The holidays are over — the twinkling Christmas lights and New Year’s Eve champagne bubbles are just memories — and the January blahs have set in. It’s time for a weekend getaway to a destination loaded with enough culture and charm to get you out of the winter doldrums.
Less than five hours away from Lawrence by car, Oklahoma City fits the bill. When Bobby Troupe wrote “Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty” in the Route 66 song back in 1946, he had no idea just how beautiful OKC was going to get by 2013.
Oklahoma City is magical. Its magic creeps up on you when you least expect it. You might first feel a sense of enchantment when you’re gazing at the iconic 55-foot glass tower by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly in the three-story atrium of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. (The Museum holds the world’s largest, most comprehensive Chihuly collection — the fact that Chihuly’s wife hails from OKC just might have something to do with that.) After marveling at all the breathtaking glass confections, have a cocktail at the black granite bar in the Museum Café.
The Paseo Arts District is a vibrant area that’s home to 17 galleries and more than 60 artists. You can walk from studio to studio, drinking in the creative vibes. Interspersed with the galleries are fabulous restaurants, a coffee house, a clothing boutique, a gift shop, a yoga studio and a graphic arts studio.
Once you’ve gotten your “art fix,” it’s time to let your inner child run wild at the Science Museum Oklahoma, an affiliate of the Smithsonian. From traveling beyond the Milky Way in the Planetarium Theater to witnessing live explosions in Science Live, you’ll never run out of things to see and do.
The Oklahoma City Zoo is the third-ranked family-friendly zoo in the country, and admission is free on Mondays in January and February. Kids and adults alike enjoy taking a spin on the Endangered Species Carousel, which displays 42 exotic animals.
Discover the beauty of the Myriad Botanical Gardens, a lush retreat in the heart of the city. Unique to this oasis is a verdant paradise, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, a perfect place to visit on a cold day, with its 35-foot waterfall and 62-78 degrees temperature range in the winter. This living plant museum awakens your senses with bright blooms, bubbling brooks and succulent foliage. The Gardens boast both a Children’s Garden and a Dog Park, ensuring that every member of the family has fun.
Within easy walking distance of downtown Oklahoma City is the fastest-growing entertainment district in the Southwest — Bricktown. Bricktown has just about everything you need to help you relax in the wintertime — high-energy night clubs, lounges, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a ballpark and a multitude of restaurants covering just about every cuisine you could fancy. And, when you factor in its picturesque setting embracing a mile-long canal lined with beautifully landscaped gardens and public art, the effect is nothing short of magical. Water taxis only operate during the regular season (April-October), but the local watering holes and eateries are bustling with warmth year-round.
Hoist a cold one in style at a great Oklahoma City venue like Bricktown Brewery (which offers award-winning handcrafted beer, along with hickory-smoked barbecue) or Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, with its extensive wine list and live entertainment. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill features benches made from Ford pickup truck beds and honky tonk music.
You won’t find 50 Penn Place (an upscale office/art/shopping galleria) listed in many guidebooks; it seems to be a hidden gem. Shop at Route 66 for handmade soap, candy wrapper purses, water calligraphy sets and journals made from recycled album covers.
If you’re a bibliophile, trust me when I say that you can’t leave OKC without paying a visit to Full Circle Books. It’s hard to believe that you’re in a retail establishment when you experience the ambience of 13-foot oak bookcases with rolling ladders, real wood-burning fireplaces and old theater seats. Truly, this is a book lover’s heaven, and your heartbeat will quicken just walking through the front door.
You can’t do justice to all that OKC has to offer in just one day, so spend a night or two at the historic Skirvin Hilton. You’ll be awed by the grandeur of this elegant hotel, built in 1911 by land developer and oil magnate Bill Skirvin, whose daughter Pearl Mesta became famous as Washington’s “hostess with the mostess.” End your day on the right note at the Red Piano Lounge, located just off the opulent lobby, to view the red baby grand piano, listen to live jazz, and sip Red Piano Cosmos.
Nancy Pistorius can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.