Explore Oklahoma

See natural waterfalls, explore cultural sites, dig for salt crystals, and more - all without leaving the state.

Article by Kacie Brown

Photography by Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department

Originally published in Tulsa City Lifestyle

Salt Plains

Take in our state’s unique, diverse landscapes in Oklahoma’s Salt Plains region. At Salt Plains State Park, you can view the remaining salt from the prehistoric ocean that covered Oklahoma. Walk along miles of nature trails or plan a stay at one of the park’s newly renovated, eco-friendly cabins.

The state park also includes Great Salt Plains Lake. The lake is about half as salty as the ocean, and it’s a great place to fish for catfish, saugeye, sand bass, and hybrid striper, watch for migratory birds, or spend time viewing the scenery from a boat or kayak.

You can also visit the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, home to more than 300 species of protected birds. The refuge is also known for one of the area’s most popular activities: salt crystal digging. The crystal digging season normally runs from April to October, and visitors can dig for free from sunrise to sunset! It’s a great outing for children.

While you’re in the area, you can also see how the pioneers lived at the Sod House Museum in Aline, Oklahoma. It was built in 1894 and is the only sod house left in Oklahoma. The museum also has period farm tools and other artifacts on display.

Lake Murray State Park

Lake Murray State Park’s 12,500 acres would make a perfect Oklahoma getaway. There are options for everyone: you could camp in an RV or tent in the park’s beautiful forests, rent one of their 56 rustic cabins, or, if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious, stay at their modern lodge overlooking the lake.

There are plenty of entertainment options, too. Explore Civilian Conservation Corps buildings from the 1930's, play golf on the park’s course with a view of a natural waterfall, ride ATVs or dirt bikes on 1,000 acres of trails, paddleboat on the lake, and more. You can even go on a trail ride with Lake Murray Riding Stables.

Lake Murray State Park is a great getaway for everyone – whether you’re wanting a peaceful retreat or a woodsy adventure. Visit the Lake Murray State Park website for more information on bookings and activities.

Choctaw Cultural Center

Learn more about Oklahoma’s roots at the new Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant. The center, which is more than 100,000 square feet, opened in 2021. It includes dynamic exhibitions that span more than 14,000 years of the Choctaw people’s history, displaying ancient artifacts and sharing information about the tribe’s rich history and bright future.

Visitors can also explore the cultural center’s Living Village, home to reconstructions of Choctaw dwellings inspired by Nvnih Waiya, a Choctaw ceremonial mound in Mississippi. Children may enjoy the Living Village’s dance and stickball demonstrations.

The center also holds Chahta language classes, children’s activities, and more. You can even eat onsite at Champuli Cafe, which serves both traditional Choctaw dishes and innovative, modern versions of traditional cuisine. Stop by the Hvshi gift store before you leave to commemorate your visit.

The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 5. Visit the Choctaw Cultural Center website for more information.

Route 66 Road Trip

Stop by one of Oklahoma's Tourism Information Centers or visit TravelOK.com to get a Route 66 Passport! In it, you can collect stamps from destinations along the historic highway. Map out a route of roadside oddities: Catoosa's Blue Whale, Miami's Waylan's Ku Ku Burger, Chelsea's Totem Pole Park, and Arcadia's Round Barn would all make great stops.

In Clinton, you can check out the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society, the museum features a collection of curios found across the route and guides visitors through a history of transportation in America. It's also known for playing a great soundtrack of classic rock and folk music!

Cap off your trip with some fun at Route 66 Bowl in Chandler, where your family or friends can bowl, eat at their on-site restaurant, or play arcade games, laser tag, and mini golf. They even have a 101-foot bowling lane!

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