Summer in Oklahoma is hot.
It's not even Summer and it's hot. And it'll be hot into Autumn.
Every year, it seems we go from snowfall to sweat in just a matter of weeks, leaving our bodies and minds completely confused.
That's Oklahoma. And that's the way I like it.
I love the heat of summer. I love it's feel. I love the sweat. I love the convection oven of a 100-degree day. But you can only take so much.
And so the best way to enjoy the heat, I've found, is to embrace it, but have a series of exit strategies in place. 'Cause you can only get so much of a good thing.
What we've got here is a cool guide to chillin' in Tulsa--to celebrate the season of swelter.
1. What's Cooler Than Being Cool?
Let's play a word association game. What do you think of when I say "ice cold"? Me, I think of sno cones. And my favorite place in T-Town to get an ice-cold sno cone happens to be Josh's Sno Shack, at 71st Street and Garnett Road, 91st Street and Memorial Drive and 61st Street and Memorial Drive.
Josh's isn't much of a secret around these parts. Drive by any one of the aforementioned locations and you're guaranteed to see a long line of folks snaking down the path toward his shack. Folks of all ages -- kids, adults and especially, for some reason, high schoolers -- love his cones.
Maybe it's because the ice is shaved super fine, making the whole thing fluffy and light.
Maybe it's because his syrups are delicious and suggested flavor combinations lip-smacking. Maybe it's because he offers extra toppings, like cream and gummy bears.
Whatever it is about this place, it's good. And it's perfect for a hot summer day. Or night.
2. For the '80s Baby
At some point last year, reconnecting with the things of our youth came suddenly back into vogue. Eighties- (and some '90s-) inspired clothes came back into style, the New Kids on the Block reunited, and people started actually watching the Saved by the Bell reruns that come on WPN 41 Saturday mornings.
My guess is the ones who are really embracing the return of this clichéd past are those who didn't live through it the first time (although I have been known on occasion to tune my radio to the Gen-X station, 106.1).
But if you, too, have embraced the return of brightly colored jeans and tie-dye, perhaps you'd also be interested in an activity reminiscent of yesteryear -- roller skating.
While you can skate just about any time of the day, any day of the week, chances are you're going to have to shove your way through throngs of children -- unless you visit Skateland, 1150 S. Sheridan Road, on Wednesday nights for Adult Skate.
If you're older than 18, you can skate there from 8 till 10pm for less than $5. The AC is always on, and couples' skate is optional.
3. Wet Yourself
There are a couple of ways you could do this. Set up the sprinkler in your front yard. Fill up the bathtub with cool water. Break into an apartment complex swimming pool.
Or, you could visit Chandler Park, 6500 W. 21st St., where I spent nearly every day of my childhood summers.
Chandler Park boasts 192 acres of wooden hillside, along with plenty of non-wooded green spaces, as well as hiking and biking trails, rock formations for climbing, a lit baseball complex, playgrounds, picnic facilities and an 18-hole disc golf course. It's a great, underused city park.
But the real reason to visit Chandler Park is the swimming pool -- or pools, actually. Chandler Park has two pools, one standard-size for swimmers of all ages and one toddler- and child-size, for those kiddos who aren't swimmers yet.
The water, ankle-deep to most adults, is just the perfect depth for little splashers to try. The standard-size pool features a couple of diving boards and lap lanes.
The pool is open Sunday through Friday from 1 to 6:30pm and Sunday from noon to 6:30pm. It's closed Wednesdays. Admission is $2.50 if you're older than 13 and $1.50 if you're 12 or younger, and the facility is available for rental for private parties and events.
In addition, Chandler Park's new recreation center is open and brimming with summer classes and activities. Find out which ones you might be interested in by downloading Tulsa County Parks' summer guide at parks.tulsacounty.org.
4. Crack Open a Book
Blake Ewing, owner of Joe Momma's, a pizza joint at 112 S. Elgin, made reading cool to kids when, last year, he began hosting story hour on Saturdays at his restaurant.
Now, every Saturday at 11:30am, area kids ages 3 to 10 and their folks convene at the pie place for Joe Momma's Saturday Book Club. There, they enjoy lunch, a lesson in pizza dough tossing, a craft or coloring project and a story read by local celebrities.
Book club sponsors provide goodies to give away and, after about an hour and a half, the kids are worn out enough for a nap when they get home. Fun for everyone.
5. Splish Splash
If you're looking for quick and easy way to cool the kids off on a hot Saturday afternoon (or any time of the season, for that matter), try out one of Tulsa Parks' many splash pads.
Roughly 25 of Tulsa's parks boast splash pads, but the best ones (in my not-so-humble opinion) are at Hunter Park, 91st Street between Sheridan Road and Yale Avenue; Helmerich Park, Riverside Drive between 71st and 81st Streets; Pielsticker Park, on 37th Street North between Sheridan Road and Memorial Drive; Owen Park, just northwest of downtown on Edison Street; and River Parks, at 41st Street and Riverside Drive.
They're free and open until 10pm. And the kiddos love 'em, making you the coolest parent in Tulsa.
6. Walk Me to the Moon
Getting natural has been the rage for years, and so this list screams for an out-doorsy, one-with-the-environment option. How about the Tulsa Parks' owned Mary K. Oxley Nature Center, in Mohawk Park, one mile north of the Tulsa Zoo? No, not in the steamy hot daytime but a really cool way for you to get all lovey dovey with nature: Full Moon Walk Programs.
Each month, on the night of the full moon, an Oxley guide provides families with tours of the Nature Center -- without flashlights. Participants are taught how to use their other four senses, while abandoning sight, to navigate the center. And children are welcome to navigate alongside their parents.
The cost is just $2 -- a year-long membership that gets you in for free is only $15 for the whole family -- but pre-registration is required by calling 669-6644.
Oh yes, no howling. And, no werewolves allowed.
7. Free of Charge
My favorite thing to do every second Saturday of the month is take my kiddo to Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, for Family Free Day.
Anyone who walks through the doors of the museum on that day does so without paying a dime, and the museum's educational staff sets up different areas with various kid-friendly activities and art projects. It's also the day kids enrolled in the My Museum program (also free) get a new art supply to add to their boxes, and they use those to participate actively in the exhibits hosted by the museum.
And although Philbrook's La Villa Restaurant is open for business those days (and serving up some pretty delicious grub), I usually like to bring my own lunch and eat in the Philbrook Gardens, while my son runs around like a crazy person.
The only way this could get any cooler is if the museum waived your gift shop bill -- the one you're almost guaranteed to incur before leaving the place, after your kids see all the cool stuff they want.
8. Rolling on the Floor
This is only rude when the people you're laughing at aren't trying to make you laugh. Or when they fall down. Hilarious, yes, but rude.
If you want to laugh at someone who will really appreciate it, head to Loony Bin Comedy Club, 6808 S. Memorial Drive, Tuesday through Saturday as visiting comedians attempt to incite hilarity.
Every Wednesday, Loony Bin hosts an open mic night between 6:30 and 7:30pm, and local comedians take the stage for just a few minutes each. It's one of the club's most popular evenings, and some of those Tulsa folk, especially the ones who play the gig regularly, are pretty good.
You can also see some funny people on the first Sunday of each month at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St., at 8pm.
9. More Than Popcorn Popping
When it gets so hot outside you want to die, usually by the middle of July, it's nice to have something to do indoors. Circle Cinema, at 12 S. Lewis, always has something to do.
The small theater specializes in foreign, independent and documentary films -- all of which are so cool -- and every month, there's a featured flick shown at midnight.
For the kids, there's the occasional cartoon film fest. And plenty of candy and good, salty popcorn.
10. Test Your knowledge of the Trite
So this guy Josh, a law student at the University of Tulsa, began hosting Live Event Trivia at the aforementioned Joe Momma's as a way to drum up business and raise money for local nonprofits. The thing was such a success that Josh has expanded his operation into Ada; Austin, Texas; and Fayetteville, Ark., with deals pending in Norman, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Las Vegas and Lawrence, Kan.
Here's how it works: In Tulsa, visit Louie's, on 96th Street in Jenks, near the RiverWalk Crossing, at 9pm or Joe Momma's on Thursday at 9pm, eat a bite and participate five rounds of live-hosted trivia.
Answer questions in categories such as "Alive or Dead?," "Celebrity Mugshot," "Finish the Lyric," "Survey Says" and "Lists."
Proceeds from a portion of the evening's sales go toward a designated nonprofit, and a cool time is had by all.
11. Get Creative
With two locations, at 3303 S. Peoria Ave. and 6528 E. 91st St., Purple Glaze Studio is just about one of the coolest places around, for both kids and adults.
Go inside, choose from hundreds of unfinished ceramic objects, including mugs, mirrors and trinkets, and get to work. Purple Glaze offers all the supplies you need to create a work of art.
Although the place is a popular destination for birthday parties and other gatherings, walk-ins are welcome, and both locations offer the following daily specials:
On Mondays, the studio fee is waived, meaning the price of the object you choose is all you pay; on Wednesdays, studio fees for students are discounted by $2; and on Fridays after 5pm, studio fees are offered at half price.
12. Study the Human Form
If you're more creatively advanced than I am, and you're looking for a way to hone your skills, you might drop in on a "Life Drawing: Open Studio" class at Philbrook.
The class, facilitated by Richard Rich, is designed for 18-and-older artists with intermediate to advanced skill level who want to practice drawing the human form. Nude male and female artists pose for the class, which happens every Thursday, from 6:30 to 9pm.
13. The Power of Words
Remember when I told you earlier how Joe Momma's owner Blake Ewing made reading cool? Well, I'm a firm believer, and I always have been, that reading is cool no matter what. And I want to make sure my kid grows up thinking so, too.
That's why we take regular trips to the library. Most of the time, my kid ends up running around like a little banshee, but sometimes I can convince him to sit still long enough to pick out a couple of books and to allow me to do the same.
During the summer, there's really no better place to be than the library, both because it's comfortably air-conditioned and also because there's something to do nearly every day, for kids and adults alike.
Plus, the summer reading programs -- again, for both banshees and their shepherds -- incent readers with the prospect that by the end of the summer, you'll take home a cool prize for having devoted much of the past three months to reading.
Get more information about those summer reading programs and their prizes, as well as a list of library locations and events held at each branch, at tulsalibrary.org.
14. Treasure Trove
I really enjoy digging through other peoples' discarded crap. It's fun, and it affords me the opportunity to come home with new stuff (new to me, anyway) without having to spend a ton of money.
While yard sales are generally a good way to get something cool for next to nothing, yards are hot. A "cooler" alternative is the flea market.
There are many flea market options in Tulsa, but my favorite is the weekly event hosted by Expo Square in the lower level of the QuikTrip Center on Saturdays from 8am to 4pm.
The Tulsa Flea Market has been happening since 1972, with hundreds of vendors offering antiques, furniture, crafts, home décor, jewelry, art and more.
You're bound to find something you can't live without -- every week.
15. Rock 'n Roll
Sushi is arguably the best warm-weather food you can get. And if you've ever wondered how to make your own sushi, Fuji Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar, 3739 S. Peoria Ave. and 8226 E. 71st St., hosts monthly sushi composition classes at its south location.
The classes, taught by Fuji's owner, Chef Nobu, provide lecture and participation in rice making, fish purchasing, nigiri sushi, sashimi sushi, maki sushi and knife skills.
Classes begin at 6:30pm and cost $50. To learn dates and get more information, call 250-1821 or go to fujitulsa.com.
16. Get Cooking
If you'd like to flex your muscles in the kitchen, but raw food isn't really your style, take up a cooking class at The Stock Pot, 7223 E. 41st St.
The Stock Pot, a gourmet kitchen supply pantry (read: porn shop for foodies), offers various classes every month, such as "Modern Cajun/New Orleans," "An Aztec Evening," "Cooking with Herbs," "Farmers Market: Springtime Soups & Salads" and "I Love Lobster."
Prices per class average about $45, and there are quite a few to select.
17. Take in a Ball Game
The coolest thing about the Tulsa Drillers' new downtown ballpark, ONEOK Field, is the two lawn areas that sit behind outfield. You've still got a great view of the game, but you can stretch out, and your wild things can run and scream and roll around in the grass to their hearts' content.
Plus, within arm's reach is a playground for them and a beer stand for you. Win, win. Tickets to the lawn are only $5, and the Drillers play all summer.
18. Inside Gridiron
If you're a sports fan but you can't stand the Oklahoma heat, maybe you should think about hitting a Tulsa Talons game. The Arena Football League team plays its games indoors at the BOK Center, and fans get to sit so close to the action, you almost feel like you're in it.
(What I mean by that is, be ready to duck when pigskins fly.)
The Talons play now through July, and their games are an almost guaranteed good time. Get a schedule and tickets at tulsatalons.com.
19. Open Your Ears
Originally, Diversafest, Tom and Angie Green's annual and highly anticipated outdoor concert festival and conference, was on this list. It's one of the coolest things I can think of to do in the summer.
But then I received the sad news that Dfest is defunct this year, and I (along with several other Tulsans) was sad. But I didn't have to mourn for too long because Hard Work Records' Jeff Richardson and Brady Arts District bars Cain's Ballroom, SoundPony and Crystal Pistol stepped up to fill Tulsa's summer concert void.
FreeTulsa!/Hard Work Summer is a two-day outdoor music festival July 30 and 31 on Main Street in downtown's Brady Arts District. The event basically expands Richardson's annual Hard Work Summer to present 35 (so far) bands on nine stages, which include, besides the aforementioned presenting venues, dual outdoor stages; Bob's, the side stage at Cain's; The Marquee; The Hunt Club; and Lola's at the Bowery.
The initial lineup of 35 bands includes Cecada, Dead Sea Choir, Fiawna Forte, Motive for Movement, Native Lights, The Doldrums, The Red Alert, Unwed Sailor and Vandevander. More acts are expected to be announced soon.
Festival presenters are encouraging audiences to ride their bicycles to the concerts, and they're providing free valet bike parking, too.
Get more information about this event at hardworkrecords.com.
20. Spice Up Your Life
Another cool festival worth mentioning is SalsaFest, hosted by Sustainable Tulsa in the Chapman Centennial Green Park, at Sixth Street and Boston Avenue, on June 18.
(Full disclosure: Yours truly is on the board of Sustainable Tulsa. But that doesn't make this event any less cool.)
Organized by Eloté Café & Catering owner Libby Auld, the festival features a salsa-making and tasting contest, salsa dancing, a chili-pepper-eating contest, children's activities, a local art show and a Chihuahua costume party and race.
Home chefs and restaurateurs alike prepare their best salsa recipes, which are judged by the public and celebrity chefs. The winners will toss 300 pounds of tomatoes off of a seven-story building across the street from the festival.
Proceeds from this year's SalsaFest will go toward the design of an environmentally friendly playground to be installed in downtown's core business district.
For more information, visit sustainabletulsa.org or call 808-6576.
21. Dive into Muskogee
While I am aware there is a water park in midtown Tulsa with semi-freshly painted slides, a reliable source on Twitter tells me there is a quality, affordable, fun water park in Muskogee -- and it's well worth the drive.
The River Country Family Waterpark, owned by the City of Muskogee, at Airline Avenue and 34th Street, features sandy playgrounds, multiple pools and slides, a lazy river and a sand volleyball court.
Hours are 11am to 6pm Monday through Friday, 11am to 8pm on Saturdays and 1 to 6pm on Sundays. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for children, and the facility is available for rental and parties. More information is available at muskogeeonline.org.
22. Buy the Farm -- or, From the Farm
Believe it or not, if you're looking to see and be seen, the Saturday morning Cherry Street Farmers Market is a good place to do it.
Each year it's been in business, the market has grown exponentially, and this year it's moved from the Jason's Deli parking lot into the street, occupying four blocks of 15th Street.
If you go, any time between 7 and 11am, you're almost guaranteed to see someone you know, and just think about how cool you'll look picking out fresh, local vegetables, breads and more. Plus, you'll be doing your body and your local farmer a favor.
If getting up early on Saturday mornings isn't your thing, try the Downtown Tulsa Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 10:30am to 2pm, the Brookside Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 8am to 12pm or the Pearl Farmers Market Thursdays from 4 to 7pm.
For locations and other information about the markets, visit buyfreshbuylocalok.com.
23. Finger-lickin' Good
Just because the kids are back in school, it doesn't mean summer is over. The BOK Center, 200 S. Denver Ave., celebrates the end of summer with its second Rock 'n Rib Festival Sept. 16-19.
The festival features award-winning barbeque masters serving up the best ribs, meat and sauce, judged by a celebrity panel, while local musicians perform on a stage nearby.
It's the BOK Center staff's way of keeping themselves occupied at the end of summer and drawing people from all over to downtown Tulsa. And that, we applaud. More information is available at bokcenter.com.
24. Slurp, slurp
The first time I visited Enso Bar, at First Street and Detroit Avenue downtown, before the bar was officially open actually, co-owner Tom Green treated my date and me to what he called a Guinness Milkshake.
The cold, sweet, delicious concoction, made with Guinness, ice cream and (this is a guess, mind you) a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, certainly hit the spot on what was a warm, if not hot evening.
I can only imagine how good it would taste on a sweltering August night.
So, next time you visit Enso, ask the barkeep for a milkshake. The combination of sugar and booze are sure to make you feel like a kid again.
Tulsa has several fine sports teams -- 66ers, Drillers, Talons and so forth -- but the entry of Tulsa's first women's professional basketball team has a different pizzazz and spin on it.
The WNBA Tulsa Shock is lead by one of Tulsa's favorite coaches, Nolan Richardson, and features some of the best female players in the country -- even the world -- including former Oklahoma forward Amanda Thompson, stand-out guard Shanna Crossley and former track-and-field superstar Marion Jones.
The games are heating up and so is the team, but the BOK Center, 200 S. Denver, should be able to easily cool you off.
Bonus: Hit the road
If you're looking for one last summer hurrah and you've exhausted all your local options, why not hop in the car, crank the AC and drive? Travel down Route 66 and take in the sights along the way.
Cross the turnpike to Oklahoma City, and see what's cool there this summer.
Heck, maybe you'll even go as far as Dallas or Kansas City. And while, yes, there are cool things to do in those places, don't forget to come back home. Because cool is as cool does. Cool is where the heart is (or the hipsters are). Tulsa is bringing cool back.
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