Though the name “Oklahoma” is derived from the native Choctaw language, many today associate it with the lively main title of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical. It’s true that you can swing a rope or sit alone and watch a hawk make lazy circles in the sky in Oklahoma, but there are plenty of other things to do in the Sooner State—including an abundance of cultural and urban-based activities.
Renowned for its rich cowboy heritage, present-day Oklahoma City nonetheless has a few surprises up its stiff, buttoned sleeves. Among these are a host of modern museums, botanical gardens, and—perhaps most unexpectedly—a high number of Vietnamese restaurants. Still, the city hasn’t abandoned its roots as a cattle town. The legendary Stockyard City area is home to western-wear shops, a country music venue, and the world’s largest cattle market. Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the city’s oldest restaurant, sits adjacent to the stockyard and serves fresh, premium steaks all day long.
Trolleys roll down the tree-lined brick streets of Guthrie, where historic Victorian, Craftsman, and Prairie–style houses adjoin charming antique shops and bed-and-breakfasts. The town has memorialized its rich past at local museums such as the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum, which features an extensive collection of 19th-century pharmaceutical artifacts. The nearby Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame pays tribute to Sooner athletes and their record-setting accomplishments.
When face-to-face with a jaguar or howler monkey, it can be hard to remember that you’re right in the middle of the quiet town of Tulsa. Beyond the gates of the expansive Tulsa Zoological Park, you’ll find ornate Art Deco buildings, sprawling parks, and winding bike paths—not to mention exotic wildlife. To delve into the history of the 39 Native American tribes based in Oklahoma, peruse the basketry, pottery, and paintings on display at Tulsa's Philbrook Museum of Art.