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Visit Tulsa, Oklahoma

I confess that when my daughter first told me her now new husband was from Oklahoma, I couldn’t quite picture where that state was located. Later, when I began mentioning their impending marriage to friends and family, I learned that many people from the northeast draw the same geographical blank. For the record, it’s set right above Texas. Everyone knows where Texas is.

Last week, I finally got to visit this commonly lost (at least among Pennsylvanians) state, when my daughter and her husband got married in Tulsa. It was their second wedding–the first was held a week earlier near our home. When you marry someone whose family lives half way across the country, having two wedding ceremonies makes sense. It also gave us an opportunity to see Oklahoma and here is what I learned: there is civilization there, and Tulsa is a pretty nice place. Here are 5 things you might like to know about my experiences.

1. The weather was pleasant. I only mention this because there was a hurricane going on in the entire northeast while we were there. Also, I expected it to be quite warm in Tulsa. In fact, it was cold at night and mild during the day, with temperatures averaging in the low 50s during our vist. The sky was cloudless throughout the four days we spent there. According to cityoftulsa.org, Tulsa boasts 227 days of sunshine a year and has an average daily temperature of 61 degrees, with lots of fluctuations in all seasons. The people we met did say the past two summers were quite hot, though.

The art deco Philtower

2. It was founded on oil. I thought Tulsa was going to be a cowboy kind of town. In fact it was nicknamed the Oil Capitol of the World throughout much of the 20th Century, if wikipedia is to be believed. Many of its buildings were erected by wealthy oil companies in the 1920s, designed in an art deco style that is attractive and sometimes ornate. Another building boom in the 70s and 80s produced more contemporary buildings. Overall, I found it featured quite a bit of particularly diverse and interesting architecture for a smallish city.

3. Art Museums: The wedding was held at the Gilcrease Museum, which features the most comprehensive collection of American western art in the world. It was a beautiful museum and the garden was a great place for a wedding ceremony (see photo on right).  During the cocktail hour, guests were allowed to tour the museum, which made for a particularly interesting addition to the wedding.

Because of the hurricane, our flight to Pennsylvania was cancelled, and we had the opportunity to spend an extra day in Tulsa. We decided to visit another art museum, the Philbrook. It is, according to the museum’s website, “one of only five museums in the United States with a unique combination of historical home, art collections and gardens.” This was an art museum that even my 14-year-old son didn’t hate too much because there was so much besides art to look at. The gardens were amazing. The photo on the left shows the rear of the museum.

Tulsa Townies. Yeah, they’re pink.

4. Tulsa Townies Bike Share:  One of the first things I noticed about Tulsa when we drove through was that it featured an appealing park and trail that ran along the Arkansas River. (If you didn’t know the Arkansas River ran through Oklahoma, well neither did I. I had to  look it up in the hotel room). One of the 2nd things I noticed was a display of bikes available for public use. When we found ourselves with an extra day to spend, we headed to the park to rent bikes and discovered they were Tulsa Townies, available at no cost (although we did have to swipe a credit card as a deposit).  I later learned that the bike program, which relies on a solar powered machine-to-machine communication system, dates back to 2007, and is one of the longest running bike programs in the country. It gave us the opportunity to get some exercise and spend some time on the 26-mile trail along the river.

Me, on a horse

5. Horses! One of my favorite Oklahoma experiences–besides attending the wedding and meeting my new son-in-laws extended family–was visiting the beautiful horse training center owned by Clint’s parents in Pryor, OK. Not only did we get to meet the more than a dozen horses they own, but I got to try riding one–something I don’t believe I’ve ever done before.

Overall, the experience was so much fun, it left me hoping that I could return to Tulsa someday to explore it further. And, it made me realize that there are probably so many places in this country that are rarely considered tourist destinations, but are nevertheless, rewarding to vist and discover.

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