The famous Route 66 Gate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Tulsa

BY Matt Meltzer | July 3, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Tulsa? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Tulsa?”

Tulsa is both exactly what you expect when you think of Oklahoma, and nothing like it at all. The big sky and sprawling prairies are the picture of American West. But beyond the circling hawks and wind sweeping off the plain, Tulsa is a city full of culture, history and fantastic international food. The oil that made this city rich brought with it a bevy of art and sophistication, and that spirit lives on today in a place that many compare to the Austin of yesteryear. So put aside what you think you know about Oklahoma, and see why Tulsa can pack more fun into a few days than you’d ever imagined.

See the best of Tulsa’s outdoors

Tulsa makes the most of its warm, dry weather and locale along the Arkansas River, offering loads of stuff to do outside both in the trees and on the water.

Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#1
Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Gathering Place

2650 South John Williams Way, Tulsa, OK, USA

The crown jewel of Tulsa’s outdoor scene, and maybe even the entire city, is this scenic swath of urban green space along the Arkansas River. Within the Gathering Place you’ll find walking trails, a skate park, a spacious lodge, obstacle courses and plenty of places to escape into the woods. You’ll also see a complete cross-section of the city, so you’ll learn as much about Tulsa’s people here as you will its nature.

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Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#2
Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area

6850 S Elwood Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

For urban hiking with a little more challenge, head a few miles south of downtown to Turkey Mountain. Here you can traverse over 300 acres of native trees and animals, stopping to reflect and relax by one of its tranquil ponds.

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Keystone Lake in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#3
Keystone Lake in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where you can take boat out to fully explore lake waters at Keystone State Park. Photo by Rebekah Workman.

Keystone Lake

1926 S Hwy 151, Sand Springs, OK, USA

Kayaking along the Arkansas River is a refreshing way to see the city. But for something a little more idyllic, head to this lake into which the river flows. Much of it is surrounded by a state park, where you can rent a boat or spend the night in a campground.

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Immerse yourself in museums and culture

Tulsa’s oil wealth also birthred world-class art and culture, giving the city a sophisticated feel and plenty to explore.

Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#4
Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Philbrook Museum of Art

2727 S Rockford Rd, Tulsa, OK, USA

The Philbrook is almost as notable for what’s outside the museum as what’s inside. So once you’ve finished perusing the easily accessible collection of local and classical art inside, take an hour or so to stroll the palatial gardens outside. The terraced, flower-packed landscapes and peaceful stream make one feel as though they’ve stepped out of Oklahoma and onto an Italian villa.

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Circle Cinema in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#5
Circle Cinema in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Circle Cinema

10 S Lewis Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

This classic, old Art Deco movie house was converted from a massive single-screen theater to a three-screen miniplex. It shows independent movies and art films every night, and offers a unique movie-going experience for those longing for the golden age of cinema.

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Art Deco architecture tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#6
Art Deco architecture tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Art Deco architecture tour

511 South Boston Avenue, Tulsa, OK, USA

Tulsa’s boom years of the ’20s and ’30s coincided with the rise of Art Deco architecture, and outside of Miami Beach no city in America has more of it to see. This hour-and-a-half tour takes you past 10 of the city’s most significant Art Deco structures, teaching you as much about Tulsa’s history as it does about the facades.

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Neighborhoods to know

Oklahoma’s creative pulse beats in Tulsa, a colorful, sometimes-kitschy collection of retro spaces and innovative businesses. You’ll find all of it city-wide, but to experience it best, these are the neighborhoods to explore.

 

Blue Dome District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#7
Blue Dome District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Blue Dome District

Blue Dome District, Tulsa, OK, USA

This neighborhood a few blocks northeast of downtown is named after an old gas station along Route 66, which still stands as the area’s historic centerpiece. The Boxyard shopping center is Blue Dome’s biggest attraction, with independent shops, restaurants and a bar set in shipping containers. Blue Dome is also chock-full of cool spots to eat and drink, like the German-style beer hall at Fassler Hall and the breakfast classic Dilly Deli.

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Tulsa Arts District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#8
Tulsa Arts District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa Arts District

Tulsa Arts District, Tulsa, OK, USA

The rehabbed redbrick warehouses across the railroad tracks from downtown are Tulsa’s best neighborhood for food, cocktails and live music. The legendary Cain’s Ballroom — a dance hall dating back to 1924 — sits on the far end of the district. You’ll also find Tulsa’s top craft cocktail lounge at Valkyrie, its best burger at Tavern, and Tulsa Drillers baseball at ONEOK Field.

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The Pearl Beach Pub in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#9
The Pearl Beach Pub in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Pearl

The Pearl, Tulsa, OK, USA

A trip down Route 66 is a must in Tulsa, and you’ll find the best of the highway’s classic souvenir shops and Instagrammable signs in The Pearl. But it’s not all about tourist photos here: The Pearl also houses some of Tulsa’s best spots for beer, like the sand-themed Pearl Beach Brew Pub and stalwart American Solera Brewery.

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Learn Tulsa’s important African American History

In the early part of the 1900s, Tulsa was home to “Black Wall Street,” the most affluent African American community in the United States, fueled by oil and the industries around it. The neighborhood was tragically burned to the ground during the race massacre of 1921, but you can still learn all about the Greenwood district and its place in American history.

Greenwood Rising in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#10
Greenwood Rising in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Greenwood Rising

23 N Greenwood Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

Step into 1921 Tulsa at this interactive museum on the most important intersection in Greenwood. Through immersive films, photos and live-action holograms you’ll learn the story of Greenwood and the Tulsa Race Massacre through the eyes of those who lived it.

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Vernon A.M.E. Church
#11
Vernon A.M.E. Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Vernon A.M.E. Church

311 N Greenwood Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

The lone structure to survive the 1921 massacre was the basement of the Vernon A.M.E. Church. Residents quickly rebuilt the church as the structure that stands today, with the historic wall intact as a monument and reflecting place called the Prayer Wall.  

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John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#12
John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

322 N Greenwood Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

Across the Pathway to Hope from the Greenwood District you’ll find this public park, where you can wander through a labyrinth or learn Oklahoma’s history along the side of a towering art installation.

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Drink through Oklahoma’s best city for beer

Tulsa’s booming beer scene isn’t limited to what you’ll find in The Pearl. Nearly every neighborhood in the city has a taproom that’s worth visiting. From a rooftop bar to a ballpark brewery, here’s the best ones to hit.

Welltown Brewing in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#13
Welltown Brewing in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Welltown Brewing

114 W Archer St, Tulsa, OK, USA

If the weather is nice, there’s no better place to enjoy it than the sunny rooftop at Welltown. This brewery boasts the city’s top elevated outdoor patio, where you can soak in the sun and the skyline with a cool sampling of lagers and light ales.

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Elgin Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#14
Elgin Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Elgin Park

325 East Brady Street, Tulsa, OK, USA

Baseball and beer: This brewery right off the main entrance to ONEOK Field lets you sample local craft beers before, during and after Drillers games. Even if you’re not here for baseball, you can belly up and watch other sports while eating pizza at their massive center bar.

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Heirloom Rustic Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#15
Heirloom Rustic Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Heirloom Rustic Ales

2113 E Admiral Blvd, Tulsa, OK, USA

The most interesting beers in Tulsa can be found about ten minutes from downtown, at this unassuming taproom on an industrial strip just off I-244. While Heirloom might not be for everyone, if you’re into stuff like British lager with coffee, fruited goses and oak-fermented beers it’ll be like nothing else you’ll find in Tulsa.

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Eat your way around America…and the world

Tulsa is a lot more than just beer and barbecue. It’s food scene spans both America and the world, from Vietnam to Israel and beyond. And if you know where to go you’ll never have a bad meal.

Nola's in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#16
Nola's in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Nola’s

1334 E 15th St, Tulsa, OK, USA

While bars and restaurants everywhere try to duplicate the taste and feel of New Orleans, Nola’s actually comes close. The dripping chandeliers and menu of Creole classics will impress even New Orleans natives, where everything from po boys and muffalettas to Cajun fried chicken make for a calories-be-damned delight.

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La Tertulia in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#17
La Tertulia in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

La Tertulia

311 East 2nd Street, Tulsa, OK, USA

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Santa Fe at this white adobe eatery from James Beard Award-winner Kevin Nashan. The chef opened it as a tribute to the restaurant his family ran in New Mexico, with a menu full of fresh tortillas, stacked enchiladas and plenty of green and red chiles.

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Laffa in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#18
Laffa in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Laffa

111 N Main St, Tulsa, OK, USA

For vegetarians and vegans, nowhere in Tulsa will delight you more than this Israeli spot just across from the Arts District. The falafel could compete with anything in Tel Aviv, and the menu of hummus, khadu and spicy shakshuka make eating meat-free in Tulsa easy and appealing.

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Lone Wolf Banh Mi in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#19
Lone Wolf Banh Mi in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Lone Wolf Banh Mi

3136 E 11th St, Tulsa, OK, USA

You know when you ask locals for food recommendations, they always list off a bunch of places, then pause, then suggest one item from one place you HAVE to have? That’s the kimchi fries at Lone Wolf, the sandwich shop’s signature item that Tulsans seem to agree is a must-eat. Though the Vietnamese-fusion sandwiches are pretty good too, so if you want more than fries for dinner, try the cilantro pesto chicken.

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BurnCo Barbecue in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#20
BurnCo Barbecue in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

BurnCo Barbecue

1738 S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

Locals will tell you that BurnCo can hold its own with any barbecue joint south of the Red River. Judge for yourself and order up a pound of their smoked brisket, then immerse yourself in the smoky surroundings while devouring it at a long wooden table. If you have plans for the rest of the day and don’t want to spend it in a brisket-induced food coma, grab a pulled chicken sandwich and cover it with BurnCo’s famous sauce.

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Catch a live show

Tulsa’s top live music venues are far from a smattering of smoky clubs with stages. The city’s theaters are historic sites where you’ll learn Tulsa’s musical legacy while watching national touring acts.

Tulsa Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#21
Tulsa Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa Theatre

105 West Reconciliation Way, Tulsa, OK, USA

Formerly known as “The Old Lady on Brady,” this stately brick theater dates back to 1914. It was the city’s premiere live music and performance venue for decades, and is as much a lesson in the city’s history as a place to catch a show. Haunted legends abound about the building, but if you’re not afraid of ghosts it’s one of the coolest places you’ll ever see a show.

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Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#22
Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Cain’s Ballroom

423 N Main St, Tulsa, OK, USA

A neon sign at the end of the Tulsa Arts District beckons visitors with a pink promise of ballroom dancing. And while its days as a 10-cent dance hall are long gone, the “Carnegie Hall of Western Swing” and its spring-loaded maple dance floor is still going strong. The historic home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys was indeed the epicenter of Tulsa’s genre of country-estern music, and you can see all the ballroom’s history on the walls while watching rock, country and other bands today.

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Where to stay in Tulsa

Tulsa hasn’t quite jumped on the boutique hotel bandwagon as much as some other cities. But if you’re looking for unique lodging, there are still a couple of options.

Tulsa Club Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#23
Tulsa Club Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa Club Hotel

115 E. Fifth St., Tulsa, OK, USA

Tulsa’s most historic hotel is this Art Deco gem in the heart of downtown. The Hilton Curio Collection property has a chic, midcentury design in the rooms and the lobby, with a spacious rooftop terrace to take in the city views. It’s walkable to the Blue Dome District, Arts District, Downtown and almost everywhere else you’d want to go in the city. And if you do want to venture farther out, the Tulsa Club has a free local shuttle.

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Hotel Indigo in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
#24
Hotel Indigo in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Hotel Indigo

121 S Elgin Ave, Tulsa, OK, USA

To immerse yourself in the Blue Dome District and all its retro glory, grab a room at the Indigo. The building has bars, restaurants, a bowling alley and even a comedy club within literal feet. The interior is the colorful, modern decor you expect at an Indigo. Plus, there’s also a sweet rooftop bar at Roof Sixty Six and fried chicken at Prospect Local Bar and Kitchen downstairs.

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