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OKC better than just OK

Red Earth
Red Earth
Robert Painter

Oklahoma City may not be the first place you think of for a visit. It might not even be in your top 5. But, depending on your interests, you may have missed a great opportunity if you haven't been to OKC lately.

Oklahoma City & Red Earth
Robert Painter

Maybe the reason you haven't been to Oklahoma City is because you don't know about Bricktown and all the fine dining opportunities in that part of town. Mickey Mantle's is just one of the places to get a fabulous steak dinner in OKC. You can't go wrong at Nonna's where you might discover the Classic Filet Mignon or Meatballs seasoned with Nonna's secret blend of herbs and spices. And, I think every restaurant serves great desserts.

There is a very active nightlife to enjoy in Bricktown and the easiest way to find out which place is calling out to you is to take a ride on the Bricktown Water Taxi while cruising the Bricktown Canal. You'll pass all the hotspots and you can choose to visit the one most inviting to you. Of course, you can also walk along the canal and mingle with the folks at the sidewalk cafes or check out many of the shops.

You will be only moments away from the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and the Harkins Theatre as well as the Chesapeake Energy Arena and Cox Convention Center.

A highly recommended hotel for you visit is the modern, super-cool Aloft just a couple of blocks from Bricktown. The decor is great, the lobby even has a pool table and there is a restaurant in case you arrive late and don't wish to venture out for dinner. The rooms are well designed and have full WiFi access. Maybe best of all, a friendly and helpful front desk staff.

A couple of major events that might draw you to the city are the famous Red Earth Festival with its exciting Grand Entry and excellent Native American Indian Art Market. This will be your chance to catch up on Fry Bread and Indian Tacos which may not be too easy to find in your hometown. The dance competitions are always fun to watch and the drum circles keep things moving along with a great sound. You may get to see champion hoop dancers, native flute players and even a blues band!

In addition to the dance competitions in several categories like Fancy Shawl Dance and Men's Fancy Dance there could be individual demonstrations of Jingle Dance and other traditional dances. Maybe even a social dance where visitors are invited to join in the fun.

Mixed in with the dance competitions and other outdoor activities you will be able to visit some of the finest native artists in the country. You might find yourself side by side in front of an artist booth with someone from as far away as Germany or England who has traveled to Red Earth to purchase art. Many of the artists are known around the world and their pieces can be found in private and public collections almost anywhere. Find a copy of First American Art and you will surely find Red Earth participant artists on the pages of that prestigious magazine.

If Cowboy and Western art is more to your liking you will find that OKC is still the place to be. Every year in June the famed Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale comes to town and once again internationally known artists are on hand to display their works. In 2014 about 100 artists were represented and the list reads like a who's who of western and cowboy artists. You may have heard of Walt Gonske, Steve Hanks, Doug Hyde, Oreland Joe, Sr., Craig Tennant, Sonya Terpening, Xiang Zhang or Tim Cherry. This is an event you won't want to miss. It is held at the National Cowboy & Western Art Museum and if you have no money to buy or simply can't be in town for the Prix de West then the museum is a must see whenever you get to OKC.

The National Cowboy & Western Art Museum is a great place for a family visit with an delightful replica frontier town - Prosperity Junction - inside the building. The kids will love and it so will you. If you're a Western movie fan (isn't everyone) you will really enjoy the Western Performers Gallery. Naturally, John Wayne is probably the star of this gallery, but there are many more Western actors and performers that you may recall from your early days of movie going and from the time when westerns were the favorite fare of television. There is a very special Native American Gallery with a very wide assortment of early American Indian articles. Plan on spending a few hours - just looking at the early firearms will take some time - and have lunch at the Persimmon Hill restaurant.

If you have been to Red Earth and spent a few hours at the Cowboy museum it is probably time to mosey on over to Stockyards City. The historic stockyards area is an urban Main Street program that includes about 70 western, ranch and farm shops located right along Interstate 40 so you can't miss it if you happen to be driving along modern Route 66. It is home to the largest stocker and feeder market in the world and you're invited to visit live cattle auctions every Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week is for fun and great western wear shopping. On Saturday night plan on a great evening of fun at the Rodeo Opry - a country music show that you will find nowhere else.

If you are at the stockyards in early June you may discover you're right in the midst of the Wines of the West Festival. This one is different. The wine is served inside, and sometimes just outside the front door, of the many western shops in Stockyards City. Have a sip of wine and then slip on a pair of beautiful cowboy boots. Nothing but fine cowboy fun! Make the rounds, develop a big appetite and stop by the Cattleman's Restaurant for one more terrific steak meal at the oldest continually operated restaurant in OKC. Hint: don't forget to check out the dessert menu, especially the Coconut Cream Pie.

Don't think that's all there is to Oklahoma City. It's worth the visit just for the steaks, the wine and the arts, but there is more so watch this space for more to come about OKC and . . . Keep on Traveling!

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