Climb aboard the AMTRAK Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma City and head south for popular attractions and sweet treat destinations along I-35.
Today’s “road ramble” takes us on Oklahoma’s only passenger rail service between Oklahoma City, OK and Fort Worth, TX -- the Heartland Flyer!
After parking at one of the downtown garages in Oklahoma City, we began our adventure with a brisk walk to the Oklahoma City AMTRAK Heartland Flyer station, located in the historic Santa Fe Depot within the city’s Bricktown Entertainment District. Luckily, we remembered to arrive at the station in plenty of time so that we didn't have to run. Fortunately, everyone was able to produce the required photo identification and we were on board in no time.
Although the Heartland Flyer makes the 418-mile daily round trip between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, with stops along the way in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore and Gainesville, TX, we were only riding as far as Ardmore. We had a coworker meeting us in Ardmore with a 12-passenger van so we could return north on I-35 and stop at various attractions along the way. We had a fantastic time just being able to sit back, relax and enjoy the unique scenery unfolding outside the window. The Heartland Flyer is usually made up of two refurbished Superliner Coaches and a Superliner II Coach/Cafe Car. All of the Flyer's coaches feature an upper level coach section with spacious reclining seats, complete with individual reading lights and large windows. The lower levels of the coaches feature 12 wheelchair-accessible seats on one end and restrooms on the other end. The Superliner II Coach features a full-service cafe car with an attendant. Snacks, sandwiches, soft drinks, cocktails and souvenirs are available. Guests can visit with friends and other passengers, or simply choose to watch the scenery glide effortlessly by while enjoying the car’s sofa-style seating. There are normally four individuals who work on the Heartland Flyer including two conductors, a lead service attendant and an engineer. These individuals ensure that passengers board and detrain safely, are responsible for the safe operation of the train and ensure the safety of all passengers onboard. You couldn’t be in better hands if you drove yourself.
The Heartland Flyer also offers unique programs and promotions such as the Trails & Rails program, designed to introduce southbound passengers to the history, economics and landscape of Oklahoma and Texas along the Flyer route. The Heartland Flyer also offers several onboard activities throughout the year such as an Easter Bunny train, beach party train, Halloween train, Santa train and even a Mardi Gras party. There are thrills and attractions for everyone aboard the Heartland Flyer. What a wonderful and truly unique experience. In my opinion, it's the only way to travel.
Once in Ardmore, we left the Heartland Flyer, crossed the tracks and began to make our way through Ardmore in search of our next destination, the Charles B. Goddard Center for Visual & Performing Arts. Ardmore is a progressive, bustling small town. The rich heritage and proud history has been artfully preserved and can be seen as you walk or drive through the historic downtown area. This Main Street community features classic shops, gifts, antiques and a variety of places to dine. After a short trek through downtown, we found the Goddard Center. The Charles B. Goddard Center for Visual & Performing Arts was established in 1970 to provide cultural experiences in south-central Oklahoma. It hosts touring performances, contemporary paintings, four galleries of permanent and traveling exhibits and a performing arts theater.
After our visit to the Goddard Center, our tummies were rumbling so we headed on over to Two Frogs Grill. You might not expect to find a funky, eclectic dining experience outside of the two major metro areas of Dallas and Oklahoma City, especially in an establishment that at the same time provides a great casual atmosphere for family dining. However, you’ll find that unique combination at Two Frogs Grill in Ardmore. Two Frogs Grill is a family restaurant that features homestyle cooking with a Cajun twist and live music. Their menu features something for every taste. Famous for their apple dumplings, they specialize in catfish, chicken, steak and tender ribs that are smoked fresh daily. They were voted “Best Baby Back Ribs in the State” by The Oklahoman newspaper.
Once our Cajun palates were satiated, we continued our journey north on I-35. Just a few miles north of Ardmore is the city of Davis, and at Exit 51 you’ll find some of the best fried pies ever. Original Fried Pies features tender and flaky fried pies. They come in a variety of fruit, sugar-free, cream and even meat fillings. This is a must stop for any fried pie lover.
With our tummies still full, we were once again on our merry way. Our next stop was the Bedre Chocolate Factory in Davis. Bedre is a Native American company that produces fine chocolate in the heart of Oklahoma. This 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation, offers an assortment of temptations to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, including gourmet chocolates and other traditional candies. We had a very informative tour and it was really interesting to learn where and how the magic happens, but honestly we couldn’t wait to get back to the gift shop to make our purchases. The various chocolate goodies made us all very happy.
We finally managed to roll all of our chocoholics back into the van and then jaunted over to Field’s Pies, yet another spectacular sweet treat destination. Field's famous pecan pies originated in Pauls Valley after two brothers persuaded their wives to cook pastries for their restaurant customers. The same recipes Mrs. Hazelle Field used in 1925 are still being used today. With no preservatives or additives, the Fields consider their pies a natural dessert. Words cannot do justice to that wonderful aroma that met us upon our entry into the facility. What can only be described as “pie heaven,” the facility was like being in the kitchen when my grandma was cooking Thanksgiving dinner dessert. There is no better aroma in the world. We watched all the little pies being assembled and saw as they went through the biggest oven I’ve ever set eyes on. Although their pies are available in the frozen food section of your local grocery store, if you tour the facility you might be treated to a fresh baked treat afterwards. But if not, you can always stop by their Discount Pies Thrift Shop just outside the factory. Either way, you will leave happy.
As you might imagine, by this time we’d had our fill of sweets. Okay, some wanted more chocolate but they were quickly voted off the island, or in our case out of the van. Lucky for the rest of us our next stop was non-food related! We found fun, not food, at the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley. The Toy and Action Figure Museum educates and excites visitors of all ages with a comprehensive collection of classic pop culture toys. They have several interactive displays which enable children of all ages to enjoy a hands-on experience with the exhibits. The Toy and Action Figure Museum is also home to the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection, put together by writer Michael Vance from Tulsa. This exhibit features published artists and writers of comics from Oklahoma. The museum has exhibits on the creation of action figures from concept through manufacturing and also features an Action Figure Hall of Fame where each year a select few toys are chosen to be inducted.
Visit Field's Pies' on-site pie store for deals on fresh, straight-from-the-oven pies. You and your taste buds won't regret it!
Take advantage of direct-from-the-factory pricing at the Bedre Chocolate Factory in Pauls Valley. Stop by their gift shop for great deals on everything from caramel meltaways to chocolate covered potato chips.
This trip is perfect for the family, so pack up the kids and head to the Toy and Action Figure Museum and Bedre Chocolate Factory. They'll love the train ride experience as well.