Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the 24 hours in Oklahoma City Tour. There are many reasons a person would want to try an Oklahoma City tour. After all, it is both the capital of and the largest state in Oklahoma. I assume that means you can just wander the streets all day singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and no one will bat an eyelash.
But perhaps the most famous monument in Oklahoma City is the devastating Oklahoma City National Memorial. As hard as it is to visit, you can’t visit Oklahoma City without seeing it. But there’s more to Oklahoma City than tragedy. On an Oklahoma City tour we will find fine art, delicious food, and fascinating history. By the time our Oklahoma City Tour is over, you’ll be saying “Oklahoma, OK!” right along with me.
24 Hours: Oklahoma City Tour
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 hang your hat during your Oklahoma City Tour.
Plus, right next door is the trendy breakfast nook Waffle Champion. When I visited, they were so busy, they told me I could have my lemon and blueberry waffles for free! This is the kind of service you just can’t get back home in New York City.
24 Hours: Oklahoma City Tour
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!
24 Hours: Oklahoma City Tour
Morning: Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Oklahoma City National Memorial is dedicated to the worst domestic terrorist attack in modern United States history. The purpose of the memorial is to honor both those who were killed in the attack and those who survived. I have to warn you that visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial is a painful experience.
But I believe it’s worth it. The people who lost their lives in this tragedy shouldn’t be forgotten. And as a New Yorker, I wanted to pay tribute to the other American city that has experienced terrorism on this scale. If you need a little more guidance, I can share with you
three facts: oklahoma city national memorial
1) Who was attacked?
On April 19th, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. 168 people were killed in the attack. As you visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, you start in a replica of an office room on the day of the bombing. After that experience, you walk through a lengthy exhibit containing artifacts from the rescue and items belonging to the people who were murdered.
I’ve been to the 9/11 Memorial in New York, and I also found it very powerful. But even though I am from New York City and I lived through the September 11th attacks, I think going through the Oklahoma City National Memorial is a more emotional experience. That’s largely because 19 children were murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing. (There was a daycare center in the building.)
There’s a small room containing a picture of each child who was killed placed next to one of their favorite toys. (It felt wrong to take a photo of this section, so I don’t have an image to share here.) At certain points I became so emotional that it was difficult to continue through the Oklahoma City National Memorial. But I told myself that if the survivors had been able to fight through their sadness and create the memorial, I owed it to them to continue.
2) what happened to the terrorists?
The main perpetrator of the attack, Timothy McVeigh, was motivated by anti-government sentiment and white supremacist ideology. His accomplice was a similarly motivated individual named Terry Nichols. They were apprehended because McVeigh was pulled over by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper for driving without a license. (McVeigh apparently threatened the trooper by placing his hand on his gun and telling him it was loaded, but this did not deter the brave trooper from bringing him in.)
Because there were eight federal law enforcement agents killed in the attack, McVeigh was tried in federal court and sentenced to death. (He was executed in 2001.) His conspirator, Nichols, was convicted in both federal and Oklahoma state court of murder and sentenced to 161 consecutive life sentences, one for each victim.
3) how can we remember the victims?
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a special place for remembering those who died in the attacks. The two large gates mark the time of the attack. One is called the 9:01 gate, and the other is called the 9:03 gate. There is also a field of empty chairs, one chair for each victim.
In one of the videos inside the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a little boy whose mother was killed in the attack explained that he felt chairs were appropriate. His mother was a helpful person, and she would like the idea of someone sitting in her chair if they were tired. So please, when you are in Oklahoma City, go see the chairs and think of that little boy’s mom and all those other victims of violence and hatred. Maybe if enough people do that, we’ll start to figure out how to pretend horrors like this from happened ever again.
24 Hours: Oklahoma City Tour
Afternoon: Oklahoma City Museum of Art
It feels very strange to suggest that you do anything else the day you visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial. But OKC has so much to recommend it. And I want to make sure to pay proper tribute to a fine city that was so friendly to me. So let’s continue to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art, like many newer art museums, focuses on more recent art. But while you won’t find any Rembrandts in OKC, you will find many other beauties. Allow me to help you out with…
three fun facts: oklahoma city museum of art
1) what’s the biggest exhibit?
At this point in my life, I have been to 47 out of 50 states. And one thing I can say for sure that brings all Americans together is glass master Dale Chihuly. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has one of the largest Dale Chihuly collections in the world. Above you can see Float Boat, filled with giant glass balls that look as light as air but would probably hurt someone extremely badly if you tried to throw it.
Next to Float Balls is Ikebana Balls. These floral shapes are inspired by the delicate art of traditional Japanese flower arranging. Except, unlike actual flowers, the glass ones last forever and are worth a ton of money. Suck on that, “flowers”!!
The most striking piece in the Dale Chihuly exhibit is the Oklahoma Persian Ceiling. (This photo was taken by me looking up at the glass ceiling, which is also a metaphor for my professional life.) I choose to believe this is a tribute to Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler in the musical Oklahoma. That makes my second musical reference of this post. Let’s see how many more I can get it! I’m just a girl who cain’t say no…to musical references!
2) who are the most famous artists?
Aside from Chihuly? Well, it’s debatable, but I’d say the two most notable artists in the collection are Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol. One thing I like about O’Keeffe’s work is that I never need to look back in my notes to see who created her paintings. One look at that flower above and you know it’s her.
I mean, the same is true of Andy Warhol. Obviously he did this Campbell’s Soup can. But part of me wonders if Warhol only ever actually did one of these and museums have just been passing fakes off as Warhols for the rest of all time. How would you even tell the difference?
3) any notable oklahomans?
It’s an Oklahoma artist you want? OK! Allow me to introduce you to Woody Big Bow. He is as Oklahoma as it gets, born in Carnegie, Oklahoma and educated at the University of Oklahoma. He was a member of the Kiowa tribe and his grandfather was a Kiowa chief. Big Bow often depicted aspects of Kiowa life in his paintings, as you can see in Kiowa War Dance pictured above.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the painting is that there’s no background. It’s left to the viewer’s imagination where the Kiowa War Dance is happening. Is it in the past, present, or future?
24 Hours: Oklahoma City Tour
Evening: Deep Deuce Self-Guided Food Tour
I was just as surprised as you were to find that there were food tours of Oklahoma City. Before my visit, I couldn’t even name one food associated with Oklahoma City. Lucky for us, there’s the Foodie Foot Tours tour of the Deep Deuce neighborhood. It only runs every other week, so if you’re unlucky and miss it, just try to recreate the tour on your own. I’ll help you out with…
Three fun facts: deep deuce edition
1) what even is a deep deuce?
The Deep Deuce was Oklahoma City’s most prominent black neighborhood in the first half of the 20th century. There are plaques dedicated to African-American history makers from the neighborhood all over. One example is Dr. William Lewis Haywood, who founded the first black hospital in Oklahoma City. Many jazz musicians and notable artists like Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison spent time here. Civil Rights activists met at local places like the Calvary Baptist church as well.
We got to live a little of the glamour of the Deep Deuce’s jazz age at the Stag Lounge. I chose a Manhattan because they specialize in whiskey cocktails and I was feeling a bit homesick. It was very tasty, but next time I might need to go a little crazy and get a Banana Old Fashioned or something.
2) is oklahoma city food just all steaks?
Don’t be silly, Internet Stranger! This is the 21st century. You can keep up with all the latest food trends in Oklahoma City. That’s why we were able to stop at Belle Kitchen for some lovely macarons…
And next head to The Wedge for Oklahoma City’s wood-fired pizza. Both the macarons and the pizza were very tasty. I especially liked the little fruity pebble crumbles on the edge of the macaron. We also sampled several different slices at The Wedge. My favorite was the Italian Stallion. I liked the port wine reduction, the Italian sausage, and the way it yelled, “YO ADRIAN!” at me as I was eating it.
Some people think it’s a shame that food trends spread so far so quickly now. But I think it’s good. Why should the fine people of Oklahoma City have to live on TV dinners and bland mashed potatoes? Let them eat macarons!
3) any more local specialties?
The most unusual local specialty was a drink called The Club Special. I adore cocktails, so I’m always thrilled to meet a drink I’ve never heard of before. It was apparently invented at an Oklahoma Country Club, and it’s made with lime, Sprite, and vodka. It would be an excellent choice for a secret drinker because it’s light and fizzy, and you could very easily convince people you were just drinking Sprite.
At least until you started twirling around the room with a lampshade on your head. Then they might get suspicious.
And That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Oklahoma City Tour!
What would you do with 24 hours in Oklahoma City? Do you think you’re up for the Oklahoma City National Memorial? Would you say we belong to the land? And the land we belong to, is it grand? 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 on an Oklahoma City tour. If you have time for another Oklahoma City Tour, try this itinerary!