Route 66 Rising sculpture.

Tulsa: The best things to see and do in the Oil Capital of the World

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From world-class museums and art galleries to outdoor activities and delicious cuisine, there is no shortage of things to do in Tulsa, the Oil Capital of the World.

A decorative ironwork and view of the Tulsa
View of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo credit: YayImages.

Although it’s known for its deep-rooted oil history, Tulsa is more than just a relic of the past. It’s an exciting blend of outdoor adventures, a thriving arts scene, rich cultural history and tasty local eats. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, art lover, history buff or foodie, Tulsa offers an eclectic mix of attractions and experiences for all travelers.

Outdoor things to do in Tulsa

As the city’s rich history intertwines with the rugged beauty of the Oklahoma landscape, Tulsa offers countless outdoor adventures. From sprawling urban parks to botanic gardens, zoos and mysterious acoustic phenomena, explore Tulsa’s outdoors and experience the city’s refreshing take on nature.

Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is a world-class riverfront park that proves Tulsa can create outdoor fun for all ages. With over 60 acres of imaginative play areas, tranquil gardens and picturesque picnic spots, it’s perfect for families and anyone who loves the great outdoors.

“The Gathering Place is the perfect place to enjoy a bit of nature, gather with friends, immerse yourself in culture, or spend time as a family. I think it’s one of the best parks in the country.”

— Nicky Omohundro, Little Family Adventure
Tulsa Botanic Garden
Tulsa Botanic Garden. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Tulsa Botanic Garden

Stroll through the Tulsa Botanic Garden and experience the serene beauty of nature. Beyond pretty flowers, the garden features four seasons of natural beauty, manicured landscapes and fun activities.

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area

Another outdoor activity just 15 miles south of downtown is the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. With over 300 acres of rugged terrain and miles of riverside trails, it’s a haven for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners looking to escape the city.

Oxley Nature Center

Nature lovers will also enjoy the Oxley Nature Center. Located in Mohawk Park, one of the country’s largest municipal parks, the Oxley Nature Center is a wildlife sanctuary of wetlands, forests and prairies. It includes a 600-foot boardwalk, miles of hiking trails, an observation tower and plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities.

Tulsa Zoo

For guaranteed animal encounters, head to the Tulsa Zoo, also located in Mohawk Park. This AZA-accredited park features furry mammals, feathered flocks, and scaly creatures from around the world.

Center of the Universe

At the midpoint of a pedestrian walkway that connects First Street with Archer, a mysterious spot with mind-blowing acoustics is known as the Center of the Universe.  If you step onto the concrete circle and say something — whether it’s a whisper or a scream — your voice will bounce off the concrete benches encircling you and create an echo.

Things for art lovers to do in Tulsa

For art enthusiasts, Tulsa is a vibrant canvas filled with stunning art deco architecture, bold murals and prestigious museums.

Art deco architecture

If you associate the nation’s most impressive art deco buildings with larger cities like New York, Chicago and Miami, Tulsa’s architecture will surprise and delight you. Stroll through Tulsa’s Art Deco District and marvel at the stunning 1920s and 1930s architecture. It’s like stepping into Jay Gatsby’s world, minus the dramatic love story.

“In Tulsa, don’t miss the stunning art deco buildings like the Philcade Building and Oklahoma Natural Gas Building. Visit the lobbies to see the beautifully preserved interior architecture and the many dioramas of art deco history, all remnants of the oil boom of the 1900s.”

— Jere’ Cassidy, One Hot Oven
Garden at the Philbrook Museum of Art
Garden at the Philbrook Museum of Art. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Philbrook Museum of Art

Housed in a stunning Italian Renaissance-style villa, the Philbrook Museum of Art combines exquisite architecture, beautiful gardens and an impressive art collection with artifacts from around the world.

Golden Driller Statue

Pay homage to Tulsa’s oil history with a visit to the Golden Driller Statue. Standing 75 feet tall with a tawny arm resting on an oil derrick, this larger-than-life oil worker is a testament to the city’s black gold legacy and the perfect model for your next Instagram post.

Tulsa murals

Tulsa’s street art celebrates its rich history, from its connection to Route 66 to its status as the Oil Capital and beyond. See more than 30 of the most impressive murals in Tulsa with this guide.

Discovery Lab

Whether you are planning to visit the Discovery Lab with your kids you are in the field of STEM, or just simply a curious tourist, brace for a learning experience like no other. The lab’s interactive hands-on displays, resources, and fun activities are intended to inspire its visitors to learn and do more with science. Dedicated to both children and educators, Discovery Lab Tulsa catalyzes cultivating curiosity promoting critical thinking, and encourages creativity in the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Lovetts Gallery

Lovetts Fine Arts Gallery is Tulsa’s and Oklahoma’s oldest fine arts gallery and frameworks. Marvel at the Gallery’s diverse collection of contemporary art made by well-known and rising artists. The Gallery regularly hosts events and exhibitions that introduce guests to an immersive cultural and art experience. Art enthusiasts and artists of all backgrounds are welcome to sightsee and even contribute to the gallery.

Blue Whale Comedy Festival

Enjoy a hearty laughing weekend with your crew at the Blue Whale Comedy Festival, Tulsa’s largest comedy festival. This district-wide comedy convention brings together Tulsa’s best and the brightest when it comes to different ranges of comedy. Catch stand-up improvs, short film screenings, live podcasts, sketches, and more at the festival.

Things for history lovers to do in Tulsa

Tulsa’s history is as rich and diverse as its landscape. Discover the city’s story, from its indigenous people to the present day, through its acclaimed museums, historical parks and iconic Route 66.

Gilcrease Museum

Atop a hill on the northwestern edge of Tulsa, the Gilcrease Museum boasts the world’s most extensive collection of Western American artifacts. It was founded by Thomas Gilcrease, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation member who realized success in the oil industry.

John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

Tulsa’s Greenwood District was once known as Black Wall Street due to its status as one of the most prosperous African-American communities in the country at a time of segregation. Unfortunately, it was also the epicenter of one of the worst instances of racial violence in American history. The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park is a poignant tribute to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and a must-visit spot for those seeking to understand this part of the city’s past and its progress over the past century.

Route 66 Rising sculpture.
Route 66 Rising sculpture. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Get your kicks on Route 66

No visit to Tulsa would be complete without a short road trip along legendary Route 66. Bursting with nostalgia, quirky roadside attractions and classic diners, it’s a trip down memory lane that you won’t forget.

“Whether you’re traveling the Mother Road or just exploring the city, Tulsa has a number of Route 66 gems you won’t want to miss. A stop at Buck Atoms Cosmic Curios is a must when shopping for souvenirs, and the Route 66 Historical Village offers a way to learn about this piece of local history in an open-air museum setting.”

— Megan Bannister, Olio in Iowa

Savor the local flavors

Embark on a gastronomic journey through Tulsa and experience the city’s culinary delights. Tulsa’s food scene is as diverse as its cultural heritage, from breakfast pastries to classic Southern comfort food and innovative farm-to-table offerings.

Mother Road Market

To sample a wide variety of Tulsa’s food, head to Mother Road Market. This food hall just south of the old Route 66 brings a selection of local eateries, breweries, and retailers together under one roof.

Wanda J’s

Located in the Greenwood District, Wanda J’s serves up soulful Southern cooking like smothered pork steak and the best fried chicken in town. And be sure to save room for peach cobbler.

Juniper

Juniper is a delicious, upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Tulsa’s Blue Dome District with a menu that changes with the seasons. To sample a wide variety of delicious dishes, consider the tasting menu. This five-course prix fixe option typically features a seasonal appetizer, salad, fish, entree and dessert and can be enjoyed with or without a wine pairing.

A mural outside the Mother Road Market
A mural outside the Mother Road Market. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Tulsa Oktoberfest

Grab a refreshing pint or two at the Tulsa Oktoberfest, a yearly spectacle that highlights the authentic German experience in the heart of Oklahoma. For over 45 years now, many locals have taken pride in claiming that this event showcases the hospitality of the Tulsa community. Hurry, tickets sell fast and you don’t want to miss out on the fun!

Not a heavy drinker? From bier barrel racing, and imported German brews, to stein hoisting, games, live music, and carnivals, the Tulsa Oktoberfest is an event that all ages will enjoy.

The final word on things to do in Tulsa

Tulsa is more than oil derricks and art deco buildings. It offers something for everyone, with ample outdoor activities, impressive art, a diverse food scene and historic Route 66 winding through it.

With its warm atmosphere and wide arrange of attractions, Tulsa is a tourist favorite due to its endless possibilities. Whether you are a returning visitor or a first-timer, you will surely love what Tulsa offers best—adventure. Begin your Tulsa journey by using our well-curated guide for itineraries that pique your interests and time. 

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