I’ve always thought Oklahoma was maybe not the most interesting place on the planet to live. But then I sound ignorant, because I just ran across this list of awesome things to do in our little ol’ state that I never even knew existed.
1. Fall face first. The Oklahoma Skydiving Center offers dives for every level, from novice to near-avian. Located on the outskirts of Cushing, the skydiving school’s location provides a panoramic view of plains and prairie. Conquer your fear here.
2. Climb a mountain. Oklahoma has more of them than you might think. There’s the Gloss Mountains, near Enid (equipped with stairs and a handrail); the Wichita Mountains, just outside of Lawton, and the Ouchitas, in southeastern Oklahoma (just to name a few). And then there’s Quartz Mountain, in the southwestern tip of the state, just a few miles from Texas. Baldy Point isn’t for beginners. But the granite-face mountain provides one of the best views—and climbs—in the state. More about Quartz Mountain here.
3. Take a hot-air balloon ride. The Tulsa skyline looks better from up high and while holding a flute of champagne. Tulsa Balloon Rides lets you do both. You can also see a whole fleet of balloons when you head to Claremore for the Gatesway Balloon Festival or to Poteau for the Poteau Balloon Fest.
4. Count your blessings at the Holy City of the Wichitas, near Lawton. The city is something of an anachronism, more akin to a biblical village than Oklahoma farmland. Attend the Easter passion play and explore this quirky but deeply spiritual city. Become a citizen for a (minimum) donation of $20. More about the Holy City of the Wichitas.
5. Dig for buried treasure. You may not strike gold, but crystal is quite the consolation prize. The Great Salt Plains provide the only natural reserve of selenite crystals in the world, so grab a shovel and start digging. More about the Great Salt Plains.
6. Live dangerously. Step inside the Den of Death at one of Oklahoma’s six rattlesnake roundups. Festivals happen in April and May in the southwestern cities of Waynoka, Thackerville, Waurika, Apache, Mangum, and Okeene.
7. Trek across the desert of Little Sahara, a natural sand dune located in Waynoka, Oklahoma. Rent an ATV and race across the dunes, or take the whole family to the city’s annual SandFest. More about Little Sahara.
8. Survive a night at the Stone Lion Inn, Guthrie’s haunted bed and breakfast. Solve a murder mystery over dinner and tour a graveyard before you settle in for a sleepless night in a creaky, antique iron bed. More about the Stone Lion Inn.
9. Dust off those boots and raise that paddle. The historic Oklahoma City National Stockyards hosts a public cattle auction every Monday and Tuesday, giving insight into the lives of modern day cowboys and showcasing Oklahoma’s rich tradition in the livestock industry. More about the stockyards.
10. Try your hand at handfishin’. Forget the rod and reel and catch your catfish barehanded. The Okie Noodling Tournament, held each summer in Pauls Valley, offers prize money to the fisherman who can catch the biggest catfish using only his or her bare hands. More about the tournament.
11. Rappel Robbers Cave. Once a hiding spot for outlaws on the run, Robbers Cave State Park is now a beautiful nature reserve in the hilly San Bois mountains. Channel your sense of adventure by rappelling in the stone corral. Learn more.
12. Attend a traditional Native American powwow at the annual Red Earth Cultural Festival, which brings together more than 1,200 American Indians for a weekend of culture, heritage, and the arts. More about the festival.
13. Take a moment to remember. Bring flowers, a teddy bear, or a letter to place on the wall beside the Oklahoma City Bombing memorial in remembrance of the victims. Plan your visit here.
14. Taste the goodness. Take a stop off Route 66 to fill up—on soda. Pop’s, Oklahoma’s soda-pop hub, complete with a 66-foot-tall soda bottle statue-turned-light show, features more than 600 flavors. Find your favorite here.
15. Float your boat. Climb aboard a raft, kayak, or canoe and float your way down the Illinois River, one of the state’s most scenic waterways. Learn more here.
16. Stand under a 77-foot waterfall at Turner Falls, in the southeastern city of Davis. In addition to the feature attraction, there are also camp and picnic sites, wading and swimming areas, caves, and concessions. More about Turner Falls.
17. Feel the need for speed at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, in Jennings. Hallett Motor Racing Circuit is a 1.8-mile, 10-turn road-racing course, with more than 80 feet of elevation change, thanks to those rolling Osage Hills. The track hosts auto, motorcycle, and go-kart races. More about Hallett.
18. Duck and cover during an old-West shootout in downtown Guthrie. The Guthrie Gunfighters reenact gunfights of yore every Saturday on the hour between Harrison and Oklahoma streets in the Victorian city of Guthrie, Oklahoma’s original capital city. See for yourself here.
19. Challenge your taste buds to a dare at the world’s largest Calf Fry & Cook-Off in Vinita. There are always plenty of sides to choose from—beans, cobblers, salsas, and breads—but the festival’s centerpiece are the calf fries, fresh from the cow himself, sliced and fried to perfection. Whet your appetite here.
20. Scare yourself silly with a trip to see the Hornet Spooklight. Head to Joplin, Missouri, and 12 miles before you get there, find a short, four-mile stretch of gravel road, along the Oklahoma-Missouri border. Park, kill your headlights, and, if you’re lucky, the Hornet Spooklight, “a mysterious light of unknown origin” verified by the Army Corps of Engineers, will show itself to you. Supposedly, it looks like a lantern, or a ball of fire, and spins and bobs down the road. Sometimes, it even appears inside cars. More about the Spooklight here.
For the rest of the list, go here: http://thislandpress.com/12/31/2013/40-things-you-should-do-in-oklahoma-in-2014/?read=complete#sthash.JZ69TtzR.dpuf
Marley Coyne contributed to this story.
Photo courtesy of This Land Press.