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By Austin Tackett
The stretch of Highway 81 from El Reno to Kingfisher is a subtly beautiful road, rolling for miles with hilly farmland. It’s a relatively quiet drive, bookended by two incredibly charming towns, which provides the blueprint to a perfect road trip anytime of the year.
El Reno is a town perhaps best known for its annual Fried Onion Burger Day Festival. Every year in May, the townspeople of El Reno cook the world’s largest fried onion burger weighing in at over 750 pounds. The festival draws thousands of visitors who stop by for a taste of the enormous delicacy, and to witness the other great festivities and entertainment that also occur at the festival.
Of course burgers aren’t the only thing to do in El Reno. The Town is home to an incredibly vibrant downtown filled with unique shops, restaurants, murals, and a small war memorial that you won’t find anywhere else. History buffs can enjoy Historic Fort Reno, a military post established in 1874 to protect Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, and served in supervising the land run. Fort Reno is host to various events throughout the year, including ghost tours for the more adventurous.
Back on the highway a few miles out of town you’ll find the Lucky Star Casino, one of the states most popular gaming centers. Stop in to see if today is your lucky day.
A few miles north, you’ll find the small town of Okarche, home to the extremely popular Eischen’s Bar. Famous for being the oldest bar in Oklahoma, Eischen’s fries up some of the best chicken and okra you’re ever going to taste, so make sure to bring along your appetite!
Continuing north on Highway 81 is the town of Kingfisher, home of the incredibly beautiful festival of lights which takes place every December. Millions of lights are on display at this holiday celebration, including a brilliantly lit 100 year old bridge that used to serve as the only passage between the eastern part of the county and the main part of town.
Kingfisher is a beautiful town that once was the home town of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. The town is meticulously well kept and their beautiful downtown area is evidence of this. Here you will find an array of shops and eateries, as well as the overwhelmingly charming 89’ER Theater. An impressively large statue of Jesse Chilholm (for who the Chisholm Trail is named after) is located downtown, and is a piece of art worthy of some photo taking.
Of course, no trip to Kingfisher would be complete without a stop to the Chisholm Trail Museum, a wonderful historic relic which retells the exciting history of the Chisholm Trail in vivid detail. A frontier village is located on the premises with Victorian mansion, bank, and schoolhouse all dating before 1900.
So the next time you’re looking to get away from it all, remember that a little peace and quiet, mixed with some authentic small town charm are sure to greet you along Highway 81.