Route 66 in Green Country
One of America’s most famous, if not the most famous highway, is historic Route 66. Known also as “The Mother Road” the highway arrives in Oklahoma at Quapaw, located at the very tip-top northeast corner. The Quapaw Museum here holds artifacts relating to and preserving the history of the Quapaw Indian Nation. You’ll also be able to learn about their cultural activities and traditions.
Moving on down Route 66 to Commerce, a short detour off the main road will take you by the boyhood home of its favorite son, ole Number 7, Mickey Mantle (“If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken a lot better care of myself.”). The home is pretty much in its original state and can be found at 319 S. Quincy St. Check out the baseball dents in the adjacent barn—can’t you almost hear Mickey with his Dad and brothers whooping it up as they played ball?
You’re in Miami almost before you realize it, and in Oklahoma we pronounce it” My-am-uh”. Miami’s Main Street is a treasure trove of shops and attractions, so plan on extra time here. The most remarkable place is the historic Coleman Theatre, where top-notch entertainers have shared their talents with thousands of audiences over its ninety years in existence. Will Rogers, Bob Hope, even Groucho Marx (“I intend to live forever, or die trying”) shared their humor with theater goers. The Coleman, built in 1929, has been completely restored and still sells out performances.
Miami’s numerous other attractions include the Dobson Museum, with its lovely grounds, where numerous historic artifacts and documents pertaining to Native American and Ottawa County history can be found.
Of course you’ll need to eat while prowling around Miami, you might consider Waylan’s Ku-Ku Drive In, the last of its kind and it’s somewhat of an international hot-spot. Chapters Bookstore is a step back-in-time and offers tasty coffees and teas while you shop.
A short detour off Route 66 and south from Miami is Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees and certainly one of Oklahoma’s favorite playgrounds. It’s not just a big Bass lake but offers some outstanding activities for anyone. En route, stop by Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Hall of Fame at Afton to see some out-of-this-world vehicles. Your next stop, Har-Ber Village Museum in Grove, where dozens of tiny buildings make up the pioneer-era village and history museum complex. It’s a must see attraction that also offers multiple events and hands-on activities throughout the year. A bit further south around Grand Lake at Langley, you’ll cross Pensacola Dam. This PWA-style Art Deco dam is the longest multiple arch dam in the world and is open for tours daily during the summer.
With a bit of advance planning, a visit to Oasis Animal Adventures in Disney (not World) is a refreshing treat. Here you’ll meet Zola the zebra, Simon the camel, Roo the Kangaroo, a character named Omar, (he’s an adorable lemur that will steal your heart) and a host of other friendly critters. (By appointment only).
It isn’t likely you’ll want to just dip your toes in the water then leave, so why not opt for one of the outstanding overnight accommodations in the area and enjoy the stay for a few days. Southern Oaks Resort is tucked away just south of Langley and offers a tranquil setting for family and friends get-togethers year round. A Wyndham Vacation property is located on Monkey Island, as well as Shangri La Resort. There are countless other cabins and resorts to consider in the area. Seemingly endless are your options for nightlife around Grand Lake with dance halls, gourmet dining and lady luck at numerous casinos. Then there’s always the option of just watching the sunset from your lounge chair.
It’s now back to the Mother Road and Vinita, home to Clanton’s Café which has been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Afterward, stop in at the Eastern Trails Museum and if you’re really lucky, perhaps you’ll be in Vinita in June during the annual “World’s Largest Calf Fry Festival”, now that’s some really tasty eatin’!
Traveling just a bit farther on Route 66 you’ll find the world’s largest totem pole at Totem Pole Park in Foyil. Then it’s on to Claremore, where the Will Rogers Memorial Museum is an absolute must see when in Oklahoma. This memorial to “I never met a man I didn’t like,” Will Rogers, is full of memories and memorabilia about Oklahoma’s Favorite son. For good-luck rub Will’s boot in the Museum, you can’t miss it. You’ll also want to visit the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum, for a glimpse of the largest private collection of firearms in the World. But that isn’t all they have, you’ll need to see for yourself ‘cause there’s a few bizarre items as well.
Plan on staying in Claremore for a while, you’ll find an abundance of trendy and antique shopping for everyone. Dining will certainly be a difficult choice, with options available from the Pink House Tea Room located in the historic Belvidere Mansion, to “mile-high” pies and home cooking at the Hammett House and rich creamy fudge at the Nut House. Perhaps it’s too difficult to choose, so just try all of them. The Will Rogers Birthplace is just a few miles north outside of Oologah, the Dog Iron Ranch truly couldn’t be in a prettier setting, high on a hill overlooking Lake Oologah. On the way out to the Ranch, stop in town to check out the bronze statue of Will and his trusty steed Soapsuds, its right square in the middle of the street. On the highway check out the replica of Will’s birthplace – watch carefully or you’ll miss it.
Retrace your steps back to Route 66 and continue west, nearing Tulsa you’ll travel by the iconic Blue Whale and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa, where entertainment and lavish accommodations are found.
As you reach the metropolitan area a couple of suburbs offer a variety of events and activities. The Garden Spot of Oklahoma, Bixby straddles the Arkansas River and is ideal for all things “grown,” celebrated during the annual Green Corn Festival each June. The BBQ and Blues Festival in May really draws a crowd for finger-lickin’ good barbeque.
Just east of Bixby, the Rose District in Broken Arrow welcomes you and is a go-to spot for dining and entertainment. You’ll also want to visit The Museum Broken Arrow and the Military History Center. Persimmon Hollow Village, offers weekend shopping in a replica old west town and Bass Pro Shops provides most everything for the outdoor person and dining, too. Events in Broken Arrow attract tens of thousands annually, from Rooster Days in May, to the incredible Rhema Holiday Lights each Christmas season, featuring over 2 million lights.
There are many attractions and events in Tulsa—far more than could be mentioned here—so here are a few highlights. The Gilcrease Museum is another “must-see” in Green Country. Housed here is the largest collection of art and artifacts of the American West in the United States, pretty much sums it up in a sentence. A stroll through the gardens is lovely anytime, but is especially stunning when azaleas are blooming in April. Speaking of gardens, the Tulsa Botanic Garden, on the eastern edge of the Osage, continues its 25-year plan to develop 60 acres into a myriad of garden spaces, streams, conservatory and much more. This will certainly be a venue to revisit time and again.
New to the area is Tulsa’s Gathering Place, this 60 plus acre-park offers literally something for everyone. The park, with pledges totaling $465 million is the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history.
The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, (ranked as one of the top 5 Jewish museums in the US and Canada by Jewish Living Magazine), features the American West’s largest collection of Judaica and the Kaiser Holocaust Exhibition must not be missed on any Tulsa visit. The Tulsa Zoo and Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium are situated convenient to one another and supply hours of fun and learning for all. The Tulsa Zoo’s latest experience, the Lost Kingdom, is receiving rave reviews.
Other attractions include the Woody Guthrie Center, OK Jazz Hall of Fame, Philbrook Museum of Art, Route 66 Village, Tulsa Historical Society Museum and others to compliment your Tulsa visit.
If you’re looking for entertainment in Tulsa, look no further than the downtown core. Hotels, restaurants, clubs and multiple entertainment venues including the historic Cain’s Ballroom, the BOK (B.O.K.) Center and Oneok (One-Oak) Field home of the Tulsa Drillers baseball team, offer an endless supply of action. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University action, too. The largest event in Tulsa is the annual 11-day Tulsa State Fair; held in late September/early October, visitors find fun and food (of all kinds, especially fried) for the entire family.
Sapulpa and Bristow to the southwest both have vibrant downtown areas and celebrate their association with the “Mother Road” by hosting annual car festivals. In Sapulpa the Sapulpa Historical Museum is a 3-story treasure-trove of antiques, arranged in a small village format. Many of these antique items you will recognize, others – well, who knows what that thing did. The Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum is Sapulpa’s latest attraction. You’ll see several vintage automobiles and other related items. The museum is located at the corner of Route 66 and Sahoma Lake Road - look for the GIANT gas pump. For your dining pleasure, Freddie’s Steakhouse, a Sapulpa Lebanese restaurant features many tasty Lebanese delights – definitely a place you’ll try more than once. In Bristow, home to more Lebanese food, the annual Tabouleh Fest happens each May.