A summer getaway in Oklahoma City offers an exciting and vibrant new perspective of America. The rich history and culture of the city is presented at every turn, with its old western feel mixed with modern energy.
June 9th-10th, 2022
by Kevin Willse
While the popular city in Oklahoma is full of museums, outdoor adventures and fantastic dining establishments, it is nicknamed “Bricktown” for a reason. Home to the NBA franchise Thunder and the triple-A affiliate of the LA Dodgers, OKC can easily be dubbed a sports town. The city also hosts the Women’s College World Series at their very own College Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. However, even though they have a great supply of mainstream sports, an important part of their history and culture is the rodeo. The city hosts part of the PBR circuit and this culture can be learned more about at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a great way to be engulfed in western culture. The museum was founded in 1955 with a mission to preserve the legacy of the American west. Filled with centuries of art and artifacts, the massive museum does a great job of showcasing the history of the western United States as well as the cowboy culture that helped make it happen.
There are thousands of artifacts that show the history and what it was like pioneering the west. Much of the museum showcases the role the cowboy had on culture as well as the economy and society during this time. The “cowboy” played major roles in ranching which was very important to the economy and preservation of the western Americans. This eventually led to its role in sports as well as Hollywood entertainment.
The museum puts on full displays of the history of Rodeos as well as the timeline of western films. Outside of the museum showcases what life was like in the old west. Statues showcasing the legendary cowboys such as Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley are shown as well as the importance they were to society.
Models of different types of living situations and homes show what it was truly like to be a part of the early settlers of the west. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a great way to learn and embrace the history and culture of the American west.
The First Americans Museum is another great place to check out to learn about another aspect of the culture of Oklahoma. With 39 distinct tribal nations of indigenous people just in Oklahoma, this is a great place to learn about the area. Although the museum is relatively new and still in development, there is plenty to see with two floors of interactive exhibits and firsthand stories of the history and customs of the first Americans. You will learn the history of the different groups and how they shaped the landscape of Oklahoma as well as the country.
The different exhibits show the timeline of the cultures and the changes that occurred before and after the arrival of European settlers. The exhibits go in depth explaining the impacts of treaties, warfare, racism and assimilation over the centuries. You will also get to see how the resiliency of the indigenous groups have impacted the culture of Oklahoma and America in the 21st century.
Inside the museum is Thirty-Nine Restaurant, which offers a great menu of authentic Native American food.
The First Americans Museum is a great place to check out and will continue to impress as more exhibits are being developed.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum was created as a remembrance of the people and events of the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. The museum recounts the events that took place that day as well as things that happened leading up to the fateful event that claimed 168 lives.
The tour begins showing what life was like in 1995 as well as some of the previous events that inspired the actions of this horrific day. You will enter a simulation of the OKC Water Resources Board which was located next door to the Federal Building. A hearing was occurring, and you can experience the sounds of what happened as the explosion occurred at 9:03 AM.
The tour continues showing the rescue efforts that began immediately after the explosion. There are many stories of amazing rescues of the people still trapped inside the building. Rescue personnel soon arrived from all over the country to attempt to save as many lives as they could. You will see news footage from local and national outlets that show the events in real time.
Many of the objects and debris found during the cleanup are on display to show the magnitude of the terrible explosion. As the tour continues you will see the timeline of the investigation and some of the evidence found that eventually led to the capture of Timothy Mcveigh and Terry Nichols. The museum will then breakdown the trial and convictions of the two men that planned and executed this horrible crime.
One of the main objectives of the museum is to show how this event brought the community together and made it stronger. Many stories are shared of the heroic efforts from everyday people coming together to help others. Some were actual rescues and some donated blood and consoled the families of those that were directly affected. This is showcased inside the museum as well as outside at the memorial. The memorial features a giant reflecting pool that leads to a giant arch with “9:03” inscribed on it to remember the moment everything began. Next to the reflecting pool are 168 chairs placed in rows to remember the victims of the event. Each chair is inscribed with the name of one of the deceased. Nineteen of the chairs are small to memorialize the children that died in the daycare located inside the Federal Building. On the east end of the memorial remains the only surviving wall of the Federal Building. This wall reminds us of the 600+ survivors of the attack. Their names are inscribed on the plaque located on this wall. On the opposite side of the arch is the Survivor Tree. This Elm tree was present next to the building when the explosion happened. It survived the blast and is a sign of the great resilience of the people of Oklahoma City. Seeds from the tree can be purchased in the gift shop to spread the gift of resiliency that was displayed on April 19, 1995.
If you are looking for an adventurous experience, Riversport OKC is the place for you. The park offers many different thrill activities such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, ropes and ziplining, surfing and more. It was used as a training facility for the US Olympic and Paralympic teams before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The rapids course is an exhilarating, nonstop adventure. The pump fed course offers between class ll-lV rapids with very little breaks in between the action.
The guides on the raft know the river very well and will offer you the most thrilling experience. During certain times of the day the rapids area is open to experienced kayakers. Similar to the rapids course there is an area for tubing. The same type of pump filled water takes you down a wild and bumpy river. Solo and group tubes are available and there are different entry points based on skill and thrill expectations.
The sky trail and sky zip courses are another way to get you out of your comfort zone and get the blood pumping. The sky trail offers different levels of harnessed ropes courses getting you to about 80 feet in the air.
They offer different challenges such as planks and ropes, all while ascending higher and higher. The course ends with a slide to bring you down.
The sky zip takes you 80 feet in the air and zips you over the river. As you soar 700 feet across the Oklahoma River you can see the gorgeous skyline of Oklahoma City.
You have an opportunity to surf on the simulated FlowRider machine. An endless static wave allows you to surf and boogie board continuously as if you were riding real waves. This is a great way to practice tricks and take boarding to a new level. A similar ski experience has just been installed inside the facility that allows you to ski on a static slope. Both attractions allow for beginners to learn the basics of each sport but also allows for experts to practice their craft. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to leisurely explore the Oklahoma River underneath the Sky Zip. A kid’s area is available for the younger ones that aren’t quite ready for the more adventurous activities at Riversport. Each activity is available with different purchase packages and some activities need to be scheduled in advance due to availability. Riversport has so much to offer and makes for a fun and adventurous day trip.
Oklahoma City is filled with unique culture and adventure that makes for a great escape from the South Florida humidity. The people, food and activities showcase the rich history of the great town. There are so many attractions and activities to choose from no matter your interests or adventure threshold. OKC will leave life lasting memories when you visit for a summer getaway.
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