Uptown Meets the Prairie In Bartlesville

Take it easy with your family in this Oklahoma destination.
Annette Thompson

In this oil town, savvy visitors may be surprised to discover a thriving cultural community. Just 40 minutes north of Tulsa, Bartlesville offers plenty of fine attractions at bargain prices to entertain oil tycoons and budget-conscious travelers alike.

Just about any season is a great time to take a trip to Oklahoma. You'll find pleasant folks welcoming you to their friendly prairie town.

Friday
If you can't arrive in time for the hearty lunch special ($4.50) at Pies and Such, call owner Sigrid Dahlquist, and she'll stay open for dessert. You'll delight in her flaky-crusted treats, often including fabulous rhubarb-raspberry, rich chocolate-pecan, sweet peach, and rustic apple pies ($2 per slice). Hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; (918) 337-3620.

There are two remarkable accommodations to choose from here. The Hotel Phillips, built for visiting petroleum execs, offers large rooms, great rates, and friendly service in town; Weekend packages range from $59 to $99 per night, including breakfast; (918) 336-5600 or 1-800-331-0706. If you prefer more romance, splurge on an elegant suite in a cozy cottage at The Inn at Jarrett Farm in nearby Ramona. Spread across a hilltop with untamed views of the prairie, the lodging offers a complimentary gourmet breakfast. Rates start at $175; (918) 371-1200, toll free 1-877-371-1200, or www.jarrettfarm.com.

Belly up with the locals tonight at Murphy's Steak House, a diner going on its 56th year. Waitresses greet you with a "Figure out who's ahead of you, honey, then come on in." Once seated, order the bacon-wrapped filet mignon ($11.95), or opt for the World Famous Hot Hamburger ($4.50), a huge patty smothered in rich dark gravy and stacked with fries.

Saturday
Start your day with a stroll around downtown. (The Hotel Phillips provides a brochure with a well-thought-out walking route.) Tour Price Tower, the skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This 1956 masterpiece houses a lively arts center today.

Drop in on Wes and Mary Watson at their Second Street Bakery. They brew the best coffee around, and their chicken salad ($4.95) and Florentine quiche ($3.25) make great lunches. Don't forget the pecan sticky bun or cherry roll ($1.09).

Drive just north of town to Dewey, and meander through the antiques shops. Cool off at Linger Longer Antiques and Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain with a milk shake before browsing the booths filled with glassware, vintage clothes, and furnishings. We especially liked Campbell's Antiques for its extensive offerings of lamps, porcelain, and salt and pepper shakers.

Wash away any leftover stress this afternoon with a visit to Connie and Doug Freebern at the Red Dirt Soap Company, 2 miles west of Bartlesville. Connie creates natural soaps, bath salts, and massage oils. Afterward, tour neighboring Keepsake Candles to select a lovely handcrafted item.

Tonight is the time to try the restaurant at The Inn at Jarrett Farm (reservations required). Choose the Trout Oscar Amandine, Grilled Veal Chop, or Smoked Gouda Garlic Chicken as your entrée for the five-course candlelit dinners ($30 to $40).

Sunday
Explore Woolaroc, the 3,600-acre ranch that was soul of oilman Frank Phillips's connection to the tallgrass prairie. He created the preserve to capture the essence of the West as he knew it 100 years ago. Arrive early (the gates open at 10 a.m.) for the best wildlife viewing along the entrance driveway. Ranch hands spread feed along the roadsides to draw in the more than 700 animals on the property, including bison, elk, deer, and longhorn cattle.

The museum houses a collection of fine art and artifacts that glorify the Old West. Remingtons, Russells, and Morans are displayed among American Indian works.

Before you depart, stop at Frank's lodge to see the collection of stuffed animal heads. The animals displayed there, including Zony, died of natural causes. Zony was a pony who thought he was a zebra--without the stripes. When he died, Frank had the animal stuffed and painted. Zony, like Frank Phillips and many other visitors to the prairie, find their dreams fulfilled here.

For more information contact the Bartlesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 201 SW. Keeler, P.O. Box 2366, Bartlesville, OK 74005; (918) 336-8708, 1-800-364-8708, or www.bartlesville.com.

This article is from the August 2002 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.