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VOL. 131 | NO. 145 | Thursday, July 21, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Oklahoma City Districts Worth A Visit


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Sitting under an umbrella at a little pizza joint in the Paseo Arts District it’s hard to imagine I’m in Oklahoma City.

With a locally brewed F5 Ale in hand, the ultra-hoppy beer feels more Pacific Northwest than American Heartland. But the scorching heat and hints of Southwest architecture places me in Oklahoma.

After an uneventful seven-hour drive from Memphis our first stop on this Oklahoma City weekend is the Paseo district. The gently curving Paseo Street is just north of Downtown and is lined with galleries, shops and restaurants.

With our welcome-to-the-city moment under our belts we needed to take the time to remember and honor those lives lost in the domestic terrorism attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995. I try not to say any attraction is a must; everyone has his or her own travel tastes. 

However, spending an hour or two at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is a must, particularly in light of the times we find ourselves in these days.

The museum tells the before, during and after stories of the federal building and the people who went to work there. Understanding that one man lives because he decided to get a cup of coffee and was away from his desk, while 15 children died at the building’s daycare center is hard to grasp.

If listening to the recording of a meeting take place as the violently loud bomb detonates doesn’t get you, the artifacts in the next room might. Watches, shoes and other mementos from everyday lives that were destroyed at 9:03 a.m. that day are tough to process.

It takes an hour and sometimes longer to go through the museum before ending in front of a large window that looks down onto the reflecting pool and empty chairs that represent every one of the 168 lives lost that day.

Leaving the memorial, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed thinking of how much this country has changed in the past 21 years. But there’s hope, and it’s seen in how much Oklahoma City has grown over that time. There’s a real spirit in Oklahoma; the story of its people running to the bombing instead of away from it is told over and over at the memorial.

Over the next couple of days, we got to know this city. We nourished our souls with burgers and sweet potato fries smothered in peanut butter at S&B Burger and dove into a special Matisse exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “Matisse in His Time: Masterworks of Modernism from the Centre Pompidou, Paris” runs through Sept. 18 and features 50 of his works as well as another 50 from his contemporaries, such as Picasso, Renoir and Georges Braque.

Our weekend base was Bricktown, a neighborhood on the east side of Downtown centered on 100-year-old warehouses that have been converted to restaurants, bars and shops. Our room at the Hampton Inn overlooked Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Triple A Oklahoma City Dodgers and what surely was the epicenter of the city’s sports before the NBA’s Thunder joined the fray a decade ago. 

Chesapeake Arena is just a couple blocks to the west, adjacent to the city’s fabulous Myriad Gardens. What makes it fabulous? Entrance to the botanic garden grounds is free, and the location in the heart of Downtown makes it a great place for a morning run. There are regular film screenings and Sunday night concerts during the summer, too.

Downtown Oklahoma City was busy with visitors on our weekend visit, seemingly with people in town for a conference at the convention center or just a fun couple of days away from home. But while things were busy in and around Bricktown, our focus pointed to the various districts in and around the city.

The budding Film Row on Downtown’s west side has hints of coolness in the coming years, with the new Flashback Retropub giving the 1980s and ’90s kid in all of us a place to enjoy old video games over a couple of beers. And Automobile Alley just north of the business district has a trendy wine bar feel.

We spent much of our time in the Plaza and Paseo Arts districts, neighborhoods that serve as shining examples of what the city has accomplished over the past 20 years in organically bringing back to life unused buildings in tired neighborhoods.

Oklahoma City’s neighborhoods with their shopping, arts, restaurants and nightlife have enough variety to fill a couple of days. But there’s a little adventure for anyone up for it; in fact, much of it can be found in the – you guessed it – Adventure District.

We visited the district’s Science Museum Oklahoma, a fun and educational spot for families. The Oklahoma City Zoo is nearby, along with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, National Softball Hall of Fame, Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum and Remington Park Racing Casino.

Oklahoma City’s newest attraction might be its coolest. The Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River features the new 11-acre, Riversport Rapids that features two whitewater channels offering Class II to IV rapids for racing and recreational rafting, kayaking and tubing.

It’s just another sign that Oklahoma City is worth a look for a few days away.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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