Interested in seeing a world-class art collection and learning a little about the 1920s Tulsa oil boom? The Philbrook Museum of Art is the place for you! is housed in the Tuscan Renaissance-style villa of Oil-Barron Waite Phillips. Constructed in the 1920s and donated to the city of Tulsa in 1937, the museum houses collections of art works from around the world including works by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pablo Picasso and Andrew Wyeth among others. It's also interesting to take in the grounds and observe the laps of luxury that the Phillips family enjoyed.
Each winter there is lively ice skating in downtown Tulsa. It is guaranteed to be one of the only places you'll spot people in cow-boy hat's ice skating. The WinterFest ice rink is adjacent to Bok center. It is very safe, do you not need to deposit your shoes to rent skates and people leave their shoes lying around. It's fun to see people of all backgrounds and ages having a blast on the ice; it's a great spot for a date.
In 1998, the London Daily Mail described the musical "Oklahoma!" this way: "There's nothing corny about this wonderful, fresh show. It's not just a classic American musical but -- and this is the real surprise -- a truthful, touching and gripping drama about growing up and falling in love, about dreams and nightmares."
Most people are not aware that it won its authors a Pulitzer Prize in 1943. Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II made their glorious music and Agnes de Mille's innovative choreography an integral part of the story-telling process - a novel approach at the time, but one that set the pattern and standards for musical theater still followed today.
What a better place to experience this classic than in the Sooner State itself! Every year, from June through August, "Oklahoma!" is presented on the "Discoveryland" outdoor stage 10 miles west of downtown Tulsa. With a talented cast of 50 performers, live animals and a real horse-drawn "surry with the fringe on top", the charming tale of a handsome cowboy named Curly and his romance of the dreamy farm-girl Laury, comes to life in a wooded 2000-seat amphiteater under the Oklahoma skies. The production is very professionally done and a number of pre-show activities make for a complete and highly enjoyable evening at an extremely reasonable price (have you priced a Broadway show lately?!!).
For Summer 2010, ticket prices were: Adults $19.95 and Children (10 and under) FREE. Prices for the optional Pre-show "Ranch Dinner" were: Adults $10.95 and Children $6.95. Packages (including a hotel package for two at the Hilton Southern Hills) and group discounts were also available.
The Golden Driller is probably Tulsa's best known resident - he has even appeared in an episode of the television show "Friends" (when Chandler was briefly assigned to head up his company's Tulsa office). Made not of bronze or copper, the Driller is composed entirely of reinforced concrete, and at 76 feet tall and a hefty 43,500 lbs. he is one of the largest free-standing sculptures in existence. While admittedly not an accomplished piece of art, his gigantic chiseled features nonetheless serve as a perfect symbol for Tulsa's robust, oil-soaked past.
The Driller stands watch in front of the QuikTrip Center, originally called the International Petroleum Exposition or IPE building. Built so that large oil-field equipment could be displayed and erected inside, the QT Center provides one of the world's largest unobstructed indoor spaces, with 400,000 sq.ft. of column-free floor under its cable suspended roof.
Also of note nearby is the Pavillion Arena, located north of the QT Center. Built in 1931 and restored in 2001, the Pavillion is a gem of art-deco architecture. The ornate brick exterior contains numerous painted tiles and friezes depicting livestock and agriculture themes.
The Driller, QTC and Pavillion are all located at Expo Square, along with the Fair Meadows horse-racing track, Big Slash Water Park and facilities for the annual Tulsa State Fair held every year in late September or early October. Until 2007, Expo Square was also home to Bell's Amusement Park, famous for its wooden "Zingo" roller coaster, but a lease dispute between the County and Bells' owners resulted in the closure and complete removal of the park.
If you are a runner or cyclist visiting Tulsa, then you will definitely want to take advantage of the park that runs for 10 miles along the banks of the Arkansas River from roughly the 11th street bridge to 101st Street. The River Park is also a nice place to just take a stroll or walk the dog on a pretty day. The Pedestrian Bridge at 31st Street (an old railroad bridge converted to foot traffic) offers a unique and pleasant view of downtown and there is plenty of easy parking at that location. The bronze wildlife sculptures placed at intervals along the path are attractive, and kids particularly love the very large statue of the bears and waterfall/fountain at 71st street. There are also nice playgrounds and splash pads at 41st Street and at 76th Street. The River Parks Festival Park on the west bank of the river opposite downtown is the site of the annual Oktoberfest and hosts other events and concerts on the floating stage.
In 2004, Microsoft, in a bid to promote its "Zoo-Tycoon 2" computer game, held a competiton via internet voting to select "America's Favorite Zoo." Thanks to visitors' deservedly high regard for the park (and not in small part to clever efforts by the Tulsa Zoo staff encouraging supporters to stuff the voting) the Tulsa Zoo took the top honors!
Tulsa calls its zoological park not only a "Zoo" but also a "Living Museum" and the designation is appropriate. The Tulsa Zoo has done a great job of combining naturalistic live animal habitats with archaeological and cultural art and artifacts that help visitors learn about the entirety of the earth's environments. For instance, North America is presented through four seperate buildings that showcase both animal species and human cultures unique to a region. In the "Arctic Tundra" building alone you can view a polar bear swimming inches from your face, enter a full-size reproduction of an Igloo furnished with tools of historic Eskimo life, and experience an earthquake.
The premier exhibit at the zoo has to be the "Tropical American Rain Forest." This massive building provides an immersion experience into a piece of Central American jungle. Towering trees, creeping vines, and mayan ruins; free-roaming marmosets (small monkeys), acouchis (looking like long-legged guinea pigs), lizards, frogs and various birds; and clever enclosures for more dangerous animals like jaguar, caiman and anaconda combine with the humidity to get you as close to the rainforest in Tulsa as you'll ever be without a long plane ride.
The zoo's newest attractions are a terrific black-footed penguin colony and a full-scale recreation of a portion of an African Maasai village. Of special interest to parents and their little ones are a nice children's zoo with an interactive goat yard, a huge and imaginative playground, a miniature train, and the "Conservation Carousel" where you ride on unique hand-carved creatures such as a seahorse or shark.
H.L. Mencken once called Will Rogers "the most dangerous man alive" because of the power of his political comments. Born in 1879 near Oologah and raised in Claremore, during his lifetime Rogers starred in Wild West Shows, in Vaudeville and on Broadway, made 71 movies, wrote over 4000 newpaper columns and six books, expounded on current events with homespun wit and wisdom through regular national radio broadcasts, and traveled countless miles around the globe as a journalist, observer, and ambassador of peace and goodwill. He worked tirelessly to relieve suffering during the Great Depression, but his life was tragically cut short by a airplane crash in Alaska in 1935.
The Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore is situated on a pleasant hilltop once owned by the Rogers family. Built in 1938 from native limestone quarried nearby, the nine gallery museum presents a host of artifacts relating Rogers accomplishments in journalism, entertainment and philanthropy as well as his personal effects. The building also contains a theater that continuously plays Rogers' short films. The tombs of Will and Betty Rogers are located on the hillside below the museum. Admission is free.
A few miles away, between the town of Oologah and its namesake lake, is Rogers childhood home. Situated on 400 acres, this living history museum presents a look at life in turn-of-the-century Indian Territory. The furnished 1875 clap-board sided log home in which Rogers was born, a reproduction timber-frame barn (built by Amish carpernters after the originals burned), longhorn cattle herds and other farm animals provide a rich atmosphere to envision the era of Roger's childhood. There is no admission to the ranch, but contributions are encouraged.
Will Rogers is an American figure worth getting to know better. Regardless of your particular brand of politics, many of Rogers comments seem as timely today as when spoken in the 1930's. Appropriately, we'll give Will the last words: "I don't make jokes, I just watch the Government and report the facts."
With the heyday of oil and gas production in the 1920's, Tulsa experienced a vigorous building boom. Wishing to express the importance of the newly crowned "Oil Capitol of the World," corporations, smaller business and homeowners alike hired the best architects of the day to design buildings with substance and modern style.
Thus, present day Tulsa cares for an inheritance of one of the largest and best collections of Art Deco architecture in the world. Zigzag or 1920s style, Depression Era or WPA style, and Streamline Art Deco structures are all part of Tulsa’s current landscape. For anyone who hasn't visited Tulsa and doubts the quality or importance of its Art Deco heritage, simply consider the following list of locations in which the World Congress on Art Deco has been held:
1991 - Miami Beach
1993 - Perth
1995 - Brighton, UK
1997 - Los Angeles
1999 - Napier, NZ
2001 - TULSA
2003 - Cape Town
2005 - New York
2007 - Melbourne
2009 - Montreal
The best way to appreciate Tulsa's Art Deco wealth is with a walking or driving tour guide put together by the Tulsa Histroical Society. Online guides are available at http://www.tulsahistory.org/events/deco_tours.htm
If you have limited time, the "must see" building is the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church at 1301 S. Boston Ave. on the southern edge of downtown. Completed in 1929 at a cost of $1.5 Million, it is an inspiring example of the exuberance of the style and the civic pride of earlier day Tulsans. Guided tours of the National Historic Landmark are given every Sunday after the 11:00 worship service. Tours can also be arranged during the week by calling the church office at 918-583-5181.
The Tulsa Historical Society is located in the 11,000sq.ft. Samuel Travis Mansion. The mansion, built in 1919, was remodeled and expanded in 2005 to serve as the Society's headquarters and a museum of Tulsa history. Museum exhibits change periodically but have included features on Tulsa in the 1920's, the city's Art Deco architecture, the life of a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Tulsa, the history of the Skelly Oil Company, and a look at historic Tulsa parades (such as the earlist image of the 1886 Indepedence Day parade). In 2006 the THS undertook a major re-landscaping of the front lawn and created a "Vintage Garden" containing interesting building artifacts from Tulsa's past. A major focal point of the garden is "The Five Moons," large bronze sculptures of five famous Oklahoma Indian ballerinas (which have also been the subject of museum exhibits).
The THS museum is currently open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am-4:00pm; closed on major holidays. It is located at 24th and S. Peoria, directly south of Woodward Park, Tulsa Rose Garden, and the Tulsa Garden Center (which is housed in the former mansion of Samuel Travis' brother, David). Philbrook Museum of Art is just a few blocks south. Together these attractions make up the "Tulsa Cultural Corridor." On a pretty day, a good itinerary for this area might include a visit to the THS museum, a stroll through the Rose Garden and Linnaeus Teaching Garden with a light picnic lunch in Woodward Park, an afternoon visit to the Philbrook, and some shopping and dinner at Utica Square.
One of Tulsa, Oklahoma's most historic art deco style buildings, The Philtower, is a great place to tour, work or even live. The Philtower offers the finest in commercial real estate property. Nowhere else in Tulsa do style, history, and convenience converge with such distinction. The Philtower offers its office space tenants a wide range of deluxe amenities, unparalleled views of downtown and watchful attention to security concerns. The Philtower's loft apartments are the finest luxury apartments in Tulsa.
From my home in midtown, it takes me roughly 15-20 minutes to make this trip to Jenks- and it is well worth it. If you take the bridge at 91st and riverside across to Jenks, you are immediately given signs to this area which is right off the bridge. The aquarium is beautiful. I have been there several times and there is always something new to do or see. I have gotten to pet live sharks and sting rays ( I would highly recommend doing this), I have heard the buzz of an electric eel and I have seen the sharks attack their food. They have everything there! I owuld recommend making a day of this trip. You can go in the morning to the aquarium then drive across the street to the riverwalk. The riverwalk is full of shops and restaurants.On Friday nights there are live bands and when it's cold there are outdoor fireplaces up and down the strip. It is a perfect day to spend with friends, family, or a special someone. There is even a movie theatre.
At anytime of the year, but particularly in the Spring, the Woodward Park area is an oasis of natural beauty in the heart of the city. Located on the Southeast corner of 21st & Peoria, Woodward Park's 40 acres of extensive azalea beds (15,000 shrubs), flower and herb gardens, lovely ponds, small waterfalls, and decorative bridges, make it a favorite place for photo shoots and outdoor weddings. It is also the location of a Tulsa icon, the bronze "Great Spirit" statue. Bring a picnic and then stroll the hillside paths; see if you can find the little art deco memorial to William Shakespeare hidden in a sheltered glade among the azaleas.
South of the park is the Municpal Rose Garden. It is an All-American Rose Society test garden containing 6,000 individual rose plants in 250 varieties. The classical garden is laid out on five terraces that climb the hill from Peoria Avenue and each terrace centers around a pool or fountain.
Continuing south from the Rose Garden is the Tulsa Garden Center. The center consist of the 1919 David Travis Mansion, which is used as a headquarters for several gardening societies and is a popular location to rent for private parties. Behind the mansion is a victorian conservatory, and a 3-acre arboretum. There is a nice garden shop in the former garage. In June 2006, the Garden Center officially opened the beautiful new "Linnaeus Teaching Garden." Intended as a working showcase of gardening and landscaping tips and techniques, it is located northeast of the Garden Center, behind the Municpal Rose Garden.
The Tulsa Performing Arts Center (TPAC) is a world-class venue housing five performance halls and a large reception space. The TPAC is home to Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Opera, and Theatre Tulsa (as an interesting aside: Theatre Tulsa is the oldest continuously-running theatre company west of the Mississippi and was the first community theatre group to ever stage "Our Town"). The TPAC also hosts performances by major national touring companies, including several Broadway productions each year.
The main concert space, the Chapman Music Hall, contains 2,365 seats on three levels: orchestra, mezzanine and balcony. The orchestra level contains one section only, its crimson rows set in long sweeping arcs with no center aisle. I personally prefer to sit in a front center section of the mezzanine due to its slightly raised position in relation to the stage. The balcony is quite high and rather steeply pitched but seats there provide a great value. Chapman Hall is a wonderful place to take in a performance; there are no obscured views anywhere in the hall, the acoustics are excellent, and the decor is simple but elegant.
The John H. Williams Theatre sits directly below Chapman and is primarily a venue for plays and more intimate musical peformances. It seats 437. The seating is on one inclining level, divided into left, center and right sections. Other main performance areas include a versatile black box theatre and two multi-purpose spaces. All public spaces in the TPAC are well-maintained and pleasant and there is quite an extensive collection of original art lining the walls throughout the building.
As in many cities with Ballet companies, the annual production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" is a staple of the season. TBT's production is terrific, with choreography by Marcello Angelini, and beautiful costuming and sets. For those visiting Tulsa during the holidays it provides an excellent opportunity for the whole family to visit the TPAC.
When I was in college, my dad bought a place that was 2 miles outside Tulsa and about 5 miles from Jenks, Oklahoma. Jenks was just a wide spot in the road on the bank of the Arkansas River. Now Tulsa has enveloped Jenks. Riverwalk Crossing has been built where the old bridge crosses the river. It is an upscale collection of shops and restaurants overlooking the river. The Oklahoma Aquarium is just across the road. The old bridge is now a pedestrian bridge.
Unique modern architecture characterizes the university started by the famous evangelist, Oral Roberts. My brother went to high school with his son, Richard, who is now president of ORU.