Seven Hot Ways To Have Cool Family Fun
Step away from the electronic devices and plug into the family fun that summer travel in Oklahoma has to offer. Pick the type of vacation that interests your family and rest assured that kids of all ages will enjoy these top family-friendly attractions.
|Photo: Lacey Dillard|
Get the kids out of the house to discover all the unique experiences and memories that Oklahoma tourism can bring to your family. With these family-friendly ideas, your vacation can be tailored to perfectly suit the ages, curiosities and budget of your bunch. Here are seven areas of interest to choose from where the journey is the adventure and the destinations will deliver big smiles.
Summertime Is All About Amusement
Thrills and chills await you at several amusement and water parks across Oklahoma. Frontier City Theme Park in Oklahoma City provides heart pounding thrill rides like the looping Silver Bullet roller coaster and The Wildcat, a traditional wooden roller coaster. You’ll get chills as you ride the Mystery River Log Flume or the Renegade Rapids where you’re always guaranteed a little refreshing spray or splash. Get vertical when you launch over 240 feet into the air on the Eruption bungee tower ride, Oklahoma’s tallest thrill ride, or let your feet dangle as you soar on the Steel Lasso suspended family coaster. In addition to the thrill rides, Frontier City offers more than ten rides dedicated to children and families, as well as shows, games and fun restaurants to create an awesome all-day experience for your family.
Big Splash Water Park in Tulsa also has the Silver Bullet, but this time it’s a water slide that takes your breath away. Oklahoma offers a variety of water parks featuring towering speed slides, roaring wave pools and relaxing lazy rivers. Shallow children’s areas make these water parks ideal for even the tiniest of sunbathers while the wilder rides keep older kids entertained. Consider Oklahoma City’s White Water Bay, River Country Family Water Park in Muskogee and Comanche Nation Water Park in Lawton as well.
They Call It 'Edutainment'
Spark the imagination of any child and learning is a fun side effect. Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City is sure to spark both imagination and fun in your family with eight acres of hands-on exhibits and activities. Kids can learn to navigate a Segway personal transporter, feel the ground shake during an earthquake, travel beyond the Milky Way in the Planetarium Theater and so much more.
The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman features towering dinosaur giants from ancient Oklahoma lands, as well as unique collections and exhibits that include over seven million objects and specimens. Let your family celebrate vertebrates at the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. The museum features over 300 fully-articulated skeletons, and parents are usually shocked to know that children are encouraged to touch most displays in the museum. From tiny bats to a 40-foot humpback whale, children and parents alike will marvel at the exhibits.
Self-discovery is just an added benefit of play at the Jasmine Moran Children's Museum in Seminole. Through interactive play, the little ones can try out their favorite occupation whether it's being a policeman, dentist or grocery clerk. One of the most popular areas is the magic video screen where you can star in your own video.
In Search of Outdoor Adventures
With ten different ecosystems in Oklahoma, there is never a shortage of outdoor recreation and variety. During the heat of a summer day, there is nothing more mystical or refreshing than a guided tour through the largest natural gypsum cavern open to the public at Alabaster Caverns State Park. Always cool and quiet, the underground sanctuary is a surprising natural wonder in northwest Oklahoma. During the ¾ mile underground walk you may even spot a shy bat taking a nap, tucked in among the alabaster crevices.
If above ground adventure is more to your liking, drive the whole family right to the top of Mount Scott at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton. When you're 2,500 feet above the southwest Oklahoma prairie, the free range buffalo and elk that make their home in the refuge look very small. Hiking, camping, fishing and prairie dog watching are simple pleasures that adventurous families will savor. The visitor’s center is a learning environment with an eclectic yet affordable gift shop to commemorate your visit for years to come.
Another outdoor area that's a family favorite for all generations is Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park in Broken Bow. Whatever the activity, you can find it in this southeast Oklahoma vacation playground. Golfing, boating, swimming, horseback riding and hiking are just a few of the time-tested family favorites. And making s'mores over a campfire among the pines is a must for kids of all ages. Pitch a tent and camp, stay in a cozy riverfront or woodland cabin, or choose the well-appointed Lakeview Lodge in the park. Taking in the fresh air, spectacular views and enchanting morning mist over Broken Bow Lake will create memories that last a lifetime.
Discover the Animal Lover in You
Furry, feathered or even scaly - most kids love animals and Oklahoma's animal attractions are sure to delight. Visit Tiger Safari in Tuttle and walk through this park where you can take your time and meet some interesting animal characters. At Tiger Safari you might have the chance to hold a baby lemur or even wear an albino boa constrictor draped around your neck for a memorable picture. This animal sanctuary will amaze you with its assortment of big cats.
Both the Oklahoma City Zoo & Botanical Garden and the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum are stars among zoos, being rated among the most family-friendly zoos in the country. With a newly constructed children's zoo, a visit to the Oklahoma City Zoo is an absolute must for families. In April of 2011, the Oklahoma City Zoo’s new 9.5-acre Asian-themed elephant habitat became the birthplace of its newest resident, Malee, an Asian elephant calf. If you want to meet Malee’s father Sneezy, find him at the Tulsa Zoo along with African penguins and a tropical American rainforest exhibit among other treasures.
Welcome to Oklahoma, Partner!
Families with a love of the Wild West will enjoy many destinations while touring this state forged from the frontier. At the Tatanka Guest Ranch in Stroud, roughing it means staying in a charming yet rustic log cabin with 21st century amenities. On 1,000 acres of Oklahoma countryside, there's plenty of room to create your own land run with ATV and bike trails. Guided horseback rides make it easy to bird watch and catch a glimpse of the area’s wildlife.
Celebrate the history of the American West at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Hear the story of Jesse Chisholm in the animatronic Campfire Theater. Then go along on a cattle drive in the fabulous Experience Theater where the Disney-style special effects allow you to smell the cowboy coffee and feel the rumble of a cattle stampede. While Mom and Dad appreciate the beautiful Western art collection, little cowpokes can shop the 1892 Duncan Store trading post and try their hand at cattle roping from a real saddle.
Experience Native America
Oklahoma is home to the tribal headquarters of 39 American Indian nations, so traditions run deep here. The Cherokee Nation is always ready to share their history and culture at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah. Touring the Ancient Village at the center is anything but dull. Tour guides will delight the whole family as they get you involved in a clan meeting, help you make music, teach you how to create arrowheads from rocks and make dugout canoes from logs. Create lasting family memories as you take lessons on shooting blowgun darts and try your hand at hurling a ball skyward with stickball racquets.
After learning about the time and skill that it took to create a dugout canoe, visitors to the Tahlequah area will surely appreciate the modern conveniences of a float trip on the Illinois River. Families flock to the Illinois River for canoe and raft trips and camping escapes. Several float outfitters providing floating equipment, transportation, campgrounds and cabins line Highway 10 along the banks of the river. Guests can take float trips ranging from a few hours to several days.
Fun on the Farm
Agriculture is one of Oklahoma’s largest industries and there are ways for your family to touch it, see it and feel it. At Shepherd’s Cross in Claremore, escape the hectic pace of modern life and drink in the serenity of a working sheep farm. Programs are available for families who seek an idyllic setting for reflection and reconnection.
Visit the Express Clydesdales Ranch in Yukon where you can get up close and personal with internationally acclaimed black Clydesdale horses. These gentle giants tour the world appearing in parades and equine events and they enjoy meeting their adoring fans in their home barn. Express Clydesdales Ranch is free for the whole family and offers surprises such as a zebra and a miniature horse that thinks he is as big as a Clydesdale.
On the 10,000-acre Braum’s Family Farm in Tuttle over 1,600 dairy cows are milked every hour. During a tour, guests learn about the farm operation and then tour the state-of-the-art plant where the dairy magic happens. Every tour is complete with a free sample of Braum’s ice cream and a huge appreciation of where food comes from in Oklahoma. After your tour, be sure and visit one of the more than 100 Braum’s Ice Cream Stores in Oklahoma to enjoy your favorite hand-dipped cones and freshly prepared sundaes.
For family-friendly fun at its absolute best, make your way to the Orr Family Farm, an agricultural wonderland filled with games, activities and old-fashioned amusements for kids, located in Oklahoma City. This popular activity hub for children of all ages features an astonishing variety of things to do including fishing in stocked ponds, train rides around the farm, visits to the on-site petting zoo, panning for gemstones and much more. Take a spin on a vintage carousel, fly high on huge jumping pillows or take flight on the farm’s thrilling four-lane zip line.
- Cherokee Heritage Center
- Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
- Museum of Osteology
- Oklahoma City Zoo
- Oklahoma Outdoor Recreation Guide
- Oklahoma Travel Guide and Map Kit
- Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
- Tulsa Zoo
- Family Fun
- Monthly TravelOK eNewsletter