20 Things to do in Tulsa in 2020:
New businesses, exhibitions and some of our favorite on-going Tulsa activities
I couldn’t resist downloading the “Best Nine” app and conjuring up a collage for @tulsakids. Among our “most liked Instagram photos of 2019” were two images from the opening of The Outsider House Museum, a headshot of space cowboy Buck Atom, and a photo from opening day at the new Chandler Park splash pad—the largest in Oklahoma!
It’s so much fun to look back at some of the ways in which Tulsa changed over the past year, but of course, the New Year is also the perfect opportunity to look to the future! So without further ado, here are our suggestions for 20 Things to Do in Tulsa in 2020!
One exciting new addition to Tulsa, coming in Spring 2020, is the Tulsa Zoo’s Helmerich Behaving Like Animals playground! This $3-million dollar playground is designed to “allow children to mimic behaviors and movements they see displayed by zoo animals.” It is designed to be accessible to all, with different elements catering to different age groups. These include “Cub Corner,” where toddlers can enjoy an enclosed place to play, complete with musical instruments and animal-shaped equipment, and “Hardesty Overcoming Obstacles,” which encourages friendly competition between teens and their parents.
Image provided by Tulsa Zoo
In 2019, the Oklahoma Aquarium celebrated the opening of its own new playground, and in the spring of 2020, they’ll be offering an all-new, 360-degree view of their giant Pacific octopus, with the opening of “The Secret World of the Octopus.” According to okaquarium.org, the octopus is one of the most popular animals at the Oklahoma Aquarium, and this new viewing experience will give visitors an even better opportunity to observe this fascinating creature.
Rendering found at okaquarium.org
3. Let it Go
Celebrity Attractions brought “Hamilton” to Tulsa in 2019, to the delight of many. When they announced their 2019-2020 season, they admitted that it was a challenge to come up with a lineup that would create the kind of “buzz” that “Hamilton” did. And then they made their big reveal: “Frozen” the musical is coming to Tulsa in June 2020! Not only that, but the 2019-2020 season also includes “Anastasia” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” meaning that if you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to take your kid to their first Broadway show—this is it.
Chapman Green Arts, a collaboration between the H.A. Chapman Foundation and Tulsa Mayfest, began introducing programming to Chapman Green in downtown Tulsa starting in April 2019, with the opening of the Tulsa Art Alley. Events include movie nights, creative festivals, 918 Comedy Night, etc., and all usually include a free craft (or crafts) and other activities for kids, in addition to free admission. We look forward to seeing what Chapman Green Arts plans for 2020!
Image by Jen Kerckhoff
Many families are looking forward to Discovery Lab’s eventual move to Gathering Place, but the groundbreaking for their new 50,000-square-foot facility isn’t scheduled to take place until Winter 2020. In the meantime, the museum brought several fantastic exhibits to its current location in 2019, including, most recently, “Circus! Science Under the Big Top,” which included a high wire, side show tent, extensive dress-up area with a stage and more. Discovery Lab is always worth a visit and has activities and spaces for children of all ages.
In June, Philbrook Museum will become the final museum to host the “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” which was chosen by Hyperallergic (an online magazine dedicated to the arts) as the tenth Best Art Show of the Decade. According to Philbrook, this is the “first major exhibition of artwork by Native women of the past and present,” and will include works in pottery, textiles, painting and more. The show will be on display from June 28 to September 20, 2020.
Gilcrease Museum also has big plans for the new year. In addition to its ongoing $75-million-dollar renovations, the museum will continue its popular programming for families (including Funday Sunday, a day of free admission and art activities on the 3rd Sunday of each month) and bring in thought-provoking new exhibits. One of these, coming February 8, is Frank Buffalo Hyde’s “I-Witness Culture,” which “explores technology as a tool of Indigenous activism, a means to document, and a form of validation.” Learn more at gilcrease.org/exhibitions/i-witness-culture.
I mentioned Chandler Park’s new splash pad above, and if you didn’t get a chance to visit it last summer, put it on your calendars for this one! It has an impressive variety of water play features, from slides to fountains to a multi-gallon bucket that dumps water on waiting guests. While you’re there, take time to explore the adjacent playground!
Speaking of summer, don’t miss the Tulsa Library’s 2020 Summer Reading Program! Last year’s reading program was “Out of this World,” and we are eager to learn what the theme will be this year! As always, there will be Reading Program opportunities for people of all ages, from infants to adults, and incredible programming such as performances by popular kiddie artists, balloon and bubble shows, special story times and more.
There’s a good chance you’ve eaten at Mother Road Market, the area’s first food hall, located off Route 66 at 11th and Lewis. But there will be even more to explore as of Spring 2020, when The Shops at Mother Road Market open. The five retail spaces located in The Shops include Eleanor’s Bookshop, a bookstore focused on kidlit (we can’t wait!), OK Distilling Co. (a bartending supply store), Felizsta, which celebrates Latin American food, design and culture, and Graham Collective, a wellness and lifestyle shop.
Matthew and Kelsey McAfee, at the announcement that their business, Eleanor’s Bookshop, was selected as one of the future tenants of The Shops at Mother Road Market
11. Buy a Book (Locally, of Course)!
According to a New York Times article published in June 2019, many independent bookstores are “thriving” due to their ability to build community, despite competition posed by Amazon and larger stores such as Barnes & Noble, which was sold fairly recently to a pattern of decreasing sales. In November 2020, Magic City Books will celebrate its 3rd anniversary, and the shop already has several author events planned in the first part of the year, including An Evening with Erik Larson on March 2.
In addition to Magic City, newer bookstores Whitty Books in the Kendall-Whittier district and Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market near 81st and Harvard have done a great job of building community through book clubs, story times, etc.
Merchandise from a Fulton St. Books & Coffee Pop-Up Shop
I mentioned above that Eleanor’s Bookshop will be coming to The Shops at Mother Road Market in Spring of 2020, and around that same time, watch for information about Fulton Street Books & Coffee, set to open in Brady Heights.
Tulsa Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to observe the changing of the season and to celebrate the uniqueness of each one. From “Tulsa Botanic Blooms” in the spring, featuring thousands of tulips and other spring flowers, to “Autumn in the Garden,” a celebration of pumpkins, scarecrows and more, there is always something new to see at TBG.
A big announcement of 2019 was the inaugural Tulsa IRONMAN, coming May 31! This sporting event should draw people from all over, and even if you aren’t competing, you may want to be part of the fun! The IRONMAN Village, located at OSU-Tulsa, is open to the public the day before the race. It features vendors, an IRONMAN Merchandise Store, and more. If you’d rather watch the event itself, find spectator information at ironman.com/im-tulsa-supporters.
Union Public Schools will once again host its Summer Camps & Activities Fair on Saturday, April 4, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. This event gives parents the opportunity to meet with representatives from area camps, to help make planning for summer easier! Many of the participating vendors will be featured in TulsaKids’ 2020 Summer Camps & Activities Guide, available at tulsakids.com/guides (coming March 2020).
One of my favorite recurring events is Linnaeus Teaching Garden’s Storytime Under the Stars, which occurs twice in the year, once in the spring, and once in the fall. Storytime Under the Stars is hosted by the amazing volunteers at Linnaeus Teaching Garden, who are eager to teach young kids about appreciating nature—while dressed in their favorite pajamas. It’s delightful. If you miss out on Storytime Under the Stars, you can also attend Story Time at Linnaeus Teaching Garden at 10 a.m. on Thursdays from June through September. Additionally, Linnaeus hosts educational programs for children as well as teens. Learn more at linnauesteachinggarden.org.
This is a list of “20 Things to do in Tulsa,” but we couldn’t resist adding this one: The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in OKC is opening a new, 100,000-foot interactive outdoor space just in time for Spring Break! Liichokoshkomo’ invites kids to “Learn about diverse cultures, play traditional games, [and] create art in a space where it’s okay to get messy.” Liichokoshkomo’ means “Let’s play!” in the Chickasaw language, and the facility will include the following elements: an Intertribal Village, a railcar and train depot, rodeo and more! Get more information at nationalcowboymuseum.org/liichokoshkomo-2.
In case you missed it, the Tulsa Roughnecks FC announced a name change in December 2019. Tulsa’s soccer team will still play at ONEOK Field, but under the name of FC Tulsa! The new logo features Oklahoma’s state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, done in an art deco style. While the 2020 season schedule is not yet available online, go ahead and add “attend a home game” to your summer 2020 plans!
By now, you’ve probably visited Gathering Place a time or two. I know I have. But when I visited their Winter Wonderland this past December, my son and I discovered a new “echoing rock” attraction that we’d never seen before. This year, why not explore a new space at Gathering Place? If you’ve never shot a basket on the Sports Courts, give it a…shot (ha)! Are your kids old enough to paddle a canoe around Peggy’s Pond? (I know my son can’t wait…but we’ll have to give it a few years). And make sure to visit their event calendar at gatheringplace.org/events to see what new activities are in store for 2020.
Throughout 2020, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum will be commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote! If you like, register to attend the Women’s Suffrage March and Rally on Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m., at the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum. The museum will also be hosting other commemorative events as well as an exhibit on Women’s Suffrage, opening February 21st, which will be on display through the remainder of the year.
20. Follow TulsaKids!
OK, this is a wee bit of a shameless plug, but hear me out: There are obviously way more than 20 things to do in Tulsa in 2020, and TulsaKids will be here all year long to keep you up-to-date on what’s new in the 918. From our Community Calendar to the News & Notes section in our print magazine, to our fabulous bloggers covering local events…we don’t want you to miss out! So follow us on Facebook (@tulsakidsmagazine) and Instagram (@tulsakids), sign up for our e-mail list (tulsakids.com/newsletters) or simply make sure you’re picking up your monthly copy of TulsaKids Magazine. If you don’t know where to find a copy near you, visit tulsakids.com/find, and there should be plenty of options.
We are all looking forward to what the New Year may bring, and to continuing to serve Tulsa-area families with event information, the latest parenting news and more.
Happy New Year from TulsaKids!