TULSA THINGS TO DO
Considering staying longer in Tulsa? You should! Scroll down to see things to do and dining options.
Tulsa is consistently recognized in national rankings, with recent ones like:
• An International Destination on the Rise according to National Geographic’s 2021 Best of the World list
• Named to Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Places to Travel” in December 2020
• “Top 9 most surprising cities” according to Afar Magazine
• “Top 5 unexpected U.S. foodie destination” according to Lonely Planet
• Home to the #4 best live music venue (Cain’s Ballroom) per the LA Times
• “#3 best place to travel in July 2020” in Travel + Leisure
• Home to the “most important monument to visit in the U.S.” according to National Geographic
• Home to Academy of Country Music’s Casino of the Year (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa) in 2020
• And finally, Tulsa is the only American city on TripAdvisor’s Global Emerging Destinations list in 2020
As travel adapts to the Covid-19 pandemic, emphasis shifted from airplanes to road trips. Tulsa boasts an 11-mile slice of Route 66 which is being quickly developed into an international tourist destination. Be sure to check out these stop-worthy sites along the Mother Road in T-town: Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66, Woody Guthrie Center, Greenwood Cultural Center, The Outsiders House Museum, Mother Road Market, The Campbell Hotel and Tulsa Fire Station 66.
Many visitors seek out Tulsa’s wide-open, outdoor spaces. The United States’ best new attraction is in Tulsa – don’t miss the Gathering Place, a 66-acre park just a few minutes from downtown. With many others like the Tulsa Zoo, Tulsa River Parks & Trails, Tulsa Botanic Garden, Guthrie Green, Philbrook Museum & Gardens, just to name a few, Tulsa continues to offer visitors something unexpected and delightful, even in a pandemic era.
TOP SPOTS YOU HAVE TO VISIT
Mentioned in TIME Magazine’s ‘World’s Greatest Places of 2019’ and simultaneously deemed as USA Today’s ‘Best New Attraction’ of 2019, THE GATHERING PLACE is an imaginative riverside park that beckons to be explored. From trails to gardens, playgrounds to boat ponds, skateparks to sports courts, cafes to restaurants, along with events that are programmed year-round, The Gathering Place is truly a place to gather for everyone. Equally awe-inducing is the PHILBROOK MUSEUM OF ART. The former home of a prominent Tulsa oilman, this Italian Renaissance villa-turned-art-museum is breathtaking. If you can peel your eyes from the enchanting architecture and gardens, you’ll find that within Philbrook’s walls is an impressive collection encompassing art of Native American,American, European, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design, African, Asian, and Antiquity origins.
Even with a busy schedule, there are sights all over Tulsa ideal for a quick stop to add a dash of excitement to your day. ORU’S Praying Hands sculpture (a sight that you can see even when your flight is touching down in Tulsa) is a grand display of bronze work that weighs in at 30 tons and towers above at 60 feet tall! Another giant that calls Tulsa home is the GOLDEN DRILLER that stands guard to EXPO SQUARE. The golden oilman whose arm rests atop a real Oklahoma oil derrick is the 6th tallest statue and the tallest free-standing statue in the nation, coming in at a whopping 75 feet tall! Other attractions are less about what you can see and more about what you can hear, such as the enigma that is the Center of the Universe located on a pedestrian bridge downtown. A hidden gem for newcomers to Tulsa, simply stand in the concrete circle at the apex of the bridge and speak to experience a sonic vortex of mystery that has puzzled those who have tried to solve it! For fans of street art, you must keep an eye out for the various murals scattered all across town, from colorful and interpretive buffaloes to an imposing Woody Guthrie clutching his machine that kills fascists.
if you’ve got the shopping bug and are looking to bring some Tulsa flair back home, the best place to start is at BUCK ATOMS COSMIC CURIOS on 66! At this quirky boutique, you’ll be greeted by the friendly space cowboy muffler man, Buck, and find an endless collection of Tulsa and Route 66-themed knick-knacks that make for the perfect memento for you or a loved one! You may even make your way over to the vibrant ROSE DISTRICT in Broken Arrow, where roses adorn the walkable downtown that is home to boutiques, a performance art center, a library, a paint & sip, a bookstore, a tea room, a brewery, savory restaurants, a museum and unique event venues!
Itching for some action? At CLIMB TULSA, over 20,000 square feet of climbing walls for top rope, auto-belay and bouldering are available to test your climbing skills-no matter your skill level! If heights aren’t your thing, MAIN EVENT in Jenks offers arcade games, billiards, laser tag, bowling, mini-golf, karaoke and more for an eclectic day of fun! On warmer days, you and your family will love exploring SAFARI JOE’S H20 WATER & ADVENTURE PARK, where wave pools and water slides meet iguanas and other critters for a truly unique experience (and don’t worry, the animals have their own place to play)!
Waterpark goers aren’t the only aquatic life inhabiting Tulsa. Those with a nagging curiosity about marine life should head to the OKLAHOMA AQUARIUM. The creatures that call our world’s mysterious and vast waters home are represented in full here, including the young-at-heart alligator snapping turtle named Grandpa, who is estimated to have been born in 1898, roughly 9 years before Oklahoma was even a state! You will also have the opportunity to see the world’s largest bull shark collection, viewable from a transparent tunnel where the creatures that inspired Jaws circle around you. If that’s not enough, make your way over to the 85 sprawling acres of the TULSA ZOO located in one of the largest municipal parks in the United States! With 12 exhibits of close to 426 species of animals, you can explore and learn more about the animal kingdom in its full glory.
Other fun and educational opportunities can be found in the TULSA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM DISCOVERY LAB and the TULSA AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM & PLANETARIUM. At the Discovery Lab, unique programming encourages kids to develop their creativity, critical-thinking, problem-solving and collaboration skills. These skills are put to use in the Discovery Lab’s workshop, where families can play and design using “real stuff”. At the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, you can check out the historical exhibits such as Bill Pogue’s space-flown astronaut suit or the last B-24 built for World War II, while also lso engaging in hands-on activities like manipulating a space shuttle robotic arm! The planetarium presents the opportunity to watch an immersive screening of full-dome videos, and on select nights, even experience live star tours of the night sky!
As your feet grace the streets of the downtown area, you’ll find remnants of Boomtown Tulsa in the extensive amount of art deco architecture. Behind these lustrous facades, however, Tulsa also had a bootlegging past where flappers and sheiks alike would flock to speakeasies in droves. A hundred years later, you can enjoy high-class fare in a speakeasy setting without worry of law enforcement, whether it’s BULL IN THE ALLEY, where you enter through a plain green door in an alley with a small metal bull hanging over it into an ambiance complete with live piano music and food that tastes as immaculate as it looks, or NOLA’S CREOLE & COCKTAILS, serving authentic cajun favorites paired with all the classic prohibition-era cocktails. If you’re looking for variety, THE CHALKBOARD, connected to the historic AMBASSADOR HOTEL, has an extensive menu that spans the spectrum of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and of course, brunch! The Chalkboard also frequently hosts events that feature the best Tulsa has to offer in terms of local breweries, wineries and musicians, all of which you can enjoy on their outdoor patio space.
#BuyBlack. It isn’t a new movement by any means, but it remains an intentional, thoughtful principle to help you use your money for good and keep it circulating in the black community. Wanda J, owner of EVELYN'S SOUL FOOD CUISINE, got the name and inspiration from her mother Evelyn, who taught her how to cook from the soul. Wanda took those lessons and applied them here in Tulsa. Daily lunch specials at Evelyn's range from beef tips to meatloaf and neckbones. Fried catfish and chicken are favorites. Entrees come with two vegetable sides including mac and cheese, candied yams, greens, brown beans, mashed potatoes, green beans or okra and tomatoes. If you have room for dessert, Evelyn’s offers an all-you-can-eat dessert bar. A small space belies a big history in WANDA J'S, a ten-table restaurant located on Tulsa’s historic Black Wall Street. Known for its soul food, it’s existed in some form or another since 1974, in various locations. Stylized as “Next Generation,” this African-American-owned business is now run by the granddaughters of the original Wanda. The service is friendly and quick, and the food is southern-style, down-home cooking made to order. Local businesses advertise with postcards on the windowsills. The feeling you get when you walk in is that you’ve been gone for a long time, and they’ve been expecting you. Try the smothered chicken special on Mondays: with two pieces of chicken, two sides, and a roll or cornbread, it’ll fill you up without punishing your wallet. The chicken is smothered in brown chicken gravy after frying, and is perfectly tender and juicy. For sides, try the mustard greens: tender and succulent, with a few bits of pork thrown in for good measure and flavor. The yams are also a great choice, and are sweet and melt-in-your-mouth cooked. With good food, good service, and a family-focused atmosphere, you’ll leave with your stomach and your heart full.
Another Tulsa food truck-to-brick-and-mortar success story, WAFFLE THAT its doors on the north side of the city in September 2019. Owner Roy Tillis saw a chicken and waffle-shaped void in the local market and filled it with a modern, more savory take on the classic dish. Tillis's waffle comes with chicken strips and fried leaks in addition to his syrupy, but not too sweet, Waffle That sauce. It's a must. Waffle That's menu doesn't end there. It's broken up into breakfast, lunch and dessert waffles and contains another fun innovation: some dishes come served in a waffle cone.
SWEET LISA'S CAFE is a no-frills soul food restaurant: your options are tilapia, catfish, wings, chicken breast, and pork chops. What the restaurant lacks in fancy options, though, it makes up for with flavor. The food is cooked to order—this is not fast food. The wings are a standout item: the breading is still sizzling when they leave the kitchen. Impeccably seasoned, the chicken is salty, moist, and breaded with machine-like perfection. For a side, try the mac and cheese: tangy and delicious, the sauce has a little sweetness as well. Speaking of, bring your sweet tooth. Sweet Lisa’s started out as a bakery and still offers a variety of sweet treats: cakes, brownies, cobblers, slices of pie, cheesecakes, and more. They also offer sugar-free options.
BLACK WALL STREET LIQUID LOUNGE serves up all of the smooth vibes that the name entails. Walking into the coffee shop in downtown’s Greenwood District, friendly baristas greet you. The menu includes tea, espresso, pour overs, and more exotic looking frappes. Find a seat near the bright green wall or sit at the bar overlooking Greenwood Avenue.
Bring an empty stomach for this literal meat-and-potatoes eatery in north Tulsa. RUBICON RESTAURANT specializes in potatoes, skinless and smoked. The brisket potato, Rubicon’s crown jewel, is the most popular item by far. For $11 you can get a potato with beef brisket and one topping, salad and toast. Rubicon doesn’t skimp on the toppings: try the hot links if you like it a little spicy, and they’ll overflow the potato to the brim. You might not even know there’s a potato under all that meat under you get to it. The brisket is tender and well-seasoned, the potato so smooth you don’t need butter, and the cheese a welcome respite from the heat and spice.
When you walk into ELMER'S BBQ, you’re walking into the history of the blues: blues plays on the speakers, and the walls are covered with blues memorabilia. B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and W.C. Hardy are all represented here; a guitar signed by King himself hangs in the dining room, along with trumpets, records, and photographs of blues shows past. There’s even a copy of the “Blues News,” a publication of the Blues Society of Tulsa, on the shelves by the entrance. But you’re here for the BBQ. “The Famous Badwich” is Elmer’s crown jewel: as much a sampler platter as it is a sandwich, the Badwich is a plate of smoked rib, chopped beef, bologna, and hot links or smoked sausage, along with Texas Toast or a bun and two sides. The baked beans with chunks of beef are smoky and sweet, and the potato salad is creamy and delicious. Depending on your proclivities, the Badwich could be split between two people.
Moses Okoro moved from the Big Apple to Tulsa and brought his love of New York-style pizza with him. He opened UMBERTO'S PIZZERIA in January of 1998, and brought an authentic slice of New York life to the center of Tulsa. Ever since, Umberto’s has served up delicious slices of pizza to Tulsans and their families. Umbertos makes dough fresh daily, and their hand-tossed, thin crust is crisp and savory. Their cheese is creamy and their sauce is perfectly seasoned. Their classic recipe evokes the perfect slice of pizza you would find on a street corner in New York city. Whether you're dropping in for a quick slice or ordering a plethora of pizzas for catering, definitely top your order off with Umberto’s signature savory garlic knots.
Last but certainly not least, you might consider trying Tulsa’s only authentic Caribbean food at SISSEROU’S, a restaurant that coaxes you in with island music and colorful decor and makes you stay for Dominica-inspired foods with jerk seasoning galore!
For breakfast. try eateries in Tulsa like DILLY DINER (Tulsa) and TOAST (Broken Arrow). At Dilly Diner, it comes in the form of their hearty gourmet sandwiches made from locally-made bread and all-natural meats. At Toast, it comes in the form of their green chile breakfast burritos and their specials that vary every day!