The New York Times recently published its annual go-to travel list, and Tulsa landed one of its coveted spots. Surprised? Don’t be because in addition to its striking art deco architecture and excellent cultural scene, the city is also an urban oasis, thanks to the many parks and recreational areas within the city. Its location at the foothills of the Ozarks makes Tulsa, Oklahoma’s greenest city and a preferred travel destination by many outdoor enthusiasts. Here are a few of the city’s best outdoor attractions.
111 E Reconciliation Way, Tulsa, OK 74103
Guthrie Green is Tulsa’s urban sanctuary. This small, but lively square in the Brady Arts District is only one block in size but welcomes food trucks, fitness events, and educational programs. It even hosts a Sunday market that sells fresh fruits and vegetables. It also has a performance stage that features live music and other entertainment shows year-round. A popular place for families and friends to meet and relax, Guthrie Green also makes for a great starting point for exploring Tulsa’s art and historic districts.
Oxley Nature Center
6700 E Mohawk Blvd, Tulsa, OK 74103
This 804-acre nature center in Tulsa’s beautiful Mohawk Park offers over ten miles of hiking trails (some wheelchair and stroller accessible). Every weekend, there are free programs available. With advance notice, guided tours are available. Trails can be walked even when the gates are closed, but Mohawk Park has a curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The trails are not open to pets, bicycles, or horses.
6421 E 36th St N, Tulsa, OK 74115
Mohawk Park also houses the Tulsa Zoo, in addition to the Oxley Nature Center. This AZA-accredited destination features furry mammals, feathered flocks, and scaly creatures from all over the world. You won’t want to miss out on feeding the giraffes or watching the chimps monkey around in the Africa exhibit.
The Lost Kingdom, which features a wide variety of Asian animals, is another fantastic experience. Stop by the training areas to see zookeepers interact with the animals and keep an eye out for Malayan tigers walking overhead as they use the tiger bridge to move from one enclosure to the next.
Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness is the largest of these green areas next to the Arkansas River. The area is popular for hikers, cyclists, and bird watchers. Its higher elevation makes it a great place to view the skyline of downtown Tulsa. The park has four major trails named after colors. They vary in length and can take up to three hours to hike.
The River Park Authority has two major trails that trace the flow of the Arkansas River. River Parks East is the longer of the two. It stretches 15 miles from 11th Street downtown to South 101st Street. Some of the attractions you’ll see along the way include River Spirit Casino, Helmerich Park, and 41st Street Plaza. At 96th Street, pedestrians can cross the river to visit the waterfront attractions on the west side like the Oklahoma Aquarium and Main Street shops.
On the other side of the river is the River Parks West trail. It also begins on 11th Street and runs to the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness on South 71st Street. It’s 4.5 miles shorter, and it is relatively uneventful compared to the east trail. The west trail’s notable attractions include Oklahoma State University, the River West Festival Park, and Turkey Mountain.
If you visit during one of Tulsa’s regional festivals, you’ll more than likely end up at River West Festival Park. The park sits just north of West 21st Street and plays host to the city’s major celebrations, including Oktobertfest, Freedomfest, and Scotsfest.
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr, Tulsa, OK 74127
The Tulsa Botanic Garden, located on the city’s northwestern outskirts, is another beautiful outdoor attraction. This 170-acre green space is a remarkable four-season destination constructed into the rolling hills of the Osage Reservation’s southeastern edge.
Colorful tulips spiraling down the hill of the floral terraces can be seen in the spring. In the summer, cool off by visiting the Spring Giant, a 15-foot fantastical beast with a small waterfall bubbling out of his toothy grin that fills Stream Valley. Trek the 1.5-mile Cross Timbers Trail Loop as summer turns to fall. Watch for birds or relax and enjoy on one of the benches in a dense forest and listen to the sounds of nature. During Garden of Lights, the garden will be aglow with thousands of lights as the last colorful leaves fall to the ground.
2435 S Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK 74114
If you fancy a more relaxed atmosphere outdoors, head over to Woodward Park, the 45-acre sanctuary that is home to the city’s arboretum and botanical garden. The park includes a Victorian-designed conservatory and the original mansion that showcases historical images of the park’s controversial past. When you’re there, stop by the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden, the Rock Garden, and the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden. Entrance to the park is free.
Woodward Park, one of Tulsa’s oldest and most well-known public spaces, has been a popular destination for Tulsans for more than a hundred years. While the city grew around it, Woodward Park stayed untouched, and the Park, gardens, and buildings reflect the city’s growth and changes in so many ways. Woodward Park’s importance to the neighborhood earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, offering it an even larger place in the hearts of Tulsans who love it.
Center of the Universe
1 S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74103
The Center of the Universe is a concrete-and-brick circle with mysterious acoustics located at the midpoint of a pedestrian walkway connecting First Street and Archer. If you step onto the concrete circle and say something, whether it’s a whisper or a scream, your voice will bounce off the concrete benches that surround you, creating an echo known as the Center of the Universe. And, as if that wasn’t strange enough, anyone standing outside the circle won’t be able to hear what you’re hearing.
Experts theorize that an expansion joint — or embedded steel angle — that splits the inner circle unintentionally created a hollow echo of sorts. Some believe the anomaly is caused by the person’s voice resonating off the half-circular, raised planters that partially surround the circle.