To quell your crew's mid-winter blues, think local!
During the cold, gray days of winter, a change of scenery can be invigorating. Come February, people, ripe for a break from the routine, take the family skiing or somewhere out of town for a few days. But, with all the latest and greatest happenings in Tulsa’s downtown area, taking a mini-vacation at home might be the ticket.
You’ve surely noticed that our city has been in the national news lately; thanks, in part, to the opening of Gathering Place, the new park on Riverside that was just awarded USA Today’s Best New Attraction 2018. In recent years, The New York Times, Forbes and Travel & Leisure have showcased Tulsa’s growth, highlighting places such as The Woody Guthrie Center, Glacier Confection, the restoration and repurposing of historic buildings and other new dining, lodging and entertainment endeavors.
In winter 2018, the Tulsa World ran a story featuring 50 downtown Tulsa development projects coming soon or recently completed. Ten years ago, I’d have thought it was a joke. But today, the proof is in the pudding. The downtown restaurant/hotel scene is on fire, thanks to the success of the BOK Center and the renovated Cox Business Center, and local investors and developers who are bullish about Tulsa’s future. Within downtown’s 1.4 square miles, visitors can enjoy an energized cosmopolitan urban space, polished with oil boomtown history and flair.
Trying to capitalize on “all new things downtown,” my family and I have eagerly explored new museums and educational venues, tried the newest cuisine and visited the latest hotels. There’s something to be said for packing an overnight bag because it allows for total immersion and the ability to see Tulsa through a vacation lens. With such a plethora of choices, it was hard to cull down our favorite spots, but here are a few to consider as you map out what works best for your crew.
Where To Expand the Mind
Magic City Books, 221 E Archer Street
This independent bookstore, owned by the nonprofit Tulsa Literary Coalition, is inviting and cozy, housing a robust collection of books for readers of all ages. The friendly staff serves up coffee, snacks and wine, and there are comfy chairs to nestle in for a time of relaxation and learning.
ahha, 101 East Archer Street
ahha is a place where Tulsa’s artists, cultural organizations and the public can come together. In addition to permanent and rotating art exhibits like the interactive, immersive art installation, “THE EXPERIENCE: IMAGINE,” the family lab, or STUDIO, is a must-do. The whole family can spend hours making use of all sorts of art supplies to create personal pieces of expression to take home.
Woody Guthrie Center, 102 East Brady Street
The center is overflowing with artifacts, photos, videos and musical instruments related to the life and legacy of Oklahoma folk musician and singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie. Check out the “This Land Is Your Land” exhibit and the song-writing station to compose your own music.
Where To Dine
Peacemaker Lobster and Crab, 313 East 2nd Street
The décor alone is worth the visit for it evokes the feeling of being along the shores of the east coast. Don’t miss out on the fresh seafood that’s flown in daily. Enjoy peel-n-eat shrimp, lobster rolls and learn how to crack crabs.
Shuffles: Board Game Café, 207 East Archer Street
The idea of paying a nominal hourly rate to play board games while relaxing and dining together as a family is simply brilliant. Along with hundreds of games, Shuffles has an impressive kid-friendly menu and choices that satisfy adults, too.
Where to Enjoy Peaceful Slumber
Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown, 211 W 3rd Street
Adjacent to the BOK Center, this is a modern hotel with a noticeable hint of art deco in its décor. Rooms are spacious and cheery and the beds are really comfortable. There’s free breakfast and a pool, which is always a hit with the kids.
Residence Inn and Suites, 202 W. 5th Street
With a larger brood, consider reserving a one- or two-bedroom suite with a separate living area. If planning to spend more than a night or two, make use of the fully equipped kitchen. There’s an outdoor pool for seasonal use.
Hotel Indigo, 121 S. Elgin Avenue
Located in the Blue Dome District, this hip boutique hotel has a Tulsa-centric design and houses its own restaurant, Prospect Local Bar & Kitchen as well as an indoor-outdoor rooftop bar serving up sensational sunsets. There’s even a tower binocular to admire distant views.
Tulsa Club Hotel, 115 E. 5th St.
Tulsa Club Hotel is part of A Curio Collection by Hilton, where sophistication and style reign in a historic, 1927 Art Deco building.
More Reasons to Stay and Play Locally
National Geographic’s Heather Greenwood Davis, in an article about staycations, says, “Trips that don’t involve packing for a week-plus or dealing with multiple bouts of airport security may not rate as front-page moments in your travel life, but they can be just as rewarding as the epic itinerary. By staying local and getting up close and personal with downtown Tulsa, you can save on travel expenses and travel time while investing in the local economy.
This article was originally published in January 2019. It has since been updated.