Oklahoma’s Western heritage lives on – virtually untouched – just south of the Oklahoma River in the Historic Stockyards City. Clear out your schedule, shine up your boots and head to the crossroads of Agnew and Exchange for a day trip paired with a hearty slice of the Old West.
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Since the first cattle were herded down the dusty south Oklahoma City roads in 1910, the Oklahoma National Stockyards have pioneered the future of what is now recognized as Historic Stockyards City. By the 1970s, the culmination of the public livestock market and prosperous packing plants led Oklahoma City’s first major industry to become the largest stocker/feeder cattle market in the world. Today, the area’s historic significance endures as Stockyards City Main Street champions a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Plan a day trip and explore this well-preserved half-mile of the Old West, where you’ll quickly discover that auctioneers’ chants ring throughout the stockyards, hearty steak dinners continue as a dining tradition, and boots, wide-brimmed hats and giant belt-buckles are still considered the norm.
Start your day bright and early with a breakfast burrito or taco from Taqueria Los Comales. Over the last two decades, the Montoya family has built a solid customer base by loading up tortillas with early morning staples – bacon, sausage and potato – or spicing it up with more authentic flavors like machacado and homemade chorizo. If you prefer your breakfast on the sweeter side, opt for traditional breads and pastries from the family bakery – pan dulces, conchas and abrazos.
After breakfast, burn a few calories while taking in classic red brick architecture along Exchange Avenue during your short trek to the Oklahoma National Stockyards. Time your visit right – Monday or Tuesday mornings to be exact – to experience a live cattle auction, where up to 9,000 head of cattle can pass through in a single day.
When lunchtime rolls around, walk a block over and grab a table at Heather’s Stockyards Café. While the menu is filled with typical Southwestern diner favorites, consider ordering a scratch-made blue plate special – hamburger steak, chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, hand-breaded chicken tenders, pork chops or hot links – paired with your choice of two sides and a fresh hot roll. No menu choice is wrong at this down-home cozy café.
Now that you’ve ticked off Stockyard proper on your list, it’s time to choose your afternoon activity – shopping or trail rides. See how the present and past collide as you ride horses along the River Park Equestrian Trail, combining beautiful skyline views of Downtown Oklahoma City with the 20-acre open riding space of River Park.
If shopping is more your speed, start off at Langston’s Western Wear, outfitting customers with proper Western gear since 1913. In addition to a dizzying array of boots, snap shirts and hats, Langston’s features one of the largest selections of Wrangler and Levi’s jeans in the entire Southwest.
Once you’ve stocked up on a fresh pair of jeans and a crisp snap shirt, it’s time to step up your boot game at Little Joe’s Boots. Founded in 1950, Little Joe’s carries an extensive collection of handmade cowhide and exotic skin boots. Aside from designing custom boots, the shop also carries many large brands like White’s, Top Hand, Anderson Bean, Rios of Mercedes and Macie Bean.
Make sure to add a hat to your get-up from Shorty’s Caboy Hattery. No stranger to hard work and craftsmanship, Lavonna “Shorty” Koger – the only female hatter in the entire industry – cut her teeth shaping hats at rodeos before starting her own hat-making business. For over 30 years, Shorty’s has provided exceptional customer service due to the meticulous process of fashioning custom hats. Allow enough time for this venture, considering associates measure each client’s head, creates a personalized head block and handcrafts each hat from top-quality beaver felt.
Get a mid-afternoon pick-me-up at Stockyards Sarsaparilla, an old-fashioned candy and soda shop in the heart of Stockyards City. Choose from over 300 types of vintage soda, ranging from the classics like root beer and cream soda to funky flavors like ranch dressing, kitty piddle or alien snot. Don’t leave without picking out souvenirs such as homemade fudge, western-themed gifts and Made-in-Oklahoma specialties.
Complete your Western shopping spree by browsing through one of Oklahoma City’s premier Native American gallery shops, Oklahoma Native Art & Jewelry. This thoughtfully curated space highlights dynamic work produced by over 70 artists. Shop for intricate horsehair-infused pottery along with hand-woven dream catchers, turquoise-adorned jewelry, embossed belt buckles and more.
A full afternoon of shopping or horseback riding merits a classic Oklahoma steak dinner, so make sure you have a reservation planned at the legendary Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. As one of the oldest continually operating restaurants in the city, this iconic steakhouse has fed generations of hungry ranchers, cattle haulers, celebrities and even a United States President or two! Don’t skimp on your order – regulars swear by the lamb fries, “Blue Ribbon” prime steaks and the famous house salad dressing, paired with a slice of homemade fruit pie or cream pie.
Cap off your day of fun in Stockyards City by sporting your fresh Western gear and either listening to live entertainment at the Oklahoma Opry, enjoying drinks at McClintock Saloon & Chop House or watching unique films at Rodeo Cinema. An evening at the Opry is sure to be a memorable night, as many Oklahoma greats – including Bryan White, Cody Canada, Wanda Jackson, Byron Berline and Reba McEntire – have previously graced the stage of the state's official country music showcase.
McClintock’s is a great option if you’re wanting to step back-in-time for a classy saloon experience. Equipped with a beautiful 50-ft hand-carved oak and brass bar, the saloon serves up 215 different whiskeys and innovative cocktails. Listen closely for someone ringing the saloon’s bell, as it signals a round of free shots for all sitting at the bar.
Another great option is Rodeo Cinema, located in the same venue as the Oklahoma Opry. Relax in comfy seats, savor a sandwich or some charcuterie and watch as the restored screen comes to life as it did at its debut in 1924. Originally showing silent films at the height of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Rodeo Cinema now offers movie-goers an array of first-run, independent, foreign and documentary films at this historic theater or at the nearby satellite location on Oklahoma City’s Film Row.