While Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas are bustling with fresh offerings, the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department’s Todd Stallbaumer says there are also gems to find in the state’s outstanding rural communities. Here are three he suggests:
“This northeastern Oklahoma town has seen a tremendous tourism boom in recent years, thanks to Food Network star Ree Drummond,” Stallbaumer says.
Pawhuska drew more crowds after the release of “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” in 2017, now a bestseller and soon-to-be Hollywood film. The Osage Nation Museum, which shares the Osage Nation’s stories through photo collections, art, historical artifacts, and cultural programs, was the first tribal-owned museum in the U.S.
The city is also home to the annual National Indian Taco Championship: a people’s choice competition that takes place each October to determine who makes the best fry bread tacos. The event also features a powwow and arts and crafts vendors.
“Built in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains along picturesque Bath Lake, Medicine Park was Oklahoma’s first resort community when it was established in 1908. Shops, restaurants, and galleries fill its cobblestone buildings, which are made of rocks native to the area,” Stallbaumer says.
A perfect example of the unique cobblestone architecture is the Old Plantation Restaurant, which opened in the early 1900s as a hotel—and was rumored to harbor a whiskey still in its basement during Prohibition. The restaurant pays homage to that history by utilizing the hotel’s original rock bar.
Steeped in its Native American heritage, the town also puts on the Medicine Park Art Walk & Flute Festival each October that celebrates American Indian flute music and features a juried art show.
“This town in beautiful south-central Oklahoma is home to several great attractions run by the Chickasaw Nation, including the incredible Chickasaw National Recreation Area,” Stallbaumer says.
The recreation area is secluded land near downtown Sulphur that offers lots of trails, camping areas, swimming holes, fishing lakes, and a chance to see wildlife, including bison and whitetail deer.
For more luxurious lodging, Oklahoma trekkers can stay at the Echo Canyon Spa Resort and enjoy its award-winning spa, lavish rooms, and the Baron of Beef restaurant. And if they stay in September and October, they can experience the nine-day Chickasaw Annual Meeting & Festival that celebrates the tribe’s culture through traditional meals, art shows, stomp dances, and other live entertainment.
Top photo: Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur
Photo by Lori Duckworth, Oklahoma Tourism