Visiting Tulsa - What to See and Do
(Tulsa International Airport TUL, USA)
is a rare spot in Oklahoma
, with lush rolling terrain instead of flat dusty prairie. It has been the hub of this region's oil boom for more than a century, and its downtown district is filled with stylish Art Deco buildings constructed by Oklahoma's oil barons in the 1920s.
It is this odd mix of western character and cosmopolitan chic that makes Tulsa so remarkable. In this laid-back city it is totally feasible to browse priceless works of art, then grab a draft beer at a dive bar and listen to a swinging country western band in the slick Blue Dome District of downtown.
The Arkansas River cuts right through the heart of Tulsa, providing the perfect natural component to its urban amenities and attractions. There are a whopping 144 public parks in the city, with River Parks alone offering some 50 miles / 80 km of paths that run next to the river. Sublime barbecue, Tex-Mex dishes and fresh steaks will fuel you up for the next day's adventures.
Ten things you must do in Tulsa
- There are no less than two world-class art museums in the city, and the Gilcrease Museum covers the regional scene extremely well. Inside this attraction is one of the world's largest and best collections of Native American and Western artwork. Alongside the European classics are fascinating artifacts from the Wild West, both native and pioneer. The exhibitions change frequently, ensuring a fresh look every time you visit.
- The Philbrook Museum of Art is the other impressive art institute in Tulsa, but it expands its scope of art into the realm of European and American classics. Best of all, the huge collection is housed inside the mansion of oil baron Waite Phillips. Outside, the garden is filled with sculpture, while its gift shop is a surprisingly fun place to shop.
- After dark the place to go is the downtown Blue Dome District, named after a gas station that once served motorists cruising through Tulsa on Route 66. The district is littered with enticing dive bars and other watering holes. This is a great place to hang with the locals, catch live music and drink beers at institutes, like McNellie's Public House with its 350 beers on the menu (roughly 60 on tap).
- If you are a baseball fan you will definitely want to swing by the new US$39-million ballpark called the ONEOK Field. This is where the minor league Tulsa Drillers play their games, which are great fun to watch when it is baseball season. Any other time of year you can simply drop by and admire the impressive facilities of this majorly serious minor league outfit.
- The Arkansas River is a welcome thread of water that helps Tulsa feel fresh all year round. River Parks is one of the newest and most appealing places in the city to unwind by either lounging on the grassy riverbank or using its lengthy paved path to bike, jog or simply stroll along the Arkansas.
- The Tulsa Air and Space Museum is a good venue for those with any interest in aeronautics or the space industry. Its exhibits are modern and interactive, showcasing the history of flight in America. There is also a fantastic weightless chamber that simulates outer space. The stars of the museum are in the collection of real planes like an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet and the German kit from WWII.
- Tulsa Zoo is surprisingly good for a city of this size. Set right on the edge of town, the grounds have been wonderfully organized into natural habitats for the giraffes, lions, cheetahs, elephants and other big game animals. The penguin habitat is also a highlight, as well as the zoo's mini train and Wildlife Carousel, all of which are hits with the kids.
- The Oklahoma Aquarium is home to more than one million gallons of water, where 200 or so sea species cruise around in apparent bliss. This modern aquarium has all the latest attractions, like a walk-through Plexiglass tunnel with sharks swimming around you, along with a number of educational workshops and exhibits.
- Check what is on the schedule at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, the city's main venue for its 13 different performance groups that range from dance to music and beyond. The building was designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, who famously designed the World Trade Center. There is always something special playing at the PAC, whether local or international.
- One of Tulsa's many shopping hubs is Utica Square, a great blend of outdoor park space and diverse retail shopping. More than 200 leafy trees and grassy lawns create a park-like environment where major retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and local boutiques provide a complete consumer experience. Restaurants, bars, spas and other useful places are here as well, and during summer Utica runs a series of free outdoor concerts.