POSTED ON APRIL 30, 2008:
Yes, it is. And so, where are you going this summer?
Inside looking out. Bartlesville is home to Frank Lloyd Wright's only sky scraper.
"Many a month has come and gone
Since I wandered from my home
In those Oklahoma Hills where I was born
Many a page of life has turned
Many a lesson I have learned
Well, I feel like in those hills I still belong.
'Way down yonder in the Indian nation
I rode my pony on the reservation
In the Oklahoma Hills where I was born
'Way down yonder in the Indian nation
A cowboy's life is my occupation
In the Oklahoma Hills where I was born."
"Oklahoma Hills," a song by Jack Guthrie and Woody Guthrie, says it well. And while the pony remains an option to explore the Oklahoma hills, the automobile is a convenient way to soak up the local color the state offers.
Travel is in the air. Spring gives way to summer and summer vacations. Staying close to home and exploring our own backyard is not only fun, but a way of understanding who we are as Oklahomans, native or not. And staying close to home has never been better, as all regions of the state are sprucing up and dusting off their door steps in an effort to gear up for summer travelers.
A great source of information to begin state explorations is the Oklahoma Travel and Tourism Department. The first step for summer travelers is to know the state's six diverse regions: Green Country, Red Carpet Country, Great Plains Country, Frontier Country, Arbuckle Country and Kiamichi Country.
Lindsay Vidrine, Public Relations Director for the Travel and Tourism Department, encourages people to take advantage of what the department offers travelers. "The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department provides travelers with resources for planning the perfect trip or weekend getaway. This includes travel and event information, free brochures, attraction coupons, road trip ideas and much more."
She offered a glimpse into a few of the many travel itineraries and popular sites available within these regions.
So, let's take a trip shall we?
Let's start east in Green Country (Northeastern Oklahoma), the most watered part of the state which includes Tulsa, Tahlequah, Bartlesville, Muskogee, Claremore, Grove and Eufaula.
Too familiar with the Tulsa scene? Take time to veer off the Mother Road and commune with Mother Nature at Canebrake in Wagoner, just 40 miles east of Tulsa (thecanebrake.com).
Canebrake (celebrating the Arundinaria Gigantea, a species of bamboo native to the US) is an oasis of relaxation offering fine dining, activities like yoga, ropes courses and birding as well as beautiful accommodations nestled in the countryside. Just a dining excursion is worth considering. The Canebrake Kitchen serves BBQ-Mopped Shrimp, Buffalo Burgers, and Frenched Pork Chop.
That's not all, but there are many other delights to explore here, on your own.
Back to T-Town, head north to Bartlesville to view Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper at the Price Tower Arts Center. Surely we don't have to remind you to make a stop at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve. It has more than 52,000 square feet of Southwest history with a working ranch of bison, elk, deer and cattle.
The outdoorsy types can find ample opportunities to fish, boat, golf, camp or hike on or around Grand Lake, near Grove. Ride horseback along 18 miles of trails around Lake Oologah or take a float trip down the Illinois River near Tahlequah. Want to go scuba diving? Head to Lake Tenkiller.
Need something to eat? Some interesting places to fuel up in this area include Click's Steakhouse in Pawnee, Russ' Rib in Bristow, and the oldest family-owned restaurant on Route 66, Clanton's Café in Vinita.
Red Carpet Country
The Northwestern part of the state is lovingly referred to as "no man's land," with its wide-open terrain. Hike to the top of Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma at 4,973 feet above sea level. Observe the four neighboring states from the peak. Explore Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom, OK. The caverns formed more than 200 million years ago and they are the largest gypsum caves in the world. Saddle up for a trek through the sparkling Gloss Mountains near Cherokee, or see the real salt of the earth at the Great Salt Plains State Park and Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Jet, OK. Near Watonga, OK, ancient mesas and towering cedars make Roman Nose Resort Park an ideal place for hiking and biking.
View artifacts and read the history of this area at local museums. The Cherokee Strip Museum in Alva, OK, has one of the best collections of pioneer exhibits, American Indian art and artifacts in the state. View arrowheads, peace pipes and alabaster at No Man's Land Museum in Goodwell, OK. Learn about the rise of Conoco Oil at the Conoco Museum, Ponca City. The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, Enid, connects you to the Cherokee Outlet Land Run.
And then revive yourself at one of Oklahoma's oldest bars and the home of some of the world's most famous fried chicken that comes served on a sheet of waxed paper at Eischen's Bar in Okarche, OK. Gotta have barbeque out in these parts right? Try Wagg's in Woodward, OK. If you make a stop in Guymon, OK, be sure to sample the renowned tasty green chile chicken-fried steak at Marla's Country Diner.
Great Plains Country
Historic sites, museums, charming towns and rugged landscape await the traveler in Great Plains Country in southwestern Oklahoma. In Duncan, the Experience Theater at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is full of historical adventure. Take a nostalgic trip to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. Military buffs will want to journey through the largest museum in the U.S. Army. The 26-structure Fort Sill National Historic Landmark & Museum near Lawton served as the holding place of celebrated Apache warrior, Geronimo, whose grave is located on the museum grounds.
Outdoor activities are plentiful. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton offers hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and rappelling. Quartz Mountain Nature Park near Lone Wolf provi