As the parent of a newly minted freshman at the University of Oklahoma, it’s important to me that, not only my daughter be familiar with the area she’ll be calling home for the next four or more years, but that I am familiar with it as well. Although I travel all over the place rather frequently, I had never had the opportunity to visit Oklahoma before dropping her off to start her college journey. My husband was the one who went along with her on her college tour and, other than a walk around the University campus, there wasn’t much of a chance for him to explore the area nearby to look at what there was to see and do or where to dine during what will be many trips there over the next several years. That’s why I was thrilled to be invited by the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau to enjoy some of the wonderful restaurants and attractions that Oklahoma City has to offer. Located less than thirty minutes from the OU campus, it’s the perfect place to stay and play when visiting my favorite Sooner. If you have a student enrolled in the University or have one heading there in the future, or even if you don’t and you’re just headed there for a visit, you’ll want to check out my College Mom’s Guide to Food and Fun in Oklahoma City:
A College Mom’s Guide To Food And Fun in Oklahoma City
Have you ever heard of an onion burger? Originally introduced in Western Oklahoma in the 1920’s onion burgers were created as a way to make beef stretch further out of economic necessity during the Great Depression. Cooks pressed thinly shredded onions into their beef patties and the flavorful invention has been an Oklahoma staple ever since and Tucker’s Onion Burgers have some of the best ones in the State. Not a fan of beef? There’s a turkey burger option and also a plant-based Impossible burger, which I tried, and loved! Tucker’s fries are also at the top of my list as some of the best I’ve ever eaten… and I’m a girl who knows her fries! Tucker’s has fast and friendly service and is a great place for a quick and casual meal when in OKC.
Located in the Paseo Arts District of Oklahoma City, Frida Southwest has a fantastic menu full of dishes that are inspired by Oklahoma, Sante Fe, and Mexico. The restaurant, like the District, is beautifully decorated with bright colors and artwork and the meals are both delicious and unique. I highly recommend ordering the Queso Fundido pictured below as a starter. The blend of cheeses, chiles, and fresh corn tortillas is heavenly and it’s the perfect way to start off your dining experience there. Be sure to try some of their specialty cocktails or order from the vast wine list and don’t forget to check out the secluded lounge area in the back of the restaurant. Spend some time before or after your meal shopping in the boutique stores and admiring the vibrant artwork in the Paseo Arts District too.
Hefner Grill is THE place to go in OKC for brunch. Go hungry and plan on staying after your meal to enjoy the live entertainment and the stunning view of Lake Hefner. I couldn’t decide what to order so I ordered a variety of meals and tried each and every one! I loved everything but my favorite was the Southern Benedict; poached eggs, smoked ham, fried green tomatoes, corn cakes, guacamole, and hollandaise… it tastes as wonderful as it sounds! (a close second was the French toast; made with french bread and the perfect amount of cinnamon… so, so good!) The staff members at the Grill were war and welcoming and the service is outstanding. Be sure to make a reservation in advance because the Hefner Grill is very popular. I arrived prior to the restaurant opening for the day and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. It’s definitely worth the wait but, if you can, book ahead to make sure you get a table. It’s an unforgettable dining experience.
For the best selection of local and craft beer, Bricktown Brewery is the place you want to be. The Brewery is loud and lively with plenty of TV’s to catch whatever sports game you want to watch while you’re having a beer and eating from the menu of fabulous comfort foods. I had the Bricktown Club, Sea Salt Caramel Fries (these fries… omg, they are a must-eat!), and a Single-String Stout, all of which I would gladly order again and again. Great meal, great fun, and a great location right in the heart of Bricktown.
Riversport OKC has it all when it comes to adventure activities. You can experience whitewater rafting right in the heart of Oklahoma City, climb SandRidge Sky Trail (the tallest adventure course of its kind in the world), zipline across the Oklahoma River on the SandRidge Sky Zip, climbing walls, kayaking (both flatwater and whitewater), and much much more. There’s a youth zone with a 48 ft. Cloud Bounce, a children’s zipline, bungee jump, and playground. There’s something for everyone here and it’s a wonderful place to spend the day and have fun with the entire family!
I had the chance to take an evening cruise down the Oklahoma River with Oklahoma River Cruises and enjoy some cocktails while seeing the City lit up at night from the water. The cocktail cruise is ideal for couples or a girls (or boys) night out. There’s nothing quite like the view of the Wheeler Ferris Wheel with its neon lights reflecting off the water and it’s a marvelous way to see the City from a different point of view. The cruise was the perfect way to relax after a day of exploring the City. Oklahoma River Cruises offer ferry services that will get you to other parts of the City as well and are also available for private charter for special events.
Factory Obscura is a quirky immersive art experience that I don’t really know how to describe. You have to see it to believe it. The art displays are massive and it’s like entering into a world designed by the artist’s imagination as you walk through the building. You can literally walk inside some of the displays and get lost in the color and creativity of the artwork. My daughter and I loved our visit there and can’t wait to visit again to see the latest additions.
As an animal lover and visitor to many a zoo, I have to say that the Oklahoma City Zoo is, by far, the best Zoo I have ever been to. I was able to spend a few hours exploring the Zoo and honestly, I could have spent the entire day there and even slept over if they’d have let me. (they actually do have overnight programs if you are interested in doing so) The grounds of the Zoo are absolutely beautiful and the newest section of the Zoo, Sanctuary Asia, is stunningly detailed to give visitors a feel of the habitat the animals occupy in that part of the world. The Sanctuary provides spectacular views of Asian elephants, Indian rhinos, Komodo dragons, Red pandas and other wildlife. I had the opportunity to experience a Wild Encounter with Galapagos Tortoises. I got to meet and feed Miss B, Max, and Isa, the resident seniors at the Zoo. Miss B. is 110 years old and weighs 260 pounds, Isa is 90 years old weighing 250 pounds, and Max, the youngest of the group at 76 years old, makes up for the lack in years with weight… he weighs a whopping 490 pounds! It was an incredible experience and I loved getting a behind-the-scenes look and learning about the care and protection of these beautiful animals. The Zoo is FULL, and I mean FULL of things to see and do. There’s a Children’s Zoo area where little ones can feed and interact with sheep and goats, botanical gardens, plenty of places to dine or grab a snack, train rides, giraffe feedings, learning experiences, and even a place to rest and relax called Grandma’s Porch. A visit to the Oklahoma City Zoo is a must-do when in OKC!
Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City is filled with fantastic restaurants, shopping, outdoor events and activities, and you can even take in a ballgame at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark if you’re visiting during baseball season. Take a party bike with Bricktown Bike Bar, a horse-drawn carriage ride, or cruise along the Bricktown Canal in a water taxi; there’s always something to do and something going on in Bricktown.
Whether you’re visiting for a weekend to see your college student, have a child touring OU or OSU, or even if you are just vacationing in the area I hope my College Mom’s Guide to Food and Fun in Oklahoma City will help you choose some great places to dine and/or have a good time. All of the locations I recommended are within a quick ride of the Campus and are terrific options for spending time with your college kid or if you’re on your own in the City. And, if all of these aren’t enough to get you excited to visit Oklahoma City, check out Travel + Leisure’s article listing Oklahoma City as one of the 50 best places to travel in 2020.
For more information about things to see and do in Oklahoma City go to visitokc.com.
*** I was an invited guest of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. Accommodations, meals, and activities were hosted. All opinions are honest and my own***