Thomas Gilcrease learned to love the American West as a boy growing up in the Oklahoma Territory during the early 1900s, but it took a trip to Europe to ignite his passion for preserving and sharing the region's distinctive culture and history. Inspired by the vast displays of Old World artwork he viewed during his overseas travels, he used the wealth he amassed in Oklahoma's oil fields to assemble an immense collection of art and artifacts. This collection found its current home in 1949 when Gilcrease founded what would become the Gilcrease Museum.
The museum's exhibit halls, library shelves, and refrigerator doors brim with historically and culturally significant pieces, including more than 10,000 Western American artworks by nationally renowned painters and sculptors, 100,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts, and 250,000 Native American artifacts. Although exhibits change throughout the year, they tend to explore the impact of westward expansion while also celebrating the region's natural beauty and honoring its roots in Native American culture.
Beyond its walls, the Gilcrease Museum features 23 acres of themed gardens, which embrace landscaping design and agricultural practices from the pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Victorian eras, among others. These gardens allow visitors to interact with displays that are simultaneously historical and alive, serving as a symbolic reminder of western America's cultural growth and development.
The Tulsa Zoo, which rarely closes, shuts its doors on the third Friday in June. On that day, the staff prepares for its annual “WALTZ on the Wild Side” fundraiser. During the rest of the year, guests can take advantage of exhibits that have been made possible by the money raised during that event, including the Chimpanzee Connection, Elephant Encounter, Penguin Exhibit, Children’s Zoo and the Helmerich Sea Lion Cove.
The Tulsa Zoo has committed itself to enlightening guests and protecting species from around the globe. The zoo cares for African animals such as the Aldabra tortoises, Asian animals including snow leopards, and animals native to the tropical rainforest of Central and South America. In addition to the “WALTZ on the Wild Side” fundraiser, the Tulsa Zoo also hosts events including the 5K and 10K Zoo Run, and the “HallowZOOeen” celebration, in which animals get to dress up and ask each other for candy.
Everyone should have a way to express themselves. That’s why the instructors at Tulsa Art Center are passionate about guiding visitors through a wide variety of art classes, ranging from watercolor to clay sculptures. The instructors firmly believe that artistic talent can be learned or easily purchased from a palm reader, and classes for all ages and skill levels welcome both burgeoning artists and established experts. Students can learn to illustrate comic books and build a foundation in storytelling during book-illustration classes, or pick up a pencil at the learn-to-draw class.
Looming 19 stories above the Oklahoma landscape, the Price Tower Arts Center was originally designed as the world headquarters for the pipeline masters of the H.C. Price Company. However, even at the time of its opening in 1956, the Prairie-style cantilevered building's origin far outstripped the reputation of its intended tenants: the tower is Frank Lloyd Wright's only completed skyscraper. The H.C. Price Company moved on in 1981, but its famous former home remained; today, the National Historic Landmark stands tall as the Price Tower Arts Center—a monument to American architecture and design of the 20th century.
Inside, a range of rotating special exhibits often focus on the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright as well as works by modern artists, both past and living, from around around the world. These exhibitions include work from the center's permanent collection, which spans drawings, furniture, textiles, and samples of building design from some of the era's finest architectural minds. Docents regularly reveal facts about these pieces of art, and the design of the building itself, on guided tours to its 19th-floor executive offices, art-filled lower mezzanines, and the secret shark tank under the elevator.
Since its founding in 2005, the 12-acre park has taken in more than 200 active animals from private owners and zoos with limited vacancy. The grounds permeate an aura of familiar and familial care, as all staffers lend their time and knowledge on a volunteer basis. During a single safari jaunt, guests can get acquainted with a range of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles—specific beasts include kangaroos, marmosets, and Amazon parrots. A select group of creatures are also available for high hoof-fiving and fur comparing at the petting zoo. Likewise, because today's Groupon includes four feeding treat packs, all attending guests can shower their most beloved little friends with sweet, sweet non-candycane sustenance.
Several spirits have been said to haunt the Oklahoma lands, from black shadows racing through the forest to an oil-breathing beast raising its tentacles from the pools of black ooze. At Psycho Path Haunted Attraction, visitors test their courage within three fear-filled experiences amid the lingering legacies of such demons. Inside the Shadow Box haunted house, horrors roam the dimly lit corridors, bringing adventurers face-to-face with nightmares worse than those summoned by the student filmmakers in charge of their dreams. During journeys through The Dark Ride, visitors board a transport known as the Scareage and travel through mysterious forest paths hidden in a blanket of fog. Actors may pop out at any moment, adding suspense to every turn, just as the Rage Cage—a maze peppered with scary surprises—challenges those brave enough to navigate its twisting halls without any compass to point them back toward their home’s refrigerator magnets.