Tulsa Oklahoma in 2 Days

Photo by Elaine Warner

Art, architecture and oil millionaires in Tulsa

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With the oil boom of the early 1900s, once-sleepy Tulsa went uptown fast. Overnight millionaires wanted a town to compete with world capitals. Tulsa became the Oil Capital of the World and the city stepped out in style. The big players have moved on but the style stays.

Downtown is spiked with Art Deco towers. The largest art museums are legacies of oil barons. Tulsa boasts the state’s major opera company and venues which feature music from high brow to hot. From art to music, food to fashion, the roads to Tulsa lead to adventure. And one of those roads is the iconic Route 66. Tulsa’s a great place to get your kicks!

Tulsa: Day 1

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, make the most of it at Brookside by Day, one of the city’s most popular breakfast/lunch spots. Look around the Brookside neighborhood – you may want to come back later for more exploring.

Drive by the Tulsa Fairgrounds to pay homage to the city’s love-it-or-hate-it icon, the Golden Driller, then drive around the fairgrounds to the blond brick Fairgrounds Pavilion. The terra cotta panels above the entrances are typical Art Deco embellishments.

Visit the Tulsa Historical Society Museum to get an overview of Tulsa history. Check out the twin mansion next door at the Tulsa Garden Center and visit the Linnaeus Teaching Garden (seasonal). The classic Victorian-style Lord and Burnham conservatory is a pleasure any time of year.

Head south to Brookside for lunch in a hidden gem, Café Ole. If the weather is nice, enjoy the outdoor eating area.

Spend the afternoon in the beautiful Philbrook Museum of Art. Pay particular attention to the original section of the building – another example of oil baron bounty. The gardens, attractive even in winter, are stunning in spring and summer. Make reservations at The Chalkboard in the Ambassador Hotel for a romantic dinner. If you’re going to a concert later, check the Chalkboard trolley schedule which could uncomplicate your parking situation.

You have so many options for evening entertainment. Check the concert schedule at the BOK, Cain’s Ballroom and the Performing Arts Center. Or indulge in old-fashioned melodrama at the long-running production, The Drunkard” at the Art Deco Spotlight Theatre. End the day with a drink at the Penthouse Rooftop Bar at the Mayo Hotel for a bird’s eye view of the city at night. You may want to spend the night at this historic hotel.

Tulsa: Day 2

If you’re here on a Sunday and if you’re a church-goer, attend services at the architecturally stunning Boston Avenue Methodist Church and stay for the guided tour after the 11:00 service. Another option might be brunch at 624, great food in a classic downtown Art Deco building.

Brunch at La Villa in the Philbrook Museum of Art is another Tulsa Sunday favorite. Reservations, please, for either brunch venue. Stay and peruse the collection and enjoy another peek at a millionaire’s mansion. Other days of the week, start with the Philbrook then head to Tulsa’s other major art museum, also thanks to oil, the Gilcrease Museum.

For a change of pace, spend some time at the Tulsa Zoo in Mohawk Park. Cap your afternoon in the Brady Arts District. Visit the Woody Guthrie Center and Philbrook Downtown. Watch glass blowing at the Tulsa Glassblowing School and pick up a sweet treat at Glacier Chocolates.

End the evening with a jaunt back to the ‘70s at the retro Dust Bowl. A burger and bowling is just the right palate cleanser after all that art you’ve seen. For more retro, check into the Campbell Hotel on Route 66.

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