Good Times in Oklahoma City

The state capital's vibrant downtown delights visitors.
Les Thomas

Oklahoma prepares to mark its centennial in 2007, but you don't have to wait that long to enjoy a good time in the capital.

It's a season of renewal here. All around you can see the results of the Metropolitan Area Projects plan. Passed in 1993, the effort helped turn downtown into a fun destination for visitors. New attractions blossomed, including the Ford Center arena ([405] 602-8700), where the NBA New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets are playing many of their home games this spring.

Frolic on Friday
More like an elegant high-rise than a chain hotel, the new downtown Courtyard by Marriott ([405] 232-2290) puts you in the middle of the activity. Weekend rates for two start at $109.

Two-step over to Bricktown for dinner and music. Check out the liveliest new attraction, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill ([405] 231-0254). The 450-seat restaurant serves a whopping 16-ounce chicken-fried steak and country gravy ($15) made with the Oklahoma singer's favorite recipe. The main stage features top acts performing nightly.

See the Sights on Saturday
To experience more of OK City's Western flavor, ride over to the stockyards district. Saddle up at a table at Cattlemen's Steakhouse ([405] 236-0416) for delicious huevos rancheros--eggs and beans atop a corn tortilla with a side of salsa ($4.75). Browse for Western wear at Langston's (1-800-658-2831) and other shops located on Exchange Avenue. Look for boots at Little Joe's Boots ([405] 236-2650).

Range out to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to see one of the country's most impressive showcases for Western lore. Kids love the Children's Cowboy Corral where they can dress up like cowhands and learn about ranch life ([405] 478-2250 or www.nationalcowboymuseum.org).

For more shopping with a local flavor, slip over to the Paseo Arts District. Paintings, pottery, and sculptures fill studios in Spanish-style buildings from the 1920s.

Grab a Sooner burger smothered in Cheddar and hickory sauce ($8) at The Deep Deuce Grill ([405] 235-9100), and then breeze into Bricktown. Hop on a water taxi for a trip along the Bricktown Canal. The boats travel past restaurants, shops, and the new Oklahoma Centennial Land Run Monument. Cruises cost $6.50 ages 6 and up, $1 ages 5 and under ([405] 234-8294).

Special events go on year-round at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. The AAA Oklahoma RedHawks start play in early April. Even the cheapest seats ($6) put you close enough to hear players chatter. For ticket info call (405) 218-1000, or visit www.oklahomaredhawks.com.

Soak up more of the charm of Bricktown over dinner at Nonna's ([405] 235-4410), a cozy restaurant built inside a 90-year-old warehouse. Start with roasted Camembert cheese ($14) that's large enough to share. Pastry cases filled with fresh-baked treats add a sweet ending to your meal.

Bedazzled on Sunday
Take a short stroll to Myriad Botanical Gardens ([405] 297-3995) to see redbuds and other spring flowers. Admission to the 17-acre grounds is free.

You'll find another dazzling show of color at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, home of the largest exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass in the world. Top off your visit with brunch at the museum cafe ([405] 236-3100 or www.okcmoa.com).

Don't leave town without pausing to reflect at the Oklahoma City National Memorial (1-888-542-4673). This somber site is a symbol of the city's past devastation as well as its hope for the future.

"Good Times in Oklahoma CIty" is from the March 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.