48 Hours in Ponca City

Whether you're an architecture admirer, history buff or outdoor voyager, Ponca City is flourishing with fun.

This inspiring 30-foot tall statue by Bryant Baker is a highlight of the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City.
Photo Credit: Lori Duckworth/Oklahoma Tourism

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History, art and nature combine into a unique Western adventure in Ponca City. From its beginnings as a pioneer settlement to its rich Native American legacy, this northern Oklahoma town is bursting with fascinating stories and individuals.

Day 1:


Start with a tour through the past at the Pioneer Woman Museum, which highlights the stories of women in Oklahoma’s early days. View the inspiring Pioneer Woman Statue, depicting a woman and her child walking towards the horizon. Another statue of great importance to the city is the 22-foot bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear at the Standing Bear Park, Museum & Education Center. Read about Standing Bear’s landmark speech to the U.S. District Court, then enjoy the picturesque park full of wildflowers.

More Ponca City history abounds inside the opulent Marland Mansion & Estate, former home to Governor E.W. Marland, the oil tycoon responsible for the city’s petroleum achievements in the early 1900s. A guided tour of this stunning estate will reveal the Marland family’s tumultuous history, including the scandalous story of Lydie, Marland's adopted daughter who became his second wife. For more information on Marland’s business legacy, you can learn about his company’s past and current global influence at the Conoco Museum, with exhibits covering over 125 years of oil history.


Break for a barbecue lunch at Danny’s BBQ Head Quarters and dig into savory, smoky ribs, brisket and more at this popular, down-to-earth diner. After your meal, take a leisurely stroll around the city to view notable murals outlining Ponca City’s past and present. The 101 Ranch & Wild West Show Mural, Arcade Hotel Mural and Santa Fe Depot Mural all convey a lively city history, showcasing famous figures and Western themes by Oklahoma artists. To support more local creative expression, head to Ponca City Art Center to view a wide range of contemporary art.


Catch a production at Ponca Playhouse, which has been entertaining audiences since 1959, or if you’re in the mood for a concert, comedy show or movie screening, head to the historic Poncan Theatre. This Art Deco movie palace exudes 1920s elegance, lined with hand-painted movie posters, antique items and ornate architecture.

As the sun sets over Ponca City, grab dinner and drinks at Astoria Blvd Bistro & Bar. Here, you can sip on a wide selection of Oklahoma brews and dine on shareable plates like pot stickers, cilantro-lime tostadas or barbecue sliders. This casual bar and restaurant regularly hosts live music, so stick around for some tunes to round out the evening.

Day 2:


Surrounded by waving grasslands and roaming buffalo, a trip to Ponca City would be incomplete without some quality time in nature. Take an early morning hike, bike ride or drive along the Osage Nation Heritage Trail, which starts within city limits and extends through 70 miles worth of scenery and wildlife. Even in nature, you’ll encounter Ponca City’s deep historical roots – this area held the estates of several oil tycoons, including Frank Phillips, E. W. Marland, Harry Sinclair and Jean Paul Getty.

Switch from land to water at Kaw Lake, part of NW Oklahoma’s Fishing Trail loop, where you can boat, swim, fish or simply relax on 168 miles of shoreline. Anglers will enjoy an abundance of crappie, sand bass and walleye, while adventurous crowds can take advantage of 17,000 acres of water for exciting recreational activities. Set up camp for an overnight stay, or enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the lake’s pavilions.


Restore your energy with a hearty lunch back in town at Deli-icious Diner. This retro-style eatery serves everything from savory to sweet. Grab a robust sandwich from the deli and save room for dessert, where you can fill a box with nostalgic jellybeans, truffles, cookies and more from this delightful café.

Stay in town after lunch, as there’s plenty of nature to explore at Lester & Mary Cann Memorial Botanical Gardens. Filled with formal gardens, several hundred varieties of flowers and 70 species of trees, this 10-acre estate also includes a farmhouse built in 1908. If you’re looking for more outdoor activities, head to War Memorial Park to play on a splash pad, picnic outdoors or let off some steam on the walking trails.

Keeping in tune with its Western traditions, Ponca City is home to several historic ranches. Round out the day’s outdoor events and schedule a visit to Big V Ranch, once the largest mule dealer in the U.S. Built in 1903, this ranch gives tours of its historic barn, commissary gardens, tool building and surrey house.


Conclude your action-packed day in true Western fashion with an overnight stay at Camp McFadden. Along with activities like hiking, canoeing and fishing, this campsite offers cabins, RV and tent camping. Stake your claim in a scenic camp spot next to Kaw Lake and relax under the Oklahoma night sky.

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