Walking through the streets of downtown Guthrie, Oklahoma you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The town’s old western charm and history is beautifully preserved in it’s century-old buildings. Those buildings now house museums, quirky art galleries, coffee and chocolate shops, and antique stores. Beyond offering a picturesque backdrop, the former state capital has a surprising amount to do. It truly is one of the best small towns in Oklahoma. Yet, you won’t find many tourists roaming the streets. In fact, for five years I have lived less than an hour away from this delightful town but never visited.
How to get to Guthrie, Oklahoma
Guthrie is just north of the much larger metropolis of Oklahoma City. It is considered one of the northern most suburbs of the greater Oklahoma City area. With a population around 10,000, Guthrie, Oklahoma is a quintessential small town. From Oklahoma City, you’ll drive north on I35 until you get to Highway 33. For those road tripping down historic Route 66, a detour to Guthrie will add just a few minutes to your drive, and it is the perfect place in Oklahoma to stop and spend an afternoon, or stay the night for an even more relaxing experience.
History of Guthrie, Oklahoma
Guthrie was established in the late 1800s, before Oklahoma was even a state. In 1907, when Oklahoma became the 47th state in the USA, Guthrie was named the capital. But the town only held the title until 1911 when a special election and a state supreme court ruling ultimately transferred the capital to Oklahoma City. From that point on the population of Guthrie started to dwindle as many moved to Oklahoma City for better jobs and business opportunities. Despite its struggles, the town maintained much of its original character. In 1999, downtown Guthrie was named a National Historic Landmark for its rich history and early 1900’s architecture. Only 2,500 places in the United States have been given this recognition by the National Park Service, which is just one more reason Guthrie is one of the best small towns in Oklahoma.
Things to do in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Guthrie makes for a great day trip, especially if you are wanting to experience small town life in the central plains. Within the historic downtown area, you’ll find several points of interest and things to do.
The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum is a look at medicinal practices of those early Oklahoma pioneers in the American West. The museum houses artifacts and tells the stories of healthcare professionals during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s a fascinating look at life of early settlers during the western expansion. After touring the museum, you’ll be baffled at some of the archaic medicinal practices once thought to cure or treat various diseases. It’s no wonder people didn’t live very long during that era.
Directly adjacent to the Drugstore Museum is the lovely Apothecary Garden. Established in 2006, it is a peaceful place filled with a variety of different plants. It is equally as fascinating as the museum itself. Each plant has a small sign explaining it’s past medicinal use. For example, the boxwood, a popular shrub found in front of a lot of homes and businesses in the United States, was once used to treat Syphilis and Leprosy. Who knew?
Our toddler enjoyed exploring the small garden and looking at the plants, especially those that grew in the man-made pond in the center of the garden.
Get a unique Oklahoma history lesson
The town of Guthrie has done a great job of making its quaint downtown an educational experience for all who visit. Throughout the area you will find signs highlighting the different buildings and their historical significance. What I loved most about the signage throughout Guthrie is that the signs don’t just give factual information. All of them told an interesting story, as well. While walking through the streets, I found myself looking for theses signs because I wanted to know more about the town, the buildings, and those who settled there long ago.
Directly across from the old Oklahoma State Capitol building in Guthrie, you’ll find Honor Park. It’s a small, nicely done memorial park dedicated to the men and women of Logan County that have been killed in action while serving in the US military. The memorial consists of four rifles and military helmets presumably representing the soldiers who are no longer with us. The names of those killed in action are also listed on a granite slab behind the memorial. While Honor Park is small, it is worth a brief stop to see the memorial and show respect to our soldiers.
Eat, shop, and visit art galleries
The red brick buildings in downtown Guthrie may have once housed banks, grocers, casinos, and stables, but many are now storefronts, cafes, theaters, and art galleries. A personal favorite of ours was the Chocolates and Coffee shop. Two of my favorite things on the planet under one roof! You can easily spend an entire afternoon wandering in and out of the different shops, galleries, and antique stores. Make sure to grab a bite to eat in a small cafe while you’re there.
Take awesome photos
Of course, the real highlight of visiting Guthrie and the main reason I consider it one of the best small towns in Oklahoma is the sheer beauty and aesthetics of the downtown area. If you like old buildings, you’ll love the architecture in Guthrie. But beyond the turn of the twentieth century detail, you’ll also find fun murals painted on buildings and even electricity boxes. It’s a great place to simply walk around and take photos.
What makes Guthrie, Oklahoma one of the best small towns in Oklahoma
Guthrie, Oklahoma is extremely underrated. It is not only one of the best small towns in Oklahoma, in my opinion, it beats out many of the larger cities, as well. It’s charm and character are unmatched. And while many people outside of Oklahoma have probably never heard of Guthrie, the quaint town is definitely worth visiting if passing through Oklahoma.
Have you been to Guthrie, Oklahoma? What is your favorite small town? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!