Blue jeans, belt buckles, and cowboy boots. Images that may come to mind when you hear “Oklahoma.” But the capital city has more to offer than the musical that bears the state’s name might lead you to believe (there’s more than wide open plains, here) including art, parks and more museums than you can shake a tumbleweed at.
Free Things to do in Oklahoma City
Don your sun hat and head outside!
Brick Town: Named so for it’s brick streets and sidewalk, this neighborhood on the edge of downtown has shopping, entertainment and plenty of restaurants. Take a stroll and pop into one or two. There’s a water taxi, too, if you don’t feel like walking. It’s $9.50 for an all-day pass.
Oklahoma City Memorial: The museum for the infamous 1995 bombing isn’t free, but the large memorial outside is. Stroll around, read the signage, and know, as the entrance states, the impact of violence.
Myriad Botanical Gardens: The 17 acre garden in the middle of the city offers winding footpaths, fountains, an outdoor stage, even a children’s garden and play area, all for free. There is also a Crystal Bridge Conservatory, but it costs $8. There’s story time for kids on Wednesday mornings and free concerts all the time. If you’re into cycling, check out the full moon rides once a month during the fall and summer and ride around the city under, you guessed it, the full moon. It’s free, but there is a suggested $5 donation.
Art Walk: Pick up a map/booklet at the visitors center and follow the route around town to check out all the public art on display throughout the city. From murals to sculptures, statues to memorials, there are about 33 locations listed for your enjoyment.
Museums: OKC is brimming with them. Some charge admission, but many, including the American Pigeon Museum, Gene Autry Museum, Conoco Museum, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Infantry Division Museum, Twister Museum, Museum of the Red River, [Artspace] at Untitled and Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center: If art is your thing, these contemporary art centers are more than just galleries; they’re a space for the community to interact with artists and maybe even learn a thing or two.
Bass Pro Shops: Located in Bricktown, these stores are known for bringing the outdoors in. The store is huge and includes not only supplies for helping you go forth into the wild prepared, but an outdoor ambiance and decor that only Bass Pro Shops can achieve.
First Fridays and Saturdays: In town for the first weekend of the month? Check out the Paseo Art District from 6-10 on Fri. and noon-6 on Sat. to browse galleries and shops that are open late (and grab some appetizers at each one), listen to live music, then enjoy a meal at of any one of the buzzing restaurants on the street. We recommend Picasso’s Palette. Tip: make reservations or arrive early if you don’t want to wait an hour for a table. Second Fridays is more of the same, but in the Plaza District.
Our Favorite Things
They may not be free, but these attractions may be worth the cash spent if you’re looking to have some fun.
Pops: While not technically in OKC anymore (it’s in Arcadia), this gas station/diner/soda mecca is worth the 20-30 minute drive out of town. You can refuel (your car with gas or yourself with a milkshake or buffalo burger) and stock up on all the soda you could ever want. Over 500 flavors worth! They have everything from regular ol’ cola to imported sparkling drinks to bottles you’d probably never want to try (fungusy fruit, anyone?) but are fun to look at. It’s located on Route 66 so there’s plenty of 66 memorabilia, too. It’s free to browse, but we know you won’t be able to resist a bottle or two.
Frontier City Theme Park and White Water Bay: Yes, there is in fact a theme park located right outside the city. And it’s not too shabby. It has over 50 rides, live entertainment and plenty to do, including a Fright Fest in October. It’s $35 for adults at the gate, but you can save $8 by buying in advance online (however, there is a $5 processing fee, so the more tix you buy the more it’s worth it).
Oklahoma River Cruises: If you love the water as much as we do, then hop on a riverboat cruise to tour the Oklahoma River and maybe learn a thing or two about the area. Depending on what time you go, tickets start at just $6 for adults.
Grab a Bite
The Red Cup: This vegetarian cafe serves up tasty breakfast and caffeinated beverages all day long. The biscuits, gravy and soy sausage have a nice kick to them and are even hearty if you ask to top it with a scrambled egg. The atmosphere is bright and attracts folks from all walks of life (read: it’s not just a hippy joint). Breakfast prices hover around $5-$7.
The Wedge: If it’s pizza you crave, you can’t go wrong with Wedge. Especially for lunch. Get a personal pizza and a tasty salad (no iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing here) for $8. Or split a 12-13″ between two for around $15. The crust is tasty and they even offer vegan cashew ricotta. It’s definitely a different twist on vegan pizza (I’m a fan of Daiya myself), but tasty just the same.
The Buzz: Coffee, smoothies and sandwiches. The latter aren’t so much suited for vegetarians, but the coffee is good and for those who like it sweet there are plenty of syrups to choose from. Pumpkin spice and caramel anyone?
Picasso Cafe: While this isn’t as inexpensive of an option, if you want a decent meal where you sit down, are served, and don’t have a number on your table, this is a great option. You can still enjoy a meal for under $10 per person, but some do cost a bit over that. The restaurant has a hefty handful of vegetarian options, including a few vegan ones, but plenty for the omnivores, too. I highly recommend the portobello sandwich (sans cheese, of course)!
Money Saving Tips
Find the coupons: Exit 137 off of I-35 you’ll find the Information Center. Go in, check it out, ask some questions, and pick up some maps. Included on the racks is a Stay and Save booklet that contains coupons that might come in handy. Just don’t forget you have them (as we often do).
Alisha is a freelance outdoor journalist and photographer based in Ogden, UT. She loves backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and snowboarding (even though she’s terrible at it). She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com