Back in January, I posted my list of places to visit in the UK in 2015. I also took the opportunity to express my surprise at New York Time's choice of 52 Places to Go in 2015. The list was filled with some less obvious US destinations for the eager traveler. One of those making the list (and baring the brunt of my snark) happened to be Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Frankly, I know nothing about Tulsa. I've only ventured across the Texas/Oklahoma state border once. Therefore, it seemed much more appropriate to let a Tulsa native do the talking and defend her home turf. Find out what makes Tulsa so great from today's guest writer, Kelsey May!
Defending Tulsa. For anyone who doesn’t live in Oklahoma, or for the former writers of Friends, this might be a tough sell. We don’t have much of a reputation outside our own state. We were a bunch of laid-off corporate drones in Up in the Air, the best we could offer Chandler was shark porn in a Radisson Inn, and our Congressmen throw snowballs on the floor of the Capitol. Indeed, I’m fighting an uphill battle, even after the New York Times listed us the 47th best place to visit in 2015. (Sandwiched between Shanghai and Rome? Not bad for our little flyover gem.)
But Tulsa is my hometown and, after a few years living in other states, I willingly chose to return, which says something either for this nice city or about my mental health. Probably best not to dig too deep on that one. Regardless, let me offer some of my favorite places in the city I call home.
Best Place to Eavesdrop
The Coffee House on Cherry Street (CHOCS). This local coffee shop began as a nondescript hangout for students and hipsters in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and has since grown into a bustling hotspot to meet up on weekends. Its drinks are inventive and delicious but slightly overshadowed by its incredible selection of vegan, gluten-free, and full-fat pastries, pies, and cakes. CHOCS attracts people from all walks of life, some dropping by for a coffee to-go and some armed with laptops ready to stay all day. During an ordinary Saturday morning, you’ll hear conversations about God, fashion, school, and bands you’ve never heard of. It’s a must-do.
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Best Place to Make Out In A Car
Admiral Twin Drive-In. If you were born before 1980, you may remember this drive-in from The Outsiders. If haven’t seen it, all you need to know is that Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, and Rob Lowe spent part of the early ‘80’s in Tulsa. Together. On purpose. And it’s memorialized forever in movie magic alongside a pretty awesome drive-in theater that, despite a devastating fire a few years ago, is strong as ever. Admiral Twin is one of the last drive-ins in the country and maintains its traditional feel; pack your car full of people, food, and drinks, and pull into a designated spot across from one of the two large screens. Every ticket gets you access to a double feature that starts when the sun goes down. It’s the perfect date spot. Unless you don’t like your date. LPT: if you swiped right on a whim, meet for coffee at CHOCS first before suggesting a turn at the Admiral Twin.
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Best Place to Eat a Hot Dog
Coney I-Lander. This place has it all: steamy windows, a no-frills dining experience, Fritos, a drive-thru, and word puzzles on the wall so you don’t have to talk to your family while you eat. The hot dogs are small enough that you won’t feel guilty ordering three and tasty enough that you won’t feel bad going there more than once in one week. These hot dogs are so hip they would be Stefon-recommended, if Stefon ever tried one. (Did you know Bill Hader is from Tulsa? That should be a selling point on its own. Any place that turns out someone that funny can’t be all bad!)
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Best Place to Fill Up
QuikTrip. Or, as us locals know it, “QT.” This may not sound like a big selling point, but there really is no better place to get gas. Or coffee. Or a muffin on your way to work at 7:52. Or a breakfast sandwich. Or a Gatorade on a Saturday afternoon after you’ve mowed the lawn. QT is renowned for its customer service; every neighborhood QT has its own brand of regulars who are always treated with a friendly smile and a cheerful greeting. Oklahoma hospitality at its finest.
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Best Place to Wear Cowboy Boots
Cain’s Ballroom. This one could also be called “Best Place to Not Remember a Night Out” or “Best Place to Start and Stop Smoking All at the Same Time.” Not that I would know... This world-famous honkey-tonk concert venue attracts acts from across the country and showcases artists in an intimate atmosphere. It also sells beer by the six-pack; efficiency is king.
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Best Happy Hour
This one is tricky. I could list lots of great, classy bars (Valkyrie, Brady Tavern, Doc’s, Hodge’s Bend), or even some super-smelly, divey ones (Tin Dog, the Buccaneer, Arnie’s), but I have something else in mind: Sonic between 2 and 4 PM. The best kind of happy hour Oklahoma has to offer. Although not specific to Oklahoma, Sonics are located in a limited geographical area and if you’ve ever lived anywhere without one, you’ll know the feeling of withdrawal that comes from not being able to order one of their 170,000 drinks. Plus, Sonic was founded in Oklahoma, so that counts for something
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Best Way to See the World
You may be surprised to learn that the Center of the Universe is actually right here, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Don’t ask me to explain the science, but there’s a tiny square of concrete hidden among the sidewalks of downtown where, if you stand in just the right spot, you’ll hear your own voice echo across the entire universe. Seriously.
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Best Day Trip
A trip to the lake. Any of them. Grand, Skiatook, Keystone, take your pick. Our lakes are close, accessible, beautiful, and – most importantly – a lot of fun. Whether you’re camping or cabining, boating or jet skiing – the possibilities are endless. There’s no better way to spend a summer weekend than in a boat with an ice chest and the people you love. We really do work for the weekend around here.
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Best Way to Spend One Day in Tulsa
If I only had one day to give someone an impression of my hometown, I would take him to the river on a sunny summer day, where we would ride bikes along the water and stop at any one of the many parks along the way. (If I get to choose my perfect day, do I also get to choose my perfect companion?) We might even make our way to Turkey Mountain and explore some wilderness inside the city limits. Afterwards, we’d get ice cream at Braum’s (cookies and cream for me, mint chocolate chip for him) and see an independent movie at the Circle Cinema. We’d finish off the day outside on the patio, enjoying an Oklahoma summer sunset with great friends, cold beer, and good music.
There are plenty of reasons to love Tulsa; I’ve barely scratched the surface. I didn’t even mention Guthrie Green (free live music and plenty of grass for lounging) or the Ouachita Trail (while not technically in Tulsa, it’s close) or Queenie’s (the quiche is to-die-for). But it would be impossible to tell you everything there is to love about this place – you’ll just have to come see for yourself. And if you do make it ‘round these parts, don’t forget to take a picture with the largest gold man you’ll ever see.