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Oklahoma City Draws Visitors for Dynamic Festivals And Museums

Oklahoma City, a splendid modern metropolis, is a rising destination due to its charm, urban roots and extraordinarily friendly residents. The city may not have been a location you'd think to visit; however, visitors and young professionals are discovering OKC's hip and spirited atmosphere. From excellent museums, art, cuisine and downtown's colorful Bricktown, as well as the popular Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival, Oklahoma's state capitol offers an abundance of activities and cultural attractions to explore.

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Festivals and Neighborhoods: Red Earth and Bricktown

As one of the top American Indian cultural events in the nation, the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival draws over 30,000 visitors to this scared, three-day event in Oklahoma City each June. At the festival, Native American artists and performers meet to celebrate their renowned tribal culture and art. Further, the festival's events, such as the exhilarating Grand Entry and traditional dance competitions are captivating and inspiring to watch. Or, if you have a passion for Native American art, the festival's large juried art market is a fabulous place to find exquisite jewelry, pottery, paintings, crafts and more. For additional information, visit

Bricktown, once a warehouse district in the 1890s, is now Oklahoma City's most popular and exciting entertainment and dining district. Located in the heart of downtown, the district offers an array of excellent restaurants, nightlife, the Chickasaw Ball Park, Oklahoma City Thunder (Chesapeake Energy Arena), Harkins Cinemas, great shopping and the cool Bricktown Water Taxi. Take a ride on these flat-bottomed boats for a fun and scenic tour along a winding canal that passes Bricktown's attractions, architecture and the stunning Centennial Land Run Monument. It's a great way to learn about the area and the canal tour is especially enchanting at dusk with the evening's colorful city lights.

For dining, Bricktown offers a wide variety of great restaurants, from Earl's Rib Palace, renowned as the city's best BBQ to Nonna's Euro-American Ristorante and Bar. Enter Nonna's and the first thing you'll notice besides the Tiffney-style light fixtures and rich, elegant decor is the mouth-watering bakery case. It's hard not to order dessert before you've been seated but it'll be worth the wait.

The menu offers an appetizing and eclectic selection of inspired gourmet dishes, from Roman Chicken to Fried Butternut Squash Ravioli. A side dish not-to-be-missed, try the Lobster Mac and Cheese; you'll swoon with the first bite! Don't forget the bakery case with the luscious Avis' Chocolate Cake. For additional information, visit .

Memorials and Museums

Oklahoma City boasts numerous and magnificent museums that range from fine art, Native American Art and art of the American west, to the sobering but inspirational Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. This fascinating interactive museum is located in the west end of the former and historic Journal Record Building, across from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that was bombed on April 19, 1995. The memorial museum was created to honor those who were killed, as well as those who survived and were changed forever by the horrific bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Visitors follow a chronological and often heart-breaking self-guided tour through the events and bombing in 1995 at the Murrah Federal Building. The tour continues with the story of the days, weeks and years that followed the Oklahoma City bombing. From official recordings that took place during the bombing to photographs, building artifacts and personal artifacts from the victims of the bombing, the museum and memorial offer hope, contemplation and inspiration from a city that came together and united despite monumental loss.

The Oklahoma City Museum Of Art presents a marvelous collection that covers a period of five centuries with a prominence of American and European art from the 19th through 21st centuries. With the museum's growing collection of contemporary art, visitors will find captivating exhibits, especially the brilliant and inclusive collection of glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. The Chihuly sculptures are utterly breath-taking! These sculptures range from the museum entrance Chihuly Tower and overhead glass panels adorned with sea-themes to open boats filled with his magnificent works. In addition, the museum's premiere repertory cinema screens the finest international, independent and classic films in the region. And, you'll find the museum Cafe features a gourmet menu that is perfect for an excellent lunch or break.

One of the most popular museums in Oklahoma City is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Founded in 1955, over 10 million guests have visited this impressive museum and learned a great deal about the West. The museum features five incredible galleries, an exhibition wing and the intriguing Prosperity Junction that is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town. This two-story town is great fun to stroll through, as you capture a glimpse of what life was like in the early 1900s. The junction features a historically created livery stable, Union Pacific Train Depot, saloon, photography studio and a host of other businesses and hotel that would have been prevalent in the old west. After a visit to the Junction, head to the American Cowboy Gallery for the most extensive exhibition on the working cowboy in the United States. This gallery features an in-depth history of the cowboy from cattle ranching to his equipment and clothing. And, If you're a fan of western films and literature, the Western Performers Gallery is a thrill to explore. Numerous displays feature performer's movie history and film artifacts, such as John Wayne, Tom Selleck and even the outfit worn by Robert Redford in the Electric Horseman.

If you plan to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, you may wish to go in June during the 12-13th. The Museum hosts the famous Prix de West invitational art exhibit that features over 300 paintings and sculpture by the finest contemporary western artists in the nation. This is a great opportunity to purchase western art that reflects the early days of the west to contemporary, impressionistic works. Artists such as, sculpture Gerald Balciar, whose magnificent white marble cougar Canyon Princess graces the Cowboy Museum, as well as Curt Walters and John Coleman to name just a few.

Now that you have your cowboy on, you may wish to visit the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Stockyard City, located south of Oklahoma City. This is the site of the world's largest market of stocker and feeder cattle with receipts of over a half million head a year. Moreover, Stockyard City offers a fantastic array of western-themed shops that sell authentic cowboy boots and clothing from flashy-fashionable to traditional and real working ranch clothing. The town is blast to visit and the unique Cattlemen's Steakhouse is perfect for a delicious beefy lunch or dinner. Since 1910, Cattlemen's has served excellent and hearty steaks and lamb fries, not to mention scrumptious desserts, such as coconut pie.

If You Go

Oklahoma City proffers a great selection of accommodations in the downtown corridor. Our top choice is the Aloft Hotel, located in Bricktown. This modern-chic hotel offers spacious rooms, blissfully comfy beds and bold room accent colors with a minimalist theme; although you won't sacrifice comfort. With the hotel's central location, you're close to the city's museums and just a quick stroll to the entertainment district of Bricktown.

For addition information On Oklahoma City attractions, great restaurants and events, visit

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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: October 3rd, 2014

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