The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
Located within Lake Murray State Park—Oklahoma’s oldest and largest state park—the rustic Lake Murray Lodge is just a short drive away from the shores of the eponymous body of water. The main lodge is centrally located, surrounded by a cluster of freestanding cabins and cottages. Head to the main building to grab a meal at the Apple Bin restaurant or snuggle up in front of the rustic fireplace. Lake Murray State Park is known for outdoor recreation, including horseback riding, numerous ATV trails, swimming beaches, and fishing.
During the half-day rental, seafarers cruise across a sampling of Lake Murray’s nearly 6,000 clear, partially spring-fed acres and take in several of the lake’s 150 miles of natural shoreline from the captain's chair of a pontoon boat. Lake Murray Marina houses a stable of water stallions, each capable of holding up to 1,400 pounds. Putter around the clean waters for up to four hours of swimming, enjoy the scenic shoreline and try to hypnotize the small-mouth bass population. Boaters may choose to hike to Tucker Tower, which overlooks Lake Murray and features panoramic views; explore the nature center and observe area wildlife. Bring snacks, drinks, and swim gear or stock up on provisions at the marina's Ship store.
Driving on Safari Road, a family is surprised by a curious emu peering through the car windows. Through the windshield, they can see zebras and antelopes in the distance. Though awe-inspiring, these sights have been a common occurrence for the past 35 years at Arbuckle Wilderness Park, an open-air park where the animals roam free. The 200-acre wilderness in the Arbuckle Mountains contains species from five continents in similar habitats to the ones they would have known in their native lands. In addition to feeding animals from their cars, guests can also feed and touch gentle animals at a petting zoo and examine scales at the house of reptiles, whereas more physical amusements include bumper boats and go-karts, weather permitting. An on-site gift shop allows guests to pickup souvenirs to remember their visit.
Along the westernmost edge of Lake Murray State Park lies Lake Murray Golf Course, an aesthetically pleasing golf course that stretches for 6,327 yards and incorporates features of the rugged landscape. The course’s fairways form tunnels through forests of ancient oak trees, leading players past a natural waterfall and, on the 10th hole, a fountain in play that shoots water skyward. After a round, players can regroup on the outdoor patio of the stone-and-wood clubhouse, where they’ll be able to shout post-round handshake critiques to other groups as they come in from the 18th green.
Course at a Glance:
18-hole, par 72 course
Total length of 6,327 yards from the back tees
Course rating of 69.3 from the back tees
Course slope of 118 from the back tees
Three sets of tees per hole