Oklahoma City was created in a matter of hours on April 22, 1889, after a single gunshot signaled the opening of the land to white settlement. What was barren prairie at dawn was by nightfall a city of ten thousand. In 1911 the capital was moved here from nearby Guthrie, and in 1928 oil was discovered. Sitting on one of the nation's largest oilfields, the city was brought up short by the slump in the 1980s, though it remains the largest stocker and feeder cattle market in the world. The economy came alive again in the 1990s, aided by tourism development and an inflated sales tax that funded redevelopment in run-down neighbourhoods.
The devastating bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, which killed 168 people, nineteen of them children, literally tore the heart out of the city; the massive community rescue effort has since helped Oklahoma City regain some of its self-confidence, though it will be a while before the city is fully healed. In June 2001, ex-military recluse Timothy McVeigh was executed for the crime; his accomplice, Terry Nichols, is serving a life sentence in jail for his part. A permanent landscaped memorial has been constructed at the former site of the Murrah building, while the Journal Record Building next door has been turned into the Museum and Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
Oklahoma City, or OKC, as it is known in the local slang, is a rapidly growing city that has cultivated diversity and modern sensibilities without losing its frontier charm. Just over one million people call Oklahoma City home. This is a land of lakes, forests, rolling green hills, red rock canyons, big sky and beautiful sunsets.
Today, after a multi-year revitalization campaign, downtown OKC—dubbed "Bricktown" for its old-fashioned brick streets—has truly regained its status as the city's premier dining and entertainment district. Refined cultural pursuits like the distinguished Ballet Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra at the Civic Center Music Hall , exist alongside those aimed at a sportsman's heart such as Wranglers arena football at the Myriad Convention Center and RedHawk baseball at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark . Those who come downtown soon find that having fun is a full-time pursuit. Board a Water Taxi and float down the Bricktown Canal , which runs throughout the district, enter a tropical wonderland in the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge , or join the festivities.
If Bricktown is the city's modern nucleus, then Stockyard City, adjacent to downtown, is the neighborhood of living Oklahoma history. A trip here is not complete without taking a meal at Cattlemen's Steakhouse . The 90 year-old restaurant continues to be a symbol of the old cattle baron lifestyle and serves some of the most mouth-watering steaks in the city. At every turn, visitors are reminded of the way of life in frontier times. Stores like Langston's , Shepler's Western Wear and Tener's can outfit you in authentic Western duds, while performers at the Oklahoma Opry will serenade you with sweet country melodies. Don't pass up an opportunity to journey into this cowboy country.
North of Bricktown, around the area of 30th Street and Dewey, is OKC's only artists' district, the Paseo. Designed in the style of an old Spanish villa, the area's buildings house numerous galleries and studios, along with a few popular restaurants and coffee bars. One such popular meeting place is Galileo's Bar and Grill , an eatery with a Mediterranean flavor, which also hosts a poetry night. Memorial Day brings a flurry of activity to the area, when the annual Paseo Arts Festival is held.
Northwest, Nichols Hills and The Village
For the finest shopping experience, head to the twin communities of Nichols Hills and the Village, which hold a multitude of upscale boutiques and luxury services. Outlets like Penn Square Mall and 50 Penn Place carry only the most ultra-chic goods. This is the place to be seen and definitely the most exclusive area in the city. The larger northwest district revolves largely around one major thoroughfare: the Northwest Expressway. Not really a "neighborhood" per se, the street is synonymous with the district, as it cuts through the entire northwest side of the city and is home to many of OKC's dining and shopping treasures. Aside from Bricktown, no other area of the city compares to it in the concentration of commerce and interchange. The area also holds entertainment attractions like the Oklahoma City Art Museum and State Fair Park , as well as outdoor retreats like Hefner Lake , Martin Park Nature Center and Will Rogers Park .
Northeast OKC holds some of the city's most prominent establishments. As home to the State Capitol and governmental district on Lincoln Avenue, it is the power center of the city. It is the place where politicians and dealmakers meet, but there is also a distinct undercurrent of fun. The world-renown Cowboy Hall of Fame brings western history to life, Frontier City lets you play in a Land Run-era theme park, ponies thunder and adrenaline surges at Remington Park and the Oklahoma City Zoo delivers an African safari and aquatic harbor to the plains. These attractions are just a sample of the area's exciting offerings.
Oklahoma City is known for being frontier country, and nowhere is that more evident than in the cuisine. The city is booming with steakhouses and eateries that specialize in hearty American staples—quite literally those bounties that are cultivated on the plains. But there is also a pioneer spirit found here. Food is seen as an adventure.
The Bricktown revitalization campaign has been instrumental in bringing new dining establishments to the area, making it the city's culinary melting pot. One of its original residents was Spaghetti Warehouse , which remains popular for the huge plates of Italian standards it serves up. The party spot is the Bricktown Brewery , where a varied menu of American favorites is complemented by live music, pool and games, and a wide selection of hand-crafted beers. For upscale regional fare, try Chelino's Mexican Restaurant , Pearl's Crabtown or Nonna's Euro-American Ristorante & Bar . Diners can watch the RedHawks play while eating at Coach's, whose patio area overlooks the new ballpark. Wraps and health food are the order of the day at The Grateful Bean Cafe , but feel free to indulge in one of their old-fashioned ice cream sundaes, too. For Asian cuisine enthusiasts, try the delicious Sushi Neko .
As Oklahoma City's artists' colony, the Paseo holds dining establishments that share the same smart, chic flavor. The area's signature spot is Galileo's Bar and Grill , a cozy place where the hip crowd comes to snack on Mediterranean delights. This spirit permeates further north along Western Avenue. VZD's , a drugstore turned restaurant and club, has become the forum for hot new musical acts in Oklahoma City. The menu is diverse, with bar food favorites alongside red beans and rice and an array of deli sandwiches. TerraLuna Grille is the place for a strictly California-inspired menu, featuring seafood and vegetarian items. Western is also home to the city's own "Restaurant Row." Fine steak cuts and fresh seafood are the order of the day at the Deep Fork Grill . For a more refined approach to barbecue, stop in to Earl's Rib Palace . Lastly, The Metro offers diners exquisite American bistro dishes, along with a wide variety of fine wines.
Northwest, Nichols Hills and The Village
The northwest side of town, including Nichols Hills and the Village, has a diverse and celebrated list of restaurants. Perhaps most beloved is Ted's Cafe Escondito, a Mexican spot packed with patrons night in and night out. This area is also where enclaves of global cuisines can be found, like Canterbury British Imports and Cafe, Keller in the Kastle, La Baguette Bistro , along with Gopuram's Indian fare. Catfish Cabin has been a local favorite for seafood for 25 years, but also mixes its menu with barbecue and Mexican dishes. Trapper's Fishcamp and Grill is Southern spectacular, complete with Cajun seafood, steaks and a gumbo that will knock your socks off! Set in a rustic wooden building, Pioneer Pies has a lunch and dinner menu, but its rich pies and desserts are the real stars.
Just like the northeast district in which they are located, where the State Capitol and some of the city's most famous attractions reside, the restaurants found here are known far and wide. A speakeasy during the Prohibition era, the County Line is now the place to come in order to satisfy a different craving, namely that for great barbecue with all the fixings. Want a hearty meal served up fast? RJ's Cafe is the place for you. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you are sure to find a hot and tasty American feast.
Edmond, a small suburb just minutes north of the city, is teeming with elegant establishments that cater to a sophisticated, adult crowd. An even more exclusive experience can be found at the Vineyard. An intimate ambiance and gourmet dishes make this a hot spot for the well to do. For the same caliber cuisine in a more casual environment, try Bellini's Ristorante . The specialty is Italian, but beef and chicken items are available, as well as lighter seafood and salad choices.
The Southside's most frequented establishment is Applewood's Restaurant. Known for its meals like pot roast, cider-baked pork chops and seafood specialties, Applewood's can accommodate an individual or small dinner party all the way up to a 500-person banquet. Whatever entree you choose, be sure to leave room for their famous apple dumplings.
Oklahoma City is a sprawl, similar to Los Angeles, so keep in mind that seeing many of the sites requires renting a car or taking public transportation.
Myriad Botanical Gardens and Tropical Conservatory Downtown is home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial , which honors the 168 victims of the Murrah Building bombing. Nearby you will find the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame , the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Tropical Conservatory and the Myriad Convention Center where most major sporting events, musical concerts and business conventions are held. Dine at The Varsity Sports Grill .
Oklahoma City Art Museum Along the canal in Bricktown, you'll find the Oklahoma City Art Museum , the State Capitol and the Ford Center entertainment complex. Tour the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark , then dine at Spaghetti Warehouse Italian Grill , Bricktown's first restaurant.
Regatta Park Admire the architecture at the historic St Pauls Episcopal Cathedral , catch a performance at the Lloyd Noble Center and wander the ground at Regatta Park . Enjoy a meal at nearby Crabtown or Cocina De Mino .
State Museum of History Just west of the State Capitol is the State Museum of History and the impressive Governor's Mansion . Visit the historic Harn Homestead , then enjoy dinner at the Windy City Chicago Bistro.
Oklahoma Heritage Center Northwest Oklahoma City offers many different attractions. Relax at the Will Rogers Park and Garden Center , hike through the picturesque Martin Park Nature Center or learn about the city's history at the Oklahoma Heritage Center and the Overholser Mansion . Have dinner at the upscale Flip's Wine Bar & Trattoria .
Consult a professional tour company to ensure that you see everything, whether it's on a bus, on a boat or on foot.
Walking Tours Department of Wildlife Conservation Tours ( +1 405 521 3721/ http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/ ) Myriad Botanical Gardens Tours ( +1 405 297 3995/ http://www.myriadgardens.com/ )
Bus Tours Village Tours ( +1 405 427 8688/ http://www.villagetours.net/ ) Red Carpet Charters Inc ( +1 405 672 5100/ http://www.redcarpetcharters.com/ ) Time Lines LLC ( +1 405 741 8463/ http://www.timelines.travel/ )
Boat Tours Water Taxi of Oklahoma ( +1 405 234 8294/ http://www.watertaxi.com/okc ) Oklahoma River Cruises ( +1 405 702 7755/ http://www.okrivercruises.com/ )