Greeting Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect day of the best OKC museums. Most people in Oklahoma’s capital were surprised that I had chosen to spend 24 hours in Oklahoma City or that I was interested in the OKC Museums.
After all, I am a native of New York City, the biggest city in the United States! Why would I want to fly more than halfway around the country to see Oklahoma? But in fact, Oklahoma City has more than enough to keep a person pleasantly occupied for more than 24 hours.
For our first 24 hours with the Best OKC Museums, we will eat some delicious food, dive into Sooner history, and even have a chance to see the homes of one of the stars of Will and Grace. (Bet you didn’t see that last one coming!) Let’s go!
Best OKC Museums
Where to Stay?
Downtown Oklahoma City has really taken off in recent years. It’s now full of cute shops, restaurants, and giant posters encouraging people to go to Oklahoma City Thunder games. I recommend staying right in the heart of Downtown Oklahoma City at The Ambassador Hotel. The building is an Art Deco stunner from the 1920s, but the rooms are clean and modern. It’s the perfect place to stay while you explore the best OKC Museums!
Best OKC Museums
What to Pack?
You’ll also need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens in OKC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
Best OKC Museums
Morning: Overholser Mansion
Of the many things I did not expect to find during my 24 hours with the best Best OKC Museums a turn of the century mansion was certainly one of them. (Things I did expect to find: Garth Brooks, cowboys, striking teachers, Reba McIntyre, Pore Jud being daid, etc.) But the 1903 Overholser Mansion is certainly a must-see attraction in Oklahoma City. It’s a museum dedicated to the Overholser family and turn of the century Oklahoma.
Many of the original furnishings are used, so you’ll feel like you’re walking through time as soon as you step inside. Plus the guided tours are a great way to learn about Oklahoma City and how it’s changed over the years. Still don’t believe me? Allow me to demonstrate further with…
three fun facts: henry overholser mansion
1) what is an overholser?
The Overholser Mansion was the brainchild of Mr. Henry Overholser, often considered the father of Oklahoma City. (Again, I thought that was Garth Brooks, but then I didn’t go to very good schools.) Overholser was not from Oklahoma City originally, in fact he was from Ohio. He was already rich when he moved to Oklahoma City in 1889.
Back then, Oklahoma was just a territory and Oklahoma City didn’t even really exist. But Mr. Overholser was clever enough to see that this place could be a major metropolis some day. So he bought up a bunch of land and made himself even richer. When he started construction on the Overholser Mansion, people thought he was a giant weirdo for two reasons. First, it was the first mansion in Oklahoma City. Second, it was in the middle of nowhere in a bunch of farmland. But I guess Overholser showed them because he’s the one who ended up with this lovely abode.
The moral of this story is: never listen to people when they tell you you’re making a mistake.
2) what’s so special about the overholser mansion?
Too many things to list here! But one reason it’s special is that it is one of a very few urban mansions that haven’t really been restored. Almost everything in the house is original to when the Overholser family built it. That’s because this home never belonged to another family. It stayed in the Overholser family until the 1970s. At that point, they sold the building to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The only way to see the Overholser Mansion for most visitors is on a guided tour. The tours leave from the nearby carriage house, every hour between 10 and 2. You don’t need to book in advance, just show up a few minutes before the tour starts and they’ll be glad to take you. Our guide was full of Sooner pride and kept making little jabs at other historic homes in the region for not having the original furniture, especially the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver. Historical docent tour feuds are my favorite kind of feuds.
3) what is the overholser mansion used for today?
Aside from historic tours? Our guide was proud to tell us that the Overholser Mansion is used for special events. Sometimes those special events can even be photo shoots for national magazines. Oklahoma native and country music superstar Carrie Underwood even used the Overholser Mansion as the location for her photos in an article she did with Allure magazine? (Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof! See if you can figure out in which rooms these pictures were taken.)
Though Henry Overholser may have been the father of Oklahoma City, his wife Anna definitely ruled Oklahoma City society with an iron fist in a velvet glove. One of the things she was known for was giving linen to less fortunate families. (Linen was very expensive back then.) So I’m sure she would have been happy to see an Oklahoma lady like Carrie Underwood making sure her gorgeous mansion is still in the papers.
24 hour treat
So in my notes, I wrote that this house across the street from the Overholser Mansion has something to do with Megan Mullally. But I can’t remember exactly what! I know she’s from OKC, but I don’t remember if she lived in this house, or if her uncle lives in this house, or if her uncle used to live in this house or what. But if you ever get to spend 24 hours in Oklahoma City, just stop by this house and yell, “Hello, Megan Mullally!” and see what happens.
Best OKC Museums
Afternoon: Oklahoma History Center
Now that we’ve started our 24 hours with the best Best OKC Museums with a historical mansion museum, let’s get even deeper into Oklahoma history. Like most state capitals, Oklahoma City is home to the state history museum. And the Oklahoma History Center will happily provide you with more Oklahoma state history than any reasonable person could possibly need.
Ordinarily, I’d suggest that you also visit the Oklahoma state capitol building during your 24 hours in Oklahoma City. It’s conveniently within walking distance of the history center. But I wasn’t able to visit because the capitol was surrounded by Oklahoma teachers who were striking for better pay. Hopefully the teachers will have all their demands met by the time you visit, so you won’t have the same issue! Until then, allow me to share
approximately top 5: oklahoma history center
1) oklahoma city buffalo statues
One of the first things you’ll notice as you walk around Oklahoma City is that there are statues of buffalo everywhere. These statues first made an appearance as part of a wildlife fundraiser called Spirit of the Buffalo. But they proved to be so popular that people wanted to make the buffalo a permanent part of the city.
You can meet this fellow above, paying tribute to Oklahoma’s history of aviation, in the sculpture garden outside of the Oklahoma History Center. This sculpture garden is the perfect place to go for a stroll and learn something about Oklahoma History and the Red River Valley at the same time. But please be warned, if this buffalo asks you to go for a joyride with him, say no. He doesn’t have his pilot’s license up to date.
2) printing press
Many Native Americans were forcibly relocated from the East Coast and other parts of the country to Oklahoma in the 19th century. For many years, Oklahoma was known as Indian Country. Of course, that means many American Indians have made their mark on Oklahoma history. One of my favorites was Ora Eddleman. She was a Cherokee woman who became the editor of an Indian magazine called The Twin Territories when she was only 18 years old.
Ms. Eddleman published news about local Native American community life as well as Native American poets and writers. And she did all this in the late 19th and early 20th century, before women even had the right to vote!
3) braniff airlines
As I mentioned earlier, Oklahoma has a long history of encouraging aviation. One example is the local company Braniff Airlines. This was started by local gentleman Paul Braniff. By his early 30s, Mr. Braniff had already started his own airline, Braniff Airlines. (They sure do grow them enterprising from an early age down in Oklahoma!)
Mr. Braniff was not only the head of the airline, he was the only pilot. He flew three flights a day back and forth from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. (A round-trip ticket back then was 20 dollars.) Like almost every American airline that has ever existed, Braniff Airlines is no longer functioning. But it’s nice to remember a time when a young man with a dream and an airplane could start his own local airline business.
4) political protests
Oklahoma is generally a conservative (“red”) state. So I was interested to see that a section of the Oklahoma History Center highlights political protest in the state. Though Oklahoma isn’t always considered part of the South, it was a segregated state before the Civil Rights Movement. There were separate drinking fountains and facilities for black and white residents. As the display was clear to point out, the white facilities were better than the black facilities. Local civil rights leaders held sit-ins and protests, just as they did in the rest of the country.
Since I was visiting Oklahoma City during the teachers’ strike, I was also interested to learn about a previous public worker strike in Oklahoma. In 1969, there was a sanitation workers strike in Oklahoma City. Most of the workers were black, and they were striking for better pay and better working conditions. The strike was led by a local woman named Clara Luper. Once again, Oklahoma ladies are rising to the occasion!
5) oklahoma industry
Since this was my first time in Oklahoma, I wasn’t terribly familiar with local industry. I just assumed the entire state lived off royalties from Garth Brooks songs. But in fact a lot of the revenue in Oklahoma comes from black gold, aka oil. However, it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, not OKC, that’s considered the Oil Capital of the World. This giant, gleaming fellow here is but a replica of the famous Golden Driller of Tulsa. (If you lean in closely, you can hear the Golden Driller singing, “Blame it all on my roots…I showed up in boots!”)
Youngsters and hungry folk might be more excited to learn that the Sonic chain of drive-ins originated in Oklahoma. The first Sonic was started by a Sooner in the 1950s. Its name comes from its slogan: Service with the Speed of Sound. I’ve actually never been in a Sonic because I’m from New York City and we don’t have any drive-ins. But I think I’d look pretty cute in that Sonic jacket, just in case anyone is interested in buying me a birthday present.
Best OKC Museums
Evening: Dinner at Nonesuch
Regular readers of this blog will know that I love a good tasting menu. It combines my two favorite things: eating delicious food and not making decisions. So I was both surprised and delighted to find that there is a tasting menu restaurant in Oklahoma City called Nonesuch. Nonesuch is tasting menu only, which means you don’t get any choices. So it’s surely not for the picky eaters among us. But if you’re adventurous, you’ll get to sample the finest produce and protein that Oklahoma has to offer.
Let me whet your appetite a bit with…
approximately top 5: nonesuch
1) mushroom crepe
OK, I don’t want to be misleading with the ‘approximately top 5″ because there were definitely more than ten dishes in this tasting menu. But I want to direct your attention to the most exciting ones. We began with a crepe filled with local mushrooms and topped with local pungent herbs. Keep in mind that all the produce in this restaurant comes from Oklahoma. Before going to Nonesuch, I had never even thought of there being Oklahoma produce. I was already learning valuable lessons.
2) asparagus with hackleback caviar
Also before visiting Nonesuch, I had no idea that American sturgeon caviar was a thing! So bless you for introducing me to hackleback caviar. As far as I’m concerned, hackleback can take down Beluga, just like Rocky Balboa taking down Ivan Drago.
3) bison tartare
Up next we have bison tartare over a sable cracker. Now if someone shouted “Oklahoma Tasting Menu!” in my face, I have to admit that “bison tartare” is probably the first thing I would think of. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious.
4) chicken in persimmon wine
This dish introduced me to another local ingredient: the persimmon. These fruits grow in the wild in Oklahoma and you can turn them into jellies or wines. I had never tasted persimmon wine before, and nothing makes me happier than finding a new plant that can get me intoxicated! (PS. There’s not enough persimmon wine in this chicken to get a baby drunk.)
5) dan dan noodles
Now we get to the more substantial dishes on the tasting menu. Meet Dan dan noodles over pecan, turnip greens, and basil. I would say this is Oklahoma-Sichuan fusion. Obviously dan dan noodles are from Sichuan, but I’d guess they aren’t typically served with pecans, which are about as Southern as it gets. (PS. Did you know Oklahoma Pecan Growers even have their own professional association? This really is an educational meal.)
6) bison steak
And it’s not an Oklahoma Tasting Menu without one last serving of perfectly cooked bison! I’d imagine the side changes with the seasons. I visited Nonesuch in the spring, so my bison steak was served with some green snap pea butter.
7) sorghum cookie
Moving on to the sweets, we have some herb tea with a fresh sorghum cookie. Sorghum is a type of natural sweetener that used to be more popular in Olden Tymes. I feel like this cookie is something Mr. and Mrs. Overholser could have served their guests.
8) butter pecan ice cream
Lastly we have some flawless butter pecan ice cream. You know something is versatile if you can serve it in an ice cream and with dan dan noodles in the same meal. The Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association would surely approve this tasting menu!
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours with the Best OKC Museums!
What do you think are the Best OKC Museums? How powerful is the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association? And if you’re reading this article, Megan Mullally, how is that house related to you? (Also I loved you in How to Succeed!) Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best OKC Museums. If you have time for another 24 hours with more of the best OKC museums, click here.