As the largest city in Oklahoma, many southern road trips are going to take you through Oklahoma City. Don’t just plan a quick drive through. There are so many places to explore that you should definitely plan to allow at least a couple of days in this city. In my twenty years of family visits, we still haven’t seen all this city of 600,000 people has to offer.
Gonna be honest here. My husband and most of his family refer to Oklahoma City as a boring, “old people” city. When I disagree, they scoff and continue to argue against my list of reasons. This Oklahoma capital isn’t just a “boring” city if you know where to look. As a homeschooling family, I’m always on the look out for opportunities to add learning to our travels. Oklahoma City has soooo many places for history, art, science and overall fun – no matter you family choice of education. While there are so many options, here is my top five list, and my list of future places to explore. Start here!
- Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
- Skeletons: Museum of Osteology
- Oklahoma State Capitol
- Science Museum Oklahoma
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art
- Other Amazing Places in OKC
- Don’t just drive through Oklahoma City. Stop for several days, and see some amazing places for science, history, and art learning as a family.
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
This top-notch Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum commemorates the Oklahoma City bombing which took place when I was in high school. While the bombing was a big event on April 19, 1995, I feel that it’s been overlooked in most history books. Help it come alive with a family visit to this important memorial.
As an emotional and solemn site, prepare yourself and your guests that this is not a loud, run-around place. Because of the subject matter, this may be a best-for-big-kids experience and will be more significant with some learning about the site ahead of time. Both myself and my cousin were teary multiple times as the exhibits talked about the survivors and the kids’ school next door. Don’t be afraid to skip the harder parts and just do what your littles are ready for. However, this is also an excellent place to talk about real-life heroes, learn about those who helped each other, and experience the bravery of the rescue workers.
Built on the site of the bombing, a portion of the museum encompasses one of the collapsed buildings. Follow the artifacts as recovered from the site to work through the discovery and capture of the perpetrators. Stand on the overlook to see the outside memorial and wander through the grounds past the surviving tree, memorial Reflecting Pool, and the Field of Empty Chairs which represents those killed in the bombing.
While this site is an affiliate of the National Park System, it does not receive federal funding; this museum is well-worth your entrance fee. There are rangers on-site and a junior ranger packet to complete.
Skeletons: Museum of Osteology
According to the museum’s website, the Museum of Osteology is the only museum of bones in the United States. Starting as the owner’s childhood bone collection, this building now houses more than 450 animal skeletons which are arranged for you to visit. This museum is a must for any nature-loving adult or animal-studying child.
With the blue whale skeleton soaring from the ceiling, your family will walk along the two stories of skeleton displays with the animals grouped by class and order – aka primates, carnivora, sirenia, etc. This allows for some great comparisons and discussion of favorite animals and new friends. To keep the kids’ attention, there are scavenger hunts available and an upstairs section for discovery. For extra depth, review ahead your biology taxonomy and bring a chart of the different classes and orders; this is great review and introduction of animals.
Oklahoma State Capitol
Located in downtown Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma State Capitol is a great educational free stop as you drive around downtown. Look for the oil drill on the grounds of the capitol – the only capitol in the United States to have such. Read about the history of the Native American statue at the top and see the replica inside. Visit the Capitol’s museum inside, and learn Oklahoma history as you study the murals under the dome. Read ahead on the roles of the Senate and the House, but at the time of our visit, we were not able to see inside either chamber. Call ahead and for information about a self-guided tour.
If you’ve never visited a capitol building, go for it. They’re always so beautiful. Prepare for a bag check at entrance to the building, so leave your non-essentials in your car. Act like you belong; we usually just have to roam around the building and find out way to the elevators. Most parts will be available for your exploring so have at it. While it looks intimidating, just remember these are tax payers dollars at work, and enjoy exploring the beautiful grounds.
Science Museum Oklahoma
This museum right here is the reason my family hasn’t visited more places in OKC. This is the only place they want to go, and the museum I will hear about more often than any other in the country. When visiting family, my kids have even been known to ask to return to visit the next day. Although this museum could be enjoyed by adults as well, there are definitely some kid-focused areas. If you don’t have kids of your own, find a kid and enjoy it through their excitement.
Once you and your family visit the Science Museum Oklahoma, all other hands-on learning museums will pale in comparison. This building is huge, and your kids will wander off. Bring the matching shirts and discuss a meeting place just in case. Prepare to sit and play, wander the wooden fort playground at the entrance, turn to the climbing structure, and plan to watch at least one included planetarium show. At the entrance, check the daily schedule and plan to watch the live science show for some explosions and excitement. Don’t forget to wander outside to enjoy the garden or check out the top floor for rotating exhibits.
This children’s museum is right next to the Oklahoma Zoo, but both deserve a day of their own. Bonus that the Oklahoma Science Center is an ASTC museum; use your membership from your home museum for reciprocity or learn why you should have one.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is a great museum for kids and a must for fans of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures. Families should check the website for in-museum activities, conversations to have, and even coloring pages to print at home. Ask at the front desk if any Discovery Packs are available for the kids. With a permanent collection ranging from American art to modern day, there is something for everyone. Make sure you look online for the upcoming exhibits to see what’s coming up.
If you’re visiting, you may have reciprocity as it is on both NARM and ROAM museum lists. This is also a Blue Star Museum, offers Bank of America free days for members, and kids are always free. Check online for pricing, but I’ve also seen discount tickets on Groupon.
Other Amazing Places in OKC
- Soak in Native American history at the new, high-tech First Americans Museum
- Take a Bricktown riverboat and have a meal along the Oklahoma River canals
- See the statues at the Centennial Land Run Monument
- Explore the “7th Best Zoo in the Nation” at the Oklahoma City Zoo
- Follow the street art through OKC on this mural map
- Learn about Oklahoma at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
- Visit history at the 45th Division Infantry Museum