Free Places · Kid-friendly Places

Tulsa Has a New, Old Library. And It’s Awesome.

img_5112Have you had a chance to visit the newly remodeled Central Library in downtown Tulsa at 400 Civic Center yet? Well, call me a nerd, but it’s now one of my favorite places downtown.

This library went over a major overhaul — three years of renovations totaling $55 million. It’s now a crowning jewel in downtown — a mecca of learning, creative thinking, oh, and coffee.

img_5119Yes, that’s right … coffee. The Central Library is home to downtown Tulsa’s first STARBUCKS! I enjoyed lunch and a Frappuccino with some friends on the Starbucks patio just the other day. I for one think it was a brilliant idea to put a Starbucks inside the library. Hopefully it will draw more people to the wonderful services that our Tulsa City-County Library System offers.

Speaking of those wonderful services… people, having a library card is the best free thing I have! (OK, I know I pay for it in taxes, but it’s totally worth it!). I LOVE our img_5117library system! You can do things on TulsaLibrary.org like download free audio books, read digital newspapers and magazines, and learn a language. I’m personally pretty old school, so I prefer books you can hold and audio books you pop into your CD player. So when I need these items, I can go on their website and request that those items by transferred to the library closest to me. The library makes it so easy for us! I love you, Tulsa City-County Library!

img_5114I really enjoyed strolling through the library during my recent visit. As a new mom, I especially loved the children’s area. It has a ton of interactive displays for the kids to play on. And books are organized in a more kid-friendly manner than they were when I was a kid, that’s for sure.

The new study rooms (left) are awesome, too. They’re beautiful rooms with views overlooking downtown. I’m going to have to find something to study just so I can use one of them.

Throughout the library, you’ll find really comfortable, modern-looking furniture. One room of the library is entirely dedicated to Tulsa, with books and other materials on the city’s history. Other impressive features of the library include a 3-D printer, a digital recording lab,  an educator meeting space with a kitchenette, movable furniture and magnetic board, pickup lockers in the lobby for patrons to retrieve items when the facility is closed, and a fantastic parking garage with free parking for up to 2 hours for library patrons (enter off Denverimg_5115; YOU’RE WELCOME!).

I look forward to spending many more lunch breaks exploring our wonderful new, old library.

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Free Places · Outdoor Places

Exploring Oklahoma’s Outdoors: Natural Falls State Park

IMG_4582If you’re looking for a fun, short road trip from Tulsa, Natural Falls State Park on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border is definitely worth checking out. Home to a beautiful, 77-foot waterfall and the setting for the 1974 film “Where the Red Fern Grows,” Natural Falls is a true outdoor wonder.

I had been wanting to visit Natural Falls for a long time, and it finally worked out that we were able to take the 1 hour, 15 minute trip from Tulsa in July when my friend Kelsey was in town. When we first pulled in, we stopped at the Visitors’ Center, which has nice, clean restrooms, snacks, souvenirs, and most FullSizeRenderimportantly, free maps of the grounds.

When you first head towards the falls, you’ll notice a railed observation platform that allows hikers to overlook the falls. This is a good spot to take a picture and observe the falls from above the water; but never fear, the view gets even better as you walk down several dozen steps that lead to the foot of the falls.  There, another observation deck offers a great view of the falls and the grotto surrounding them. Another great thing about being at the foot of the falls is that the temperature drops by 10 degrees or so.

After snapping some pictures in front of the falls with my hubby and Kelsey (along with my very pregnant belly), we decided to try a couple of hiking trails. We found success on the Ghost Coon Trail, which was about a mile hike through some woods. We kept joking around that only on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border would you find a trail called “Ghost Coon,” and kept our eyes peeled for zombie raccoons.

You can find picnic tables and grills throughout Natural Falls State Park. Campsites, including 44 RV sites with seven full hookup sites and 17 tent sites, are available along with a comfort station with showers. The Red Fern Reunion Center is available for group functions. Other amenities include four and 1/2 miles of hiking IMG_4592and nature trails, a picnic shelter, volleyball, horseshoes, a basketball court, catch and release fishing, playgrounds, a nine-hole disc golf course and a formal garden area. Pets are allowed on a leash only. Although swimming is not allowed in the park, there are several public swimming areas available within a short distance of the park.

Natural Falls State Park affords an opportunity to observe a variety of plant and animal life. The dense forest includes maples, chinquapin and white oaks, while plants such as flowering dogwood, sassafras, coral berry, spicebush, redbed, and pawpaw blanket the cool forest floor. The waterfall creates a moist environment where ferns, mosses and liverworts thrive.

FullSizeRender copyIMG_4591Whether you plan on staying overnight or just a couple hours, it’s definitely worth taking the short drive from Tulsa to visit Natural Falls State Park!

 

Artsy Places · Entertaining Places · Free Places · Kid-friendly Places

8 Indoor Adventures to Have in Tulsa This Summer

It’s time to get out of the heat and into the A/C!

Here’s the deal, folks. It’s only June, and it’s insanely hot in Tulsa already. The “feels like” temperature has climbed up to 110 or hotter several times already. And when you’re nearly 7 months pregnant, your “feels like” temperature is automatically 10 degrees hotter than what the “feels like” temperature for everyone else is. Therefore, my summer resolution is to experience the Great Indoors!

Won’t you join me while I seek out adventures I can have in the Tulsa area this summer while enjoying the glorious invention that is A/C?
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8 Indoor Adventures to Have in Tulsa This Summer:

OKjazzexterior1. Check out the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

Occupying Tulsa’s old Union Depot Building (the train station) is a hub jiving with the sounds of jubilant trumpets, sassy saxophones, and melodious guitars. Capturing both the rich history of Tulsa’s jazz past and welcoming an entourage of new musical talent, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is an entertainment mecca full of musical adventures.

The Jazz Depot hosts a weekly event that is perfect for downtown workers who need some time away from the office: Lunch and Jazz. Admission is free, so bring a brownbag lunch and prepare to hear some music for the soul, every Friday from noon to 1 p.m.

If you can’t hit up the free jazz on Fridays at lunch time, never fear; the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame also offers “Depot Jams” every Tuesday from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., a free jazz jam session open to the public.

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2. Go to a cheap movie.

Who can afford to pay $10 every time per person to go see a movie? I just can’t justify it, seeing as how I know that in a few months, I’ll be able to see that movie for a $1.50, or better yet, free, thanks to Redbox or Netflix. But I’m all for going to cheap movies!

Have you been to Village 8 Movies? This is the old “dollar theater” at 68th and Memorial, but it’s under new ownership since late 2015 and looks and smells a lot better! Movies there are just $2 for kids 12 and older and seniors 60+, and $2.50 for everyone else.

If you’ve got kiddos in tow this summer, Starworld 20 has $3 kids’ movies on Tuesday and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 12:30. This handy link has all the details.

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3. Explore one of Tulsa’s many museums.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of museums in Tulsa, and great news: They’re all air-conditioned!

I recently learned that Philbrook offers free admission to people under the age of 18 every day! (and also to college students with a valid student ID from a local university). Pretty sweet deal if you’ve got kiddos/teens. Another budget-friendly, family-friendly event at Philbrook is the free Second Saturday. Visit on the second Saturday of each month for free family-friendly art activities, tours and scavenger hunts for kids of all ages.

Gilcrease is also worth checking out and offers one of the best collections of Native American art in the country. Gilcrease also has free admission to anyone under the age of 18.

While Philbrook and Gilcrease are the two mainstay museums in Tulsa, there are tons of other museums to scope out. The Brady Arts District downtown offers a number of different museums and galleries, including the Woody Guthrie Museum, Philbrook Downtown, and the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. You could easily spend most of a day wandering to each of these creative venues.

This summer, I intend to check out the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. I’ve heard that the Planetarium, which provides an exciting educational experience by pairing stunning high-definition visuals with state of the art technology in a theater, is truly amazing.

Other local museums worth visiting include the Tulsa Children’s Museum, Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, and Woolaroc in Bartlesville.

eastgate4. Get Your inner granny on and go mall walking.

OK, don’t mock me. I am an avid runner, and not being able to run at this point in my pregnancy is a real drag. So I’ve been getting my mall walking on. I’m sure you all know about Woodland Hills Mall and Promenade Mall, but have you been around Tulsa long enough to know the secret of Eastland Mall (now known as Eastgate Metroplex?). When I was a kid, there was actually a mall at 21st near 145th E. Ave.

Nowadays, that mall has been transformed into a bit of a business complex. However, the mall is still more than half unoccupied, so it’s the perfect place to mall walk in the A/C without having to trample over teenyboppers! While you’re there, you can also grab a drink or a bite to eat at Kaffe Bona or Subway.

nam hai5. Have a cultural experience.

Nam-Hai at 11528 E 21st St. opened a new location a year or so ago that is definitely worth checking out! They have all things Asian! Anytime I’ve needed to cook with a special Asian spice or vegetable, or that one time in high school when I was desperate to find ube, a special yam-based ice cream from the Philippines, Nam-Hai came through for me! It’s also just really fun to walk around and experience a different culture (or your own culture, if you are Asian!).

Another culture worth exploring is the Hispanic culture! Tulsa has a number of Hispanic shops and restaurants scattered around town. Many are in the vicinity of 21st and Garnett. Also in that area you will find the Martin Regional Library, which has the largest collection of Spanish materials in Tulsa. If you have kids, the Martin Regional Library is a great place to take them to help encourage a bilingual future! Another Hispanic hub in town is on Lewis around Highway 2-44. There, you can find my favorite Hispanic bakery, Pancho Anaya.

Andy-B-Web-2013-126. Go bowling.

So apparently, kids can bowl free over the summer at Andy B’s at 87th and Lewis. Sounds like a great activity to keep the kiddos occupied! Here’s the link with all the details.
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main event7. Get all kinds of fun on at Main Event.

Have you been to Main Event in Tulsa Hills yet? There is so much to do there, and it’s all indoors! YAY! You can climb the ropes’ course, bowl, play laser tag, play arcade games, or eat! I’ve been wanting to go there on a Monday night, when they have Monday Night Madness. You can choose from three specials: all you can play activities for $9.95, unlimited video game play for $9.95, or a $20 FUNcard good for food and fun.

Shark-Tank-During-Feed-1024x6828. Visit the Oklahoma Aquarium.

The Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks is a real gem, and it’s awesome that it’s located right in Tulsa’s back yard! During your visit there, you can see local aquatic life like catfish, but also aquatic creatures from all over the world, like sea anemones, jellyfish, and best of all… sharks! I absolutely love the Shark Tunnel at the Aquarium! The sharks will literally swim right over your head! It’s a hoot.

The Aquarium also has a little restaurant if you need to grab lunch there. Speaking of grabbing a bite to eat, it’s fun to watch the critters getting fed! Check out the feeding schedule so you can schedule your visit properly. I would think that with the release of Disney’s “Finding Dory” this summer, the Oklahoma Aquarium will be a very popular destination for families!

Did I leave anything out? What are your favorite things to do INDOORS in the Tulsa area?

 

Free Places

Tulsans Give Back By Giving A Little….Blood That Is

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Posted by: Bonita James

“I was given blood during my transplant surgery. I’m pretty sure I would be dead without it! #donatelife #giveblood” – Natalie Griffin

Natalie2That comment from my incredible friend and OKC artist Natalie Griffin is why donating blood is one of the most important, selfless acts one can do. My Grandmother, a nurse for 30+ years, instilled in us kids that we will always give a little of ourselves to save so many.  

When you donate to the Oklahoma Blood Institute, your blood goes to save Oklahoman lives. The donations save the lives of people such as Natalie, Justin, and maybe even your own.

Since moving to Tulsa, I had yet to start donating. I was inspired to not only donate myself but to also encourage others to donate with me. Where else would I ask others to sign up other than on Facebook? My new friends Kara and Haley heard my call and answered with a scheduled appointment!

Kara and I made a morning of it and met up for breakfast. Just down the street from the OBI Tulsa donation center which is located at 4601 E. 81st, we indulged in decadent breakfast sandwiches at Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery on 91st and Yale. Sure, they are known for bringing the best in cakes to Tulsa, but man, do they know how to do a breakfast sandwich! We needed a good, healthy meal before our donation, and Ludger’s delivered with a Gouda croissant stuffed with the meat of our choice, pesto, roasted veggies and a fried egg!

Kara beat me to the donation site and before I was called back for my iron and vital testing, she was on her way to her donation chair. Unfortunately, my hematocrit (iron) level was two points too low. You need a 38, and I was at 36. 😦 I’ll be consuming leafy greens and lentils over the next few days to get that number up and get my donation done!

Kara1Kara first donated on the first day she was old enough. For her 17th birthday, Kara’s mom let her skip school that morning so she could fulfill her blood donation duty. Kara had served as a volunteer with the local Red Cross for a year before turning 17. She saw first-hand the incredible need for blood and the shortage Oklahoma faces. OBI manages the life-saving donations from more than 140,000 individuals each year. Let’s make that 140,000 +++ individuals each year!

haleyRecent Oklahoma transplant, Haley, was scheduled to give at the OBI Mobile at the Broken Arrow Masonic Lodge. This was her first time to donate, and she was proud of her 1st Time Donor sticker! She loved that the mobile unit was in her town and close to home. Haley proved to be a speed donor and was done in seven minutes! She was happy about how quick, easy, and painless her donation was. Her advice for first time donors is, “Don’t look at the needle!”

OBI Mobile units travel all over the state of Oklahoma. You can find a mobile unit or a donation site close to you at OBI.org.

Signing up and scheduling your donation is easy.

  • Simply visit OBI.org
  • Register or login
  • Follow the site’s prompts to find a location nearest you
  • Schedule your appointment.

You can also call 1-877-340-8777 to schedule or just walk-in to a mobile unit or donation site.

If you are unable to or if giving blood isn’t your thing, OBI has a great volunteer program and the green kind of donation doesn’t hurt either.

Big thanks to Kara and Haley for stepping up and donating with me! I’ll get mine in soon.  I’m calling for all of my fellow Tulsans to help out your fellow Oklahomans! 

 

Free Places · Outdoor Places · Weekend Getaways · Yummy Places

What to Do in Muskogee, Oklahoma

IMG_1591Let me just start off by saying that northeast Oklahoma is full of so many interesting spots…Muskogee being one of them. Muskogee is one of the most historic cities in Oklahoma and less than an hour drive from Tulsa. It’s a great place to explore on a weekend, and Spring is an especially wonderful time to explore it!

IMG_1587 (1)If you visit Muskogee in the Springtime, I highly recommend going during the month of April, which is when the city hosts its annual Azalea Festival at Honor Heights Park. Honor Heights Park is located atop a hill overlooking the city and features 40 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens featuring azaleas, dogwoods, redbuds and a host of other blooming plants. The highlight of the park, of course, is its azalea plants. There
are 625 varieties and over 30,000 plants. In addition, the park boasts a beautiful waterfall that is fun to climb up using the walking path to the side of it.

If you can’t visit Honor Heights Park in April, the next best time to go is over the holidays. From Thanksgiving through New Years Day, visitors to Honor Heights Park can enjoy a stunning drive through a holiday delight. The drive-through display includes over 1.2 million shimmering lights, IMG_1584 (1)enhancing the natural beauty of the park’s gardens, waterfalls and ponds with holiday displays the whole family will love.

In addition to the beautiful plant life I mentioned, Honor Heights Park also features fishing in five lakes and ponds with fishing docks, playground, open play areas, three tennis courts, and even a sand volleyball court. A Splash Pad is in operation May-September.

While you’re in Muskogee, be sure to check out some of the local dining establishments. Harmony House is my favorite place to eat in Muskogee. It is a small batch bakery and cafe housed in a near 100-year-old house in the heart of Muskogee. This adorable bakery and restaurant has a tearoom feel. You can enjoy lunch with friends or simply stop in for some baked treats. On my recent visit with a group of friends, I tried the Daily Luncheon Special. On that day, it was the Sour Cream Enchiladas with a choice or salad or soup, a homemade roll, and a dessert, all for just $8.95. The enchiladas were sooo incredibly creamy — made with lots of sour cream and cream cheese! They pretty much slid right down my throat! The lunch menu also features sandwiches, salads, and burgers. All of the sandwiches and burgers are served on homemade bread and buns!
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My dessert was a delicious cherry bread pudding. MMM! It was so tasty! Other items from the bakery include a variety of cakes, pies, squares/bars, cookies, and more. You can even buy casserole dishes and other catering-type items from Harmony House. I think if I lived in Muskogee, I would just get my dinner to go from HH every night!

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What are your favorite places in Muskogee?
Harmony House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Entertaining Places · Free Places · Kid-friendly Places · Outdoor Places

Tulsa’s 5 Best Landmarks

If you’re visiting the Tulsa area, or if you live in Tulsa but have guests in town, these are the places you need to go. These spots are iconically Tulsa — the must-see places for the Tulsa visitor. So bust out your cameras or Instagram, and get ready to take cheesy pictures of yourself at these spots.

1. I’ll start with a1024px-Praying_Hands_at_the_main_entrance_to_the_campus_of_Oral_Roberts_University double-whammy of prayer, a spot in south Tulsa constantly frequented by tourists from all over the world: Oral Roberts University, an educational institution known worldwide for its unique architecture and two particularly intriguing landmarks.

1a. The Praying Hands.
The 60 foot, 30 ton bronze sculpture by sculptor Leonard McMurray (cast in Juárez, Mexico in 1980), is supposedly the second largest bronze statue in the world — at least that’s what I was told when I was in school there. The statue is located on S. Lewis avenue at 77th st. It was originally situated in front of the City of Faith (now CityPlex Towers), but it was moved to the University entrance on Lewis in 1991.

When I was an ORU student, rumor had it that you could actually crawl inside the Praying Hands. I’m not really sure if this is true or not, but I have witnessed many a student climb on top of the Praying Hands. (not that I’m encouraging that kind of rabble-rousing — please don’t take my degree away, ORU).


Prayer_Tower1b. The Prayer Tower.
Yes, a second landmark dedicated to prayer in Tulsa…imagine that! Truly, though, I love the Prayer Tower. It is a spiritual icon recognized worldwide. Situated at the center of campus, it includes a gathering room for corporate prayer and an observation room that offers great views of the campus. The flame located at the top of the Prayer Tower is known as the “Eternal Flame” because it supposedly never extinguishes.

The tower stands 200 feet tall. An aerial view of the Prayer Tower reveals the Star of David. From the ground a view of the observation deck represents the Crown of Thorns with red tips, denoting the blood of salvation.

gdriller2. The Golden Driller
Let’s move past ORU and on to the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. An icon of the industry that built Tulsa, oil, the Golden Driller stands 76 feet tall on 21st st. between Yale and Harvard.

The original Tulsa Driller was built in the ’50s by an oilfield supply company, which set him up in 1953 for a trade show at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. That driller was so popular that the company erected a second temporary statue six years later.

A third and final giant, tallest of all at 76 feet, took up residence at the Fairgrounds in 1966. Built of steel and concrete, he weighs nearly 22 tons and is expected to survive 200 mph tornadoes. The plaque at his base dedicates him “to the men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God’s abundance a better life for mankind.”

IMG_2238 (1)3. The Blue Whale
OK, I know, I know, the Blue Whale is not technically in Tulsa…but it’s just on the outskirts in Catoosa. The Blue Whale, located on historic Route 66, has been an icon of the Tulsa area since 1972.

It was built by Hugh Davis, who wanted to erect something fun for his wife on the pond on his family’s property. The result was a 20-foot tall, 80-foot long structure, welded by Davis’s friend, Harold Thomas. In the ’70s, the Blue Whale quickly became a popular place for travelers to stop for fishing and swimming.

Sadly, the Blue Whale was closed in 1988 due to Davis’s crippling arthritis. Davis passed away in 1990, but thankfully, the Catoosa Chamber of Commerce refurbished and reopened the landmark in 1997. Still a popular spot for swimming and picnicking, the Blue Whale is a must-see spot just minutes away from Tulsa.

IMG_2035-e1417484768978-225x3004. The Center of the Universe
In case you’ve ever wondered where on earth the Center of the Universe might be…well, it’s right here, in Tulsa! Not geographically, of course, but acoustically…

Located in downtown Tulsa, the Center of the Universe is easy to find. A brick path leads to the pedestrian bridge that goes over the railroad tracks, accessible from the corner of W. Archer St. and N. Boston Ave. It is located directly northwest of the old Union Train Depot (now the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame) at 111 East 1st Street.

The actual Center of the Universe isn’t much. It’s actually just a concrete circle, about three inches in diameter. When you find it, stand in its center, and start talking. You’ll be amazed that your voice will echo back to you – a true acoustic miracle!IMG_2037

Several feet southwest of the Center of the Universe stands the “Artificial Cloud,” pictured above. Native American artist Robert Haozous erected the 72 foot sculpture for the 1991 Mayfest.

While you’re at the Center of the Universe, be sure to check out its neighbor, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, as well as the many fantastic art galleries in the Brady Arts District, located just north of the landmark.

IMG_2353-e1417484708750-225x3005. Greenwood District
Greenwood is an example of how something good can arise even out of something awful. Greenwood, located at Greenwood and Archer St., is a part of Tulsa’s history that people don’t talk about a lot when you’re being raised here — trust me. I had no idea what had happened at Greenwood until I was a college student.

During the early 1900’s, Greenwood was one of the wealthiest African American communities in the Unites States, filled with successful shops, hotels, and more. Sadly, many of the businesses were destroyed during the riots, but were rebuilt to some degree following the riots. During the 1960’s, the area disintegrated due to desegregation. However, it is now experiencing somewhat of a revival thanks in part to ONEOK Field being built just on its outskirts, as well as several high rise apartments being built nearby.

It’s definitely worth taking a stroll through Greenwood and noticing the plaques on the pavement that acknowledge the former businesses that once existed. BeIMG_2347-e1417484742939-225x300 sure to head down to the Greenwood Cultural Center to take in the Black Wall Street Memorial. While you’re in Greenwood, you can enjoy some delicious food at Abears or Fat Guys Burger Bar. Thanks to attention from the African American community, Greenwood is once again a thriving part of the Tulsa scene.

Which Tulsa landmarks are your favorites? Let us know your favorite spots that are iconically Tulsa!

Entertaining Places · Free Places · Kid-friendly Places · Outdoor Places

The Tulsa Christmas Bucket List 2014

RhemalightsTulsa has so much to offer during the holidays. Simply driving through neighborhoods adorned with Christmas lights can provide a certain holiday charm, but if you’re like me, you want to be involved in the full gamut of festivities. I’m finally sitting down to make my bucket list of places to go to spread Christmas cheer for all to hear, as Buddy the Elf would say!

1. Rhema Bible College.

RhemalightsHutsonsIf you’ve been around Tulsa for even just one year, you likely know that Rhema is THE PLACE to go to see millions of Christmas lights. Yes, literally millions — 2 million lights, not to mention 100,000 bulbs. And many of those lights are synchronized to Christmas music. My personal favorite part of the attraction is the bridge of lights, which illuminates in time to your favorite Christmas carols. (Notice the lovely picture of our friends Matt and Megan on the bridge. I took this photo of them, but Megan gets the credit for the other Rhema photos here!)

My first stop when visiting Rhema is usually the hot cocoa stand. Nearby is a giant American flag with hundreds of bulbs — always a popular photo opp. One of my favorite parts of the attraction is the duck pond and gazebo, which in recent years has hosted Santa Claus. While I would recommend getting out of your car and walking through the main part of the lights, you may want to drive through some of the extremities of the campus. There, you will find a display that always makes me chuckle — the gazeboRhemaface of the late Kenneth Hagin Sr., the founder of Rhema Ministries, illuminated in Christmas lights.

Rhema lights will run Nov. 26, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015.

2. WinterFest at the BOK Center.

WinterFest 2014 will open November 28, 2014 and run through January 19, 2015.

WinterFest is a true holiday experience, featuring ice skating, horse and carriage rides, free live entertainment, and tons of delicious food, like S’mores, snowflake cookies, chili cheese dogs, and more. The long run time of WinterFest gives you plenty of time to bundle up (or not, depending on what the weather decides to do!) and enjoy all of the exciting festivities! I, for one, look forward to enjoying my first ever horse and carriage ride this Christmas!

chandlerpark3. Lights on the Hill.

I had a chance to check out Chandler Park’s (6500 W. 21st. St.) Holiday Lights on the Hill for the first time last year, and I was definitely wowed by how many holiday twinklies aligning the hilltop is west Tulsa. If you have kids, they will especially enjoy the many colorful, and often times, character-driven displays. The park includes over 100 light displays spread over three miles. Rumor has it that horse-drawn carriage rides are also available at Chandler Park. The Holiday Lights on the Hill are blazing from dusk to 9 p.m., Friday through Sunday Nov. 28 through Dec. 28, 2014. Entry to the park is free, but donations are appreciated.

4. Holiday Performances

The Tulsa Ballet each year puts on dazzling performances of The Nutcracker at the Tulsa PAC. A larger children’s cast, fresh new choreography, and the return of Mother Ginger make this year’s production even more spectacular! Uniquely set in 1920s Paris, Tulsa Ballet’s “Nutcracker” evokes the Art Deco era, an important and glamorous time in Tulsa’s history. The Tulsa Symphony also performs live at each performance.

Also this year, the PAC has added “A Christmas Carol” to its repertoire. Performances will run Dec. 11-14.

For a full list of performances, visit the Tulsa PAC web site.

5. Utica Square Yuletide

This lovely shopping center at 21st St. and Utica is illuminated for the holidays and features several whimsical holiday scenes, like the one on the left. Here’s a question for folks who have been around Tulsa for a long time: Are these scenes the same as the ones that used to be at Children’s Medical Center (which was demolished in the early 2000s, near Promenade Mall on Skelly Dr.)? I visited the Christmas decorations at the CMC every year as a child, and these displays remind me a lot of them!

Utica Square also hosts visits with Santa, near the Snow Goose from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

6. Philbrook’s Christmas Festivities

The Philbrook Museum of Art comes alive with the joy of Christmas with plenty of things to see both indoors and IMG_1201outdoors. Inside from Nov. 22 through Dec. 14, you’ll enjoy touring the immaculately-decorated Christmas trees in the Festival of Trees display. Travel upstairs to view the gingerbread houses decorated by local businesses and schools. I simply fell in love with this pink gingerbread house during last year’s festivities!

On Thursday evenings at Philbrook, you can also enjoy the Garden Glow — the beautiful gardens and the Philbrook Mansion are aglow until 8 p.m. for visitors and Philbrook members alike.

No matter where the holidays lead you in Tulsa this Christmas, I wish you a very special and happy Christmas! Please let me know if I failed to mention any of your favorite holiday spots in Tulsa!

Free Places · Kid-friendly Places · Outdoor Places

Tulsa’s 5 Best Parks

Whether you’re Leslie Knope or just an average Joe, chances are you like parks. I mean, what’s there not to like about a beautiful outdoor, free spot, filled with magical things like playgrounds, golf courses, running trails, and splash pads? Here, I’ll share the Tulsa Places choices for Tulsa’s 5 Best Parks.

1. LaFortune Park

lafortune
This place has it all. A golf course. Plenty of playgrounds. A 5K running trail surrounding the park. A pool. Tennis courts. Baseball fields and batting cages. And being situated in the middle of Tulsa (between 51st and 61st st., east of Yale) gives it the advantage of being a perfect spot when you want to meet friends for a play date, run, walk, or game of golf or tennis.

lafortune1LaFortune is a perfect place to take the kids for an afternoon at the park. It’s also a wonderful birthday party spot. Take it from me: I had my 5th birthday party there! (And sadly, managed to lose the amazing clown watch gift I received that day somewhere at the park. If you find it, leave a comment below). One of the magical spots at LaFortune is the lovely creek/waterfall area. I have many childhood memories of trying to capture tadpoles in that creek!

As an adult, I frequent LaFortune most recently for the excellent 5K (3.1 mile) running trail. The trail will take you around the circumference of the park, so you’ll be able to enjoy views of people golfing, playing tennis, fishing in the pond, playing on the playground, and more. It’s a fun, easygoing run.

To check out more of what’s going on at LaFortune Park, check out their website.

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hunter2. Hunter Park
Hunter Park on 91st st. between Sheridan and Yale is a wonderful oasis in south Tulsa. The park features great playgrounds, possibly the best splash pad in town, a dog park, disc golf, basketball courts, a scenic pond, and connects to the Creek Trail, which meanders along the Creek Turnpike.

When I was younger, I used to love exploring in the woods at Hunter Park. Nowadays, kids can still enjoy the trails that run through the wooded area, as well as a truly incredible splash pad and playground. People of all ages will find the beautiful pond, always filled with plenty of ducks and geese, to be relaxing and fishing-friendly.

hunter copyPersonally, my favorite thing about Hunter Park is its incredible dog park, Biscuit Acres, which my dog, Bella, has written about here. Biscuit Acres is a fully enclosed, 2-acre dog park, separated into small dog and large dog areas. It includes beautiful doggy water fountains, plenty of benches for the owners to relax on, and of course, wide open spaces. Take your dog there, and he/she will love you forever!

 

3. Woodward Parkwoodward
Woodward Park could easily be considered the most scenic park in Tulsa, thus making it a popular spot for family photos and bridal portraits. With 45 acres of beautiful plants, flowers, ponds, a botanical garden, and an arboretum, this serene park is located at 21st & Peoria.

Woodward Park was designed to provide visitors encounters with a variety of horticultural subjects. It contains a number of specialty gardens, including the Tulsa Rose Garden (which sadly lost a number of its roses this year due to a rose disease), the Tulsa Garden Center, the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens, and the Tulsa Arboretum. While I would describe Woodward Park as mostly being a place for “the adults,” there is a small playground on the premises for the kiddos, as well as a picnic area for family gatherings.

Woodward Park is the perfect place to go when you want to experience a romantic stroll, smell some flowers, or take pretty pictures.

oxley4. Mohawk Park
At 2,820 acres, Mohawk Park is a beast of a park — it’s actually the nation’s third largest municipal park. Granted, some of that acreage contains the Tulsa Zoo, and also Oxley Nature Center and Trails. The park, located at 5701 E. 36th st. N. also features a nice golf course. Mohawk Pond is also a good spot for fishing.

With such wonderful wide-open spaces, Mohawk Park is a great place to take your dog to run around off-leash. The trails at Oxley are some of my favorite, easy hiking in Tulsa, as I’ve blogged about previously. It’s a wonderful place to view wildlife like deer, raccoon, bobcat, mink, skunk, coyote, flying squirrel, and beaver.
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owen5. Owen Park

When Owen Park opened in 1910 (over 114 years ago!), it became Tulsa’s first municipal park. The area around the park actually has a pretty fascinating history, which you can read about on Wikipedia. The park, located at 560 N. Maybelle Ave., features my favorite duck pond in town. It also has a nice playground. Being located in the lesser populated northwest side of town, it is also one of the lesser known parks. But its location next to the Tulsa Children’s Museum makes it a great spot for a picnic after a visit with the kiddos to the museum.

What are your favorite parks in Tulsa? What makes them so special?

Entertaining Places · Free Places · Kid-friendly Places · Outdoor Places · Yummy Places

Guthrie Green, How I Love Thee!

One of my favorite venues that has boosted Tulsa’s downtown scene over the last couple years is Guthrie Green. I have already made so many fabulous memories at Guthrie Green. Guthrie Green, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

5. Free outdoor movies

During the warmer months, Guthrie Green shows free movies on the lawn. Who doesn’t love a warm summer evening, a cooler full of your favorite libations, a cozy blanket, and snuggling up with your honey to a movie under the stars? Last summer, my company was a bunch of gal pals (no, there was no cuddling), and the movie was perhaps the strangest of the summer films (“The Swimmer,” 1968). No matter the strangeness of the movie, we had a great time offering colorful commentary throughout the flick and people watching. Plus, it was free, so who’s complaining?

4. Sunday afternoon markets.

Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Guthrie Green comes alive with vendors selling everything from vegetables to jewelry to vintage clothing. While you’re shopping, you can enjoy live tunes performed on the outdoor amphitheater. And it never fails that there are several food trucks parked around the Green, so be sure to gobble down some eats while you’re shopping.

3. Free exercise classes.

This day in age, the words “free exercise classes” are hard to come by. That’s why I think it’s absolutely stupendous that Guthrie Green has FREE classes, including:

Zumba in the Park — Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Tai Chi — Mondays at 5:30 p.m.

Boot Camp — Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m.

Partner Power — Wednesdays at 6:00 a.m.

Lulelemon Community Yoga — Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.

Family Fitness — Saturdays at 8:00 a.m.

Keep up with all the fitness classes at Guthrie Green at their Events Calendar.

2. Special Theatrical Events

Last summer, my husband and I had the pleasure of seeing a free live performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Guthrie Green. Folks brought lawn chairs and blankets, picnic baskets and coolers, and gathered around the outdoor amphitheater for a truly unique theatrical experience. I’m sure many local theater and dance companies will be hitting the Guthrie Green stage this summer, so keep your eye on their calendar!


Guthrie Green1. Food Truck Wednesdays

Hump Day has become Guthrie Green’s shining moment each week, in my opinion. During the warmer months, each Wednesday during lunch time means that about a dozen food trucks (and growing) surround the Green with their tasty offerings. Food Truck Wednesdays are truly remarkable. People from all walks of life — business people, moms with a van full of kids, random people who apparently don’t have day jobs — come out to the Green to enjoy a chill mid-day break, and some delicious eats. Oh, and there is usually some a musical artist or two playing, setting a nice ambiance to your chomping.

foodtruckOn my most recent Food Truck Wednesday visit, I visited Mr. Nice Guys’ food truck and tried the Jerk Chicken Mac and Cheese. Whoever thought to combine mac and cheese with meat and a bunch of other delicious things was a real Einstein. This amazing dish was packed full of cilantro, roasted corn, black bean pico de gallo, sweet chipotle mayo, and of course, chicken and mac and cheese. For only $8, it was an extremely filling and tasty lunch.

Those are just a few of the many reasons I love Guthrie Green. How about you — why do you love the Green? 

Free Places · Outdoor Places

Catoosa’s Redbud Valley is a Hidden Gem

photo-2I’ve found a magical place just a few miles outside of Tulsa: The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve in Catoosa, Oklahoma (click here for directions). The preserve is home to many interesting types of plant and wildlife and also hosts a great hiking trail. It was a great treat for me to discover such a beautiful outdoor spot right in my own backyard of Tulsa.

photo-4Redbud Valley was originally purchased by The Nature Conservancy in the late 1960’s.  Dr. Harriet Barclay was a professor at the University of Tulsa, and she spearheaded the effort to have it acquired, then worked with The Tulsa Tribune on a fund drive to raise the necessary money to repay The Nature Conservancy. TU maintained the property until the area was transferred to the City of Tulsa in 1990, and it is now managed as a part of Oxley Nature Center in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy. Under guidance from The Friends of Oxley Nature Center, the caretaker’s house was renovated and the Barclay Visitor’s Center created. (Source: http://www.oxleynaturecenter.org/redbud.htm)

Among the plant life you may see along your hike are prickly pear cactus, Yucca, Smoke Tree, and Deciduous Holly. I also saw plenty of birds and squirrels, and fortunately, no snakes, though the area is prone to reptiles.

The ecosystem at Redbud Valley is unlike anything I’ve seen in Oklahoma. The habitat was created where Bird photo-5Creek and its tributaries cut through a thick limestone layer. This has resulted in valleys edged with impressively tall limestone cliffs. The limestone has been dissolved by water to create several small caves and springs. The caves are sort of like small versions of what you might find when hiking Devil’s Den in Arkansas.

The area is open Wednesdays though Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The staff member working inside the Harriet Barclay Visitor’s Center, which is open from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., was very knowledgeable and shared all about the interesting geology and plant life in the area. She also said the best time to hike the trails is from April to June, so now is the perfect time to get out and explore some rugged Oklahoma beauty!

photo-3Here are a few recommendations for your hike at Redbud Valley:

  • Wear good hiking or tennis shoes. (I’m not really sure what I was thinking wearing my pink sparkly Tom’s, but they definitely weren’t the best for the trails!)
  • Bring your camera, or at least your cell phone camera!
  • Give yourself plenty of time! You will probably want a couple of hours to explore the trails, so arrive no later than 3 p.m.
  • Wear bug spray. Yes, this is Oklahoma, so chiggers, ticks, and other creepy crawlies are common!

Now get out and enjoy the great outdoors!