Oklahoma residents and visitors are very fortunate when it comes to finding interesting and entertaining destinations for day trips. Outdoor and nature enthusiasts have a number of enticing outdoor recreation areas to uncover including some really unusual destinations like the Alabaster Caverns State Park, the Great Salt Plains State Park, Little Sahara State Park and picturesque Turner Falls State Park. If you love wildlife you can plan a trip to the Arbuckle Wilderness, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge or Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve. Cities like Tulsa, Enid and Norman offer excellent cultural activities for history buffs/arts and culture enthusiasts as well as great shopping and culinary adventures. There are also several excellent museums including Leonardo’s Children’s Museum in Enid and the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Alabaster Caverns State Park
Why not try something a little out of the ordinary on your next day trip from Oklahoma. Located 187 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, the Alabaster Caverns State Park protects a rare Gypsum cave system, the only one of its kind in the U.S. The best way to appreciate the caverns and learn about how they came to be is to join one of the guided tours which are conducted every hour, on the hour, from 9am to 4pm. In addition to the guided tours caving enthusiasts can try wild caving, or spelunking, in four of the caverns which are reserved for this purpose. After you have visited the caverns you can hike the Alabaster Cavern’s Raptor Roost Trail and visit the gift shop.
Alabaster Caverns State Park, 217036 SH 50A, Freedom, OK 73842, Phone: 580-621-3381
2.Arbuckle Wilderness Park
The beautiful Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma are home to the 200-acre Arbuckle Wilderness Park where the whole family can have a fun day out. The park is home to an eccentric collection of wild animals from all over the world, including white rhino and giraffe from Africa, American bison, llamas, emu and much more. You can explore the park in your own vehicle along the drive-through safari road or join a bus tour. Once you have seen the wildlife you can get up close and personal at the Petting Zoo and Reptile House. Children can feed some of the animals, try their hand at gem mining (seasonal) and go on hay rides.
Arbuckle Wilderness Park, 6132 Kay Starr Trail, Davis, OK 73030, Phone: 580-369-3383
© Heavyt Photos/stock.adobe.com
Located in the Osage Reservation northeast of Oklahoma City, Bartlesville offers visitors a wide range of interesting attractions to fill your day trip. History and architecture enthusiasts can join the Bartlesville Heritage Walking Tour to admire beautifully preserved and restored historic buildings in downtown, which now house art galleries, restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops. Other popular attractions include the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum, the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, the historic Glass Mansion and the Safari Zoological Park. For some outdoor recreation you can go hiking or biking through the Osage Hills State Park. In addition, Bartlesville offers good shopping and dining and a brilliant weekly Farmer’s Market.
Bartlesville, OK 74003
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4.Broken Bow Lake
Nature lovers can get access to a large variety of outdoor recreational facilities when they visit Broken Bow Lake, a huge reservoir on the Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma. Broken Bow Lake is surrounded by the beautiful forests of the Beavers Bend State Park where outdoor enthusiasts can get back to nature in a variety of ways. A scenic drive through the park is a good way to experience some of the beauty of the area before you set out to explore the hiking and biking trails, boating on the lake and other activities. One of the best ways to appreciate the lake is to take a serene canoe or kayak excursion along the extensive shoreline. Fishing is also rumored to be excellent.
Broken Bow Lake, Broken Bow, OK 74728
5.Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Conveniently located in south-central Oklahoma, between Oklahoma City and Dallas Texas, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area was originally known as Sulphur Springs Reservation, for the numerous naturally occurring springs found in the area. Today the recreation area offers visitors a chance to explore the region’s unique flora and fauna on foot or by bike along a network of hiking and biking trails. There are various natural swimming holes and you can go boating and fishing on the Lake of the Arbuckles. Indoor activities include visiting the Chickasaw Nation Visitor’s Center and the Travertine Nature Center where you can get a good overview of the area by watching the seven-minute film “By the Rippling Waters”.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area, 901 W 1st Street, Sulphur, OK 73086, Phone: 580-622-7234
The city of Edmond forms part of the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area and is a popular destination for day trippers. In downtown you can stroll along shaded sidewalks lined with restaurants, coffee-shops, galleries and boutiques. Outdoor attractions include Silver Wind Stables where budding equestrians can go on a trail ride and Arcadia Lake which offers boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking, as well as a children’s playground. There are several child-friendly attractions including the Pelican Bay Aquatic Center, the Mathis Skate Park and Unpluggits Paint and Play. If you would like to learn about the city’s history you can visit the Edmond Historical Society and Museum which includes a Children’s Learning Center full of interactive fun.
Edmond, OK 73003-3049
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Located 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, the small town of Enid has an interesting history and heritage combined with modern attractions, all of which you can discover on your next Oklahoma day trip. The town has a distinct Old West atmosphere which has lingered since its settlement days along the Chisholm Trail. You can learn all about the cowboys and the oil barons who shaped the town’s future at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. Enid is a family oriented town and fun children’s activities include the Leonardo’s Children’s Museum, Adventure Quest and the Railroad Museum of Oklahoma. If you love performing arts you can catch a performance of the Enid Symphony Center or head to the Gaslight Theatre.
Enid, OK 73701-3773
8.Great Salt Plains State Park
In prehistoric times Oklahoma was covered by a vast ocean; when you take a day trip to the Great Salt Plains State Park you will be visiting one of the most unique state parks in the country, where huge barren salt flats cover the earth and the lake is almost as salty as an ocean. In this vast white expanse visitors can go hiking and biking, swim in the lake, take a horse-back ride (you need to bring your own horses) or enjoy a day of fishing and boating. The lake is also ideal for canoeing or kayaking and avid gemologists can visit the selenite crystal dig site in the adjacent Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
Great Salt Plains State Park, 23280 S. Spillway Dr, Jet, OK 73749, Phone: 580-626-4761
In 1999 the Heartland Flyer made history by offering a passenger train service between Oklahoma and North Texas for the first time in over 20 years. These days you can spend a great day out on the Heartland Flyer, admiring the beautiful landscape as you ride across the border to Fort Worth and back in a day. The train leaves Oklahoma City around 8.25am and your scenic ride to Fort Worth takes four hours. Once you reach Fort Worth you will have just less than 5 hours to explore the city, have a meal and do some shopping before you head back to Oklahoma at 5.25pm. The Heartland Flyer has an upper deck section featuring comfortable reclining seats and large viewing windows to optimize your excursion.
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10.Lake Murray State Park
Located approximately half-way between Dallas Texas and Oklahoma City, the Lake Murray State Park is the largest in Oklahoma and boasts an outstanding vacation or day-trip experience for outdoor enthusiasts. At the heart of the park you will find beautiful Lake Murray where you can spend your day boating, fishing, swimming or paddling. If you prefer to keep your feet dry you can set off to explore this large state park on foot or by bike along a very respectable network of trails. Should you decide that one day at the park is far too little time you can bring along your tent or RV (there are six campgrounds) or check into a cabin or the Lake Murray Lodge.
Lake Murray State Park, OK 43401
11.Leonardo’s Children’s Museum
© Leonardo’s Children’s Museum
Located in Enid, which lies 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, the Leonardo’s Children’s Museum is a must-visit day trip attraction for families. The Museum offers a wide choice of activities for children of all ages who can have a day of educational fun as they work their way through over one hundred hands-on activities which are all designed to stimulate their curiosity. Named for Leonardo da Vinci, the museum endeavors to combine science and art in a way that will appeal to children and teach them many fundamental principles of science. Highlights of the visit include the Critter Clubhouse, the Adventure Quest Outdoor Playground, the Nanotechnology exhibit and the Tinkering and Toddler areas for younger visitors.
Leonardo’s Children’s Museum, 200E Maple Ave, Enid, OK 73701, Phone: 580-2330-2787
12.Little Sahara State Park
For a little taste of the fun you can find in a desert, the Little Sahara State Park offers day trippers an unusual day of outdoor recreation. Located in northwest Oklahoma, south of Waynoka, the park protects a large area of over 1,600 acres of towering sand dunes, some of which reach a height of 75 foot. The main activity in this park is having off-road fun in a dune buggy or ATV as you take on a few of the mighty sand dunes. If you don’t have your own vehicle you can hire one on site and set off to have desert-style fun. The park is open daily from 8.00am to 4.00pm and if you would like to stay overnight your can book a campsite.
Little Sahara Sate Park, 101 Main Street, Waynoka, OK 73860, Phone: 580-824 1471
The small resort town of Medicine Park is located in the Wichita Mountains of south-western Oklahoma, where its laid-back vintage atmosphere and unique red cobble-stone features make it well worth a visit. At the center of the town lies popular Bath Lake where you can have a swim in a natural swimming hole surrounded by the area’s unique red stone cobbles or enjoy a tranquil picnic. There are interesting one-off shops to visit and if you enjoy hiking and wildlife watching you can spend a few hours in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge where you could come across bison and longhorns as you hike a network of trails or take a scenic drive.
Medicine Park, OK 73557
Oklahoma’s third-largest city Norman is one of those places that offer something to please everyone. Famously home to the Sooners Football team, many visitors choose to join a tour of the University of Oklahoma’s campus and athletic fields to soak up the Sooner atmosphere. If you prefer history to sport you should not miss a visit to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History where you will be met by a towering dinosaur. Another popular city attraction is the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art where you can admire a brilliant collection of works by masters such as Monet and Van Gogh. For outdoor recreation you can head to Lake Thunderbird State Park.
Norman, OK 73019-4857
Located in Jenks, just south of the Osage Reservation in east Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Aquarium is a perfect place to spend a few hours on a rainy day. Not only is this inland aquarium home to the world’s largest collection of bull sharks (which occupy an enormous 380,000 gallon tank together with some nurse sharks) but it also boasts a brilliant Sea Turtle Exhibit and a very colorful Polynesian Reef. There is plenty to see in the aquarium to keep you busy for several hours and feeding times in the various habitats are staggered so that you can carefully plan your tour to maximize your experience.
Oklahoma Aquarium, 300 Aquarium Drive, Jenks, OK 74037, Phone: 918-296-3474
Ponca City is an historic old town that was founded back in 1893 during the Cherokee Strip Land Run. Years later the town became famous for its rich oil reserves which led to great prosperity, the emergence of impressive oil-baron’s estates and an influx of wealth for Ponca City. Today visitors can enjoy diverse attractions in the city including the Conoco Museum (which showcases the town’s petroleum industry), the impressive E W Marland Estate and the Marland’s Grand Home. You can celebrate the early pioneers and cowboys at the 101 Ranch and Wild West Picnic Site and learn about Native American history at the Standing Bear Museum and Statue. The town also has good shopping and dining as well as surrounding agri-tourism farms and wineries which welcome visitors.
Ponca City, OK 74601
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17.Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park
© Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park
The beautiful Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park (previously known as Red Rock Canyon State Park) welcomes day trippers to come and spend a day admiring nature at its finest in this beautiful natural rock canyon. Walking/hiking is the most popular form of recreation in this park and there are three marked trails to explore. The quarter-mile loop Rough Horsetail Nature Trail features interpretive signs and is considered easy, while the three-quarter mile California Road Nature Trail is quite steep and considered moderate. Experienced hikers can also explore the Canyon Ridge Trail which runs along the top of the canyon. Other activities include fishing and swimming (seasonal) and there are three campgrounds if you would like to bring along a tent or RV and stay overnight.
Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park, 116 Red Rock Canyon Rd, Hinton, OK 73047, Phone: 405-542-6344
18.Robbers Cave State Park
Located amidst the beautiful woodlands of the San Bois Mountains in southeast Oklahoma, the Robbers Cave State park is a popular recreational area for day trippers. Here you can spend your day hiking along the very scenic trials, do some wildlife watching or get the adrenalin pumping as you try your hand at rock climbing and rappelling. Seasonal trout fishing is also available and paddlers can explore the waters of the lake by canoe or kayak. In addition there are equestrian and ATV trails. If you would like to stay overnight the park has good campground facilities and there are a variety of cabins for hire.
Robbers Cave State Park, Highway 2 N, Wilburton, OK 74578, Phone: 918-465-2562
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19.Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
© Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
For a day trip with a difference you can make the pilgrimage to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, where you can soak up the history of the legendary Route 66, America’s most iconic highway. Here you can learn all about the history of the road, why it was built, how it was used, just what makes this highway so inherently American and why you need to add a road-trip along Route 66 to your ultimate bucket list. The Museum is full of pure Americana, including a replica 1950’s diner, an extensive photographic collection and many written narratives of people’s actual journeys along the Mother Road, all accompanied by memorable music clips.
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, 2229 West Gary Blvd, Clinton, OK 73601, Phone: 580-323-7866
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20.Stafford Air and Space Museum
© Stafford Air and Space Museum
If you want to see an outstanding collection of Air and Space exhibits without leaving Oklahoma, the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford is the place to go on your next day trip. The museum is named after Lt. General Thomas P Stafford, a Weatherford local who went on to become a famous test pilot and astronaut. A close collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, NASA and the U.S. Air Force Museum has resulted in this museum amassing an outstanding collection which you can admire as you tour more than an acre of exhibits. Children can have interactive fun in the Education Center while everyone can admire both historic and modern aircraft, jet engines, space craft and much more.
Stafford Air and Space Museum, 3000 E Logan Rd, Weatherford, OK 73096, Phone: 580-772-5871
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Tahlequah is scenically nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Cherokee County, where it welcomes day trippers with an array of interesting activities. Tahlequah is a must for anyone interested in history and heritage and there are many museums to visit including the Cherokee Heritage Center, the Cherokee National Prison Museum and the Cherokee National Supreme Court, which is housed in one of Oklahoma’s oldest buildings. The Downtown is full of interesting old buildings which now house restaurants, boutiques, music venues and coffee shops. Outdoor activities include a host of water sports on the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller.
Tahlequah, OK 74464
Tulsa is Oklahoma’s second largest city and offers a great day out for everyone with diverse attractions to suit all tastes. The city is principally famous for the many impressive art-deco buildings which resulted from the influx of oil money. First-time visitors would do well to join a tour of the city to get your bearings and see how many attractions are on offer. If you love art and architecture you should make sure to visit the downtown Deco District to admire the landmark Philcade and Philtower buildings and tour the outstanding Philbrook Art Museum. If you are traveling with children the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum and the Tulsa Aquarium are must-visit attractions. The city also offers excellent shopping, dining, breweries and wineries to add to your itinerary.
Tulsa, OK 74008-4193
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23.Turner Falls Park
Nestled in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma, the Turner Falls Park offers outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers an ideal day-trip destination. The main attraction at the park is the scenic 77ft Turner Falls and visitors come from near and far to swim in the natural swimming hole at the base of the falls. Numerous clear streams, wading areas and natural beaches add extra scope for a family fun day surrounded by nature. For those who would prefer not to swim the park offers a network of scenic hiking trails, trout fishing and three natural caves which you can explore on foot. The park is open daily and there are campsites and rental cabins should you wish to stay overnight.
Turner Falls Park, I-35 & US Highway 77, Davis, OK 73030, Phone: 580-369-2988
24.Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a large and beautiful wildlife-viewing destination located in the scenic Wichita Mountains in south western Oklahoma. The refuge was established to protect endangered species of endemic animals and to re-introduce species like bison, elk and wild turkey which had been eliminated. Nature and wildlife enthusiasts can spend a wonderful day exploring over fifteen miles of designated hiking trails through areas of abundant wildlife. There are gentle interpretive nature trails for families so bring your cameras and binoculars. The refuge offers regular guided interpretive hiking and bus tours and other activities include fishing, rock-climbing, picnicking and seasonal hunting.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, 32 Refuge HQ Rd, Indiahoma, OK 73552, Phone: 580-429-3222
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25.Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve
For an outing with a difference you are invited to visit the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve where you can admire stunning Western art as well as interesting wildlife in one amazing location. As you enter the ranch you will follow a two-mile drive through the wildlife preserve, where you can spot a variety of animals in their natural surroundings. The main complex includes the Woolaroc Museum which is known for housing one of the finest collections of Western art in the country. There are several hiking and nature trails on the ranch which you can explore and younger visitors will love the Animal Barn where they can get up close and friendly with a variety of farmyard animals.
Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, 1925 Woolaroc Ranch Rd, Bartlesville, OK 74003, Phone: 918-336-0307
25 Best Day Trips & Small Towns in Oklahoma
- Alabaster Caverns State Park, Photo: brszattila/stock.adobe.com
- Arbuckle Wilderness Park, Photo: Grassflowerhead/stock.adobe.com
- Bartlesville, Photo: Heavyt Photos/stock.adobe.com
- Broken Bow Lake, Photo: rjamphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Edmond, Photo: ManuelHurtado/stock.adobe.com
- Enid, Photo: Wirestock/stock.adobe.com
- Great Salt Plains State Park, Photo: Lamar/stock.adobe.com
- Heartland Flyer, Photo: rodimovpavel/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Murray State Park, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Leonardo’s Children’s Museum, Photo: Leonardo’s Children’s Museum
- Little Sahara State Park, Photo: Phoenix/stock.adobe.com
- Medicine Park, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Norman, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Oklahoma Aquarium, Photo: clabert/stock.adobe.com
- Ponca City, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park, Photo: Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park
- Robbers Cave State Park, Photo: crotonoil/stock.adobe.com
- Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Photo: Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
- Stafford Air and Space Museum, Photo: Stafford Air and Space Museum
- Tahlequah, Photo: torwaiphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Tulsa, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Turner Falls Park, Photo: crotonoil/stock.adobe.com
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, Photo: leekris/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Susan Vineyard/stock.adobe.com
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