Tulsa, Oklahoma

While I’m based in the midwest, I decided to take advantage of O’Hare’s variety of regional flights to check off some of the midwest-adjacent states that I haven’t managed to visit yet / otherwise likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. I started with the most accessible and seemingly exciting – Oklahoma! I convinced a friend to join me for a long weekend based in Tulsa and, on a bright and very windy Friday afternoon, we landed in the great state of Oklahoma.

Tulsa has a variety of nice murals – it’s unclear if this one was painted before the fence, or if they just really didn’t want tourists opportunistically trampling the grassy area in front!

Since we got in relatively late in the afternoon on Friday, we spent the first day orienting ourselves to downtown Tulsa. Based on recommendations from friends, we grabbed dinner at a fantastic Indonesian spot called Rendang & Co., which is an unassuming restaurant in a strip mall on the outskirts of town. Despite its unassuming vibe, it was worth the visit. Nominated for a James Beard award, it tasted incredibly authentic (based on my experience living in Jakarta for ~3 years). We tried the chicken sate (accompanied with a peanut sauce) as well as the mee goreng (essentially stir fried noodles).

After our relative feast, we headed for another Tulsa site: the Golden Driller Man.

Erected in the mid 1960s, the Golden Driller Man represents the wealth and abundance of the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma. He currently stands in front of the expo center in Tulsa, where we noticed a sign for the Oddities & Curiosities expo happening the next day, which seemed like it could be an intriguing option.

The following morning, we woke up bright and early and headed for our main attraction: the Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, OK, located ~1 hour north of Tulsa. Despite not being her target demographic, we figured at the least the drive would be beautiful and at worst, it’d be an interesting story. We drove up through the Osage reservation, which is on a swath of beautiful, wide open land dotted with purple flowers.

There are a variety of signs on the way up designating certain areas as harvest land for the Osage tribe, which was interesting to see.

We also drove through a couple smaller towns, including one with the “world’s only main street well” and a variety of amusing other small-town attractions, including a war tank, corn feed, and of course, a cannabis dispensary.

Pawhuska itself appears to be a reviving ghost town, with the Pioneer Woman mercantile and a variety of other affiliated shops (a bakery, pizza company, boarding house, and a couple branded stores) being the main attractions of the very small town.

Pawhuska also had its own little veterans memorial as well.

After having our cupcakes and enjoying the shopping, we headed back to downtown Tulsa where we headed to a little food court (similar to the Time Out Market) on the outskirts of town for a barbecue lunch.

On the way, we passed a couple intriguing signs, including:

  • One offering to fresh crack our pecans for us
  • One offering the best bbq in town as rated by 5 (crossed out and replaced by 4) people in this tiny town
  • One warning against low-flying owls in the area (I really wonder what transpired to inspire this sign!)

We tried the loaded nachos as well as the pulled pork and a couple sides – overall, some of the best pulled pork I’ve had in a while!

After that, we headed for the Oddities & Curiosities expo, hoping that it would be fun and spooky. Unfortunately, it was a little too gory and death-centric for our tastes, so we made our way to the other event happening in the expo center: the Tulsa flea market. Unfortunately, that was also somewhat underwhelming and aside from a couple possibly haunted dolls, it had little on offer. So, we decided to decompress back at the hotel before heading back out to wander downtown Tulsa.

We did a quick circle around the main downtown areas, including the Blue Dome neighborhood, which has a couple trendy-looking bars and the Tulsa arts district, which has a few galleries and some nice outdoor performance areas.

We also visited the “Center of the Universe” which is a little circle where there is a strong echo. Unfortunately, not much was open despite the fact that it was a nice April afternoon. We could have done our one remaining tourist activity – the Philbrook Art Museum – but given how much we’d attempted the day, opted to relax at the hotel instead.

Overall, it was a great weekend escape to Tulsa and a nice way of seeing a bit more of the country! Next time I visit Oklahoma, I’d visit Oklahoma City, since it seems like there may be a bit more of a “city” vibe and some additional museums / cultural activities to do. That being said, this officially checks off my 45th US state!

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