When I received an offer from the George Kaiser Family Foundation to visit Tulsa, I was honestly a bit confused. To say that Tulsa, Oklahoma is not the first place you think of when you're planning a trip is an understatement and I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.

Ashley Steinberg

After speaking with the team at GKFF, I learned that Tulsa is rebranding, reinvigorating and doing some truly intriguing things that practically yelled for me to take them up on their offer to see them for myself. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

So, what is there to do in Tulsa?

Turns out, there is actually A TON to do in Tulsa! We were rarely wanting for stimulating activities and every day was perfectly planned. Here's what we did. 

Botanical Gardens

I started my trip a bit later than the group, so I did miss the Botanical Gardens, but I saw everyone's pictures and was struck with immediate jealousy because it was gorgeous. The group really seemed to love it, despite the stifling heat. If you're looking for some Insta-worthy backgrounds, you'll be sure to find them here.

Greenwood Cultural Center

I learned that Tulsa has an incredibly rich history, full of arts, culture and even (on the less positive end) riots that are not truly known or promoted to the public. In addition to the already mounting problems of the country during the 1920's, the Tulsa Race Massacre happened. At Greenwood Cultural Center, we were able to really delve into what was going on there at the time and why it inspired a lot of the recreations and tune-ups they're working on now. You can read all about it here.

Impressive Architecture

Ashley Steinberg

Tulsa has some pretty impressive architecture. We were able to take an architecture tour around the city and what we saw was like no other. The statues and building details, and the concepts behind them, were beautiful to the eye and really interesting to learn about. I found that a lot of the modern details of the buildings were very smart and innovative.

Old-School Activities

Ashley Steinberg

Skating, Drive-ins, and other feel-good fun ventures are at the forefront and easily accessible here. I'd forgotten how fun rollerblading could be. Getting a chance to ride around in a rink was so freeing and relaxing and it reminded me how great it was to get out of NYC every once in a while. Fans of the book/movie The Outsiders will be excited to know they can visit the drive-in theater where scenes from the movie were filmed.

Gathering Place

Ashley Steinberg

Of all the places we were told about ahead of the trip, this was the most exciting for me. As a self-proclaimed kid in an adults body, the giant playground was calling my name. Walking around the grounds, I was in absolute awe. They had a man-made beach, a boat house where you could rent kayaks, paddleboats, etc., a mirror maze, several playgrounds for smaller kids and a giant playground including a ton of climbing ropes, slides, pirate ships and even a small-scale zipline.

On the food and drink side, they've got tons of picnic areas, and cafes, including an ice cream shop where they make their own ice cream from scratch, and I can attest that even as an ice cream snob, this was pretty dang great.  

BOK Center

Ashley Steinberg

Just as surprising as the cultural elements we encountered was the amazing programming at what I would say is their version of Madison Square Garden. We were lucky enough to be there when Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara were in town and snagged some tickets that were way cheaper than they would be in a big commercial city like New York or LA. They have even more big names on the way, and the stadium, while big, offers a pretty great view of the stage from wherever you're sitting, even if it's in the highest section.

What about the food?

Ashley Steinberg

I've got to say, while one might expect southern food to be the forefront here, they're pretty culturally diverse. The first location I stopped at was a Vietnamese Pho house, Pho Da Cao, which while not necessarily entirely authentic, was really tasty.

Ashley Steinberg

We had a dinner at a Mediterranean oasis, Oren, that might give some NYC establishments a run for their money, at least with their appetizers, which included some incredible roasted broccoli and oddly satisfying tapioca crackers. 

Ashley Steinberg

Dilly Diner served typical diner fare with an added flare of "the bigger the better" mentality when it came to cinnamon buns (it was the size of my head), and Duet served some blueberry corn griddle cakes that were pretty bomb.

Ashley Steinberg

They've also got a pretty robust new food hall, Mother Road Market, with a variety of booths and a cookie kitchen that makes cookies similar in size to the diner's cinnamon rolls, which is to say, pretty damn big.

And even despite all this food and activity, there was way more to see. 

What I would go back to do

In the course of a weekend, I was able to see and eat a ton, but there are so many more places I found to be discovered in Tulsa that I wouldn't say no to a chance to re-visit and hit more sports this time around.

First on my list would be to spend more time at Gathering Place. The child at heart in me wants to spend at least an hour, if not more, climbing around and testing out that zipline. Speaking of ziplines, I also hear they have a three hour zipline course/tour just a short trip outside the main city.

The music-lover in me would relish some more time to check out the Jazz Museum. I'd also like to check out the nightlife scene because it seemed pretty alive and popping. I'd love time for more exploration of the bars and clubs, especially those with live music. 

What I learned

A. Don't discount a place because of what you think you know. This country is huge and some places, like Tulsa, have a low profile and aren't very well-known, but that doesn't mean they don't have a lot to offer.

B. Like I said, this country is huge, and if Tulsa has a lot to offer, what does that mean for the other states/cities I haven't visited yet? We're always looking to travel to new exciting and exotic places, but what about the less exotic places closer to home?

While Tulsa may not be the most enticing location to pop into your head, the city in conjunction with the George Kaiser Family Foundation are doing some great things and have a ton of great attractions to offer you if you're open-minded enough to give it a shot. Trust me, you won't be sorry.