40 Things You Should Do in Oklahoma in 2014

by Holly Wall

12/31/2013

If you’re the resolution-making sort, you may be looking for a big goal for 2014. Lucky for you, we’ve got 40 of ‘em. We’ve listed the 40 things we think every Oklahoman should experience at least once. From mountain climbing to snake charming, from cave rappelling to river floating, and everything in between, here’s your Oklahoma bucket list.

1. Fall face first. The Oklahoma Skydiving Center offers dives for every level, from novice to near-avian. Located on the outskirts of Cushing, the skydiving school’s location provides a panoramic view of plains and prairie. Conquer your fear here.

2. Climb a mountain. Oklahoma has more of them than you might think. There’s the Gloss Mountains, near Enid (equipped with stairs and a handrail); the Wichita Mountains, just outside of Lawton, and the Ouchitas, in southeastern Oklahoma (just to name a few). And then there’s Quartz Mountain, in the southwestern tip of the state, just a few miles from Texas. Baldy Point isn’t for beginners. But the granite-face mountain provides one of the best views—and climbs—in the state. More about Quartz Mountain here.

3. Take a hot-air balloon ride. The Tulsa skyline looks better from up high and while holding a flute of champagne. Tulsa Balloon Rides lets you do both. You can also see a whole fleet of balloons when you head to Claremore for the Gatesway Balloon Festival or to Poteau for the Poteau Balloon Fest.

4. Count your blessings at the Holy City of the Wichitas, near Lawton. The city is something of an anachronism, more akin to a biblical village than Oklahoma farmland. Attend the Easter passion play and explore this quirky but deeply spiritual city. Become a citizen for a (minimum) donation of $20. More about the Holy City of the Wichitas.

5. Dig for buried treasure. You may not strike gold, but crystal is quite the conciliation prize. The Great Salt Plains provide the only natural reserve of selenite crystals in the world, so grab a shovel and start digging. More about the Great Salt Plains.

Subscribe

6. Explore the prairie at the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Woodward. Activities include wildlife viewing (think prairie dogs, turkeys and owls, in addition to the main attraction), geocaching, star gazing, and nature workshops. More about the festival.

7. Trek across the desert of Little Sahara, a natural sand dune located in Waynoka, Oklahoma. Rent an ATV and race across the dunes, or take the whole family to the city’s annual SandFest. More about Little Sahara.

8. Survive a night at the Stone Lion Inn, Guthrie’s haunted bed and breakfast. Solve a murder mystery over dinner and tour a graveyard before you settle in for a sleepless night in a creaky, antique iron bed. More about the Stone Lion Inn.

9. Dust off those boots and raise that paddle. The historic Oklahoma City National Stockyards hosts a public cattle auction every Monday and Tuesday, giving insight into the lives of modern day cowboys and showcasing Oklahoma’s rich tradition in the livestock industry. More about the stockyards.

10. Try your hand at handfishin’. Forget the rod and reel and catch your catfish barehanded. The Okie Noodling Tournament, held each summer in Pauls Valley, offers prize money to the fisherman who can catch the biggest catfish using only his or her bare hands. More about the tournament.

11. Rappel Robbers Cave. Once a hiding spot for outlaws on the run, Robbers Cave State Park is now a beautiful nature reserve in the hilly San Bois mountains. Channel your sense of adventure by rappelling in the stone corral. Learn more.

12. Attend a traditional Native American powwow at the annual Red Earth Cultural Festival, which brings together more than 1,200 American Indians for a weekend of culture, heritage, and the arts. More about the festival.

13. Take a moment to remember. Bring flowers, a teddy bear, or a letter to place on the wall beside the Oklahoma City Bombing memorial in remembrance of the victims. Plan your visit here.

14. Taste the goodness. Take a stop off Route 66 to fill up—on soda. Pop’s, Oklahoma’s soda-pop hub, complete with a 66-foot-tall soda bottle statue-turned-light show, features more than 600 flavors. Find your favorite here.

15. Float your boat. Climb aboard a raft, kayak, or canoe and float your way down the Illinois River, one of the state’s most scenic waterways. Learn more here.

16. Stand under a 77-foot waterfall at Turner Falls, in the southeastern city of Davis. In addition to the feature attraction, there are also camp and picnic sites, wading and swimming areas, caves, and concessions. More about Turner Falls.

17. Feel the need for speed at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, in Jennings. Hallett Motor Racing Circuit is a 1.8-mile, 10-turn road-racing course, with more than 80 feet of elevation change, thanks to those rolling Osage Hills. The track hosts auto, motorcycle, and go-kart races. More about Hallett.

18. Duck and cover during an old-West shootout in downtown Guthrie. The Guthrie Gunfighters reenact gunfights of yore every Saturday on the hour between Harrison and Oklahoma streets in the Victorian city of Guthrie, Oklahoma’s original capital city. See for yourself here.

19. Challenge your taste buds to a dare at the world’s largest Calf Fry & Cook-Off in Vinita. There are always plenty of sides to choose from—beans, cobblers, salsas, and breads—but the festival’s centerpiece are the calf fries, fresh from the cow himself, sliced and fried to perfection. Whet your appetite here.

20. Scare yourself silly with a trip to see the Hornet Spooklight. Head to Joplin, Missouri, and 12 miles before you get there, find a short, four-mile stretch of gravel road, along the Oklahoma-Missouri border. Park, kill your headlights, and, if you’re lucky, the Hornet Spooklight, “a mysterious light of unknown origin” verified by the Army Corps of Engineers, will show itself to you. Supposedly, it looks like a lantern, or a ball of fire, and spins and bobs down the road. Sometimes, it even appears inside cars. More about the Spooklight here.

21. Toss a cow chip at the Cow-Chip Throwing Contest in Beaver, Oklahoma (which just happens to be the Cow-Chip Throwing Capital of the World). In territorial Oklahoma, buffalo and cow dung was used for fuel; now, its vital role in the state’s settlement is celebrated with fun and games. Coinciding with the contest is the Cimarron Territorial Celebration. More about the events.

22. Set a world record. Don your cape and celebrate International Superhero Day at the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley. The museum has already gone down in the Guinness Book of World Records as hosting the largest gathering of original superheroes at one time. Why not help them best that record this year? More about the museum

23. Dance with the buffalo at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on the earth. It’s also home to a herd of 2,500 free-roaming bison, and you can get up-close and personal with them (OK, maybe not close enough to actually dance) when you drive through the preserve. More here.

24. Sleep in a skyscraper—the only one famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright saw realized. The Price Tower is located in the heart of Bartlesville, just a short drive from the Tallgrass Prairie. More about the Price Tower.

25. Sink your teeth into an order of fried chicken at Eischen’s Bar in Okarche, which purports to be the oldest bar in Oklahoma. Established in 1896, the place has had plenty of time to perfect its fried-chicken recipe, and its got a reputation for being the best. Make your mouth water here.

26. Discover the oldest and largest example of folk art in Oklahoma at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park in Foyil. The main attraction stands 90 feet. More about Totem Pole Park.

27. Go spelunking at Alabaster Caverns State Park.  The crown jewel of this 200-acre park is the world’s largest natural gypsum cave open to the public; however, there are four other caves on the property that haven’t been developed—no lights, no pathways—and visitors who obtain the proper permits can go “wild caving” in them. You can also camp out inside a cave. If guided tours are more your speed, there are plenty of opportunities for those, too. More about Alabaster Caverns.

28. See where the magic happens when you tour Braum’s creamery in Tuttle. (And if you don’t think Braum’s has some of the best ice cream in the state, maybe Ernest P. Worrell can change your mind.)

29. Saddle up and visit Sipokni West, an old-West town built by retired actor Johnny Shackleford. The town, near Reagan, Oklahoma, serves as both a movie set and a site for annual events like the Mountain Man Rendezvous (in April), the Cowboy Roundup (Labor Day weekend), a Halloween haunted town, and a Cowboy Christmas event in December. More about Sipokni West.

30. Channel your inner Alfred Hitchock a la Birds at the American Pigeon Museum & Library. The center celebrates the opening of a new building Jan. 15-18, during the National Pigeon Association Grand National convention. More about the American Pigeon Museum & Library.

31. Watch a feeding frenzy as one million Mexican free-tailed bats leave their cave—and fly right over your head—to feed on 10 tons of insects at the Selman Bat Watch. You’ll meet at the aforementioned Alabaster Caverns State Park, then shuttle to a top-secret location just as night begins to fall. When it does, the magic begins. More about the Selman Bat Watch.

32. Rope and ride. Experience what Booker T. Washington once called the “most enterprising and, in many ways, the most interesting of the Negro towns in the U.S.” at the Boley Rodeo & BBQ Festival. An all-black town founded before statehood, Boley has hosted its rodeo for more than 110 years. More about the event.

33. Explore your roots at the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center. Located inside the Oklahoma History Center, the OHS Research Center holds the state’s oldest and most complete newspaper collection, more than 5,000 family history books, more than 8,000 oral histories, a huge collection of Indian records, and an index of the 1890 Oklahoma Territorial census—basically, everything you need to start tracing your family’s genealogy. More about the OHS Research Center.

34. Take a road trip on the Talimena National Scenic Byway, 54 miles of spectacular views that stretch through the Ouchita Mountains into Arkansas. Go in the fall, during peak foliage. More about the byway.

35. Come down with the Corndog Craze. How many corndogs can you eat in seven minutes? Find out by entering the Tulsa State Fair’s corndog-eating contest. Make sure you follow all the rules (like no inappropriate attire; this is a family event, after all), posted here.

36. Try to survive the Zombie 5K at the Living Dead Center Festivals in Pauls Valley.  Try to keep all your limbs (er, flags) as you navigate the run’s haunted course, peppered with obstacles and zombies out for blood. Other festival events include a zombie walk, coffin cruise soapbox race, zombie fashion show, Monster Art Glow show, spook house and zombie prom. More about the festival.

37. Congratulate the newest crop of American citizens. The naturalization ceremony, typically held at the Oklahoma Federal Courthouse, is the capstone to the citizenship application and a hefty reward to years of patience and hard work. Could you pass the naturalization quiz? More about the ceremony and the naturalization process.

38. Test your shot at the Tulsa Gun Club, which offers clinics for both beginners and more advanced shooters. The shooting range offers class offerings include pistol, skeet, trap, and rifle. Ready, aim, fire.

39. Be there for the comeback of professional soccer in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Energy, the new United Soccer League team set to debut in 2014, will be playing their first home games at the Pribil Stadium of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School before eventually unveiling a soccer-specific stadium. More about the Oklahoma Energy.

40. Visit the wild, wild West via the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which celebrates Oklahoma’s (and America’s) lasso–carrying, spur–wearing history. More about the museum.

Marley Coyne contributed to this story.