Situated in the endless and sprawling Great Plains of the south-central United States, Oklahoma is a fantastic state to visit that is too often overlooked by tourists.
Home to picturesque grasslands, lush forests, roaring rivers, and low mountain ranges, it is a delight to explore, with the famous Historic Route 66 running right through its heart.
Although sparsely populated, among its fertile fields and farmland are large and bustling cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
In addition to having a rich indigenous past, this former border state has a captivating cowboy culture that tourists can delve into, with fascinating Wild West attractions. Among the best places to visit in Oklahoma are beautiful natural parks and wilderness areas where you can enjoy great outdoor activities.
1.) OKLAHOMA CITY
Although many attractions - such as the splendid Museum of Art and the moving Oklahoma City National Monument - are located in the center of the city, it is worth exploring further.
A former artists' colony, El Paseo is home to plenty of exquisite art galleries, Art Deco buildings, and boutiques, and "Little Saigon" is packed with excellent Asian restaurants and shops.
In addition to its myriad historical, cultural, and architectural attractions, OKC also boasts Frontier City Amusement Park, where thrilling rides will transport you to the ancient Wild West.
Riverside parks and promenades also abound in the city, with the impressive seven-story Myriad Botanical Garden being one of the many prominent attractions downtown.
2.) ROUTE 66
Road trips along historic Route 66 have long been popular with visitors to the state, with large and bustling cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City to stop at along the way.
In addition, it crosses some quintessential American landscapes, with rolling cornfields and farms that coexist with rural and remote cities and towns.
Oklahoma also has several magnificent museums and monuments dedicated to the famous route for you to visit. In Elk City, for example, is the National Route 66 Museum, which looks after the people who lived, worked, and traveled along the highway.
Instead, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton focuses on iconic images and ideas related to the near-mythical Mother Road.
Situated on the banks of the Arkansas River, its glittering city center, dotted with skyscrapers, houses not only gleaming corporate offices but also a staggering array of elegant Art Deco buildings.
It also has a thriving arts and culture scene for visitors to delve into, with wonderful ballet, opera, and theater halls alongside its two world-class art museums.
Thanks, in part, to all of the wealthy businesses in the city, Tulsa also has a great offering of restaurants and shops, as well as vibrant nightlife and live music scenes.
In addition, it has numerous attractions related to historic Route 66 and plenty of charming parks and green spaces for visitors to enjoy.
4.) CHICKASAW NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
As more than a quarter of the park is made up of beautiful waterways, its babbling streams and rushing rivers lend themselves perfectly to fishing, swimming, and boating.
The largest body of water is the charming Lake of the Arbuckles, which has picturesque picnic spots and camping areas for visitors.
Although the recreation area is dominated and defined by water, its lush forests are just as delightful to wander, with a diverse range of flora and fauna to discover.
At the Travertine Nature Center, visitors can learn all about the nature and ecosystems of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area through exhibits and live classes.
5.) BEAVERS BEND STATE PARK
|Beavers Bend State Park|
Hidden amid hills and low mountains, the park has impressive scenery and landscapes, with green forests that hug the shores of its lakes and rivers.
The rugged, rustic terrain is a delight to explore, with plenty of hiking trails and mountain bike trails winding through the woods.
Its mighty river and beautiful lake also lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of fun outdoor activities, with fishing, swimming, and canoeing being especially popular.
Many people choose to camp overnight in the park or to stay in one of its cozy cabins, where you can enjoy archery, miniature golf, and tennis in its nature center.
6.) GREAT SALT PLAINS STATE PARK
|Great Salt Plains|
Although the incessant saline landscape is spectacular, the state park also has a host of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy.
In addition to mountain biking and hiking, you can swim and sail in the lake, as well as fish and bird watch.
Notably, the Great Salt Plains State Park is the only place on Earth where selenite crystals can be mined.
From April to October, thousands of people flock to the state park to search for the hourglass-shaped crystals, enjoy the beautiful views, and the recreational activities on offer.
7.) WICHITA MOUNTAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE
Very mountainous, it shelters from steep ravines and wide valleys to meadows and forests full of flowers. In its confines, there are 13 artificial lakes, as well as numerous hiking and climbing routes.
Due to its extraordinary beauty, it is a splendid place for camping and fishing, with an excellent offer of bird and fauna watching.
Although much of the park is open to the public, more than half is an intact wildlife refuge. On guided tours, visitors can spot elk, armadillos, otters, and the impressive bison, which currently number more than 650.
Over the years, the wealthy corporation has financed the construction of several excellent museums and attractive buildings in the city.
Of these, the Woolaroc Wildlife Reserve and Museum is undoubtedly the most impressive: it houses an extensive collection of art and animals, including bison, elk, and zebra.
In addition, Bartlesville stands out for being the home of the only skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Standing 67 meters tall, the Price Tower stands out from its surroundings and regularly hosts exhibitions. In addition to art, architecture, and animals, the city also celebrates important cultural events and festivals throughout the year, with its classic car exhibition being very popular.
9.) NATURAL FALLS STATE PARK
|Natural Falls State Park|
Standing 23 meters tall, the enchanting Dripping Springs waterfall drops down a sheer cliff before merging into a serene pond.
Hidden in a narrow valley in the forest, the best way to see it is from one of the two observation decks, where you can take fantastic photos of the phenomenal falls.
While the waterfall is arguably the most prominent attraction in the state park, it is also a great place for a picnic or barbecue, and some visitors spend the night in one of the five cozy yurts.
In addition, there is a basketball and volleyball court, as well as a hiking trail through the forest.
It is home to a handful of fascinating museums and is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about the history and culture of the Great Plains.
In the Museum of the Great Plains, there are informative and interactive exhibits about the settlement of the area, as well as archaeological finds, artifacts, and a replica of a trading post.
Additionally, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center highlights the rich heritage and history of the tribe, while the Fort Sill Museum features many period buildings for visitors to peruse.
In addition to its fabulous public museums, visitors to Lawton can enjoy its many parks and outdoor recreation areas. While swimming and boating are popular pastimes, no visit can be complete without spending time amid the exquisite nature of the wild Wichita Mountains.