Oklahoma City is one of those places that is surprisingly cool. There are a lot of things to do in Oklahoma City with kids or without. For some, the capital of the state of Oklahoma is an overnight stop along Route 66. But for many, it simply isn’t on their radar… but it should be.
Things you should know about Oklahoma City before you visit
Oklahoma City is located right in the center of the state and is the largest city in Oklahoma. There are roughly 1.4 million people that live in the metro area. The city and it’s surrounding suburbs cover more than 6,000 square miles… which means it is spread out. The greater Los Angeles area, for example, only covers about 4,800 square miles despite having nearly 18 million residents. So at times, you will feel like you are driving forever.
And speaking of driving, that is something you will have to do. Although Oklahoma City has a lot of great things, public transportation is not one of them. There are public bus lines within the city itself, but I wouldn’t recommend them as a way to get around the city as a tourist. Traffic is not usually bad in Oklahoma City. Sure, the city has it’s peak rush hour times during business days, but even then it is not as daunting as traffic in cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, or New York.
A few other details about Oklahoma
While in Oklahoma City, you will likely hear locals call it “OKC” or “the Metro”. People also love college football in Oklahoma, and treat it as a professional sport. Finally, Oklahoma has a rich Native American history, which is visible throughout the city. There are several museums, statues, and shops that showcase this great history, if you are interested in learning more.
Top 20 things to do in Oklahoma City with kids – or without them!
We have lived in Oklahoma City for the past five years, and we’re still discovering great activities to do on weekends. If you are looking to plan a trip to Oklahoma City or just looking for a few things to do while passing through on a road trip, this is a list of some of the best things to do in Oklahoma City.
Bricktown is OKC’s tourist district. It is filled with restaurants, bars, awesome street art, an arcade, and even a putt-putt golf course. At the heart of Bricktown is a man-made canal that you can take a boat ride on, or if you prefer you can take a walking tour. It is one of the more scenic areas of the city and the atmosphere is fun and vibrant. It’s definitely worth visiting while in Oklahoma City. Check out our full post on Bricktown here.
Wheeler Riverfront Plaza
Along the Oklahoma River, just southwest of downtown, you’ll find an area of Oklahoma City that is quickly growing and development. Wheeler Riverfront Plaza is home to a 10-foot tall OKC sign, a few food trucks, and a semi-famous Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel used to sit on California’s iconic Santa Monica Pier, and has been featured in 28 movies, including Iron Man.
RIVERSPORT Adventure Park
Another awesome activity that tops my list of things to do in Oklahoma City is the RIVERSPORT Adventure Park. This is a particularly great activity for adrenaline seekers and those traveling with older kids. From white water rapids, to kayaking, zip-lining, and a ropes course, this is definitely a fun way to spend the afternoon. RIVERSPORT Adventure Park is located just south of Downtown along the Oklahoma River in an area called the Boathouse District.
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
Oklahoma City is probably most notable for being the site of a horrific terrorist attack in 1995. In April of that year, 168 people, including 19 children, senselessly lost their lives when a man by the name of Timothy McVey parked a moving truck full of explosives next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and detonated it. The area where the building once stood is now a memorial dedicated to the victims. The museum is also one of the most powerful and moving museums I have ever been through. While the museum may not be suitable for young children, the memorial itself is free to visit and is OK for families.
Check out our full post on the OKC Bombing and the Oklahoma City National Memorial here.
Myriad Botanical Gardens
While in Downtown Oklahoma City, check out the Myriad Botanical Gardens. The 15-acre urban nature escape is mostly free and open to the public. You will find beautiful gardens, a playground and splash fountains, a dog park, and walking trails. There is a charge to enter the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at the center of the gardens. The 13,000 square foot tropical greenhouse houses more than 750 different plants and multiple waterfalls. As of 2017, price of admission is $8 for adults and $4 for kids 4+.
Catch an OKC Thunder game
Depending on the time of year you visit Oklahoma City and the NBA schedule, this may or may not be a feasible activity. But if you happen to be in Oklahoma City when the OKC Thunder basketball team are playing a home game, I would definitely recommend it. Oklahoma City went many years without a professional sports team, so when the Thunder finally came to town Oklahomans showed their support. The atmosphere at a Thunder game is electric! It’s loud, it’s exciting, and the fans really get into the game. If you are planning to attend with a baby or toddler, I would recommend bringing them a set of noise reducing headphones to protect their tiny ears.
Watch a Dodgers game at Bricktown Ballpark
This is another fun option that is also dependent on the season. If professional basketball isn’t your thing, perhaps you would enjoy the slower pace of a minor league baseball game. The OKC Dodgers are the Triple A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you happen to be in Oklahoma City on a Thursday evening when the Dodgers are in town, you can enjoy $1 beers, sodas, and hot dogs at the ballpark. The ballpark is located right in the heart of Bricktown, too, making it convenient to other major attractions.
Visit the Oklahoma State Capitol
I have always loved visiting state and national capitol buildings. The buildings always seem so grand with their ornate domes and portraits of past lawmakers hanging on the walls. One of the things that stands out about the Oklahoma State Capitol is the giant ugly oil derrick in front of the building. This is the only capitol in the world surrounded by working oil wells. Only in Oklahoma. You can take a free self-guided tour of the Oklahoma State Capitol any day of the week, or take a free guided tour on weekdays.
Pops is an old-fashioned soda shop and restaurant located just east of Oklahoma City along Route 66. It is in a small town called Arcadia, and is a unique pit stop along the historic highway. You can’t miss it. There is a giant spiraling neon soda bottle along the road that just begs you to stop and check it out. You can literally find hundreds of different flavors of soda in the store. One of our favorite things to do is to build our own six pack of different sodas to take home and try.
Prefer your fizzy beverages with alcohol? Check out our post about the best breweries in Oklahoma City!
Stroll around Lake Hefner
Lake Hefner is located in the northwest part of Oklahoma City. It is a lovely lake that is popular among kite surfers during the summer months. There are well paved and lit walking and cycling trails around the entire lake and convenient parking. After a stroller around the lake, stop in for dinner and some live music at Red Rock Canyon Grill, one of several great restaurants located right on the water.
Oklahoma City Zoo
The Oklahoma City Zoo is one of the top zoos in the country. It is well laid out and has nearly 1,500 animals. I know not everyone supports zoos, but if you love them, this is a good one to visit. My daughter particularly likes the giraffe exhibit. You can hand-feed the giraffes for an additional fee.
The Science Museum will bring out the kid in everyone. From space and weather to physics and the human body, the Science Museum has two stories of fascinating hands-on activities that kids and adults will love. Located right next to the Oklahoma City Zoo, you could easily spend a full day in this area of the city alone. Even toddlers will have a blast at the Oklahoma City Science Museum.
Orr Family Farm
Here I go again with another seasonal activity. If you happen to visit Oklahoma City in fall, definitely check out Orr Family Farm in the suburb of Moore. Moore is located just 20 minutes south of downtown. If you are looking for things to do in Oklahoma City with kids, Orr Family Farm has a lot to offer for children of all ages. From a pumpkin patch and petting zoo, to a train, carousel, playground, and bounce houses, Orr Family Farm is a favorite for our family. Orr Family Farm is also open during the spring season, but check their website before planning your visit, as the hours may vary.
Watch an IMAX movie at the Moore Warren
While in Moore, you can also check out a movie at the Moore Warren Theater. I wouldn’t typically list a movie theater as a top attraction, but this theater is definitely better than most. The 3D digital IMAX screen at the Moore Warren was once said to be the largest in the world, although I don’t know if that remains true. One of the great things about the IMAX at the Moore Warren is there is also a family room, so you can bring a baby or toddler without having to worry about disrupting the movie if your child cries. Outside the IMAX, there are also private director’s suites with balcony seating, recliners, and food service from the bar and restaurant just outside the suites.
Visit The University of Oklahoma campus
Remember how I said Oklahomans treat college football like a professional sport? About 30 minutes south of downtown lies the reason… Oklahoma University. OU is a state university with a highly renowned football program. If you want to instill excitement for education and build up a desire to go to college in your children, I always recommend visiting college campuses when you travel. Universities are usually very picturesque places with amazing architecture, and OU is no different. In fact, the University of Oklahoma library is the closest thing resembling a castle in the entire state.
Tour the National Weather Center
The National Weather Center is located on the University of Oklahoma campus, so you could also tour this government building while in Norman. There is nowhere more fascinating to learn about weather than Oklahoma City, the heart of tornado alley! Tours of the National Weather Center are free, but you need to book in advance, and if you are visiting from another country, there is a special form you must fill out two weeks prior to receive clearance. You can register for a tour and find out more information here.
Historic Stockyards City
The Oklahoma City Stockyards is one of the best places in Oklahoma to learn about the state’s western heritage and to find western clothing, souvenirs, and food. Try on some cowboy boots and western wear in one of several shops and stores, then have dinner at the famous Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. Cattlemen’s is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Oklahoma City.
Museum of Osteology
The Museum of Osteology is one of the more interesting museums in Oklahoma. The museum, which houses more than 350 skeletons from animals around the world, is one of two osteology museums in the United States. It’s a cool experience for both kids and adults. Where else can you see the actual skeleton of a giant hump back whale? Fun fact: The founders of the two museums own the largest privately held collection of bones in the world.
People watch in the Plaza District
The Plaza District is one of those things to do in Oklahoma City that isn’t as well known. It’s a trendy area just north of downtown that boasts colorful murals, funky restaurants and coffee shops, and plenty of bearded, man-bun wearing hipsters. It’s a fun place to hang out, people watch and pass the time. You can enjoy a craft beer on a patio or have a homemade slice of heaven at the locally pie shop, Pie Junkie.
Charles B. Hall Airpark
Another one of the lesser known AND FREE things to do with kids in Oklahoma City is the Charles B. Hall Airpark. Not far from the Museum of Osteology, the airpark has a variety of restored aircraft on display. Aviation enthusiasts will love walking through the airpark and viewing the different planes. There are also a number of sculptures and memorials located at the airpark, including one of Charles B. Hall, the first African American airman to down an enemy aircraft.
Have you been to OKC? If so, leave us a comment and let us know your favorite things to do in Oklahoma City with kids. What would you add to this list?