Just a short hop from each other, the towns of Shawnee, Seminole and Wewoka, Oklahoma offer an incredibly diverse range of things to do, making them the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-path getaway with unusual attractions.
One of my favorite things about Oklahoma is its diversity. On a day trip, travelers can experience everything from the bright lights of a casino to the peaceful serenity of a lavender farm. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department team wanted to find some of that diversity so we headed to the Shawnee, Seminole and Wewoka area, located just east of Oklahoma City.
Starting in Shawnee, we enjoyed our favorite budget breakfast at the Sports Grill at the Grand Casino Hotel Resort. This casino is a premier facility with 1,800 of the best gaming machines, four restaurants, a gourmet coffee shop and a cocktail lounge. Despite its lack of bells and lights, one of my favorite machines at Grand Casino Hotel Resort is the free soft-serve ice cream machine that makes every visit sweet. The Grand Casino also has a great entertainment schedule throughout the year. Whether it’s cage fighting, comedy or country music, chances are that you’ll find something that will amaze you.
The Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art was our next stop and was I in for a big surprise. I didn’t know that this museum was founded in 1919 or that it was named in honor of a Benedictine monk, Father Gregory Gerrer, of the monastery at the site. He had vision and a beautiful reverence for mankind’s history. The collection, housed on the campus of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, is a comprehensive collection that includes Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts. There are mummies, Native American relics, medieval religious works and even contemporary art. I was so glad that we had a wonderful docent who educated us about the art and helped us to understand the historical significance of each time period. Sometimes art museums are intimidating but this special place was inviting and comfortable and inspired a sense of wonder in all of us.
It was lunchtime and we all had barbecue on the brain. Van’s Pig Stand in Shawnee is the oldest barbecue restaurant owned and operated by the same family in Oklahoma. Several locations in central Oklahoma continue the tradition of great service and even better barbecue. I ordered the ½ chicken dinner with two sides - I always have fried okra and coleslaw with my barbecue. The chicken was perfectly smoked and affordable.
Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum in Seminole was a perfect place to visit right after lunch. Children of all ages have fun at this special play place riding the SuperSonic Express Train and playing in the Centennial Maze. At the museum, you get a hands-on educational experience and children can practice different occupations in the imaginary town. With very realistic displays of operating room suites and grocery store shelves, children ages 3-12 can have a ball pretending while they try out possible careers for when they grow up. As for us, we tried to create the world’s biggest bubble in the science area, pretended to be a TV anchors in front of a green screen and even managed to scare ourselves in the fun house mirrors.
Our last stop of the day was the Seminole Nation Museum in Wewoka. Although going through a renovation at the time, the staff invited us in and shared their vision of the future for the museum. We toured the beautiful art gallery and enjoyed the paintings and sculptures created by Seminole artists. Assistant Curator Lewis Johnson greeted us in traditional Seminole dress. He is a master storyteller and instead of just explaining an intriguing painting by Kelly Haney, he told us the Seminole legend about a boy that ignored the advice of tribal elders and as a consequence turned into a snake.
At the end of the day, we had stories to tell and memories made on this tour of Shawnee, Seminole and Wewoka.
When you visit Van's Pig Stand, be sure to order the Vanized Potato. It is a legendary, twice-baked potato delicacy.
For a budget-friendly family day, take a picnic to Jasmine Moran Children's Museum. They allow you to bring your own lunch and provide an eating area for you at no charge.
Keep your eye out for the shrunken heads at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art...they're really fascinating!