Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quintessential Tulsa

I got this great e-mail from a reader, Chris, awhile back: 

One crazy question for you: for a tourist with one day (really more of a half-day) to see something distinctly Tulsa and/or Oklahoma, what would you recommend? 

I am trying to visit all 50 states before I turn 40, and am rapidly running out of time! Oklahoma is one of the 4 states I have left to visit before December...the opportunities [for daytrips] do not present themselves very often as I am mother to 3 kiddos under the age of 6...Any advice/suggestions are welcomed and much appreciated!  

First, I must say: People who have more than one child amaze me, but folks who have multiple kids under 12 defy logic as I know it. I have a seven-month-old son, and it's all I can do to hold down part-time work, get a few meals on the table and maybe bathe once per day. If you're someone who has more than one small child running around the house, please send me your minute-by-minute daily schedule so I can send it to scientists. You and your ability to bend the limits of patience and love should be studied.

Okay. I considered Chris's question for several days before I decided how to advise her. I was surprised by how difficult I found it to narrow a place like Tulsa down to an attraction or two for an out-of-towner looking to glean the essence of this city in a single, short visit. 

Always the brickhugger (to borrow a phrase from the SoChey kids), I told her she'd have plenty of options to "get Tulsa" if she planned to spend an afternoon downtown. I'm not so sure I gave her the right advice. Unless she scheduled one of those art deco or tunnels tours or had a specific event to attend, downtown may not be such a great destination for someone in town for just a few hours. Maybe better destinations would be Brookside or Cherry Street, Gilcrease of Philbrook, Tulsa Zoo or Oklahoma Aquarium. 

I didn't get very far along this line of thought before I started to feel, well, kinda stupid. I thought, I have a blog on things to do in Tulsa, and I can't come up with a quintessential Tulsa experience?

Then I realized that Tulsa just isn't a one-destination kind of town. 

Go ahead and try to think of just one, single thing that would provide a visitor with the Cliff's Notes version of Tulsa. Take your time; I'll wait. I bet that you could come up with several lists of things to do in Tulsa - something like ready-made Do Tulsa handbooks or something. One for food, one for history, one for architecture, one for art - you could fill any of those lists with dozens of things to see and do in the Tulsa area. 

Not ever sane enough to think about something for five minutes and then move on to something else, I thought of a few cities that immediately bring to mind a certain tourist destination, or vice versa: Seattle (Space Needle), St. Louis (the arch), San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge), Paris (Eiffel Tower), New Orleans (the French Quarter), Orlando (Disney World)...

Tulsa: HA! No. 

It's easier to get a feel for Tulsa via a set of experiences rather than by visiting one attraction or one area of town. Plus, I don't think you and I would come up with the same set. I'm sure everyone has his or her own opinion about what a visitor should take the time to see here.  

If you could write a Do Tulsa handbook that details, say, five things to do in T-Town, what would they be? Chris, I hope you're reading... 


Trait said...

1. Attend a concert at Cain's Ballroom. 2. Wander around downtown and check out the great art deco buildings. 3. Philbrook 4. Gilcrease 5. ORU (where else can you see architecture like that?)

hwall said...

I would definitely say tunnel/art deco tour downtown. A PITT tour would be good, too. Even though it's focused on the paranormal, there's a lot of great local history imbedded in the tour. Shopping on Cherry Street/Brookside. Eat at Claud's. Philbrook and/or Gilcrease (first I thought that was the obvious choice, but I think it's definitely appropriate). See the Ballet/Opera/local theatre company.

Is that five? More than five? God, I love this city.

M. Hill said...

1. Utica Square, preferably during Christmas time, but just about anytime will do.
2. Take a tour of Tulsa's beautiful downtown churches.
3. Shop and eat along Cherry Street and Brookside.
4. Stroll through Woodward Park, the Rose Garden and Philbrook Museum Grounds.
5. Sample some Ike's Chili.

Gerald Buckley said...

1) Cains or BOK Center
2) Clauds or Ikes
3) Philbrook or Woolaroc
4) Utica Square for "Lights On"
5) C'mon folks! The Golden Driller and the Praying Hands (you just can't come here as an outsider and tell your friends you didn't see the things!)

Kari said...

I actually found such a book when I first moved here almost a year and a half ago. It is called 101 Fun Things to Do in Tulsa. I think it was from about 2003, but for the new kid on the blog it's a treasure!

Since I am still discovering the city on a daily basis I can't chose just five things, but I wrote a post back in June about why I love our city. Maybe it will prompt a few ideas.

I Love Tulsa!

Brooklyn said...

I know this is super late. You may not even see it. But I had a friend come in town for a day and a half or so, and our schedule consisted of a quick photo shoot downtown, eating at Kinfolk's and Tally's, and Philbrook. We went to a concert, too, but it wasn't in Tulsa.

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