It’s time to tour another city with a Live Like A Local post!
Live Like A Local is a series I wanted to create in an effort to expand the travel section of my blog beyond where I live and have personally been. I wanted to create a resource for anyone reading who might be 1. traveling to other areas, 2. live in other areas or 3. moving somewhere new! I’ve been to some cool places, but I haven’t lived everywhere and what is better than some insider knowledge, eh?!
If you’re new to Live Like A Local, you can view all Live Like a Local posts, check them out here.
Today we are off to Tulsa, Oklahoma!
City: Tulsa, Oklahoma
What is it about Tulsa that makes it different from other cities?
Mythologized by many as the land of cowboys and Indians, Tulsa is a city with rich history that’s currently undergoing a new boom. It’s rumored to be the next Nashville, the next Austin. Those of us who call it home just want it to be Tulsa.
Tulsa’s first boom came early in the 20th century when oil was king in Oklahoma and a wealthy local economy spurred a building frenzy, which brought Tulsa its slew of art deco architecture that it’s still famous for. The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture offers guided tours the second Saturday of each month that focus not just on Tulsa’s art deco and mid century modern architecture, but also the tunnel system located under downtown Tulsa.
Situated on the Arkansas River in the middle of northeast Oklahoma’s rolling green hills, Tulsa is a pretty town with an impressive downtown area, plenty of historic neighborhoods, and a nice line up of monthly and annual events.
What is the best time of year to visit?
Tulsa runs the extremes on weather (hot in the summer and cold in the winter) so I say the best times of year to visit are the spring and fall. Midtown Tulsa (the city’s historic center) comes alive every spring with the most beautiful blooms you’ve ever seen, but the foliage in the fall is equally as stunning. Tulsa has a lot of amazing outdoor spaces so visiting when the weather is cool is the best way to take advantage of them. Definitely check out the Guthrie Green in the Brady District. It’s a central park of sorts and hosts a slew of outdoor activities throughout the week from movie nights, concerts, food truck rallies, and yoga classes.
Are there any cool festivals or annual events that are not to be missed here?
Tulsa hosts quite a few renowned events every year but my favorites are Mayfest (an art festival in downtown Tulsa) and Tulsa Tough (an international cycling event held every June).
Weekly or monthly events that shouldn’t be missed include Food Truck Wednesday at the Guthrie Green, the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and the First Friday Art Crawl in the Brady District.
Tulsa also has some world class event centers like the BOK Center which hosts some pretty major concerts, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, which hosts ballet, opera, and Broadway musicals, as well as the Cain’s Ballroom and Brady Theater which are perfect venues for smaller concerts.
If you happen to be in town on the second Saturday of the month, you’ve got to check out the Philbrook Museum of Art. This art museum housed in oil baron Wade Phillip’s 1920s Italian style mansion is pretty superb (they usually have some great visiting exhibits) but it’s the gardens that steal the show. Admission is free on the second Saturday and there are plenty of extra activities (scavenger hunts and hands on projects hosted by visiting artists) to keep you busy.
Places to eat?
Tulsa has a pretty up and coming food scene (Cherry Street, Brookside, the Brady Arts District, and the Blue Dome are all home to trendy new restaurant concepts), but what Tulsa is famous for is BBQ and Mexican food.
Your must do? Stand in line at Burn BBQ at 10:30 AM for some of their coveted ribs. They also serve them at Prairie Brewing Company in the evenings on a first come first serve basis. Other Tulsa BBQ institutions are Albert G’s, Elmer’s and Oklahoma Joe’s.
For Mexican food, Los Cabos is a pretty stellar local chain. Senor Tequila on Brookside, La Cocina on Cherry Street, and El Guapo in the Blue Dome are all great options. Otherwise, stop at any taco truck in east Tulsa and you’re guaranteed authentic grub.
If you’re a carb lover like me and pizza and pasta are two of your major food groups, you’ve GOT to try Hideaway Pizza (there’s several around town) and Mondo’s (arguably the best Italian food you’ll have in your life).
Places to shop and what to buy? (What is the area known for?)
For some local shopping, swing by Ida Red on Brookside or Dwelling Spaces (located in the Boxyard, a unique shopping and dining complex made up of storage containers!) to pick up some Tulsa merchandise along with other funky gifts.
For a nice day of more upscale shopping (Anthropologie, West Elm, Saks Fifth Avenue), check out Utica Square, in midtown Tulsa. It’s particularly lovely in the spring when the tulips are blooming. Also, head to Cherry Street and Brookside for a smattering of local boutiques.
If you’re into vintage shopping, you’ve got to swing by Vintage Vault, Retro Den, and Cheap Thrills. Antique lovers, make your way south to Jenks, a suburb of Tulsa. And if you’re into sewing or quilting, stop by the Owl and Drum. They have one of the best collections of modern fabrics you’ll find anywhere.
What do you do on a Friday night?
There are few things I love more in life than dessert, so on Friday nights you’ll usually find me at Antoinette’s for pie night. Antoinette’s is actually one of my favorite spots in Tulsa (an amazing bakery that also does breakfast and lunch). Plan to arrive early (they only stay open until they sell out) and wait in line. If you can’t find a spot to sit, walk over to the nearby Guthrie Green.
Also, if you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month, you’ve got to take in the First Friday Art Crawl in the Brady Arts District. It’s a great way to check out some of the major art centers in Tulsa (both the Philbrook Museum of Art and Gilcrease Museum have satellite centers here) as well as local galleries, restaurants, and food trucks.
Another favorite is bowling at the Dust Bowl in the Blue Dome District. Have a beer and burger at nearby McNellie’s or sushi at Yokozuna.
Cool places to stay?
The coolest place to stay in town is definitely the Mayo Hotel. This historic downtown property has seen its share of glamorous celebrities since its opening in 1925, but since its renovation and reopening in 2009, it has become a majorly trendy hot spot on the downtown scene. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a more glorious era while still having the best amenities at your fingertips. Located right in the center of downtown Tulsa, this is a great location from which to explore the city. For another luxury downtown experience, you won’t be disappointed with the Ambassador Hotel. And if you’d rather be in midtown Tulsa, the Campbell is a recently renovated 1920s boutique property right on historic Route 66.
If there isn’t a major airport nearby what is the best way to get there?
Tulsa International Airport is a major airport and the most convenient way to get to T-Town.
Special thanks to Cate for showing us all around beautiful Tulsa – who wants to take a trip there with me!? If you’re planning a trip to Oklahoma (or Hawaii – Cate has great tips on her blog!) or want to learn more, be sure to follow Cate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She also blogs over at Hula Land, so be sure to check her out there, too 🙂