Jackie, Travel

OKC Teems with Cultural Activity

As we planned our trip across the country, we felt that allocating two whole days to Oklahoma City was going to be plenty of time. When you think about the state of Oklahoma, you probably don’t think of a bustling metropolis teeming with cultural activity. This, however, would be a gross misunderstanding. As we’re learning over and over again, things aren’t what they seem and Oklahoma is certainly not a farm town in the middle of a pan. I’ve already shared our evening of revelry in Oklahoma City, but OKC has some events and attractions  worth visiting.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Most exciting basketball game I’ve ever been to. There. I said it.

(Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman)

I’ve been to Michigan basketball games, Lakers vs. Celtics, Pistons vs. Lakers, and even to NCAA Tournament games, but I stand by my assertion. I love the show of going to a Lakers game – deep purple lights the stadium while energizing music blares and dramatic highlights play on a circular screen, which is actually a giant sheet, that suddenly drops to reveal the team and cheerleaders inside. It’s exciting. I love it, but this was better. Maybe the intro wasn’t quite as good as the Lakers, but the Oklahoma City Thunder fans’ energy and excitement was exemplary of what a fan base should be like. They yelled non-stop during the game, dutifully clapped their thunder-makers (given out at the entrance), and even gave newcomer, Derek Fisher the classiest and most welcoming ovation. As a pseudo-Laker fan, I was even moved to tears at their genuine pleasure to have him on board.

While I’m sure being #1 doesn’t hurt the morale, I hope they continue to radiate positivity at each game. You can read more about our experience HERE and you can check out the OKC Thunder schedule and ticketing HERE.

Myriad Botanical Gardens & Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory

We know. You’ve seen plants. Us too! But how often, do you get to really immerse yourself into an environment meant to have you specifically enjoy and learn more about the vegetation among fluttering butterflies?

Outside (Myriad Botanical Gardens): A 17-acre (free & open to the public) park with hundreds of native and non-native trees, sculptures and even a 2-acre koi pond. Perfect for a picnic, jog, or reading a book! Also spotted: small children (4-5 years old) break dance fighting, pregnancy picture photoshoot, and a meditator.

Inside (Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory): Two distinct climates are featured in this cylindrical glass building: Tropical Wet and Tropical Dry. As you may have guessed, the wet side is watered daily, while the other is kept dry November through March. Tons of beautiful flowers and plants you don’t typically see in a majority of United States are displayed for your enjoyment and butterflies fly throughout, but please, if you want my blood pressure to remain normal, please don’t touch the plants!  A mother was there with her children and even though there were signs EVERWHERE that said “Please do not touch”, she was encouraging them to handle the vegetation. I cast a look of judgement upon her (I mean, today plants, tomorrow drugs!) and then her children touched the cacti. One even started crying. Touching plants doesn’t seem like such a great idea now does it”cool” mom?

Tickets to get inside are $7 for a regular adult (like us, the ones who follow rules). You can learn more about the attraction HERE.

Jim Thorpe Museum & Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame

This is a place that can be enjoyed even if you know nothing about anyone from Oklahoma or their sports teams. The attraction is set up into three separate rooms, which all have impressive displays both in content and aesthetics.

The first room gives a great background of Jim Thorpe’s life and accomplishments. There you can find letter awards from his days are Carlisle, but also memorabilia from the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Additionally, recipients of the Thorpe Award (given annually to the best defensive back in college football) are featured in this room, with their jersey and helmet hung on the wall.

The second room illuminates the accomplishments in the sporting industry of those native to or affiliated with Oklahoma. Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Susie Berning Maxwell, T. Boone Pickens, and Mickey Mantle are just a few of the names on the wall.

The third room shows off a variety of sports memorabilia and accomplishments from Tennis to sports medicine. This is also where I saw an ice bath for the first time. No thank you.

Admission is FREE. Learn more HERE.

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

In an interview at the actual museum, Brian Williams puts it perfectly, “ Visiting the beautiful facility in Oklahoma City is not, it’s not fun and it’s not for the faint of heart, but I do think it should be a rite of citizenship.” The Memorial and Museum are incredibly informative and touching. There were times when wondered if the creators are trying to make you cry, but the reality is the story itself is tragic and heartbreaking.

The beginning of the museum sets up the political climate of the times, the layout of Oklahoma City, and what was happening in ordinary people’s lives on the day of the bombing. You then must proceed into a room to hear a court proceeding that was being recording when the bomb went off…and you hear it. When you come out, you see re-creations, photos, and video of the damage as well as items recovered in the rubble. The case of recovered keys made me incredibly sad. When you have keys on your person, you believe that you will be returning back to your car or home, but many of these people did not.

There is a section covering the investigation, coverage, and perhaps most importantly, a hall to the victims themselves.

Outside you can see The Gates of Time, which “frame” the moment of destruction. “The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever.” Inside, or the space that represents 9:02 sits a reflecting pool, a field of empty chairs, survivor wall, survivor tree, and survivor gardens.

Outside of the memorial also sits a fence where people still leave objects as symbols of memory, solidarity, and love.

I was so moved by the museum that I am going to come back to Oklahoma City and participate in the Run to Remember. I will not be able to make it back for the 2012 race, but you can learn more about that race being held on April 29th HERE.

Admission to the Museum is $12 and we strongly recommend visiting. You can learn more HERE.

Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse

We’ve currently been on a binge of watching Parks and Recreation. With that in mind, I would like to state that Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse is an institution that would bring Ron Swanson to tears.

I’m not a vegetarian exactly, but I’ve been known to turn down a steak dinner. Seeing as ordering something other than steak at a steakhouse seemed sacrilege, so I went for filet medallions. They came covered in béarnaise sauce that made me wish my photography could be scratch ‘n’ sniff (or scratch ‘n’ lick?) so I could forever savor it’s deliciousness. Mark ordered the New York Strip, also perfectly cooked. Our groaning reactions to each bite bordered on inappropriate – something you would see from Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

And this really only scratches the surface. We had shrimp cocktail, salad with a truly unique house dressing, and then there was dessert. I would have slapped myself 15 years ago for admitting that I am not much of a fan of cheesecake anymore, but we indulged in Mark’s favorite dessert and found it light, almost mouse-like, which was perfection.

Mark blurted out a hearty “Kevin Loooooove!” as the NBA player sauntered by our table, which garnered no reaction from him at the restaurant or when we Tweeted at him later that evening (we see how it is), but we knew then (as if we didn’t already, with the ambiance, attentive wait staff, and wine list) that Mickey Mantle’s is definitely “the place” to eat in town if you want to see or be seen in Oklahoma City. Though, with their amazing wine list and cocktail offerings, we’d recommend a cab or nearby hotel if you’re going all out…

Click here for more photos from our time in OKC!
Click here to read about our night of revelry.

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