By jen rose smith
With 10-gallon swagger and a country soul to match, Oklahoma City (OKC) is where Route 66 swings deep into the heart of the American West. The energetic capital of Oklahoma gives that dusty legacy pride of place, from Western-wear emporia to exhibits in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
But OKC living is anything but mired in the past. Even if you come for the cowboys, the craft beer and fresh style will tempt you into exploring further. Whether you’re grooving to Oklahoma’s Red Dirt music or brewery hopping in the renovated Bricktown neighborhood, you’ll love OKC’s aw-shucks charm, dash, and culture.
Ask a cowhand for dining advice, and they’ll send you straight to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Stockyards City. It’s an OKC touchstone within hollering distance of the Oklahoma National Stock Yards, where twice-weekly cattle auctions draw tourists alongside the chaps-and-boots crowd. That means dining on ultra-fresh, corn-fed beef at a restaurant known for grilling hand-cut steaks to perfection — and portions that leave greenhorns reeling. Make a liquid dessert of the city’s hippest beers, starting with a Rose Rock Irish red ale from Twisted Spike Brewing Company, whose taproom is lined with local art and exposed brick. The next stop should be the patio at Stonecloud Brewing Company, which turns into an open-air, hop-fueled social hub on summer nights.
Larger-than-life exhibits at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum turn Oklahoma history vivid, including Native American artwork, oiled gunstocks, and the thundering hooves of bison herds. When the landmark museum was founded in 1955, Oklahoma had been a state for less than half a century, and the beauty, drama, and tragedies of Western life are treated with reverence here. If you like your history with a side of twang, continue to the American Banjo Museum to see the world’s largest public banjo collection. Peer even deeper into spacetime at the kid-friendly Science Museum Oklahoma; there, the Kirkpatrick Planetarium has a brand-new star projector to bring the galaxy within spectacular reach.
The heavy Conestoga covered wagons that hauled pioneers across the plains go chic at Orr Family Farm, whose wagons are circled for nostalgic evenings under a stretched-canvas canopy. The brand new glamping wagons feature king-sized beds, private bathrooms, and fire rings for toasting marshmallows under the stars.
For an entirely different take on Oklahoma City nights, book a room at 21c Museum Hotel, where you’ll sleep surrounded by contemporary art. It’s housed in a 1916 Model T production plant, and the hotel’s ultra-modern design nods to that history with industrial touches. Soaking tubs, original artwork, and big views of the OKC skyline combine for an urban luxury experience. Instead of a campfire, guests gather around cocktails at Mary Eddy’s OKC, a sleek hotel lounge built into the former Model T showroom.
GETTING TO OKC
Nonstop flights run from O’Hare (ORD) to Will Rogers World Airport (OKC) on United and American, while Southwest offers daily nonstop flights to OKC from Midway (MDW). Flights take just over two hours each way.