddles, wagons, guns, chaps, boots, cowboy art, and even a small town from the cowboy era will keep you enthralled for hours. Storytelling, leather crafts, art, hunt and finds and many more interactive activities for younger visitors add to the excitement.
For a powerful and moving yet educational experience, visit Oklahoma City’s National Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the lives lost, the survivors, and the extreme heroism during and after the Murrah Building bombing. “What started out a normal day” will allow you to personally experience the explosion, loud debris and buried screams which interrupted the Water Resources Board Meeting at 9:01 AM, taking the lives of adults and of children at the daycare center, trapped responders, and the measures rescue teams and service animals had to take in heroic acts including performing immediate amputations to save victims from the rubble. A beautiful and peaceful outdoor reflection pool and memorial grounds add to the emotionally moving experience. It is intensely powerful but tastefully and respectfully presented in a way that is appropriate for all ages and sensitivities.
Another beautiful exhibit you will definitely want to visit, is the Myriad Botanical Gardens. With 12 acres of lush landscaping, an enclosed rainforest and exotic greenhouse (fully equipped with outdoor dining and a dog release area), you will truly appreciate the elaborate creations and botany, preserved in the heart of OKC. We have done a lot of botanical gardens around the world and this is definitely well done.
Oklahoma City weaves history, culture, arts, and community into a tapestry of powerful beauty and education and offers an unforgettable family travel destination. Maybe that’s why we never tire of visiting.