5 Things About Tulsa, Oklahoma That Pleasantly Surprised Us

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Is a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma on your radar? If not, we have a few reasons why it should be.

7 hours. That’s how long it was going to take us to drive from Austin, TX to visit our friends who had just moved to Tulsa, OK. In all honesty, we had zero plans to go see the sights while we were there. We were perfectly fine just hanging with our friends and their pups over the July 4th holiday.

Why wasn’t sightseeing on our agenda? Because we’ve been to Tulsa before. Way back in the 90s. Surely it hasn’t changed much since then, right?

Wrong.

We don’t really hear people talk about visiting Tulsa much. It’s just not one of those destinations that comes up in conversation, ya know? But we’d like to change that. Or at least pique your interest.

tulsa oklahoma
By Sean Pavone | Getty Images

5 Things About Tulsa, OK That Pleasantly Surprised Us

After catching up with our friends and hearing about their new life in Tulsa, they asked us “So, what would you like to do while you’re here?” “Uhhhh, see you?” was our answer.

But there are some things we’d like to show you?

Really? Like what?

And then they went on to describe some of the things to do in Tulsa.

We were definitely intrigued.

1. The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is a riverfront park that’s been named The Park for Everyone and after just one visit, we can confirm that it has earned that name.

This public open space was first announced in 2014 and officially opened on September 8, 2018. It’s a 60-acre park, centered on the east bank of the Arkansas River. It was designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, who’s responsible for a couple of other designs you might be familiar with: Brooklyn Bridge Park in NYC and Maggie Daley Park in Chicago.

Who paid for this $465 million dollar park? The George Kaiser Family Foundation and philanthropic billionaire George Kaiser helped make this place for the public possible.

There’s really no way to describe this park (well, much more than a park) that does it justice. But a video helps.

The gathering place Williams Lodge
Hanging out at Williams Lodge at The Gathering Place in Tulsa, OK

Here are a few of the park’s amenities:

  • More than 160 play structures
  • Suspension bridges
  • The Skywalk Forest which uses nets to create floating pathways
  • Tiny fairy houses for young children
  • Large grassy area for picnics
  • Skatepark
  • Basketball, volleyball, soccer and hockey courts which are all equipped with night lighting
  • Accommodates guests with disabilities
  • Williams Lodge has bathrooms, a cafe, fireplace, comfortable places to lounge
  • Paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes can be checked out at the ONEOK Boathouse 
  • Elegant evening dining at the Boathouse

Needless to say, there are plenty of things to keep kids and adults of every age busy, having fun and spending a few hours enjoying each other in this incredible space. 

How much does it cost to get into The Gathering Place? You’ll be happy to hear that admission is free. We honestly were blown away, because we have paid plenty of money for far less entertainment in the past.

You can find out more about The Gathering Place on their website: www.gatheringplace.org.

2. Mother Road Market

One of the craziest crowd moments on our travels has been a visit to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. We were told that was a must-do and we were so up for it. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the nearby convention center crowd was heading out for a lunch break. So it was us and hundreds of other people squeezing through this market trying to find something to eat.

After a few stressful moments, Todd and I tracked down Philly cheesesteaks, because hello…when in Philly. While Todd and I tracked down cheesesteaks, our kids found a spot they wanted to eat, as well as three seats available. (Which was a miracle in and of itself. Todd and I ended up eating our cheesesteaks outside on the corner of a busy street.)

Anyway, I’m telling you this story because ever since visiting that market, I knew I wanted to find one of these again. The concept is genius and the atmosphere is just fun.

One of our biggest struggles as a family finding somewhere to eat is finding somewhere everyone agrees on. We have two vegetarians in the family (well, had – one is a meat-eater again), so veggie options were a must.

At a food market, there is something for everyone.

So when our friends told us about Mother Road Market in Tulsa, we were all for it.

Tulsa’s First Food Hall

Mother Road Market Tulsa Oklahoma

This is Tulsa’s first food hall, which opened on November 2, 2018, located at 11th Street & South Lewis Avenue in the historic 1939 Scrivner-Stevens Co. Grocery building.

It’s a fantastic place for both locals and tourists to eat, shop, sip, as well as sit back and relax. There are over 20 different food and retail options and WEL Bar, a full-service bar. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, both of which have been so well designed.

The outdoor area has a variety of seating options, from tables and chairs to Adirondack chairs and comfy outdoor couches. We also happened to show up on a night they were having live music, which meant we were treated to the fantastic sounds of VOTH, a sibling group whose voices meld so well together we knew they had to be related.

We heard some originals such as I Choose Us and some old classics, like Brooks and Dunn, we couldn’t help but sing along with. The atmosphere was perfect that night. With the cool breeze and stunning sunset, the sounds of kids playing on the artificial turf and mini-golf, VOTH singing their hearts out and our delicious eats, you couldn’t have asked for a better place for a night out.

Speaking of delicious eats…

I am kicking myself for not snapping any pictures of my food. (Can you say, bad travel blogger?) So, you’ll just have to trust me when I say the food from Radish was beautiful. Their blend of Mediterranean and Americana means you’ll see dishes such as a rotisserie chicken platter, wraps, salad, hummus, tabouli and baba ghanoush. 

I ordered the Mezze salad and it was so beautiful that when the chef handed me my food, I just stared at it and then asked her “did you make this?” “I did,” she said and I just smiled and said, “It’s so pretty.” 

The Choices Are Endless

We had a group of five and three of us ate at Radish, one chose pizza from Andolini’s Sliced and one chose Chicken and the Wolf, which from my research, is a popular choice in the market. 

There is definitely a little something for everyone! You can see their list of merchants here.

We ended our night with a martini from WEL Bar, some fantastic tunes from VOTH and a beautiful Tulsa sunset.

3. The Music Scene

Speaking of sitting back and listening to some good music, Tulsa has earned one of the top spots in the U.S. for best music. It was named one of the best places for music back in 2012 and seems to still be going strong.

There are a few country music singers you just might know who are from Oklahoma, like Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood. But one in particular, who you might recognize, is from Tulsa: Garth Brooks.  Sound familiar?

Not only do some good musicians come from Tulsa, but they also come to Tulsa. You can see a list of bands coming to the BOK Center here.

Tulsa World wrote an article about their favorite 50 things for 2019. This list includes things they discovered, rediscovered and “just plain fell in love with.” There’s a lot of food on their list (my kind of people), but also places to catch some fantastic tunes:

We would add Mother Road Market music events to this list.

On our next visit, we’re hoping to hit up one or two of these places for some live music.

4. The Beer Scene

tulsa oklahoma beer scene

After dinner at Mother Road Market, our friends took us on a driving tour of downtown and an industrial area. They were pointing out all of the new and soon to be open, breweries, taprooms, and distilleries. Many of whom were remodeling old industrial buildings, turning them into incredible places to kick back with a beer and good friends.

So I did a little research. Just how big is the beer scene in Tulsa? Big, and growing fast.

According to Tulsa’s local ABC station, in 2018 “within a 20-mile radius, there’s about a dozen breweries around the Tulsa area.

We can confirm that new breweries are popping up everywhere and we are all for it.

Here’s a list of some newly opened and soon to be opened places to grab a drink:

Local Cider

1724 E 7th Street, Tulsa, OK 74104

Eerie Abbey Ales *opening later this year

507 S Main (coming soon)
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103

American Solera

Moving to 6th and Utica

Nothing’s Left Brewing Co. *opened in September

1502 E 6th St Tulsa, Ok 74120

Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing *opened the Boneyard (their outdoor space) last year

1004 E 4th St, Tulsa, OK 74120

Check out this amazing list of new and soon to open breweries.

5. RV Camping at the Tulsa Expo Square

We can’t write an article about a destination without mentioning places to park your RV.

Another stop on our tour of Tulsa, was where our friends spent a few nights in their Airstream: the RV park located at the Expo Square, the center of the Tulsa State Fair.

The Expo Square RV Park is located at 3890 E 15th St and is open year-round. It’s $40 a night and includes pull-thru sites, full hook-up, laundry facilities, showers, restrooms and is pet-friendly.

If you’re looking for a convenient location to stay that’s close to everything in Tulsa, this is a great choice. Our friends and their cute pups enjoyed their stay there and highly recommended it.

A Fall Visit to Tulsa, OK Anyone?

So, who’s up for a fall visit? We sure are.

I was just talking to my youngest son who said he can’t wait to visit Tulsa in the fall. Which coming from him, is a slight miracle. Why? He has had zero desire to visit Oklahoma because of the fact that it’s located in tornado alley. But Tulsa made an impression on him and that impression was a good one.

Have you visited Tulsa, OK? If so, let us know what the must-visit places to explore are, as well as any places in Oklahoma outside of Tulsa. We hear there’s some beautiful scenery that we need to see ASAP.

*A special thank you to Mike and Mary for letting us come for a visit only a month after your move there and showing us what makes Tulsa, OK so special.

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Things to do in Tulsa, Oklahoma

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