When making that bucket list, don’t forget Oklahoma

Pam CloudSouthwest
Times Record

A person’s bucket list of dream destinations could include spots all over the world — including mountains, historic venues, natural wonders, sports arenas and cultural offerings.

But all of those things and more can be seen throughout the 70,000 square miles and 12 distinct ecosystems of Oklahoma, according to a state travel magazine.

The March/April issue of Oklahoma Today features “The Oklahoma Bucket List,” what the magazine editors are calling “26 essential Oklahoma experiences.”

From the historic Will Rogers Memorial Museum and the iconic Cain’s Ballroom to the panhandle’s Black Mesa and southeastern Oklahoma’s Talimena Scenic Drive, the Bucket List highlights those experiences Oklahoma Today editors feel are urban and rural adventures to fill a lifetime.

“It’s our hope that it will inspire readers to visit, or revisit, these unique Oklahoma destinations,” Steffie Corcoran, Oklahoma Today editor, said in a news release. “The truth is, given no space constraints, we could have included a hundred or more essential Oklahoma experiences. Hopefully readers will share theirs.”

By scouring the state for the top must-see places and asking Facebook fans to nominate their favorite Oklahoma spots, managing editor Nathan Gunter assembled the piece using 26 unique Oklahoma experiences.

“This was one of the most complicated, and one of the most enjoyable, writing assignments I’ve ever had,” Gunter said in the news release. “I did almost 30 interviews and spent a lot of time on the phone and in the car. But it was a great time, and I hope Okies will give it a look when they’re planning where to go this spring and summer.”

Making the Oklahoma Bucket List is the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Cherokee, Okla., with a vast expanse of flat, bleach-white salt plains, where visitors are welcome to dig and unearth small selenite crystals buried beneath the surface.

Russell Nickel, park manager of nearby Great Salt Plains State Park, said the encapsulated hourglass-shaped formations are quite unique.

“We don’t know how they’re created, but it’s the only place in the world where they have this design inside the crystals,” Nickel said in the magazine article.

From the plains to the Cain’s, catching a show at the historic Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa also makes the list. The walls are lined with the music history of the place, from Bob Wills and Hank Williams to The Police and Jack White.

Visitors can spend an entire day at the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark Museum, where Geronimo was held as an Apache prisoner and is buried. On its military side, Fort Sill is home to the world’s first atomic cannon, Atomic Annie.

“Fort Sill isn’t just about the Army or the Native Americans like Geronimo and Quanah Parker who were here,” Frank Siltman, museum director, told Gunter. “It’s about the American expansion, about the development of the United States and how integral the Army was in maintaining stability and peace during the growth of Oklahoma.”

Stop by the one place that links all of Oklahoma — the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City — and check out its expansive art collection, including four large murals by Miami native Charles Banks Wilson that depict Oklahoma history from the early Spanish explorers of the 1500s to just before statehood in 1907.

“These murals are full of symbolism and excitement, especially if you’re trying to get in touch with all the events and people who have contributed to our state’s foundation,” Amber Sharples, assistant director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, said in the article. “The mission of the entire collection is to tell Oklahoma’s story through the visual arts.”

Visitors to the Black Mesa near Kenton in the Oklahoma Panhandle will swear they’re in the deserts of the Southwest. What was once an area where dinosaurs ruled, the Dust Bowl raged and Plains homesteaders struggled to make a life from the land has become a place of solitude and tranquility in a naturally beautiful landscape.

“If you can’t find God here, you’re not looking,” Vicki Roberts, owner of the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast near Kenton, told Gunter. “It’s the most peaceful, beautiful, wonderful place.”

And nothing or no one says Oklahoma quite like the quintessential Oklahoman, Will Rogers. Visitors can learn more about the life of Oklahoma’s favorite son at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore and the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch near Oologah.

Other experiences making the Oklahoma Bucket List are:

• Road trip down Route 66 or a drive down the Talimena Scenic Drive.

• Stockyards City in Oklahoma City.

• American Indian tribal powwow.

• Hiking in the Wichita Mountains near Lawton.

• Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area’s Bat Watch near Freedom.

• Experiencing the songwriting at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City.

• Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Cheyenne.

• Any of Oklahoma’s 36 state parks.

• OK Mozart Festival in Bartlesville in June.

• Partake of a genuine Okie meal, from Meers’ burger and peach cobbler to Eischen’s fried chicken.

• Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City.

• Gilcrease Museum and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.

• Price Tower in Bartlesville, the only existing skyscraper designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

• Young American bison romping in fields of prairie wildflowers at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska, the largest protected tallgrass prairie ecosystem in the world.

• WoodyFest, which honors the memory of Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl Troubadour in Okemah in July.

• Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.

• Any of the hundreds of rodeos produced each year across the state.

• Oklahoma City Thunder NBA games.

• Oklahoma’s original state capital, Guthrie.

To explore experiences on the Oklahoma Bucket List, visit or