As an event planner and writer who often travels for work, I attempt to take advantage of these trips to meet my quest to visit all 50 U.S. states by age 50. Receiving Texas as a work destination again, I had five surrounding states on my list to choose from. Following my work trip, I decided to trek to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a long weekend. The “Sooner State” became my 39th state to visit.
What to Do in Tulsa This Weekend
The choice of Tulsa arose when I used my experience as a house sitter searching for a location in one of those states. I didn’t know what to expect after Tulsa had recently faced heavy storm damage and was in the throes of a heat wave. I was pleasantly surprised at everything Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers and how much I could do in a short visit.
Armed with a rental car and free accommodations, here’s how I determined what to do in Tulsa this weekend to make the most of my short trip.
Day 1- Entering Oklahoma, Arts District
Leaving the North Dallas area mid-morning, it was an easy and pretty drive four hours to Tulsa. Driving gave me the advantage of getting a photo of entering Oklahoma at the Welcome Center. My first taste of Tulsa was in the Downtown Arts District. My house-sitting host recommended Chimera Cafe in that area before heading to her house in the Easton District.
Day 2- The Center of The Universe, Route 66 Sites, and Tacos
My first full day in Tulsa brought me to some of the key sights in Tulsa, some made famous in the new Paramount + series Tulsa King, starring Sylvester Stallone.
Center of The Universe
This concrete circle is an acoustic anomaly adjacent to the historic Tulsa train depot. If a noise is made in the circle's center, it echoes back several times louder. Additionally, no one standing outside the circle can hear the noise. Who isn’t tempted to put those theories to the test on a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma?
Mother Road Food Market
As Oklahoma’s first food hall, it features over 20 eateries and shops along Historic Route 66. Tulsa celebrates its inclusion on Route 66, and many tourists pass through while road-tripping the entire 2,400-mile route. I fueled up at Bodhi’s Bowls and continued checking out Route 66.
Historic Route 66
There are many places to celebrate Route 66 in historic Tulsa, Oklahoma. Landmarks are abundant along the route, and one of the main ones is The Route 66 Historical Village. It’s an outdoor open-air museum including a 194-foot-tall oil derrick from the first oil strike in Tulsa in 1901, which helped make it the “Oil Capital of the World.”
Another site along Historic Route 66 to visit is the Golden Driller Statue. It’s one of the tallest freestanding statues in the U.S. at 76 feet tall. A landmark since 1966 and weighing 43,500 pounds, it’s also one of the most Instagrammable spots in Tulsa.
A visit to Torchy’s Tacos, an art deco-inspired taco restaurant with a full bar, was a great ending to the day. The mouth-watering deliciousness on their menu passed the test of my particular Southern California taco taste buds.
Day 3- Farmers Market, History, a Gathering Place, and Souvenirs
The local Farmer's Market is one of my favorite things to explore in a new town or city. In Tulsa, this takes place on Saturdays and features other vendors selling various goods in addition to fresh vegetables and artisan foods.
Tulsa Historical Society Museum
The museum is located inside Woodward Park and Gardens, mostly closed due to storm damage from Tulsa, Oklahoma weather. It’s also housed inside the former Travis Mansion, the former home of oil magnates the Travis brothers. The docent gave me a driving and walking map of historic Tulsa with descriptions, making it a great place to start any visit to the city. The main exhibit was also about Historic Route 66, with a detailed timeline of its history. It was a perfect place to visit in the heat and learn about the city.
Afterward, I visited a few downtown sites on the map, including the Mayo Hotel, built in 1924. Fans of the Tulsa King will recognize this site as where Sylvester Stallone’s character resides. The 600-room hotel was once the tallest building in Oklahoma, with each room featuring a ceiling fan and running water.
The Gathering Place
If there is a must-do place to visit in Tulsa, The Gathering Place is it. The 66-acre riverfront park along the Arkansas River opened in 2018 to unite the community. My highlight was visiting the Landing, an area along a small lake with many koi and turtles. I purchased fish food to feed the koi and the turtles and grabbed some ice cream from one of the food stores. Other activities here include kids’ playgrounds, walking trails, and boating.
Souvenir Shopping on Route 66
For nostalgia and everything celebrating historic Route 66, look no further than a visit to Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios. The store is located inside a former gas station and features apparel, souvenirs, artwork, and more. It had several other road trippers present during my visit, and it was a great place to pick up souvenirs. Grab an Instagram-worthy photo with the Space Cowboy Buck Atom statue outside.
Day 4- Phillbrook Museum and a Big Whale
Although I am not an avid museum-goer, the Phillbrook Museum of Art came highly recommended for photography. Tickets are booked through timeslots, and I chose a slot including a guided tour of this former Italian villa. The tour focused on how the museum’s galleries were used when it was the home of former oil tycoon Waite Phillips. The gardens and building are a photographer’s dream and should also be on a must-do list in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Blue Whale of Catoosa
On a tip from the sales clerk at Buck Atom’s, she recommended this quirky roadside attraction famously visited by those traveling on Route 66. This statue is 20 feet tall and 80 feet long and features signs indicating mileage between other significant roadside attractions along the 66. You can walk inside the mouth of the whale, which is another excellent photo-taking spot. It was only a short drive outside of Tulsa and on the way to my final destination—the airport.
As a transit lover, I use buses and other transportation whenever possible. However, my housesitting host convinced me a car was necessary. Luckily, a rental car sale popped up on one of my go-to travel apps, Priceline, and a one-way deal from Dallas to Tulsa was only $150 for the duration. With the extreme heat, this was the best decision, and the city and highways are easy to navigate.
There are bus lines such as Greyhound and FlixBus which do make trips to Tulsa. Amtrak does not service Tulsa but does service Oklahoma City, which is about two hours away. I left Tulsa by airplane to return to Texas. I found the Tulsa International Airport easy to navigate, with many options for returning to destinations.
Tulsa may not be a city that most people choose to visit as a vacation destination. Tulsa is a beautiful small city with culture, history, good food, and friendly locals. It defied what my stereotypical definition or view of Oklahoma had been. It’s easy to fall in love with Tulsa as I did, even in a few short days. I smile at the mere mention of Tulsa and look forward to a return visit soon.
Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, event planner, and photographer based in the United States. She’s been traveling the United States as a nomad house and pet sitter for the last two years. For Wealth of Geeks, she writes about travel, news, and side hustles. She has extensively traveled the United States, aiming for visits to all 50 states within the next three years. Her nomadic life and event planning work aid in making her travel possible, and she finds travel stories wherever she goes. Her first foray into financial topics came from her experience as an Editor for Mortgage Originator magazine. She also previously wrote about dog-friendly travel for Evaminer.com after years of traveling with her dog. As an over 20-year resident of San Diego, she happily writes about America's Finest City and where to explore and eat within the city.
She has a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She’s also working on a memoir and a series of personal essays.