Published on March 22nd, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
7 Things I Learned From Spending 46 Hours In Oklahoma City, OK
As a New Yorker, when you hear the name “Oklahoma,” you are probably thinking of one of a few things. It could be the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein musical named after the state. It could be the NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. It could be old Western movies with cowboys. It could be its reputation for tornados and heavy winds. Yet all of those things are only a tiny fraction of the ways in which Oklahoma is both interesting and influential on a national basis. Below are seven of the things I learned from my 46 hours on the ground in and around Oklahoma City:
1) “OKC” is a sports town. The Thunder is not the only sports franchise that you will find when visiting. The Triple-A farm club of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oklahoma City Dodgers play at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. That ballpark includes the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame. The Oklahoma Energy is a professional soccer team. There is also Riversport Adventures, the home of the USRowing National High Performance Center. If you drive 20 minutes or so out to Norman, a lively college town, you can catch an Oklahoma Sooners game. Nearby Norman has been the home of Vince Gill, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hoda Kotb, James Garner, Ed Harris, Blake Griffin, Barry Switzer, Trae Young, and Jim Ross.
2) Speaking of driving, Oklahoma City is where SONIC — “America’s Drive-In” — is based. The quick-serve restaurant empire often tests new products and menu items out in locations near its headquarters, which is located across the street from Chicasaw Bricktown Ballpark. No one is quite sure which SONIC location is the original one, although the “Split T” one is a popular spot.
3) Don’t have a car? No interest in renting a car? No problem. Uber and Lyft are both easy to use in Oklahoma City; I was able to easily take Uber rides to and from the aforementioned Norman. Amtrak’s station is right in the middle of the downtown area. The city also has a bike-share program, which you can pay for with a credit card. Making things even more accessible, a trolley-like streetcar is currently in its final stages of being built for a later-2018 launch.
4) Also on the topic of transportation, much like how New Yorkers can easily travel to Philadelphia, Boston or Washington D.C., Oklahoma City is close to a lot of cities. In turn, a lot of OKC folks are likely to be found at concerts and other events in Tulsa, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Shreveport, and Wichita.
5) When you think of musicians from Oklahoma, odds are that you first think of Toby Keith and Garth Brooks. Outside of country, arguably the most famous band from Oklahoma City is The Flaming Lips; no offense intended to Hinder. While Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips are generally thought of as being “alternative,” the band’s influence is seen all over the city. Coyne is the owner of The Womb, a colorful art gallery. Coyne’s home has become an accidental tourist spot due to Google Maps weirdness. But most importantly, the alley behind Chicasaw Bricktown Ballpark is officially named Flaming Lips Alley; it shares space with a road named after Mickey Mantle.
6) There is no shortage of places to eat and drink at in and around Oklahoma City. Agriculture is nearby, so a lot of places are farm-to-table without even trying. There is a Vietnamese district. There are food trucks. There are breweries. Oh, and of course plenty of SONIC locations, if milkshakes and flavored soft drinks are more your thing.
7) The hotel I was put up at was The Skirvin, which is a Hilton property. It has a cool, old-world charm to it. On the basement level, besides the business center and the gym, there is an indoor pool and jacuzzi. By New York standards, a real bargain at around $140 per night. When talking to locals, one person told me this was the oldest hotel in Oklahoma City. Another local — at the Charleston’s restaurant in Norman — expanded upon that, telling me the Skirvin it was “haunted.” Another local — at the Jones Assembly expanded further and said that the rumors of it being haunted are so widespread that a few NBA teams refuse to stay there when playing against the Thunder. Me, personally, I didn’t notice any spirits and found the staff to be exceptionally warm.
All in all, I was very impressed with Oklahoma City, which I can see eventually becoming a hip, trend-making city like Portland. I hope to be back in OKC soon, preferably with more than 46 hours for exploration purposes.