I know, I know. Landlocked, middle of the country, college football-centric and tons of other things that may make you scratch your head and wonder as to how this once-dusty old town became a bustling city of diversity and culture. Oklahoma City has so much to offer in the way of fun if you know where to look.
The dark ages of avoiding older neighborhoods are well behind us. I’ll be leaving off the more obvious methods of fun with this list (#ThunderUp) in favor of some options you may be less familiar with, but are nonetheless the beating heart of this great city. Get ready, neighbor. You’re home.
Photo Courtesy of Myriad Gardens
- Energy FC – Our local soccer team, USL, affiliated with FC Dallas. The team has gained loads of momentum over the last few years and looks poised to make a run at the MLS. Best entertainment for your money in the city during spring/summer. The matches are all family friendly, but for the die-hard soccer fanatics looking for a more intense and engaging experience, there is the supporters group known as “The Grid.” Loud, boisterous and always rowdy, The Grid has become a player-favorite section for goal celebration and notorious among supporters groups around the USL. It can get crazy, so maybe leave the kiddos at home if you plan on going with The Grid.
- Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden – 2000 Remington Pl, Oklahoma City, OK 73111 – I’ve been a regular patron of our great zoo since grade school and I can proudly say that it’s one of the most entertaining outings for friends, families, and couples in Oklahoma. Never one to shy from progress, the OKC Zoo is always building and adding new exhibits, from the Aquatics Center to the Great EscAPE, and later adding the Cat Forest, Oklahoma Trails Adventure, Island Life and, most recently, the Elephant Habitat. It really is an immersive experience front-to-back with a little something to intrigue everyone. If you’re looking to really cash in, I’d recommend becoming a ZOOFriend before your first visit. There are varying levels of membership, but the base membership gets you and a buddy unlimited visits to the Zoo for a full year, plus tons of opportunities to volunteer and donate. Pretty wild, right?
- Civic Center Music Hall – 201 N Walker Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102 – Theatre buffs, rejoice! The flagship of performing arts is as vibrant as you could dream with a very diverse lineup of entertainment every single season. From local productions to world-touring acts, you could blindly point a finger at their impressive calendar of events and expect to be thoroughly entertained no matter the result. Especially magical is the yearly tradition of OKC Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” that has been wowing Okies for years – and underwent a very nice face-lift in 2014. Ballet and musicals not your thing? Acts like Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, Blue Man Group and Penn & Teller have been known to grace the Civic Center stage from time to time.
- Myriad Botanical Gardens – 301 W Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102 – You’ve probably seen that giant glass tube downtown and wondered “What IS that thing?” more than a few times. That thing, a staple of downtown OKC, is a 15-acre garden paradise that offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of our growing city and is way more than just a garden. It features an off-leash dog park, a children’s garden, and even “splash fountains” for when the Oklahoma summers get too hot and you feel like acting like a kid again. Even more surprising is the event space that can be used for any-and-everything under the sun. If you feel like finally exposing your green thumb to the world, they offer horticulture classes for adults and children.
- Empire Slice House – 1734 NW 16th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 – The best pizza-by-the-slice in town from Oklahoma City’s wildly popular and growing 84 Hospitality Group. Great atmosphere most every night and unique pizzas you won’t find anywhere else, which is something that sets them apart from the multitude of great pizza spots in the city. What’s even more impressive is their canned beer list, touted as the biggest and best in Oklahoma City. This point is definitely hard to argue, with a knowledgeable bar staff who can turn your taste buds on to something new every visit. You will not find a place with more eye-catching décor in the entire city, as it looks like the inside of your favorite nerdy teenager (or adult)’s brain. Get the Ghostface Killah. No, really.
- The Mule – 1630 N Blackwelder Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 – Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. You read that correctly. One of the first restaurants out of the gate in the Plaza District and still going strong to this day, The Mule does everything right and brings an interesting twist to an American staple sandwich. Make sure you sit at the bar when you go, as the bar staff is always friendly and more than happy to spill on their favorite dishes. Don’t be shy about getting one of their signature Moscow Mule’s as well. This is one of my favorite places to watch Thunder basketball. In the last few years, the restaurant has also put together a sought-after brunch menu that pleases adults and kids alike. Just make sure you get there early so you don’t miss out.
- Tokyo Japanese Restaurant – 7516 N Western Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73116 – Best traditional Japanese food in OKC, by far. Their sushi is unrivaled and they have excellent bentos for lunch and dinner. Superb ramen, a great selection of donburi and some serious gyoza. There are plenty of Japanese restaurants in OKC, but this place is the real deal. They do such an authentic and delicious chicken katsu that it’s hard to go anywhere else and expect the best.
- Pho Cuong – 3016 N Classen Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 – Believe it or not, Oklahoma City has actually become a hot spot for Vietnamese cuisine and residents here take their pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) very seriously. With pho being wildly popular in Oklahoma City and every restaurant competing with their own twist on the beloved dish, our favorite pho spot has to be Pho Cuong. Get the small #1 your first time out to test the waters (or broth), then move into more adventurous territory on futures visits. If pho isn’t your thing, they offer plenty of sandwiches and other entrees as well as a good selection of iced coffees.
- A Good Egg Dining Group – We can almost guarantee even the pickiest eater can find a new favorite at any one of the Good Egg Dining Group’s (yes, there are currently eight restaurants under their name) spots. Savor some comfort food? Kitchen no 324 has fresh pastries and an amazing chicken pot pie recipe. Fancy a good brunch? The Drake should be on your list due to its great cocktail list and fantastic seafood pairings found nowhere else in the state. Another BigWinger also swears by the chicken tortilla soup at Cheever’s Cafe, an Oklahoma City cult favorite.
- McNellie’s Public House – 1100 Classen Dr, Oklahoma City, OK 73103 – Best beer selection in Oklahoma City with great pub food to match. Wednesday is $4 burger night and it is no joke. This is the perfect place for a drink and snacks before, during, or after any Thunder game as well. What sets McNellie’s apart from the rest is their pint night, which offers a different beer in a very unique glass (that you get to take home!) every Monday night, as well as their Firkin Fridays, where every so often they’ll get a cask of beer from a brewer with a unique twist on it. As with the latter two events, be sure to come early because the good stuff always goes fast.
- The Bleu Garten – 301 NW 10th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103 – This food truck park offers a variety of different trucks that rotate depending on week/month. It is an awesome place to spend a warm weekend afternoon and has a little something for everyone. Though the rotating food trucks are a huge highlight, they definitely stand out for their overall atmosphere with a positive vibe and different groups of people mingling, especially if the weather is nice. Hone your cornhole skills in time for the next big tailgate weekend and kick back with a cold, local craft beer of your choice.
- The Pump Bar – 2425 N Walker Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73103 – This is the place to have an after-work drink when it warms up. Their gargantuan patio can most likely be seen from space filled with all kinds of people starting from Friday after 5PM well into Sunday afternoon, especially when they throw parties. Oh man, can they throw a party. Recently they’ve started bringing around some local vinyl-only DJ’s and people have been getting down while enjoying cornhole, ping pong, giant Jenga, or any of their specialty cocktails. The owners (Ian and Hailey McDermid) did the city a service by bringing this gem to life.
- 51st Street Speakeasy – 1114 NW 51st St, Oklahoma City, OK 73118 – Awesome drinks, good shows, fun place to relax on the weekend. Almost always no cover for their big shows, too, which is great if you want some live entertainment. Recently, they underwent a management change and a major facelift, giving the entire house-turned-bar something fantastic in every room including an extended stage downstairs and a brand new pool table and foosball tables upstairs. Don’t miss Tuesday nights where you and your buddies can compete in The Lost Ogle Trivia Night where you’ll always get a laugh and maybe even leave with a cool prize or two.
- Skinny Slim’s – 201 E Main St, Oklahoma City, OK 73104 – THE place to watch your soccer team. Open early and for every BPL match, and we mean early. If you’ve ever wanted to see dedication personified, go at the crack of dawn when Arsenal have an early match to see the Sooner Gooners (Arsenal’s local supporters group) out in force without fail. Not only to they broadcast BPL matches, but Skinny’s is the place you want to be for every international game, too. During the World Cup, they’ll normally shut down the parking lot behind the bar to host hundreds of United States Men’s and Women’s National Team supporters.
- Blue Seven – 7518 N May Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73116 – For anyone in need of a wardrobe upgrade who wants to avoid the mall, this is your spot. Originally turning heads in the early 2000’s with their tie-watches (they were super cool), guys and girls alike can find their next great outfit here, and their selection of premium denim is known throughout the region. Looking for a shirt to wear to your next Thunder, Sooners or Cowboys watch party? Blue Seven has a section of their store called “Just OK” completely dedicated to local garb for any occasion. Add that to their great jewelry selection as well as a surprisingly hefty offering of shoes for men and women and you’ve got one of the best local retail shopping destinations around.
- Collected Thread – 1705 NW 16th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 – Surely considered part of the beating heart of the Plaza District renaissance, Collected thread has been the pioneer of hand-crafted goods and has offered an excellent selection of Okie-centric clothing for the better part of a decade. Not only does it carry clothing and knick-knacks, but you can find things for the kids here as well. Can’t make it in? Not to worry. Collected Thread actually does a great job keeping their online shop up to date with items sold in the store.
- A Date with Iris – 4201 N Western Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73118 – This cozy and vibrant flower shop is the place to go for your wedding, special occasion, holiday, or “Oops I Messed Up!” flowers right in the heart of the Western Avenue District. These people know their stuff even if you don’t, which is especially handy when they’ll carry a variety of beautiful flowers to go with the season. They’re also avid Thunder fans, so go strike up a conversation during playoff time and you’ll have your go-to florist from here on in.
- Annex Barber Shop – 514 NW 28th St #6, Oklahoma City, OK 73103 – Ladies have it easy in OKC with all of the amazing salons and stylists to take care of their every need, but I wanted to throw in a barbershop for the guys since we normally have no clue what to do with our hair whenever we sit down in the barber chair. Max, Kenny, and Jake at Annex offer a great experience from the moment you sit down to the moment you walk out with haircuts, straight razor shaves, beard trims and great conversations. Feel free to grab a beverage out of the fridge while you wait and get ready to chat it up with easily three of the best barbers around. This has been my regular spot for a while and I don’t see myself going anywhere else in the foreseeable future.
Regardless of all of the great bars, restaurants, shops, sports teams, cultural events, museums, exhibits and the like, the most appealing thing about Oklahoma City is its sense of community and the feeling of welcome you get everywhere you go. No matter what place you step inside you’ll always be greeted with a smile by people who embody this great state’s ethos of hard work and a thirst to make this place better than they found it.
So why should you be excited to be a part of Oklahoma City? The real question you should be asking yourself is: why shouldn’t you be?
#OKIECOMEHOME , we’re glad to have you.