April 19, 1995 was one of the darkest days in Oklahoma City's history. On that day Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was attacked by Timothy McVeigh, subsequently killing 168 people. The site contains two parts, the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the museum itself. Inside the museum, you will see 168 empty chairs; one for each innocent victim, 19 of which included children. The most endearing tribute, however, is the part of the fence that has been left over from the makeshift memorial that stood here for five years after the attack. Today, visitors will see letters, photos, flowers and other precious sentiments left by survivors and visitors. Also prominently featured in the memorial is the Survivor Tree, it has become a symbol of hope to the people of Oklahoma City.
The Myriad Botanical Garden is a green oasis that offers space and serenity within the concrete urban sprawl of Oklahoma City's downtown. The gardens are spread across 17 acres (6.9 hectares), and the horticulturists often offer educational classes and workshops as well as just a place to relax. Upon entering, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory contains more than 2000 species of plants and in addition to permanent species, the gardens display rotating exhibits such as orchids and more exotic plants throughout the year. The Grand Event Lawn in the outer gardens and the Water Stage on the lake are frequently used for events like concerts, theater and movie screenings year-round.
The only skeleton museum in the United States, the Museum of Osteology is a great place for people of all ages to learn about phlanges, metatarsals and carpals. With over 400 skulls and 300 complete skeletons on display, the museum gives valuable insights into the skeletal makeup of humans as well as animals. Visitors can enjoy some hands-on learning at the Explorers Corner, where you can handle bones from various North American mammalian species. On your way out, the gift shop is a great place to get someone something unique.
This zoo in OKC is consistently rated as one of the best zoos in the United States, home to nearly 3,000 animals, it definitely is one of the largest. Some featured exhibits include the Cat Forest and Lion Overlook, in which you can see lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards. The 'Great Escape' showcases gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and other primate life. One of the zoo's most popular attractions is 'Aquaticus', an aquarium extravaganza that features a dolphin and sea lion spectacle. The zoo is also very active in the community, it provides nature classes, labs, tours and 'Zoomobiles' for all ages. At the end of the day, guests usually catch the show under the stars at the Zoo Amphitheater.
The American West in all its glory and grandeur is captured in this 220,000 square feet (20,439 square meter) museum. There are hundreds of sculptures and thousands of paintings, photographs and artifacts from the Old West. The newest addition is the Joe Grandee wing, which features more than 5,000 artifacts. There is a life-size reproduction of a frontier town, a rodeo gallery, a cowboy gallery and a frontier soldier gallery. You will also see the largest collection of works by contemporary western artists, as well as the famous paintings of Frederick Remington.
Known as the City Arts Center when it was founded by philanthropists John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick in 1989, the renamed Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center features two art spaces, the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Gallery and Circle Gallery, respectively. The former eponymous gallery hosts rotating exhibits and the latter more mixed-media art such as interactive, digital and multi-sensory presentations. Additionally, the focus of the center is not only on art, here the artists offer classes and workshops on painting, two-dimensional studio arts, pottery in addition to many more interesting artistic pursuits. Since the center is a non-profit organization, admission is free, but there is a nominal fee for the classes. Check website for event calendar and schedule of courses.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has more than 3000 works from 19th and 20th-century American artists. The highlight is a gallery that focuses on modern American art from the 1950s and 1960s, which includes work by Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Indiana. Additionally, this art museum attracts wonderful traveling exhibits that are a must for connoisseurs. Guided tours are available for groups with ten or more people as long as the reservation is made two weeks prior to visit.
A great way to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Bricktown Canal is via water taxi. The flat-bottomed boats have narrators on board that tell visitors about the scenic points of interest in between the main dock on Mickey Mantle Drive and its end point at Bricktown River Walk Park. You can hop on-and-off along the route in order to shop, eat or just walk around in this historic neighborhood. The taxi is usually open throughout the year; the peak season is summer and it is open sporadically during the winter when weather permits.
The Oklahoma River is an offshoot of the Mighty Mississippi hundreds of miles away to the east. Thankfully, it is still a viable river perfect for recreation and leisure on its banks. The asphalt trails on both sides of the river cover 13-miles, however there is no way to cross from one side to the other! To access the north trail, start at Regatta Park and to access the south, there is an entrance at SW 15th and Sheridan. One other note, the OKC Parks Department does not allow motorized vehicles, only pedestrian and cycling activity.
This museum is housed in the ornate Mid-Continent Life Insurance building and its primary goal is to inform visitors about the many contributions that Oklahomans have provided to their state and country. Some of the highlights are the 'Bust Gallery', which displays the sculptured likenesses of famous Oklahomans like Maria Tallchief, Ralph Ellison and Mickey Mantle. There is also an interactive exhibit about the Chickasaw Nation and the Chesapeake Oklahoma Theater is located inside. Additionally, the museum provides a backdrop for other events such as field trips, workshops, weddings, etc.