At the intersection of Interstates I-35 and I-40, you’ll find Oklahoma City – the crossroads of America. It’s a place where old brick warehouses in downtown are being turned into chic places to eat and play, old neighborhoods are being revitalized into fun destinations with green spaces and fun activities, and local chefs and entrepreneurs are opening businesses and restaurants. Best of all, it’s a fantastic destination for families to explore!
We recently visited Oklahoma City and were surprised by what we found – a family destination that can hold its own with any other city, and it’s only getting better. I should know, I used to live here when I was a kid when it was mostly just a rest stop on the way to somewhere else more fun.
Come read why OKC is now the destination all its own, and why your family will love it!
Disclaimer: We partnered with VisitOKC for this post. They hosted us for two nights and provided tickets to some of the attractions we’re writing about, as well as some meals. This post also has affiliate links which help us bring you awesome family-travel content, and we appreciate you using our links and supporting our efforts. Safe travels!
Things to do with kids in OKC!
The Best of the Rest
Things to do with kids in OKC!
Adventure awaits in OKC’s Adventure District
- Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens
- Science Museum Oklahoma
- National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Go Wild at the Oklahoma City Zoo
No one – that’s who.
Our first encounter was with the rhinos in the morning. Unfortunately, they were napping and decided it was in their best interest to continue doing so. We did get to learn a lot from the trainer about their habitat and behavior which was neat.
Our second encounter was with the Galapagos tortoises, and they were more willing to cooperate. What awesome animals! In addition to learning about how they live, we were able to feed them and touch their shells and leathery skin. Max here seemed to enjoy that part.
Our last encounter was with the elephants. We watched in awe as they responded to a series of commands from the trainers that allows them to better study the animals and make sure they’re healthy. We all loved giving them a gentle pat while they snacked on fruits and veggies.
It was so fun interacting with these animals up close!
The entire program was really fun, and our guide Jordan was knowledgeable, and her passion for the zoo and it’s residents was evident. Don’t hesitate to book one of these encounters – everyone will love it!
The OKC Zoo is always improving, and we came away impressed with the amount of projects that have been undertaken and completed in recent years. Opening soon is their new Asia exhibit, which will be fantastic and will provide new homes for many of the zoo’s animals. The Oklahoma Trails exhibit is particularly interesting to us as it features animals native to Oklahoma, but their primate exhibit – Great EscApe – was one of our favorites.
Their western lowland gorillas are facinating and charmed us nearly to death. Just look at this heartbreaker! They even have a newborn who is still being reared by caretakers since his mom didn’t really take to him. When this happens, volunteers work round-the-clock shifts to hold and snuggle him just like a momma should.
Um…where do we sign up?!?
Another must-see exhibit at the OKC Zoo is the ExploriKeet Adventure.
Buy a small cup of nectar and in no-time, you’ll have all the new friends you can handle! It’s the perfect way to add some color to your life, we say!
The Oklahoma City Zoo really is one of the best we’ve visited, and we highly recommend it if that’s your thing. Say “hi” to Elvis the white peacock for us. He’s a likable fellow and likes to chat. In fact, you’ll probably hear him all day long!
Science for the win! Exploring Science Museum Oklahoma
This museum is all about making science fun, and they succeed in a big way. There’s no shortage of interesting exhibits, hand-on science, and engaging spaces. Play some of your favorite games from a new perspective in Big Game Theory or learn about the weather – particularly Oklahoma’s severe weather – in Eye on the Sky.
Tiny Tracks is 1,000 feet of model train, complete with interactive buttons that activate elements in the models. When you’re done, peek into the fully restored Pullman train car to see what it might have been like to travel by train decades ago.
If you like exploring the cosmos, don’t miss the Planetarium and also the Destination Space exhibit where you’ll learn about the life (and science!) of being an astronaut. You can also learn about some of Oklahoma’s astronauts like Gordon Cooper (Mercury) and Tom Stafford (Apollo).
Don’t miss a walk through Mind Games for some brain-bending fun with illusions and scientific explanations for why we see things the way we do. It’s a lot of head-scratching fun for everyone.
We’ve barely covered all there is to do here at Science Museum Oklahoma, but be sure to allow at least a half-day to see everything, including any special exhibits that might be on. During our visit, we were able to see Into the Fold: The Art and Science of Origami, which offered a unique look into this ancient art and how it’s part of today’s cutting-edge science. Fascinating (and beautiful) stuff.
Ride with your posse to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
In between browsing the paintings and sculpture, learn about some of the real stories of Native Americans and American Cowboys during America’s race to settle the West. Follow along the Trail of Tears, or explore the fun of a rodeo.
Get up close to marvel at the intricate metal work on rare firearms by the likes of Colt and Winchester. Kids will enjoy the Cowboy Corral, an interactive exhibit where they can dress up like cowboys and cowgirls, cook dinner at the chuck wagon, or saddle up and ride a ‘horse’ off into the sunset.
Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum garners national and international attention, so give it a shot. It really is one of OKC’s finest museums.
Give OKC a spin in the Oklahoma City Wheeler District
- Wheeler Ferris Wheel
- The Big Friendly and Taco Nation
- Wheeler Criterium Bike Race and Cycling Festival
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
The rest of this district is really about community, enjoying each other’s company, and tacos – all important things. City planners are working to develop the area with more housing, parks, and an urban farm, but for now, it’s a lovely place to find a hammock, relax, and sway away whatever troubles you. Bring a Frisbee and enjoy the park, or just take in the views over a picnic. Or maybe tacos. Both are appropriate.🌮
Shoot the rapids in Oklahoma City’s Boathouse District
- Riversport Adventures – whitewater rafting, kayaking, zip line, sky trail, tubing, and stand-up paddleboarding
- Watch world-class rowing on the Oklahoma River
Related: Check out our ultimate guide to visiting Riversport OKC. It's got everything you need to know all in one place!
Riversport Adventures OKC
Whitewater rafting in the middle of the midwestern plains you say? Yep. This $45.2 million rafting and kayaking facility is legit, and is even an official US Olympic & Paralympic Training Site for both whitewater and flat water programs. With class II-IV whitewater on tap, this is the real deal.
And man, is it fun!
Once you meet up with your guide, you’ll go over safety, PFD (life jacket) fittings, and you’ll hop in the raft. There are two courses and you’ll go for a total of 3 circuits. A conveyor belt takes you up each time – no lugging rafts! If you’re looking for some authentic rafting, this is it. We all loved it and would go back in a second.
Included with our day passes was access to the slides and sky trail.
Carrie and the kids scrambled around on this for a bit and had a good time. When you get to the top, take the stairs or slide down one of the slides – some of the tallest in America.
Riversport Adventures is so much fun for families and was a highlight of our visit to OKC. Be sure to check out their events page for special events and programming like Floating Films where they show a movie on a large screen while you (calmly) float around the river, or find a rowing event to attend. Whatever you decide, definitely put it on your list!
Old is the new New in Bricktown, Oklahoma City
- Take a Water Taxi on the Bricktown Canal
- Enjoy a game with the OKC Thunder or the OKC Dodgers
- Find a concert at Chesapeake Energy Arena
- Go for a climb at Climb Up
We’re fortunate enough to have watched the OKC Thunder play basketball, and if you’ve never been to an NBA game, you should go! It’s a lot of fun. Be sure to find their mascot Rumble the Bison before the game for a picture.
Bricktown Water Taxi
A great way to see everything Bricktown has to offer is a ride with Bricktown Water Taxi. This easy-going tour is well worth your time – especially if you’re planning on spending an entire afternoon or evening downtown – because your ticket gets you hop-on, hop-off access to all the stops around the canal.
Eating your way around Bricktown
- Chelinos – yummy Mexican food location right along the river, and one of Bricktown’s very first riverfront restaurants.
- Sonic – One of the few Sonic Drive-Ins that you can sit inside.
- Bricktown Brewery – Unique and delicious gastropub fare with locally brewed (as in next door) beers to match.
- Pinkitzel Cupcakes and Candy – The name says it all.
- Marble Slab Creamery – You guys all know this one, right? Delicious.
- Fuzzy’s Taco Shop – Street tacos, nachos, and dips. You know – the important things.
If you want to take lunch or dinner up a notch, consider HeyDay. Bowl a frame or two while you enjoy your meal, then play some old-school video games, air hockey, and more.
Oklahoma City Midtown District
- The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen
- Waffle Champion
- Capitals Ice Cream
The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen
For our family, pizza is always an option, and The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen does it as well as anyone. Their pies are a cut above with top-shelf ingredients and wood-fired perfection. To start, order the Quinn’s Burrata.
We also devoured the Blanco and Saturday Night pies, and they were delicious. Don’t forget about dessert either. Their famous cookies come in several tasty flavors.
For something a little more ‘chill’ for dessert, head next door to Capitals. Pick your flavor (vanilla or chocolate), add your toppings and mix-ins, and enjoy. We did Chocolate with Oreos and Cocoa Puffs because we suffer from chocolate deficiency syndrome. 😜
We shared the S’Mores waffle (with actual torched marshmallow) and the Blueberry Surprise that has blueberry-thyme compote, lemon curd, goat cheese, and oatmeal crumble. Keep your sad Eggo, we’ll be having these, thanks.
Soak up the culture in Oklahoma’s Downtown Arts District
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art
- Myriad Botanical Gardens
- OKC Civic Center Music Hall
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Civic Center Music Hall
Cruise the main drag at Automobile Alley
- Hatch Early Mood Food
Hatch Early Mood Food
Once you’ve had all the #noms you can handle, take a walk around the neighborhood and do some shopping at one of the many independent businesses. Also, be sure to check the events calendar for special events happening. There’s usually something fun! Just north of Bricktown, Automobile Alley is easy to find and worth checking out on your OKC visit.
Pie’s the limit in the Plaza District!
- Pie Junkie
- Gorō Ramen
They are serving up all kinds of gourmet creations that are so good, they often sell out. Every. Day. With a pie named Drunken Turtle, what do you expect? Their Kentucky Bourbon Pecan is another favorite, and if we’re all lucky enough for the OKC Thunder to make the playoffs, they bless us with a special ‘Thunder Pie’ with blueberries and orange cream that will make you want to personally finance Kevin Durant’s return to the team. It’s that good – don’t miss it.
Old Meets New in OKC’s Film Row District
- Caeli’s Sweets, Eats, and Bar
- 21c Museum Hotel
- The Jones Collective
21c Museum Hotel
We stayed two nights here and came away impressed. In fact, it was one of the coolest hotels we’ve ever stayed at. The hotel is really a contemporary art museum with rooms on the upper floors. The kids loved looking at the murals, art, and installations all over the hotel, including one right outside of our room. Be sure to watch for the purple penguins – they like to roam around, and you’ll find them in new places each day. Our room had outrageously tall ceilings, a couch and table to work from, comfortable beds, and was clean – everything a travelling family would want. Service was excellent also.
There are many places your could stay in OKC, but they won’t be this awesome. Trust us.
Film Row is located in downtown just west of Bricktown and the Myriad Gardens.
For something good to eat, check out The Jones Collective. They have excellent pizzas and a hot chicken sandwich that would make Nashville proud.
If that’s a little too intense, try the new Steel Lasso – Oklahoma’s only suspended roller coaster. Despite the name, it’s an easy-going ride for the entire family. Take in a show, go for a ride around the park on the Old 89’er Express, or let the kids drive their own car at the Tin Lizzy’s. Whatever you choose, it’s a solid day of fun. Be sure to ride the Grand Centennial Ferris Wheel at dusk for great views of the city.
White Water Bay
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
The Memorial includes the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the Memorial Museum. The Symbolic Memorial is a place of reflection. Walk around and enjoy the beauty and quiet of the reflecting pool and read the story of the Survivor Tree as you look out onto the grounds. As a National Park affiliate, Park Rangers are available to take questions and enhance your visit. The Symbolic Memorial is free for everyone.
The Memorial Museum is interactive in nature and tells the story of that tragic day and the flurry of events that followed.
It takes guests through the highs and lows of what Oklahomans and the nation were feeling, and shines a light on the unselfish heroes who rose up and inspired us with their unselfish acts.
It may not be easy to see. You may be uncomfortable. You may cry a little.
You may also be inspired. I know for certain, you’ll see first hand what resilience looks like, and learn how a grieving city rose up from crippling sorrow and healed itself little by little.
And one for the road – Pops on Route 66
On your way out of town (especially if you’re headed east on Route 66), a stop at Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia is mandatory. It’s a carbonated wonderland of sugar and fun. Grab a 6-pack box and pick out some soda for the road, but be careful, some flavors look and sound better than they actually are. Good luck!
Getting to OKC
Getting here is pretty simple. If you’re driving, I-35 runs through the city north and south, as does I-40 east and west. Will Rogers World Airport (OKC) is a large modern airport with service from all major airlines.
If you’re driving the Mother Road, Oklahoma has the longest stretch of Route 66 in the country, and it passes through both major cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Enjoy the drive!
We hope we’ve given you a great start for some things to do with kids in OKC. Have fun!
Be sure to check out our Oklahoma Destination Guide before your trip!
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