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  Photo: Don Sibley 
Jellyfish glow luminously as they dance in their tank at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks near Tulsa. The aquarium is home to thousands of sea creatures and native inhabitants of Oklahoma's waters.

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Take a video tour of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It was a sizzling hot August day and I was headed to Tulsa with the rest of the Oklahoma Tourism Department team for a diverse sampler of indoor attractions.

Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium

We begin our trip at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium where we found an impressive collection of planes on display.  In addition to the planes, the museum has a collection of interactive exhibits that can keep the whole family fascinated for hours.  You'll find simulators that put you in the pilot's seat of a fighter jet, let you fly a scale model through a wind tunnel, use controls to maneuver robotic arms like astronauts in space and much more.  There are also plenty of video exhibits that let you navigate through stories of pioneers that never gave up on their dreams of flying, or test your knowledge of flight.  I climbed into the cockpit of an F-14 fighter jet and had my own personal Top Gun moment.

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium also boasts a state-of-the-art planetarium that is only the second of its kind in the world. Experience a spectacular show that takes you on a journey through the universe in a 50-foot diameter dome. The presentation allows the audience to travel through a vast real-time simulation of the universe with its multitude of stars, planets, asteroids and galaxies.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

After experiencing the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and taking a journey through the universe in the planetarium, we had worked up quite an appetite.  Next on our itinerary was the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for lunch and a tour.  We dined at the casino’sbuffet and all of us savored the meal.  The buffet featured a staggering array of choices with meats, vegetables, freshly baked breads, salad bar, desserts and favorites such as Chinese and Mexican dishes.  The sirloin was top notch and the pork tenderloin was delicious. The desserts were all good, with the coconut cream pie, blueberry pie and the chocolate fountain taking the honors in my book.                           

I climbed into the cockpit of an F-14 fighter jet and had my own personal Top Gun moment.

After enjoying our hearty meal, we ventured out to the golf course clubhouse, just a short stroll across the parking lot.  We took a short tour of the course and then hit the driving range, which is set up championship-style, with a basket of what seemed like hundreds of balls.
 
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is a true resort. Stay in the luxurious Hard Rock Hotel, dine in one of the seven onsite restaurants, spin and win on more than 2,200 electronic gaming machines, try your hand at 70 game tables or relax on the links.  The dining options include the expansive Wild Potato Buffet, fine dining at McGill’s on the 19th floor and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill among others.  And, of course, there’s plenty of rock & roll memorabilia on display to please any music fan.

Oklahoma Aquarium

Our next stop was at the Oklahoma Aquarium where we found sharks - big sharks, little sharks, shiny sharks, bull sharks and leopard sharks.  We even got to walk through a tunnel in the big shark tank where the sharks swam above and around us.  Needless to say, the aquarium has a healthy variety of the fearsome creatures, but there is so much more to discover here.  We found several fish that my kids would call Nemo, stingrays that you can pet, delicate jellyfish that seem to glow under black lights, gentle-looking seahorses and the highly intelligent and mischievous octopus among a variety of other fascinating sea creatures displayed in their natural watery habitats. 

In addition to the outstanding ocean life exhibits, another real jewel at the Oklahoma Aquarium is the section displaying native Oklahoma aquatic life.  Among the displays in the Oklahoma section we found an incredibly huge 120-year-old alligator snapping turtle, seven-foot-long gars, trophy-sized bass, the Jurassic-looking paddlefish and a catfish straight out of the record books.  We fed red-eared turtles and watched beavers busying themselves in their enclosure before we became mesmerized by some of the cutest beings on the planet - river otters. 

Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery

The grape-growing and wine-making industry in Oklahoma is on the rise and we chose to wrap up our Tulsa road trip in the picturesque green hills on the western outskirts of town at Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery. We were treated to a tour of the facility and a tasting of their award-winning wines. They offer more than 13 different varieties ranging from the sweet and festive Muscat Canelli to the semi-dry Syrah with undertones of toasted vanilla, spicy tannins and aromas of ripe berries, rose petals, cinnamon and espresso.  At the time of our visit, the Syrah had taken top honors at all three competitions in which it had been entered.

This sampler of diverse experiences confirmed again for us that Tulsa has plenty to offer, no matter where your interest lies.