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The Sooner State is an exciting vacation destination, offering an array of great places to visit, including these. Explore Oklahoma with the help of our local guide.
Natural Falls State Park, West Siloam Springs
Natural Falls State Park is a beautiful oasis in the Ozark Highlands region of northeastern Oklahoma. It’s home to a magnificent 77-foot waterfall, and by hiking down a trail, visitors will reach an enchanting pool surrounded by native flowering trees like the luminous dogwood and redbud. Camping and hiking the four-and-a-half-miles of trails are the most popular activities in the park, though it also features picnic tables, catch and release fishing, a formal garden area, a nine-hole disc golf course, volleyball courts, horseshoes and a basketball court.
Pawnee Bill Ranch Historic Site & Museum, Pawnee
Once the showplace of the world-famous Wild West show entertainer known as Gordon William “Pawnee Bill” Lillie, the Pawnee Bill Ranch, which is now operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society, is located in central Oklahoma and has been around for over a century. Established back in 1910, the ranch sits across 500 acres and is home to the Lillie family’s 14-room mansion. Completely furnished with its original belongings, visitors can view family memorabilia, photos, original artwork and more. A museum features exhibits related to the Pawnees, Pawnee Bill and his Wild West Shows, while the grounds feature the ranch’s original blacksmith shop, a 1903 log cabin, a large barn and more. There are also about 40 buffalo that roam the property.
Stillwater is best known as a college town, although hardcore country fans know that it’s a place where legendary singer Garth Brooks lived in the late 1980s and got his start in the business. His house includes a hand-painted label to ensure that it won’t be mixed up with the non-Garth Brooks houses on the block. Visitors to the city may also want to head to the Heritage Hall Museum to learn about Stillwater’s years from the late 19th-century to the present, and check out some of the artifacts from one of the state’s most deadly gun battles. Old Central is the oldest remaining building on the OSU campus and is made of Oklahoma sandstone. It’s admired locally for its turn-of-the-century architecture. The city also offers a multitude of eateries, shopping opportunities, and nightlife, including the Stonewall Tavern, renowned for being the site where Garth Brooks was actually booed off stage on an open mic night.
Ada is best-known as the headquarters of the Chickasaw Nation, the birthplace of country music singer Blake Shelton, and the home of East Central University, which is internationally renowned for its cartography program, as only a handful of such programs exist. Visitors can enjoy strolling the town’s thriving Main Street, lined with art galleries and studios as well as the historic McSwain Theatre, which dates back to the 1920s. Wine enthusiasts will appreciate the chance to sip Oklahoma-made vino at Waddell Vineyard’s tasting room, and just about everyone will enjoy visiting Wintersmith Park, a local gem that includes tranquil lakeside views, nature trails and a public amphitheater. Don’t miss the chance to sample Bedre chocolates and gourmet sweets, created locally by the Chickasaw Nation.
Broken Bow sits in the southeast corner of the state, and is a considered the gateway to numerous outdoor adventures. Nearby is Broken Bow Lake, Beavers Bend Resort Park, the Ouachita National Forest and several rivers. This scenic area offers the chance to enjoy activities like canoeing, boating, hiking, bird watching, golfing, scuba diving, mountain biking, horseback riding, four-wheeling, camping, and fishing. A variety of wildlife lives in the area too, including deer, bats, armadillos, opossum, fox, raccoon and beavers. Wine enthusiasts will appreciate the chance to taste local vino at Vojai’s Winery as well as Girls Gone Wine, and families with kids may want to head to Hochatown Amusements, which offers mini NASCAR go-carts and miniature golf.
In the surrounding area, you’ll find a number of excellent museums showcasing the history and heritage of the land and people of southeastern Oklahoma. The Museum of the Red River in Idabel hosts one of the most comprehensive collections of Native American art to be found anywhere, while Gardner Mansion and Museum, originally a mansion built for Choctaw Chief Joseph Gardner, is well-known for its collection of prehistoric and historic Indian and pioneer artifacts.
Robbers Cave State Park, Wilburton
Set within the hilly, scenic woodlands of southeast Oklahoma’s San Bois Mountains, Robbers Cave State Park is popular for hiking, horseback riding, climbing, fishing and more. The park is named as such due to its fame as a former hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr. Visitors can ride a horse (horse riding stables with horses available for rent are on-site) along the picturesque bluffs, fish for trout, perch, bass and catfish, swim at the swimming beach or a swimming pool, and hike to the famous outlaw cave hidden in the formation of sandstone hills and cliffs that range from 300 to 1,500 feet high. The park features three lakes: Lake Wayne Wallace, Lake Carlton and Coon Creek Lake, as well as camping facilities, a lodge and cabins, miniature golf, paddleboat rentals, a nature center, grocery store and restaurant.
Sulphur, once called the “land of rippling waters,” was incorporated in the late 19th century, but its history dates back centuries before. Perched on the edge of one of the country’s oldest parks, it’s considered the gateway to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, a popular outdoor destination. A century ago, Native Americans referred to it as the “Peaceful Valley of Rippling Waters” and it continues to offer tranquility to those who visit today. Travertine Creek winds throughout much of the area, with its gentle sounds the ideal soundtrack for activities like picnicking, fishing, swimming, camping and wildlife viewing. The town itself also has a number of attractions, including the soothing springs, which were once believed to cure a variety of ailments. Sulphur also houses the Chickasaw Cultural Center, a museum that tells the story of the Chickasaw Nation.
This Route 66 community that’s tucked within the rolling hills in the heart of the state, offers lots of charm as one of the many towns along the famous U.S. Route 66, and it features several attractions devoted to “The Mother Road,” like The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Museum and Hall of Fame, The Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History, a number of Route 66-themed murals, and the newly restored old cottage-style Phillips 66 gas station. It was founded shortly after the 1891 Land Rush, a time when nearly a million acres, formerly owned by the Shawnee, Pottawatomie, Iowa, Fox and Sac tribes, was opened up for homesteading. Today, its economy is driven mainly by agriculture and livestock, oil and gas services, and manufacturing.
Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, Grove
Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, or Grand Lake, as most refer to it, is nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountain Range in the northeast region of the state. The 46,500-acre lake is ranked among the top bass fishing lakes in the nation, and a popular destination for all water sports. The serpentine gem glistens in the summer sun between lush green hills that are ideal for relaxing and simply enjoying the scenic view. There is a lot to keep you busy too, including checking out one of the largest antique museums in the country, the Har-Ber Village Museum in Grove, which sits on the shores of the lake in a beautifully landscaped setting. It hosts more than 100 exhibits on six acres. Lendonwood Gardens hosts over 1,200 varieties of plants and the Japanese Pavilion, which overlooks a koi pond and garden. Of course, getting out on the lake is the No. 1 activity, with the chance to go sailing, boating, water skiing, parasailing and swimming.