Of all the states situated in the Great Plains, none quite capture the heart behind the motivations of those heading west in the frontier days quite like Oklahoma.
Home to a mix of flat to rolling grasslands, with some ancient eroded mountain ranges thrown in for variety, as well as a wealth of oil that turned paupers into petro princes overnight, Oklahoma gives weight to the romantic notions of this portion of the country.
This state’s backstory isn’t without its shades of grey however, as this territories’ high population of native people harkens back to the expulsion of eastern and southern indigenous peoples to this land, forced at the barrel of a gun to walk the Trail of Tears to what was referred to as the Indian Territory in the days before Oklahoma’s statehood.
Despite this hardship, these forced migrants and the area’s incumbent Native population made the most of the hand that they were dealt in the time since, as many tribes in the area are intimately involved with many of the tourist destinations found within this state.
Along with all the natural attractions, historical attractions and symbols of oil wealth also comes stupendously cheap prices, so much so that Oklahoma is deemed by many surveys to have the lowest cost of living in the entirety of the United States. Save your dollars while taking in one of the most interesting of the Great Plains states? Sounds like a great deal to us!
What To Do – Culture & History
One of the most significant historical sights in Oklahoma is also its saddest. The Oklahoma City National Memorial serves as a place of somber reflection and remembrance of the terrorist attack perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh against the former Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
A small museum on-site recreates the events of that fateful day, while the memorial itself uses simple design features like a reflecting pool and empty chairs to remember the innocent lives lost that day.
Those that are really into the ethos of the American West will not want to depart Oklahoma City without spending some time milling about the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. This museum contains an extensive collection of American Western artifacts, with 28,000 pieces including items such as saddles, rodeo trophies, and photographs, apart from all the usual paintings and sculptures. It is also home to the Cowboy Hall of Fame, where the accomplishments of rodeo stars past and present are immortalized for all to see.
Another place that you are highly advised to investigate if you love all things western is the Gilcrease Museum. Located in the college town of Tulsa, this gallery of western art, now the largest confirmed collection of this genre in the world, was started from the estate of Thomas Gilcrease, one of this state’s most successful oil tycoons.
In addition to the art already mentioned, the museum trustees have added a sizable collection of artistic pieces of various kinds from Central and South America, making this place a must see for culture vultures.
Oklahoma has a brief yet interesting past. The best way to get in touch with it is to pay a visit to the Oklahoma History Center, which is an institution dedicated to telling the story of this former frontier state. Several galleries tell the story of this state’s pioneers, natives, oil prospectors, and entertainers, weaving it all together into a narrative that will help you better understand the place that Oklahoma held in the past and in the present day.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
While Oklahoma is a state in the Great Plains, a portion of the state once held a series of peaks that rivalled the Rockies in prominence. Today, the Wichita Mountains have eroded down to a shell of their former imposing form, but the nubs of granite that remain still make the southwestern corner of the state a very attractive place for trekkers and rock climbers to get away from the city and pursue their passions.
Fans of water falling from great heights will want to stop by Turner Falls on their travels through the state. Its 77 foot drop over a series of granite terraces will make for an excellent photographic opportunity, and the abundance of hardwood trees makes this place a wonderful place to be in the fall.
Those wanting to make the most of Oklahoma’s outdoors will have ample chances to do so at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Swimming is popular in the Lake of the Arbuckles, as is fishing, due to the presence of abundant populations of species such as bass and catfish.
Finally, no visit to Oklahoma would be complete without getting a selfie with the Golden Driller. Ranking as the 4th largest statue in the USA, this golden hued monument in Tulsa symbolizes the importance of the world’s most important source of fuel to the Oklahoman economy. Found at the Tulsa State fairground, it is a roadside attraction that you won’t want to miss!