The Top 5 Things to Do in Tulsa

Pamela Nichols  |  April 26, 2022

The Top 5 Things to Do in Tulsa
In recent years Tulsa, Okla., has exploded as a hub for art, music, culture, vibrant nightlife, and fine dining. Unique neighborhoods fan out from its architecturally significant historic downtown, each adding their own distinct flavor to the cosmopolitan, yet accessible, metro that has become modern T-Town. There are so many things to see and do that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we have sorted out five must-see experiences when you are planning your visit to Tulsa, including the best restaurants in South Tulsa.

1) Shopping and entertainment

Tulsa’s various shopping and entertainment districts offer up unique experiences for visitors and residents alike. From sleek modern malls to quirky boutiques, Tulsa is a shopper’s paradise. And when you’re ready to fuel up, Tulsa’s dining options run the gamut from fine dining to charming sidewalk cafes and lively craft breweries.
  • Arts District: One of the oldest sections of the city, the Arts District’s music scene has transformed considerably since the days of dime dances at the historic Cain’s Ballroom in the 1920s. Now, world-renowned artists perform in the historic hall where dancers once shook the custom springboard wood floors to the sounds of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Entertainers have also been delighting audiences for over a century at the nearby Tulsa Theater. Beyond these two iconic venues, the area is home to an eclectic collection of bars, restaurants, homes, and retail options.
  • Blue Dome: This lively area is anchored by the historic 1924 Blue Dome building, Tulsa’s first 24-hour gas station, originally located along historic Route 66. Almost 100 years later, the Blue Dome District is still welcoming visitors around the clock with a vibrant nightlife. It’s the place where you can meet with friends for drinks before or after a show, enjoy a great meal, or just relax. The area also features live music, a bowling alley, a variety of art galleries, and specialty shopping as well as seasonal festivals, parades, and community events.
  • Cherry Street: Charming Cherry street is a foodie’s paradise. It’s home to a Saturday Farmer’s Market as well as many unique bars and restaurants and a number of antique and specialty shops.
  • Utica Square: The well-planned Utica Square shopping area has plenty to offer when you are ready to shop ‘til you drop. The open-air mall boasts elegant shops and upscale retailers. There are also fine dining options galore, and special events for the entire family.
  • Woodland Hills Mall: If you’re looking for things to do in south Tulsa, the huge Woodland Hills Mall has something for every taste. It has more than a million square feet of retail space with a variety of unique shops and retailers — many of which are not found anywhere else in Tulsa. You’ll also discover a great food court at the mall.

2) Gathering Place

The Arkansas River winds throughout downtown Tulsa, providing natural beauty and green spaces that inspired the design of the nationally renowned Gathering Place. This 100-acre urban park is a destination for visitors and locals seeking a tranquil oasis right in the center of downtown Tulsa. Comparable to New York City’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park, Gathering Place combines nature and urban access where residents can play, relax, and enjoy a wide range of features, including a lodge, boathouse, nature trails, parks, sports areas, playgrounds, and a pond. A variety of themed gardens delight horticulturalists, while interactive playgrounds and self-guided activities like scavenger hunts and discovery backpacks keep youngsters engaged. Art lovers looking for things to do in Tulsa will appreciate The Gathering Place’s Art in the Park initiative, which integrates public art into the Gathering Place’s natural spaces.

3) Art and architecture

The city of Tulsa itself is a work of art, showcasing dozens of well-preserved Art Deco buildings. At the start of the Jazz Age, Tulsa’s booming oil economy helped fund gorgeous Art Deco construction throughout the bustling city in the 1920s. Architectural gems include Will Rogers High School, the Philcade Building office tower, Boston United Methodist Church, and historic Union Depot. For smaller-scale art, must-see galleries include the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa’s world-class art museum housed in a historic home and surrounded by 25 acres of lush gardens. The Philbrook’s considerable collection features more than 16,000 objects with a focus on American, Native American, and European art.

4) Get your kicks

Located at the midpoint of historic Route 66, Tulsa’s segment of the “Mother Road” generally follows along present-day I-44, running east-to-west in downtown on 11th Street and crossing the Arkansas River before shifting west en route to Oklahoma City. When looking for things to do in South Tulsa, consider these nostalgic and kitschy sights:
  • The towering Golden Driller, an homage to Tulsa’s oil-rich past, presides majestically over the Tulsa County Fairgrounds.
  • The East Meets West Sculpture and Route 66 Gateway are newer additions to Route 66 that welcome current-day drivers on Route 66 while memorializing the rich past of the Mother Road.
  • Buck Atom is one of the most photogenic modified former Muffler Men who stand sentry along Route 66. He seems to be a sort of colorful cosmic cowboy, sporting a space-age suit, holding a rocket instead of a muffler, and wearing a jaunty cowboy hat.
  • The Blue Dome Service Station lends its name to the nearby arts and entertainment district, but its significance to Route 66 goes back to 1924 when the 24-hour gas station kept motorists fueled up on their cross-country treks.
  • Another blue icon located somewhat outside of Tulsa, the grinning Blue Whale of Catoosa, Okla., is arguably one of the most famous landmarks along Route 66. The 80-foot long wonder used to beckon swimmers to climb inside and jump off its tail. While swimming is now off-limits, the Blue Whale still provides a wonderful photo op for lovers of nostalgia and Route 66.

5) Foodie’s paradise

Tulsa’s restaurant scene is booming with cafes, microbreweries, fine dining, vegan options, and much more to tempt taste buds of every type. From tasty tacos to charming coffee shops, you’re sure to enjoy the best that Tulsa’s various neighborhoods are cooking up. If you are looking for the best restaurants in south Tulsa, you will run out of meals before you run out of choices!

Find out more

When you are ready to explore Tulsa and discover even more things to do in south Tulsa, reach out to an expert like Pamela Nichols. She can point you in the direction of the best neighborhoods and entertainment as well as recommend the best restaurants in south Tulsa and beyond.

*Header photo courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art

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