Oklahoma City: a modern crossroads [classic article]

Oklahoma City was founded within a matter of hours. Oklahoma wasn’t granted statehood until 1907, but the city itself was opened up to the Land Rush of 1889 and within just a few hours, 10,000 people had settled within the city limits. It’s difficult to put one’s finger on what Oklahoma City is: there’s a fascinating mix of the South, the Southwest and the Midwest in its cuisine, architecture, even accents.

Oklahoma City, which is benefiting from having lots of new energy companies springing up, is the enviable position of being able to re-imagine its downtown area.

Where to stay

The Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Hotel couldn’t be more convenient for business or sightseeing.
With a I covered walkway for hot/cold/rainy free walks to the convention center. The Renaissance is steps from the Bricktown entertainment district. It has a variety of restaurants, a coffee shop, a day spa, indoor pool, and free local shuttle for the convenience of guests.

Where to eat

Bricktown is one the city’s most popular entertainment districts. It’s very walkable, with several bars featuring live music, the American Banjo Museum, a water taxi on the canal, and plenty of restaurants.

Abuelo’s is a chain, but the modestly priced Mexican food with homemade touches feels right at home here. If you’re in the mood to splurge, the legendary Mickey Mantle’s eponymous steakhouse has become just as much of a local legend. If you’re wondering how being at the crossroads of America affects ethnic cuisine, or you want to know where the locals go to see and be seen, check out Nonna’s Euro-American Ristorante and Bar. Cedar Spring Farms exclusively provides the freshest farm and greenhouse produce for the restaurant. Owner Avis Scaramucci has quite a bit of Southern belle in her: the menu abounds with touches of Dixie such as whole fried okra, creamed corn, as well as brown sugar in her tomato sauces.

What to do

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has an eclectic collection that includes traveling classic exhibits, artistic photographs, and the witty and highly amusing “Poodles & Pastries”. This multi-media show has a tongue-in-cheek ode to bright colors and pop culture, available for sale on certain nights until the end of the year.

Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory has just re-opened and is right in the heart of downtown. Its outdoor gardens are free to the public. There are also several performance areas that will be hosting a wide variety of musical and dance shows. The conservatory houses exotic flora from several regions of the world.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum wants to dispel the notion that it’s a repository of a bunch of stuffed horses. In fact, there are none. What they do have are stunning, larger-than-life marble statues, vintage western clothing, uniforms, and arms, a replica of a turn of the century cattle town, as well as magnificent art of the West.

On April 19, 1995, the entire world focused on Oklahoma City as the news of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building broke. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum covers the former space and other adjoining land parcels that were attacked.

The main exhibit takes you through that whole day with multi-media sound and light effects: from the utter ordinariness of the early morning, to a chilling recording of a water use hearing that is the only known sound recording of the bombing, to the complete chaos and despair of survivors, rescuers, and victims. Outside is the Field of Empty Chairs, which is hauntingly lit up at night.

The 168 chairs represent the lives taken during the bombing. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children.

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