Let us give you the run down on all the great things to do in Tulsa, OK on vacation! Before we get to that, though, here’s a bit of background on the city. Tulsa is the second largest city in the state of Oklahoma in the southern United States. The city sits in the northeastern portion of the state and lies between the Osage Hills and the Ozark Mountains. For the majority of the 20th Century, Tulsa was a haven for oil production and was nicknamed the ‘oil capital of the world.’ These days, its main industries include finance, technology, and aviation. Tulsa has a reputation as a very religious city, often called the ‘buckle of the Bible belt’ for its Christian beliefs and institutions. It has a population of around 413,000 people. So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in Tulsa, OK on your visit.
The Philtower Building
We don’t think anyone should be allowed to visit Tulsa, OK without tipping their hat to the beautiful Philtower Building in downtown. The building has been standing proudly in place since 1928 and is a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture, with a bit of Art Deco thrown in for good measure. Philtower stands at 323 feet tall and has 24 floors. The upper part of the building has been converted to apartments, while the lower floors are office space. Obviously, unless you know someone who lives there, you probably can’t (or shouldn’t) wander around on the upper floors, but you can wander in the lobby and look at the beautiful details inside.
Chandler Park is 192 acres of woodland, with walking and hiking trails aplenty. The park has a great range of activities for visitors to undertake, including rock climbing, golf, and baseball. There’s also plenty of space for picnics and general chilling out. The park is located on the banks of the Arkansas River and, from higher up in the woods; it offers fabulous views of the city. It’s a great thing to do in Tulsa, OK with your family and a good way to have a break from the constant hustle and bustle of the busy city center.
When Utica Square opened back in May 1952, it was Tulsa’s first suburban shopping center. These days, it’s known for its upscale stores, and it is anchored by a branch of Saks Fifth Avenue. The area has many smaller, independent retailers, as well as a smattering of well-known names. These include Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and Pottery Barn. It’s a very popular area with local residents and visitors generally gravitate there at some point to make the most of the shopping and dining opportunities. Utica Square is a good thing to do in Tulsa for a spot of retail therapy in the afternoon before sitting down for dinner and drinks later on. Thursday nights are popular for the live music shows, which run during the summer months.
Tulsa Zoo is based in Mohawk Park, which is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. The zoo spans an area of more than 85 acres and is a good thing to do in Tulsa with kids. The zoo was previously voted the Favorite Zoo in America and has a long history of conservation work, including campaigning against the use of Palm Oil. There is a huge range of specific areas within Tulsa Zoo, which include the Chimpanzee Connection, Penguin Habitat, and the Lost Kingdom. There are some pretty rare species housed in the zoo, and it’s a really popular attraction for visitors to the area.
Tickets required, available online or from the entrance, $8-$12
Tulsa Art Deco Museum
Tulsa has a wonderful collection of Art Deco buildings throughout the city, with this museum based at the Philcade Building on the corner of 5th and Boston. The museum has many Art Deco artifacts, a gift shop and coffee stop. A visit to the museum is a cool thing to do in Tulsa to learn about this amazing building and the others that surround it. If you have an interest in architecture, a trip around the city to check out the amazing Art Deco buildings is a must-see thing to do in Tulsa. Some of the highlights include the Mayo Motor Inn, the Pythian Building, and the Boston Avenue Methodist Church.
Gilcrease Museum is located in the north of Tulsa and has the world’s largest collection of Western American art. The museum was named for art collector and oil magnate, Thomas Gilcrease, who gifted his works (and the building) to the city of Tulsa way back in 1958. The works held in the museum number more than 28,000 items, and it’s a hugely impressive and unique collection. As well as the permanent collections, Gilcrease has some incredible exhibitions throughout the year. The museum grounds are an attraction in their own right, with 23 acres of themed gardens for visitors to enjoy. There’s also a restaurant on site serving seasonal dishes at very reasonable prices. A visit to the Gilcrease is one of the best things to do in Tulsa.
Tickets required, available at the entrance, $5-$8
Safari Joe’s H20 Water Park
Safari Joe’s is a water theme park, animal sanctuary and reptile park, which is mainly open full time over the summer months and at weekends only during September. The theme park has a range of exciting rides for kids, including Raptor Rapids and Reptile Rush for older children and the Tiny Turtle Lagoon and Activity Pool, which are more suited to younger kids and toddlers. Safari Joe’s also offers animal education visits and presentations, and it’s a great thing to do in Tulsa with young kids.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $12-$22
Off-beat things to do in Tulsa
We think you’re a bit like us and are all about weird things to do in Tulsa, right? Well, we’re pleased to report that Tulsa does not disappoint in the off-beat stakes. Not that we doubted it for a second, you understand. Did you know that Tulsa is the center of the universe? No? Well, it is. In a non-descript plaza downtown, in front of the old Union Train Depot, lies a little circular plaque. If you stand on the plaque and make a noise (we like pretending we’re tigers, but you can do whatever works best for you) the echo is amplified when you hear it back. It’s very bizarre but lots of fun. We think it might be the echo bouncing back off the wall, but we’re not entirely sure. Trying it out is definitely one of the most off-beat things to do in Tulsa, or anywhere, if we’re being honest.
FAQs About Tulsa
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Tulsa, OK. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this southern city has to offer.
What is there to do for free in Tulsa, OK?
There are lots of free things to do in Tulsa on your vacation, including checkout the Art Deco Trail around downtown, taking a walk or just chilling out at Gathering Place Park, or paying a visit to the Golden Driller statue.
What is Tulsa, OK known for?
Historically, Tulsa was known as the oil capital of the world but, these days, its known more for having one of the United States’ largest collections of Art Deco architecture. Also, it’s where Garth Brooks was born. He’s sold around 200 million records, making him one of the most successful recording artists of all time. Not too shabby for the Oklahoma country boy.
Is Tulsa, Oklahoma safe?
Tulsa is fairly safe for its size. However, you should be cautious regardless of where you visit as you’re less likely to be familiar with neighborhoods and city streets. Always ensure your valuables are kept hidden, don’t venture out on your own after dark, and stay in well-populated, well-lit areas.
Tulsa is a popular Southern city with a relatively low cost of living and a growing population. Since its early days as a hub for oil, it has successfully diversified into technology, finance, and the aviation industries. The city is listed as having ‘A +’ local amenities, indicating that the museums, parks and historical buildings are of an extremely high standard. Tulsa is a great city to visit on a budget as attractions, eating out and accommodation can be very reasonably priced. However, it also has its fair share of up-scale hotels, so it has the ability to cater for everyone. The city is served by Tulsa International Airport, just 5 miles from the downtown area. We hope we’ve convinced you of all the amazing things to do in Tulsa, OK and we hope you’ve got it on your bucket list for the very near future.