Perhaps you only know Oklahoma as the place “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,” but that’s just a small part of the story. Located at the crossroads of the nation, Oklahoma’s landscape includes gently rolling hills, expansive plains, mountains, ever-changing sand dunes, salt flats, pine forests, cypress swamps and alabaster caves. The state claims more man-made lakes than any other state and boasts 11 official eco-regions. Visitors can hike through mountains, fish in lakes and rivers, pitch a tent or explore a state park.
Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than any other state—426 miles, to be exact—with numerous iconic sites. Once known as Native American Territory, Oklahoma is home to more American tribes than any other state, 39 tribal headquarters, and members of at least 67 tribes reside in the state. The Native American heritage can be witnessed through art, historic sites, interactive cultural experiences, museums, powwows, dances and festivals.
The state also has a Western legacy, starting after the Civil War when soldiers constructed forts and outposts while patrolling the territory. Today, ranches dot the Oklahoma landscape, rodeos occur every month of the year, Western wear, tack stores and cattle are common, and you’ll find one horse for every 12 people, more per capita than any other state.
The cowboy culture is presented through art and history at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In Tulsa, the world’s largest collection of fine art, artifacts and archives devoted to the American West is found at the Gilcrease Museum of Art. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s Western art is found in Oklahoma.
Just minutes from the business and entertainment districts of downtown Oklahoma City, cowboys still buy and sell cattle through live auctions at the Oklahoma City National Stockyards, the world’s largest stocker-feeder cattle market. It’s located in the historic district known as Oklahoma City Stockyards. Here, visitors can observe live cattle auctions, browse through authentic Western wear shops and dine with real cowboys at Cattleman’s Steakhouse. There are also plenty of opportunities to taste cowboy life at a variety of rodeos, guest ranches, working ranches, trail rides, cattle drives and chuck wagon feeds.
For an overview of the Sooner State, consider starting your adventure at the Oklahoma History Center, located across the street from the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion in Oklahoma City. The center presents a historical overview of Oklahoma, from prehistoric times to oil field wildcatters to the space program. A decade in the making, the Oklahoma History Center is an 18-acre, 215,000-square-foot learning center exploring Oklahoma’s history of geology, transportation, commerce, culture, aviation, heritage and more.
Also of note is the town of Guthrie, the largest contiguous district on the National Register of Historic Places—extending 1,400 acres and 400 city blocks. Ongoing restoration since the 1980s has preserved Guthrie’s architectural legacy. Guthrie served as the first state capital of Oklahoma, almost all of the original 19th-century buildings remain and most of the commercial structures have been restored.