Your guide to a cultural trip to Tulsa, OK
Although I love Colorado’s beautiful scenery and weather, I was looking forward to returning to Tulsa, okay to see how it has evolved over the years. As someone who grew up in Tulsa and moved to Colorado over 10 years ago, I was shocked by some of the similarities, but was also quick to reaffirm its obvious differences. Anyway, for someone who was dying to move, I was excited to come back and see how my hometown had changed.
While Tulsa is only an hour and a half direct flight from Denver, it feels like worlds apart without the mountains to point you in the right direction. But Coloradans will soon see that this little “cow town” — which became the “oil capital of the world” almost overnight — is similar to Denver in many ways with its rich culture, colorful arts and music scene, and his outdoor recreation.
Tulsa is known as the “center of the arts,” and it’s easy to see why with its designated Arts District, a renowned collection of world-class art museums, modern street art, a rich display of architecture Art Deco and many contemporary art galleries.
Philbrook Museum of Art
A must for any visit to Tulsa is the Philbrook Museum of Art. Housed in a luxurious villa that once belonged to the Phillips family, the Philbrook Museum is more than just an art museum, it is a place of elegance that is seen not only with its art but also with its architecture and its beautiful gardens.
Like so much of Tulsa, the Philbrook Villa was built with oil money in the 1920s, which is evident in the 72-room mansion built with travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, tile floors teak and ornate ceilings reminiscent of Italian villas. But don’t just stay indoors, be sure to stroll through the 25-acre garden. The formal gardens feature diagonal walkways, stepped fountains, immaculately trimmed hedges and cobbled paths leading to the Tempietto.
Visitors will see works by well-known artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Moran and Clyfford Still, as well as local artists and popular rotating exhibits such as the This is an adventure: accidentally Wes Anderson.
Art Deco Architecture
As mentioned earlier, Tulsa got rich during the oil boom of the 1920s, and with that came the rapid wealth of the area’s oil tycoons. With this surge of wealth, artists and architects were inspired by the latest trend of Art Deco which dominated major cities like NYC at the time.
Tulsa offers a great display of this unique architecture with just a stroll downtown. Visit the Art Deco Museum (free entry) located inside the historic Philcade building to learn about the rise and fall of Art Deco and the oil tycoons that shaped the city’s skyline. And for only $25, grab the Tulsa Art Deco Tour. The 1.5-mile walking tour guides you through buildings, even through the “secret” tunnel system that connects downtown Tulsa. Notable buildings include the Boston United Methodist Church, Union Depot, Tusls Club, and the Pythian Building.
Modern art comes to life
But it’s not just about the history of the arts in Tulsa, the progressive city also impresses young artists and admirers with its showcase of street murals – one of which has just launched the world’s largest augmented reality mural “Majestic” in October 2021.
Stop at 108 Contemporaryhoused in a restored 1920s building, a gallery dedicated to showcasing local and international artists in a variety of artisan mediums like glass, paper, fiber and more. Living arts is another favorite where you can “live” the arts through performances, classes, demonstrations and rotating exhibits from local and national artists.
To taste the local flavors, stop at HAHA (the Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council), located inside the Hardesty Center in the Arts District. The multi-level center houses a variety of exhibits, classrooms, immersive and interactive art exhibits, and a community gallery with exhibits in partnership with its community of artists and nonprofit groups.
In recent years, Tulsa has received a lot of attention following the airing of The Watchman, which debuted in 2019 due to its Tulsa Race Massacre opening scene. This follows the 100th anniversary of the massacre in 2021, putting this historic event center stage. In an effort to come to terms with its past, Tulsa has taken significant steps toward racial reconciliation. It did so with the opening of Greenwood Rising, the renaming of the Brady Theater (originally named after W. Tate Brady who was once a KKK member) and the renaming of Brady Street to Reconciliation Way in 2019 .
the Greenwood Rise The museum tells the horrific story of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but also highlights the history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, better known as Black Wall Street, the business mecca that was destroyed by racial injustices. over the years. Through interactive and informative exhibits, the museum brings the history of Black Wall Street to life. To celebrate their first year of opening, admission is free until August 2022.
Tulsa also has a thriving music and arts scene. As a child, I spent many hours as a ballet dancer playing Tulsa Center for the Performing Arts and attend concerts at Cain’s Ballroomthe Colony and the Brady Theater (now called the Tulsa Theater). It was nice to see that all the venues were still there showcasing the musical talent and performances. For coloradans looking for outdoor concert venues, Tulsa knocks the house down with garden seating at Guthrie Green.
Don’t just listen to music, discover its history by visiting the Woody Guthrie Center and the soon to open (May 2022) Bob Dylan Center. The Woody Guthrie Center pays homage to his life and legacy with a variety of exhibits, over 100 notebooks, artifacts, photos, and a music bar where you can listen to his original hits and old ballads. The Bob Dylan Center will showcase over 100,000 exclusive items from its archives, including previously unreleased recordings.
While Tulsa certainly doesn’t offer Colorado’s outdoor recreation opportunities, it has one of the best bike systems and the most extensive park systems, including his latest addition from Assembly area. Designed to be an inclusive outdoor space accessible to all, Gathering Place is a waterfront park overlooking the Arkansas River that opened in 2018. It quickly won the title of “Best Urban Park in the Nation” by USA Today in 2021. Covering 100 acres, the park features walking and biking trails, manicured lawns, ponds, public artwork and sculptures, sports fields, a skate park, a tree-top swing 56-foot hill, as well as kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals. Free entry.
Don’t miss Tulsa’s bustling craft brewery scene when you visit Marshall Brewery and American solera. Taste its rising culinary scene with dishes from Lone Wolf Banh Mi, Bohemian pizzeria and Wanda J’s in the Greenwood district for the best fried chicken in town. End the evening with a few drinks downtown at Valkyrie, or visit historic Brookside at Brook Restaurant and Bar or drinks on Cherry Street. And for a hotel that puts you at the center of it all for entertainment while keeping it fresh and modern, check in at Hotel Indigo Tulsa.
To learn more about Tulsa and what to do, go to visittulsa.com.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Hughes.