Winter Fun: Top Free Things to Do in Oklahoma
Point your compass toward Oklahoma and delight in a cornucopia of free winter activities suited for the whole family. Seize the opportunity to make this winter the most memorable one yet – without spending a dime!
The winter season has cozily settled in and has stretched its familiar grip across the Oklahoma prairie, ushering in time with family over the holidays, festive activities for young and old, and perhaps a healthy dose of cabin fever. Break out of the traditional winter routine and discover that there’s no reason to be stuck in the house when the mercury takes a dip. Gather up the car keys, wrap yourself in a deliciously snug scarf and venture out into Oklahoma’s lively winter terrain for these fabulously free activities.
Oklahoma plays gracious host to a flurry of eagles that choose the Sooner State as their winter home. Travel to Quartz Mountain Nature Park, Arcadia Lake or the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures soaring freely overhead. Bundle up against the seasonal chill and join other nature-lovers on a caravan to roosting areas and scenic viewing locations. Many of the state’s eagle watches also include educational presentations, so bring the entire family and don’t forget your binoculars as you witness noble eagles riding the thermals above the Oklahoma landscape. Eagle watches are also held at Tenkiller and Sequoyah State Parks.
Oklahoma City National Memorial & State Capitol
Whether entertaining out-of-town relatives or looking to revisit historically important locations nestled in the heart of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and State Capitol are sure bets this winter. Wander the grounds of the Memorial and reflect upon the Field of Empty Chairs, the Gates of Time and other symbolic elements at one of the state’s most-visited attractions. The outdoor symbolic Memorial grounds are free of charge and open 24 hours a day with National Parks Service staff on hand during the day. Head over to the State Capitol and join a free guided tour exploring the capitol’s impressive artwork and Greco-Roman architecture.
Downtown in December
Embrace the festive holiday spirit during Oklahoma City’s much-anticipated Downtown in December, a month-long celebration of holiday lights, family activities and Christmas cheer. Visitors to Downtown in December will delight in oodles of free things-to-do, all against the backdrop of Oklahoma City’s magnificent downtown skyline. Make your way to Downtown in December to enjoy free water taxi rides along the beautifully-lit downtown canal and free museum Sundays at area museums.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge & Mount Scott
Strap the kids into the backseat, bundle up with blankets and take a drive through the southwest Oklahoma prairie at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Home to some of the most breathtaking landscape in the state, this area is a haven for wildlife photographers. Drive to the top of Mount Scott for an awe-inspiring view of the rolling hills below, or escape the car and stretch your legs on over 15 miles of winter hiking trails.
Museum of the Red River
A surprising gem of southeast Oklahoma, the Museum of the Red River in Idabel not only offers visitors free admission, but also an up-close-and-personal view of the museum’s reconstructed Acrocanthosaurus atokensis dinosaur, excavated only 12 miles from the museum. Escape the winter cold on a trip through the scenic southeast region by heading indoors for archaeological collections, American Indian artifacts and ethnographic art at this fascinating museum.
Through the cooler months of winter, Oklahoma’s emerging and established arts districts remain open and continue to thrive. Hop from one gallery to the next during monthly art events and escape the outside chill while gazing at endless displays of original art. Top events include the First Friday Gallery Walk in the Paseo Arts District, the 2nd Friday Circuit of Art in Norman and Live on the Plaza in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District.
Historic Downtown Guthrie
Home to the largest Historic Preservation District in the nation and bathed in merry lights throughout the holidays, Guthrie is the perfect winter destination for those looking to surround themselves with Victorian architecture, quaint boutiques and enough charm to last a lifetime. This enchanting city also hosts the annual Territorial Christmas celebration and Victorian Walk during the holidays. Make your way to Guthrie for costumed performers, free hot chocolate, carolers and decorated window displays during this special season, or enjoy antique shopping and delicious family restaurants throughout the year.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Embrace the temperatures and get back to nature this winter with a trip to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur. Offering a multitude of activities year round, this outdoor paradise is a prime destination for mountain biking and winter hiking on uncrowded trails that weave throughout this renowned recreational hot spot. Enjoy the serenity of the park while indulging in magnificent wildlife photo-ops on the banks of the area’s pristine lakes, creeks and waterfalls.
Honor Heights Park
Honor Heights Park in Muskogee, known for its beauty and blooming azaleas during the height of spring, is just as stunning during the cooler months of winter. Take a trip along the marked paths of this drive-thru park and marvel as the park comes alive with over one million twinkling lights during the annual Garden of Lights celebration. View the native azalea bushes awash with holiday color, or venture off the beaten path on a variety of walking and biking trails that wind along lakes, ponds and scenic turnouts.
Red Earth Museum
Enjoy a dose of culture this winter season and evade the outdoor chill at the Red Earth Museum in downtown Oklahoma City. Treat yourself to an afternoon filled with American Indian artwork, pottery and one-of-a-kind exhibitions. As an added bonus, this much-loved museum will offer extended hours, refreshments and entertainment every Thursday in December as part of the city’s Downtown in December celebration.
Martin Park Nature Center
Find a series of easy walking trails and experience the beauty of an Oklahoma winter firsthand, when you head to the Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City. Nestled within the state’s central woodlands, this free outdoor haven features winding trails, an on-site nature museum and a rippling creek. Known for its stunning landscapes bathed in snow, visitors will enjoy walking along clear paths while keeping an eye out for ruby-colored cardinals and a variety of woodland creatures.
Holiday Light Displays
From Elk City to Yukon, Muskogee to Midwest City, Oklahoma’s month-long holiday displays are lighting up the plains with festive activities and winter merriment. Celebrate the season with a trip to Chickasha’s Festival of Light, considered one of the top ten holiday light displays in the nation, or head to Woodward’s Crystal Christmas for over 40 animated displays. Discover more of Oklahoma's top light displays.
One of the best values in the state, Oklahoma’s state parks offer outdoor fun and activities year round. From hiking to rappelling, Oklahoma’s state parks will get your blood pumping with a unique Oklahoma adventure tailored specifically for you. Enjoy a nature getaway solo or participate in a myriad of holiday park activities. To browse through a list of all state parks, visit the state parks page and begin planning your winter escape.