Known as a land of plains, cowboys and oil fields, Oklahoma has so much more to offer than meets the eye. If you’re looking for a great road trip state, it has you covered: the country’s longest drivable section of Route 66 runs through the state, so roadside attractions are aplenty. Needless to say, there are lots of unique and interesting places to see in the Sooner State if you’re looking for a trip that’s a departure from the traditional. Here are a few of our favorites.
Blue Whale of Catoosa
This quirky tourist attraction is a classic stop along Route 66. In the 1970s, the director of the Tulsa zoo, Hugh Davis, built what’s now a famous roadside attraction as an anniversary gift for his wife Zelta who collected whale figurines. Originally, the giant concrete whale was meant as a swimming platform for the Davis family, but its proximity to the the family’s alligator farm attraction (housed in a replica of Noah’s Ark) made it prime real estate to open it to the public. After the Davis family closed the attraction in the late 1980s, the whale and the ark were neglected and eventually run down. Luckily, Hugh’s son Blaine got involved and restored “Blue” to its former glory, and its now open for visitors just outside Catoosa. There’s even a souvenir and concession stand on site, as well as picnic tables to enjoy the view of this Route 66 favorite.
Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa
Even if art museums aren’t your cup of tea, just the grounds at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa are worth seeing. The museum is housed in an Italian style villa built in the 1920s that was once the home of oilman Waite Phillips, and the 25-acre gardens that surround it are a serene escape from reality. There are even a few “garden cats” that call the museum gardens home and love to greet visitors! Wander through worldwide works of art in the museum or soak in the nature around it. Since the 1970s, the museum has hosted outdoor movie nights on a projector screen on the lawn in the summer, complete with food trucks and a bar. The Philbrook is a classy stop with plenty of fun to be had.
The Cave House, Tulsa
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The Cave House in Tulsa is for visitors looking for something unusual to add to their itinerary. The eccentric, rock-shaped structure was originally a chicken restaurant built in 1934. Nowadays, a local woman and her daughter own and operate the whimsical building and have filled it with all kinds of quirky decorations. Linda Collier, the owner, fixed it up as a place to hang out with a group of girlfriends who call themselves the “Cave Girls,” but she got so much interest from passersby about the long-standing Tulsa haunt, that she decided to start giving tours. You’ll have to reach out ahead of time to schedule a tour with Linda, but you’ll hear plenty of stories about the house’s history and even a few accounts of the paranormal and supposed hidden passageways.
Myriad Botanical Gardens, Oklahoma City
These downtown botanical gardens are an escape from city life. Covering 17 acres, the gardens’ most prominent feature is the cylindrical conservatory that is suspended over a pond known as Crystal Bridge. Marvel at Crystal Bridge’s architectural beauty as well as the natural beauty that lives inside: it houses 13,000 square feet and 750 varieties of Tropical Wet Zone and Tropical Dry Zone plants. The rest of the gardens includes walking trails, splash pads and a dog park. The adjacent Scissortail Park is 70 acres and features a lake, a boathouse and an amphitheater for concerts and events.
Tucker Tower, Ardmore
Tucker Tower is an iconic lakeside location in southern Oklahoma. Perched atop the cliffs of Lake Murray State Park, it was built in the 1930s as an intended vacation retreat for the governor. Instead, the structure has served as a geological museum and now a nature center within the park. The building is 2 stories tall and the bottom floor is a museum where you can learn about the park and the tower’s history. There’s also a patio overlook with stunning views of Lake Murray from 60 feet above its surface. Both picturesque and educational, you’ll enjoy making a stop at this landmark while you enjoy trails, beaches and marinas inside the state park.
Golden Driller Statue, Tulsa
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Tulsa was once known as the Oil Capital of the World, and this iconic statue pays tribute to the state’s oil-drilling history. Earlier versions of this statue appeared at the 1953 and 1959 International Petroleum Expositions, but the current statue was built for the 1966 convention of the same name by Greek artist George Hondronastas. The city of Tulsa eventually adopted the statue and inscribed the city’s name into the roughneck’s belt. The 75-foot tall oil worker stands at the fairgrounds and is one of the tallest statues in the United States. He’s so tall in fact, he rests his arm on an actual former oil derrick. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Oklahoma, so be sure to make a stop and snap all the photos you can.
Unique and Interesting Things to Do in Oklahoma
From elaborate gardens to roadside attractions and odd buildings, Oklahoma is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for an out-of-the-ordinary vacation. Has this list of unique and interesting things to do in Oklahoma gotten you itching to plan a road trip through the Sooner State? Let us know where you’re off to next and check out our favorite RV destinations for more travel inspiration!