Brimming with Midwestern charm, art deco splendor, and entrepreneurial spirit, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one stop along Route 66 you shouldn’t miss. Thanks to a strong community of small business owners—and a culture that values creativity—there is no shortage of exciting and unique places to explore, shop, and have a memorable experience when you come to town. Here, The Scout Guide Tulsa Editor Hannah Arnaud shares a cheat sheet for her area that has us setting our watches to Tulsa time.
ARTS AND CRAFT COCKTAILS: “The Arts District is a new area of town full of bars, restaurants, galleries, and shops that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Hannah. She recommends spending at least half a day exploring the neighborhood’s art, food, and beverage scenes.
Start at Glacier (15 East Mathew B. Brady Street), an artisan chocolate bar, where you can sample the truffles or build your own box of chocolates to gift or enjoy later. After perusing the delicious handcrafted desserts, head over to Hannah’s favorite bookstore, Magic City Books (221 East Archer Street), to browse the highly curated literary fiction and read a chapter or two in a cozy corner while sipping a glass of wine.
When you’re ready for a pick-me-up, pop into Antoinette Baking Co. (207 North Main Street) for some coffee and a macaron. This delicious bakery also serves lunch and cocktails, so it’s a perfect place for a midday visit. Located across the street, Ida Red (208A North Main Street) is a local general store that has a little bit of everything, including lots of Oklahoma-made (and inspired) goods that would be excellent souvenirs, plus an old-fashioned soda fountain.
Next, wander over to ahha Tulsa (101 East Archer Street). Visitors flock to this collaborative art gallery and studio space to view works by local artists and participate in workshops. Be sure to set aside some time to visit “The Experience” on the second floor, an immersive multimedia art installation that you’ll want to discuss over dinner.
The Arts District has a diverse array of dining options, from Vietnamese to Caribbean cuisine. Hannah’s favorite is Laffa (111 North Main Street), a “Medi-Eastern” restaurant where she recommends sharing appetizers to get the full spectrum of flavors (and sample all the hummus). According to Hannah, the best steak in Tulsa just happens to be found in The Arts District too, just feet away from Laffa at the upscale Prhyme (111 North Main Street).
Enjoy after dinner drinks in the neighborhood courtesy of some of the city’s best bartenders at Valkyrie (13 East Mathew B. Brady Street). “You can order off the cocktail menu here,” says Hannah. “But the most fun thing to do is to give the bartenders three descriptive words—like sweet, fizzy, and fruity—and allow them to make a drink based on that. They always make me exactly what I didn’t know I wanted.”
PARKS AND REC: Tulsa has a storied history as an oil boom town, and remnants of those glory days can still be seen in downtown’s art deco masterpieces and at The Philbrook Museum of Art (2727 South Rockford Road). This exquisite 1920s-era villa was once home to local oil tycoon Waite Phillips, and today it is home to an impressive collection of art. The museum’s pristine gardens are the glorious backdrop to many a local photo shoot. Weekend brunch at the museum’s restaurant, Kitchen 27, is a local favorite, featuring fresh items grown in the museum’s own edible teaching garden and a bloody Mary bar on Sundays.
Gathering Place (2650 South John Williams Way East) is a brand-new riverfront park that features fantastical playgrounds, a skate park, a zipline course, a boathouse, art installations, and live music. Hannah recommends renting some paddle boats to take out on Peggy’s Pond, followed by a drink and a snack at Vista at the Boathouse or hot cocoa by the fire at Williams Lodge, depending on the weather.
REFUELING AND RETAIL THERAPY: Brunch at Smoke (1542 East 15th Street) has something for everybody, Hannah says, from a perfect avocado toast to a brunch burger. Locals also like to linger at Foolish Things Coffee Company (1001 South Main Street), an ideal spot for caffeine and conversation. “Their location is one of the best in the city. You can see so much of downtown right from there,” says Hannah.
For a 1920s speakeasy vibe, visit Hodges Bend (823 Third Street), a coffee shop by day that transitions into a bar in the evening to offer perfectly crafted cocktails, plus small and large plates.
For dinner, Hannah recommends Juniper (324 East Third Street). She says you can’t go wrong with anything on the ever-changing farm-to-table menu, but two dishes are constant and always delicious: the whipped goat cheese and the ahi tuna salad. MixCo (located at the intersection of West Third Street and South Denver Avenue) is a favorite for its fantastic atmosphere, long list of drinks, and the kind of food everybody loves (think French fries, street tacos, and fried Brussels sprouts).
If you have time to shop, you’ll want to visit T.A. Lorton (1325 East 15th Street) to peruse the beautiful collection of home accessories, furniture, and gifts at the boutique located in the historic Cherry Street area. If you have wee ones to buy for, pop into The Lolly Garden (2046 Utica Square) for cute pieces by favorite brands including Appaman, Tea, and Splendid. Threads on Boston (1709 South Boston Avenue) has fine men’s attire, and according to Hannah, J. Cole (9930 Riverside Parkway) offers the best shoe selection in town.
A-LIST ACCOMMODATIONS: “Even though you can get anywhere within city limits in 15 minutes by car, it’s always fun to stay downtown in Tulsa so you can walk to all the shops, restaurants, and entertainment,” says Hannah. Both of her recommendations were built in the 1920s—and have a little modern luxury thrown in for good measure. The Mayo Hotel (115 West Fifth Street) has hosted plenty of famous people—Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, and JFK once hobnobbed there. The location is central, and the Penthouse Bar offers 360-degree views of the city skyline. For a more boutique experience, try The Ambassador (1324 South Main Street). Part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, it is located in an historic landmark building and home to the fantastic restaurant The Chalkboard.