Beyond Oklahoma’s rolling plains lies an underrated gem – Tulsa, a city packed with unexpected delights. Though often overlooked, Tulsa offers thrill seekers, culture aficionados, and road-tripping families an array of unique attractions. From its wealth of Art Deco architecture to fascinating museums tracing Black American heritage, Tulsa rewards visitors who take the time to venture off the highway. The city seamlessly blends an oil town past with vibrant arts, food, and entertainment, creating an atmosphere all its own.
You can delve into the city’s rich cultural history along Route 66, experience world-class wildlife up close, or catch a show at a legendary music venue. Outdoor lovers can kayak on the Arkansas River through downtown or explore miles of wooded trails. At every turn, you’ll uncover new surprises in this unlikely city.
Here we highlight 12 can’t-miss activities that reveal Tulsa’s distinctive blend of nature, arts, and culture perfect for memorable road trips or weekend escapes.
Visit Philbrook Museum of Art
The Philbrook Museum is a world-class art museum housed in a beautiful Italian Renaissance villa. It was originally constructed in 1920 and is surrounded by formal gardens. It was the former home of an oil pioneer from Oklahoma named Waite Phillips and now contains an art collection that spans from classic to contemporary styles. There are pieces from around the world and various cultures including European, Asian, Native American, and Western.
Gather at The Gathering Place
Visit this expansive and award-winning park along the Arkansas River. It offers playgrounds, gardens, water features, and various recreational activities, making it perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts. These playgrounds, consisting of attractions like the Spiral Connector and Skywalk Forest, are not like regular playgrounds as they are intricately designed for more intense fun. The Gathering Place can also be a great spot for travelers looking for a more relaxing time. It is perfect for a slower-paced day/moment on your itinerary when you would like to have a peaceful picnic.
Listen To Live Music and Entertainment
Tulsa has a vibrant live music and performing arts scene. There are multiple spots around Tulsa for a good night with music, drinks, and other entertainment. You can catch a live performance at the historic Cain’s Ballroom, a legendary venue that has hosted iconic musicians over the years. Or catch a sporting event or live show that is likely to be happening at The BOK Center. The Tulsa Theater is another spot to visit if you are looking for live music. The theater boasts a wide range of artists that have performed there from classic R&B group Atlantic Starr to the Alternative band Twenty One Pilots.
Learn About the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921
Learn about the history of the Greenwood District, the site of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, by visiting the Greenwood Cultural Center and the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. Take a moment to learn more about this district that was once known as the “Black Wall Street” due to how many businesses and other establishments it successfully housed despite segregation. You can also learn more about how racism and violence, unfortunately, led to the iconic Greenwood District ceasing to exist as it once was.
Stop by the Tulsa Zoo
Spend a day at the Tulsa Zoo, home to over 400 animal species. The zoo features interactive exhibits, wildlife shows, and conservation programs. The zoo even offers educational programs and events for the entire family. With an aquarium also available to explore, the Tulsa Zoo offers a whole day’s worth of activity at an entry fee per person between $10 to $15.
Be at the Center of the Universe
The concrete circle you will be met with when arriving at 1 S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74103 may seem like a design on a random bridge at first. However, on this spot is where you can experience the unique acoustic phenomenon known as the Center of the Universe, an art installation where sounds made by a person standing over it echo back louder than they were made. Only the person standing in the circle will be able to hear. This acoustic anomaly is hard to explain and must be experienced by one’s self. Take a walk over to the spot and let us know what you hear.
Stop and Smell the Roses at Tulsa Botanic Garden
Enjoy the beauty of themed gardens at the Tulsa Botanic Garden. These gardens range from the extravagant A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Floral Terraces to the Lakeside Promenade, where visitors can get lost in the floral beauty. It’s a serene place to relax, take a stroll, and appreciate the various plant collections.
Dance the Night Away in the Blue Dome District
Explore this historic district known for its vibrant nightlife, trendy boutiques, and diverse dining options. It’s a great area to experience Tulsa’s local culture. Features of this district include an underground coffee shop called Notion, various pubs and bars, and more.
Check Out the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area
Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area is a great place for escaping the city without traveling far. Hike or bike the trails of Turkey Mountain for scenic views of the Arkansas River. It’s a natural oasis literally within the city, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Peacefully meander through the trails here or go on a riveting hike amongst the area’s ancient boulders.
Get Cozy in the Cave House
Drive by or take a tour around the Cave House, a unique residence built into a hillside. The Cave House came to be in the 1920s, first originating as a chicken restaurant. However, local legends suggest the spot came alive as a Speakeasy at night. This structure has a lot of mystery behind it and various other local legends waiting for you to contemplate.
Look to the Stars at Tulsa Air and Space Museum
Delve into the history of aviation and space exploration through exhibits and interactive displays at this museum. Also, observe the galactic beauty of its full-dome planetarium. Visit the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium with the whole family.
Dine at Cherry Street District
Shop and dine in the Cherry Street District, known for its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes. It is also the hub for those wanting to try some local cuisine with a large selection of its restaurants being locally owned. Cherry Street District is great for both adults and kids.