Explore this list of the finest museums in Oklahoma and unearth a world filled with history, art and culture.
Whether you’re looking to discover the magic of science, the allure of decades past or the magnificence of art, you can find it in the Sooner State. Oklahoma’s museums will take you on a journey through history, into artistic landscapes, or along the old cattle trails and highways that crisscross the region. Here, we’ve highlighted the top tier museums of Oklahoma, so whether visiting an American Indian cultural center or standing before a towering dinosaur skeleton, you can rest assured that you’re viewing the best of the best.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is a dream for art lovers and history buffs alike. Browse an acclaimed collection of paintings and sculptures by great Western artists while learning what made the cowboy the iconic character of the Old West. Connect with America’s past as you explore almost 200 individual artifacts showcasing Native American life, a replica cattle town, antique firearms and the famous “The End of the Trail” statue on display. With 18 acres of heritage and culture, this museum paints an unparalleled picture of Western history.
Immerse yourself in an expansive collection of paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Browse 110,000 square feet of internationally renowned works situated within the heart of Oklahoma City’s growing Arts District and catch a glimpse of one of the largest Chihuly glass collections in the world including an astounding 55-foot glass tower. If you work up an appetite touring the museum’s three floors of breathtaking art, settle into a table at the renowned Museum Café for afternoon tea.
Discover the history and celebrate the culture of the Chickasaw people at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. Visitors are invited to walk through a learning tour of the herbal medicines, traditional foods, clothing and culture of this ancient tribe. Participate in a traditional stomp dance alongside larger-than-life dancers portrayed on a multimedia exhibit, or sample traditional Chickasaw fare at the Aaimpa Cafe. By the time you leave, you’ll have experienced the emotional removal of the tribe from the southeastern U.S. to Oklahoma and will likely be speaking some key words in the native Chickasaw language.
He was a trick roper, Vaudeville performer, radio commentator, author and movie star, but Claremore likes to remember Will Rogers best as Oklahoma’s favorite son. The Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore celebrates the unique character of this one-of-a-kind Oklahoma native throughout 12 permanent galleries. Get to know the legendary man by browsing an endless display of artifacts and memorabilia on-site. Imagine Rogers sitting atop one of his famous saddles on display and listen to his iconic voice on a continuous loop of classic films that play at the museum.
Step into the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to another time and place. Gaze upon spectacular skeletons that reveal the storied geological past of Oklahoma and uncover everything from natural wonders to Paleozoic treasures. Learn about the evolution of dinosaurs while touring larger-than-life exhibits including a walk-through limestone cave, a hands-on Discovery Room for the kids and the world’s largest Pentaceratops skull. Come face-to-face with the prehistoric world as you get a personal look at a collection of ancient items from right here in Oklahoma.
Experience the rumble of a stampede, the aroma of food cooked over an open fire and frightening encounters with nature as you immerse yourself in life along the famous Chisholm Trail. Get a personal look at this American cattle trail, which moved about four million cattle across the country, through interactive exhibits and films at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Feel the excitement of this cattle drive that not only satiated the country’s need for beef, but spread a love and appreciation for the Old West across state lines.
Enter into a world of marvel and wonder at Science Museum Oklahoma, where kids of all ages can let their minds and imaginations run wild through eight acres of hands-on exhibits detailing space, aviation and the spectacular mysteries of science. Catch a live performance or get sucked into a tornado in a giant-screen IMAX adventure and journey to the stars in the museum’s Planetarium Theater. Possibilities for fun and learning abound at this Oklahoma City museum, so whether navigating an obstacle course on a Segway or flying down the tallest spiral slide in the world, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable visit.
Get an emotional and insightful look at the brave pioneers who settled northwest Oklahoma at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid. This museum showcases the exciting moments of the largest land run in history. Meet historical figures and learn of their challenges as you walk through the same structures that served these pioneers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the only remaining 1893 U.S. Land Office, a one-room schoolhouse and an historic church.
Oklahoma’s legendary past, as well as the colorful characters that helped form the state, are put on proud display at the Oklahoma History Center, located in the heart of Oklahoma City’s capitol complex. Take a tour through exhibits detailing the state’s early settlement and involvement in the Civil War, to WWII and into the world of 20th century film. Meet American Indian heroes, Dust Bowl farmers and Land Run settlers who shaped Oklahoma’s unique culture while exploring four permanent galleries filled with artifacts, images and first-hand accounts.
Visitors to the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah will experience the complete range of Cherokee life in America, from their forced removal during the Trail of Tears to life in Indian Territory. Journey to this first-class museum in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains to discover how the Cherokee Tribe lived before European contact and to view moving historical exhibits, as well as powerful displays of Cherokee artwork. A tour of the museum would not be complete without a trip through the Diligwa 1710 Cherokee Village, which depicts Cherokee life during the early 18th century with authentic replicas of community structures.
With the most driveable miles of Route 66 in the nation, there’s no better place for the top museum on Mother Road history and lore than Oklahoma. For a spirited look at Route 66, from tales of Dust Bowl travels to cross-country family road trips in the 1950s, visit the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. Witness the history of Route 66 unfold through decade-specific displays as lodging, restaurants, garages, curio shops and roadside oddities pop up along this iconic strip of highway. Legendary music, vintage autos and a fantastic Route 66 themed gift shop make this museum a must-see in western Oklahoma.
The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a devastating experience for the state, as well as the nation. At the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, you can see how the bombing now stands as a statement of the spirit and resolve of Oklahomans. Browse this Oklahoma City landmark to hear the moving stories of the victims, survivors and rescuers. Outside, pause for a moment of reflection at the Field of Empty Chairs memorial that honors those who died. Inside, see bomb-damaged artifacts and hear the only known recording of the explosion.
Discover the perfect combination of art and history at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. Home of the largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts from the American West, the Gilcrease houses everything from archaeological finds and sculpture, to historical documents and fine art from American, Native American and Mexican masters. Step back in time as you tour up to 400,000 extraordinary pieces that reveal the discovery, expansion and settlement of North America from 1494 to today. Extend your visit into the 23-acre garden on-site that reflects the beauty and majesty of the art inside the museum.
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