Travel Guide

Overview

Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma.
Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. © Nyttend

While it may lack the rugged canyons and pastel skies of New Mexico or Arizona, Oklahoma's identity is distinct and very much a legacy of the Old West. Indeed, it is synonymous with cowboys and Native American culture.

Today, the state has the largest Native American population in America, as well as a strong African-American heritage. Both of these populations provide visitors with rich cultural history and experiences.

Powwows, craft festivals, and traditional storytelling all signify the great cultural history of Oklahoma, and many events pay homage to the cowboys of history, with around a 100 rodeos taking place in Oklahoma each year. These feature modern cowboys who compete in calf-roping, steer-wrestling, and bull-riding events.

The flat, fertile land of the central region is only one part of Oklahoma's diverse terrain. In the east, the prairies give way to rugged mountains and dense forests. This region is a favourite with today's rappelling enthusiasts, hikers, and equestrians, but was renowned among outlaws during the Wild West era.

Robbers Cave State Park served as a hideout for such notorious fugitives as Jesse James and Belle Starr. The Broken Bow area is popular with lovers of the outdoors, while fly-fishing and boating opportunities make it a top holiday spot.

In the north, the grasslands shift into one of Oklahoma's most intriguing natural wonders: the Great Salt Plains, a literal 8,690-acre sea of salt. In the west lie the Beaver Dunes, where adventurous visitors can rev up dune buggies or ARVs and race down sandy slopes.

Oklahoma as a whole is conservative and inspires nostalgia for a simpler life that precludes pretence or sophistication. The solemn nature, vision, and sensitivity of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum are testament to this, as the institution honours those who died in the 1995 bombing.

Anyone in search of travel kitsch will find landmarks in roadside architecture, including the Blue Whale and Totem Pole Park. There are well-preserved architectural gems as well, remnants of the Oklahoma oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s.