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Welcome to Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City, the state capital, quite literally sprang up out of nowhere. On 2 March 1889, the US government held a major land run in Oklahoma. The area, initially reserved as Indian Territory, would be settled by those who were quick enough to grab plots when the noon cannon fired. (Or by those who managed to creep across the starting line beforehand, giving Oklahomans their current nickname, Sooners.) Shortly afterwards, 10,000 people had staked claims around a small train station, and the city was born. This boom-town atmosphere continued when oil was discovered in Oklahoma City in the 1920s. History buffs should plan a visit to the Oklahoma State Capitol, the only one in America with a working oil well on its grounds.

Oklahoma City's growth has been a point of contention at times. Today, it stretches across more than 600 square miles (965 square km), one of the country's major perpetrators of urban sprawl. In recent years, however, the city has been working to reinvent itself, focusing on downtown revitalization with great success. Most attractions of interest to tourists are located in the inner city districts, beginning with Bricktown, which is bounded by one of the country's premier minor-league ballparks, home of the RedHawks. Once a clump of old warehouses, Bricktown is now a vibrant collection of trendy condos, shops, restaurants, bars and clubs situated along a picturesque canal. Here visitors can satisfy their every craving for hardy American fare like steak and barbecue ribs. Those in search of a more exotic meal should head to the Asia District. Believe it or not, Oklahoma City has a significant Vietnamese population, and a growing number of Asian residents of other cultures. The Paseo Arts District, built in the 1920s, also boasts a few upmarket cafés and cocktail lounges, though its galleries and studios are the main draw. Modelled after a Spanish village, its clay roofs and stucco walls house paintings, pottery, stained glass works, jewellery and unique furniture.

Culturally, Oklahoma City tends to be conservative. Visitors hoping for the vibe and openness of coastal cities may be disappointed, but the city's values do have a big bonus: family-friendliness. Oklahoma City has plenty of fun attractions for children and families. Its parks system is one of the most extensive in the country, and its three nearby lakes are lovely spots for camping, fishing and watersports. Stockyards City, right downtown, is the largest stocker/feeder cattle market in the world, where visitors can watch live auctions, shop for authentic Western attire and sample stick-to-your-ribs food. Oklahoma City is known as the 'Horse Show Capital of the World', and the city's many equestrian events as well as its multiple museums make for enjoyable family outings. Oklahoma has been said to inspire nostalgia, and its capital city is no exception. Watching the weekend regattas at Lake Hefner in the summer, and ice-skating in the winter under Christmas lights at Bricktown's outdoor rink, are memories families will not soon forget.

Information & Facts


Oklahoma City is generally mild and humid. During the winter, temperatures regularly drop, but very cold conditions are soon mitigated by warmer air from the south, and snow is relatively infrequent. Summers are very hot, and thunderstorms are not uncommon. Autumn is perhaps the most pleasant season, with cool, dry, sunny days continuing until mid-October.

Getting Around

Oklahoma City is sprawling, to put it mildly. Therefore, it's best to rent a car when visiting. Otherwise, travellers should plan to stay downtown, where hotels and attractions are clustered and where they can take advantage of the Oklahoma Spirit trolley service, which runs between multiple attractions as well as hotel and dining areas. METRO Transit provides bus service, and some buses have bike racks; however, due to Oklahoma City's size, it can be difficult to rely solely on the bus system, and taking taxis over such long distances can be expensive.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens are a 17-acre paradise right in the centre of downtown Oklahoma City. In addition to flourishing plant life, rolling hills, walkways, sculptures and a sunken lake, the gardens feature the seven-storey, circular Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, an architectural wonder that is home to exotic flora as well as lizards, parrots, butterflies and fish. Visitors can take a path that leads under the conservatory's 35-foot (11m) waterfall.

The mission of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is to preserve and interpret the heritage of the American West. Exhibits include works by the finest contemporary Western artists as well as by Western masters like Charles Russell. The more than 200,000-square-foot (60,960-square-meter) complex houses multiple galleries, including cowboy, firearms and Native American galleries, the Prosperity Junction cattle town replica, the interactive Children's Cowboy Corral, and the Western prairie-themed Persimmon Hill Restaurant.

On the morning of 19 April 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed by Timothy McVeigh, killing 168 people. Today, where the building once stood, the memorial and museum honour the victims, survivors and rescue workers of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The outdoor memorial features symbolic elements including a reflecting pool and a field of empty chairs. It was designed to be a haven for those seeking comfort and serenity. The museum chronicles the terrorist attack and aims to teach others about the impact and senselessness of violence.

The Oklahoma City Zoological Park has been recognized as one of the top ten zoos in the United States. It is both a living museum and a botanical garden. Exhibits include Aquaticus, showcasing marine life from around the globe; Cat Forest and Lion Overlook; Great EscAPE, featuring gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees; Island Life, with animals that live on islands from the Caribbean to Madagascar; and a butterfly garden. Guests can enjoy a food court, a tram, a rock-climbing wall and paddleboats. The zoo is dedicated to conservation and to providing the community with exemplary opportunities for recreation and education.

Visitors to the world's largest stocker/feeder cattle market can watch real Oklahoma cowboys work the livestock or attend a live cattle auction. Stockyards City's Cowtown is home to more than 70 businesses specializing in Western wear, farm and ranch needs, dining and entertainment. Guided bus tours can be arranged.

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