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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A history lesson


Our state has a storied history. From gun slingers and outlaws to Olympians and war heroes, a short trip to the east will highlight the diversity in our state.

Check out the 14 Flags Museum in Sallisaw, paying homage to the 14 different nations of people the state has been home to. You can explore historic structures dating back to the time when Cherokee settlers began arriving in the state in 1830. Other places to quench your historical thirst include Robbers Cave State Park and the Spiro Mounds.

Sports enthusiasts can visit Yale to tour the former home of 1912 Olympian Jim Thorpe displaying track and field awards or Stillwater to tour the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

history, native american, Oklahoma, day-trip, family-friendly
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A hometown adventure

Oklahoma History Center

Today, we know Oklahoma City as a thriving, vibrant city full of fun things to do, great places to shop and world-class restaurants. You might be surprised that our city has a storied history. Born at the sound of a gunshot, Oklahoma City was settled by a historic land run involving 10,000 homesteaders on April 22, 1889. By 1900, the population had more than doubled and on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state.

A fun fact for all you history buffs – Oklahoma City was not always the capitol of Oklahoma; nearby Guthrie takes the distinction of being the first. On June 11, 1910, voters decided to move the capitol from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. In fact, the Secretary of State brought the state seal by order of Gov. Haskell to the Huckins Hotel, making the hotel the State Capitol of Oklahoma. Despite the hotel being demolished in 1971, its colorful history lives on. You can read a full account of the state capitol move here. The current Oklahoma State Capitol was built in 1919 at N.E. 23rd Street and Lincoln Boulevard.

These are just a few of the fun facts that you can discover on a self-guided tour of the Oklahoma History Center. Why not check it out and find out about the state’s history for yourself?

Located just northeast of downtown near the Oklahoma State Capitol, the Oklahoma History Center is a great place to explore. Check out the Smithsonian-quality exhibits and more than 2,000 artifacts which reflect the inspiring and adventurous spirit of our state. More information on museum hours and admission prices is available here.

The Oklahoma Museum of History is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the keeper of the state’s history. That website is filled to the brim with information that could fill out any school history report or satisfy your curiosity about all things history Oklahoma. Explore photographs, news accounts, oral histories, records and more. It’s definitely our go-to resource for all history questions.

While you’re here, don’t miss the Red River Journey -- a walking tour of the Red River Valley.  In addition to land forms, vegetation and important historical locations, the grounds also include an outdoor oilfield exhibit complete with drilling derricks, a portable derrick and machinery associated with Oklahoma oil explorations.

And an extra fun fact – The street where the Oklahoma History Center is located is named after another well-known and respected immigrant, Dr. Nazih Zuhdi, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and performed Oklahoma’s first heart transplant and was a pioneer surgeon in many other ways. Read more about him here and here.

museums, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City history, Guthrie, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

El Reno is El Realest When It Comes to Trolleys and Onion Burgers

El Reno Trolly

“El Reno” means “The Reindeer” in Spanish, which is cool, but in reality the coolest thing about visiting El Reno isn’t Blitzen et al. No, it’s the fact that it’s the only city in the state with an operating streetcar (though OKC’s new streetcar system is not too far away)! The Heritage Express Trolley runs from Heritage Park at the Canadian County Historical Museum to El Reno’s downtown main street area. While in El Reno, you can also get an original fried onion burger from Sid’s Diner, which has been featured on the Travel Channel and the Food Network. In fact, the first Saturday every May is the Fried Onion Burger Day Festival. Yum!

Downtown El Reno Oklahoma 5-31-2014

food, Oklahoma, day-trip, festivals
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Bring On Yukon

Yukon Main Street

Another great stop west of OKC proper is Yukon. Yukon is known as the “Czech Capital of Oklahoma” and features the historic Czech Hall, which is a national historic site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1925, the hall has hosted Czech dances every Saturday night, which you should totally go Czech out, because you knew we were going to go there with that pun, and also because you can enjoy dancing, Czech snacks, beers and meeting some new people. The famous Yukon Czech Festival occurs on the first Saturday of October, so mark your calendars now to get your hands on some of those kolaches or klobasy sandwiches you love.

Yukon also hosts the Chisholm Trail Crawfish Festival in June, which seeks to integrate a celebration of the historic Chisholm Trail with a little dash of Cajun charisma (why not?). Go get your Yukon on!

Monument, Czech Hall, Yukon, OK Czech Hall - Bohemian Hall, Yukon, OK

Oklahoma, Yukon, day-trip, festivals
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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You Must Mustang

Located adjacent to OKC to the southwest, Mustang was first settled during the 1889 land run and was named for Mustang Creek, which flows just north of town. The Mustang Historical Museum pays tribute to these early days of Mustang and OKC with exhibits featuring pioneer artifacts and garb, agriculture and ranching items, a scale model one-room schoolhouse, and even the original Mustang Jail from the 1960s. Mustang also holds the annual Western Days festival, this year on Sept. 11-12. Join about 30,000 other folks enjoying a parade, a chili cook-off, a car show, arts and crafts, local entertainment, the Western Stampede Run, a rodeo and more during this time-honored celebration of the pioneer and western spirit.

museums, Oklahoma, day-trip, festivals
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Red Rock Canyon State Park Rocks

Canyon wall and Gaillardia flower

[photo credit: Lisha Newman / OK Tourism]

Just an hour west of OKC and a little south of Hinton off Interstate 40 is Red Rock Canyon State Park. Nestled among fantastic red Rush Springs Sandstone canyon walls and native Caddo maple trees, the park is a favorite for rappellers, hikers, climbers and car campers. Historically, Red Rock Canyon was a preferred winter camp for Plains Indians, and was also a typical stop on the “California Trail” for pioneers headed west in the mid-19th century. In fact, you can still see wagon wheel ruts left by their covered wagons in the park! Besides hiking and climbing, there is a fishing pond, swimming pool and playground to enjoy. In the fall, it also makes a fantastic spot to see the native foliage embrace its colorful autumnal awesomeness. Red Rock Canyon State Park makes for an easy and fun quick escape and is ready to be explored by TBL readers, so get out there, campers, and be sure to let us know how it went in the comments section.

Red Rock Canyon SP sign

fishing, Oklahoma, outdoor recreation, parks, camping, day-trip
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Made in Oklahoma

Made in Oklahoma Coalition

Ooooooo-kla-homa is both where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and local companies and organizations thrive. If you are a frequent reader, then you know that an entrepreneurial spirit flows through the veins of our great state (and we might be more than a little proud of that).

One of the organizations ensuring the success of Oklahoma businesses and farms is Made in Oklahoma (MIO). In fact, what started out as an organization of less than a dozen Oklahoma food manufacturers in 2000 has grown into a 40-member coalition that employs more than 20,000 Oklahomans and generates more than $3 billion in sales annually. MIO is a great example of what can be accomplished when businesses pool resources. From produce and baked goods to essential oils, dog treats, handmade furnishings and more, you might be surprised to find out what is truly Made in Oklahoma.

To get a glimpse of some of the products available, visit the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market Tuesday-Sunday or Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Farmers Market in the Horticulture Pavilion on any Saturday throughout the year. Expect to find fresh delicious produce, herbs, honey, farm-fresh eggs, meat, cut flowers and much more. A farmers market is held in Oklahoma Department of Agriculture parking lot from noon to 5:30 p.m. each Tuesday and monthly in the Uptown 23rd neighborhood. Made in Oklahoma products are always in supply at Plenty Mercantile and the Red Dirt Emporium.

The MIO Coalition also offers numerous mouth-watering suggestions to use all those tasty items. Some of our favorites include candied bacon, fried okra salad, the working man’s quiche and so many more.

Oklahoma, shopping, Uptown 23, farmers market, local goods
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Rich History

Have you ever wondered why the influence of Native American is predominant in Oklahoma?

You might be surprised to learn that even the state’s name can be traced back to early Native American settlers. In the Choctaw language, okla means "people;" homma or humma means "red." So Oklahoma literally means “red people.”

Certainly Native Americans have played an important role in shaping our great state, settling here nearly a half-century before the Land Run of 1889. Their contributions to our heritage are evident in everything from our state flag to the markings on our overpasses. Throughout history, Oklahoma has been home to 67 American Indian tribes, and even today, more than 35 federally recognized tribes call Oklahoma home. The state is even home to the Spiro Mounds, considered to be one of the most important Native American sites in the nation. The mounds are open to the public, weather permitting.

To get more information on the history of Native American and our state read one of our past blogs here.

history, native american, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Go Climb a Rock

You don’t have to go far to get your rock climbing fix in OKC. Rocktown is the famous former-grain-silo-turned-indoor-and-outdoor-climbing-gym that is located downtown between Bricktown and the Boathouse District. Rocktown was also featured in the recent short documentary from TheCoolist, Oklahoma City: Uncovering a Hidden Gem of American Cool (which you should definitely watch if you haven’t already).

Another nearby place to consider testing out the quality of your carabiners is Red Rock Canyon State Park. Located one hour west of OKC near Hinton, Red Rock Canyon offers hiking where you can see original wagon wheel ruts left by settlers on their way to California, in addition to cool 80-foot red canyon walls perfect for rappelling and climbing.
Red Rock Canyon SP sign

(Among other great spots, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge discussed below also offers rock climbing. Read on!)

outdoor recreation, camping, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Go for a Hike in the Wichita Mountains

Wichita Mountains Bison
Let us answer the question “which hike?” by suggesting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. A refuge is that which protects native flora and fauna from environmental degradation, which in this case will also enable you to hike the balls of your feet flat if you so desire. The Wichita Mountains trails are 15 miles long, which travel through a variety of terrain and which reward hikers with all sorts of great views and potential Wichita wildlife sightings, and which (as an added bonus for you folks from Salem) are witch-free. Yes, Wichita is that place in which you can gain an appreciation for hiking as well as at which you can see many outdoorsy things, which is also great, which is what we strive for, amirite?

Anyway, the only question now is, which trail are you going to choose?

outdoor recreation, family-friendly, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Workin’ on the Railroad

If the idea of a road trip to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area gives you road rage, then Oklahoma City’s Heartland Flyer may be your ideal way to travel. Leaving from the Santa Fe Station at 8:25 a.m., the Heartland Flyer makes a daily round trip to the Amtrak station in Ft. Worth and back to OKC. From Ft. Worth, connections are available to Dallas, Chicago or San Antonio via the Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer, which is usually made up of two Superliner Coaches and a Superliner II Coach/Café Car, comes wired for electricity with outlets dispersed throughout the train. With more leg room than most automobiles, you can stretch out and enjoy the scenic view of southern Oklahoma during your trip. The train is also part of the National Park Service’s Trails & Rails program, an innovative partnership that highlights the natural and cultural heritage of the land along the train’s path. Between May and October, a National Park Service guide from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area will provide on board narratives about the history of southern Oklahoma.

In addition to taking you south of the Red River, the Heartland Flyer makes stops in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore, giving you the option of taking in the history and attractions of other Oklahoma towns before catching the return train to Oklahoma City.  

day-trip, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Sights to See in Southern Oklahoma

The communities along the Interstate 35 corridor between Oklahoma City and the state’s southern boundary are full of attractions that warrant a trip in their own right. Get to know your state as you explore these southern points!

With its close ties to the University of Oklahoma, this town is a quick escape from Oklahoma City with attractions for every age. You would be remiss if you missed Norman’s museums and educational attractions, including the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. This museum gives new meaning to the prehistoric age as it walks you through four billion years of the earth’s history. If you prefer post-impressionism to Pentaceratops, visit the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Learn more about current exhibitions at the museum.

Pauls Valley
Calling all kids and kids at heart! The Toy and Action Figure Museum was ranked as one of Time Magazine’s “Top 50 Most Authentic American Experiences” and offers more than 13,000 classic pop culture figures for you to enjoy. The museum walks you through the toy-making process from concept through manufacturing and has an interactive area if you feel the urge to play. The museum is also home to the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection, which features Oklahoma cartoonists like Chester Gould (of Dick Tracy) and Jack and Carole Bender (from Alley Oop).

Sulphur and Davis
Just east of I-35, the towns of Sulphur and Davis are in the heart of the Chickasaw Nation and are an easy distance to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and the Lake of the Arbuckles. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area  is Oklahoma’s oldest national park and offers campsites and opportunities for biking, boating, water sports and hiking, to name a few. Nearby is the Chickasaw Cultural Center, a can’t-miss glimpse into the history, heritage and way of life of the Chickasaws.  While in Davis, indulge your sweet tooth by paying a visit to Bedré Fine Chocolate Factory, which provides a behind the scenes look that could only be topped by Willy Wonka himself. Delectable chocolates are produced Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and don’t worry – you can buy these tasty chocolates on site (chocolate covered chips, anyone?).  

day-trip, family-friendly, museums, Norman, Oklahoma, Pauls Valley, Sulphur, attractions, Davis
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Check out state parks and other outdoor places

If you want to get away from the city for Spring Break, many of Oklahoma’s State Parks are just a short drive away. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s website,, has a list of state parks that you can explore by selecting your areas of interest. Want a state park that offers archery and an RV hookup? Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman is your place. What about hiking in a state park off of Interstate 40? Try Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton (about an hour from Oklahoma City), Foss State Park in Foss or Lake Eufaula State Park in Checotah. Yes, the options get that specific.

You can plan your perfect getaway based on your interests. The range of activities offered at state parks includes golfing, disc golf, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and even cave exploring (Alabaster Caverns State Park near Freedom).

Some areas of interest worth exploring that aren’t on the state parks’ list include the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service near Lawton, Quartz Mountain Nature Park in southwest Oklahoma and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve operated by the Nature Conservancy.

Get a move on, and enjoy Spring Break in Oklahoma.

parks, spring break, Oklahoma, outdoor recreation
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine’s Day on a Budget

So we’ve talked about some great things to buy for Valentine’s Day. You might be sitting at home thinking that all sounds great, but I’ve got a budget. Who has the money to really show that special someone just how special they truly are? Well, good thing you live in Oklahoma City. Unlike many metros, OKC is affordable. I mean, you can live in NYC, but can you really LIVE in NYC?

Did you know that if you made $35,000 working in Oklahoma City that is the equivalent of only making $14,500 in Manhattan? What kind of witchcraft did we come up with to figure those numbers? Check out our Cost of Living Calculator. It couldn’t be easier. Simply type in a base salary and pick two metros to compare.

The tool gives you an in-depth breakdown of what basic living goods cost in each city and most times you will see Oklahoma City always comes in more affordable. Were you thinking of cooking your special someone a nice spaghetti dinner for Valentine’s Day? Good thing you are in OKC. Parmesan Cheese is currently running at $7.16 in Manhattan. Here in the 4-0-5 you can get it for just $3.60. Oklahoma City: where living on a budget can still lead to caviar dreams and champagne wishes.

Oklahoma City, holiday, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Just slightly northwest of Oklahoma City you will find Kingfisher. First and foremost, cool name right? Kingfisher is named after an early resident name King Fisher. Want another fun fact about Kingfisher? Walmart founder Sam Walton was born there in 1918.

Kingfisher was located right on the Chisholm Trail, over which millions of cows were driven from Texas to Kansas. This was right after the Civil War so when we say driven we don’t mean by semi-truck. You can learn all about this fascinating time in America’s history at the Chisholm Trail Museum. The museum features one-of-a-kind artifacts from that time period including Native American, farm and pioneer implements.

The grounds of the museum is also home to a pioneer village that features five original buildings from the late 19th century, including a one-room school house and the first bank established in Kingfisher.

So in short, Kingfisher is a great place to take a quick drive to and learn more about a unique time in Oklahoma history.

museums, native american, Oklahoma, history, Kingfisher
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Road Less Travelled

One of the best ways to appreciate the changing seasons is by experiencing Oklahoma’s scenery. We guarantee that you will want to break out the apple cider and cozy sweaters once you see all the autumnal beauty that Oklahoma has to offer.

The Talimena National Scenic Byway is one of the state’s best bets for amazing vistas of eastern Oklahoma’s landscape – rolling hills that are ablaze with fall foliage every year. This winding 54-mile drive follows along the crest of the Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita (pronounced Wash-i-tah) National Forest. The drive takes a little more than an hour to complete, but there are plenty of attractions along the route that invite you to take it slow, including hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails.

If you are feeling inspired to explore the rest of Oklahoma’s scenery this fall, check out TravelOK’s suggestions for enjoying autumn in Oklahoma and their list of best destinations for fall foliage.

Oklahoma, outdoor recreation, day-trip, family-friendly
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aviation is More Than OK in OKC

Oklahoma City and aviation go hand-in-hand. If you are new to OKC you might not fully appreciate how important the industry is to our current economy and our state’s history.

You can’t talk about aviation in the Sooner State without first mentioning Wiley Post. First of all Post had an eye patch; that alone made him 72 percent cooler than he already was. Eye patch aside, Post first made headlines in 1931 when he and his navigator broke the record by flying around the world in just eight days (hey, it was 1931). This accomplishment made Post a national celebrity (on par with Charles Lindbergh). He had dinner at the White House and his own ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Post decided to one-up himself in 1933 when he became the first person to fly solo around the world. More than 50,000 spectators greeted him when he completed his trip - and he got his second ticker tape parade in NYC.

For most people, that would be enough accomplishment for a lifetime, but not for Mr. Post. He also developed one of the first pressure suits and discovered the jet stream (all while wearing an amazing eye patch).

Today aviation is one of the key drivers of our region’s economy. It supports more than 85,000 workers and the production of $7.3 billion in goods and services in Oklahoma City alone. On a state level, aviation is Oklahoma’s top foreign export and accounts for a staggering 10 percent of our state’s economy. Oklahoma is one of the top 10 states nationally in traditional aerospace employment.

Oklahoma, aviation, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tinker Helps OKC Take Off

Tinker Air Force Base is one of the largest Air Force bases in the U.S., and is located right here in the Oklahoma City metro. Tinker not only plays a critical role in our nation’s defense, but is also a key economic driver for our region and state. The base houses the largest group of civilian Air Force personnel in the U.S. and is Oklahoma’s largest single site employer. More than 26,000 employees work at Tinker each day.

As you would expect, Tinker covers a lot of ground to house that many employees. The base covers nine square miles and has more than 760 buildings with a floor space of more than 15.2 million square feet.

The recent addition of the Air Force Sustainment Center (AFSC) has made the base an even bigger focal point of support for our Air Force. The AFSC is the center for all Air Force weapon systems, and provides crucial support to the warfighter through depot maintenance, supply chain management and installation support.   

A little history on the base: Oklahoma City was awarded the base in 1941 using land that was owned by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Tinker Air Force base is named after U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker. Tinker was a native Oklahoman who was the first major general of American Indian descent in U.S. Army history. He was also the first general killed in World War II.

A little-known fact about Tinker: Rock pioneer and legend Buddy Holly actually recorded his hit song “Maybe Baby” (and couple of other tunes) in the Tinker Air Force Base Officer’s Club about a year and a half before his untimely death. You can read more about that here.

Oklahoma City history, aviation, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Give us Some Space

Tom Stafford inside Gemini IX spacecraft

Oklahoman Tom Stafford commands Gemini 9-A in 1966, the 7th manned Gemini flight.

We here at TBL HQ were enthralled with the recent “Oklahomans and Space” series on OETA. The documentary series (and book by Bill Moore, who also produced the shows) details the impact that Oklahomans have had, and continue to have, on the space program. From astronauts to engineers to mission controllers and more, Oklahoma lays claim to a remarkable level of accomplishment when it comes to exploring the final frontier. Archival footage and current interviews combine to make a heart-stirring, educational retelling of some of our nation’s greatest scientific and exploratory triumphs, by the Oklahomans that helped make them happen. If you missed the series on TV, fear not! The book and eight-disc DVD set are both available at the Oklahoma History Center Museum Store and online.

history, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

OKC Gives You Wings

Will Rogers and Wiley Post cph.3b05600

Has all this patriotism given you the drive to take to the skies? We don’t blame you. In fact, Oklahoma City has long been a powerhouse of aviation, with connections to some of history’s greatest aviators. This includes Wiley Post, who was the first pilot to fly solo around the world.

In 1913, the Post family visited a county fair in Lawton, Okla., where Wiley saw his first aircraft in flight. This inspiration caused Wiley to immediately enroll in the Sweeney Automobile and Aviation School in Kansas City, and upon graduating he returned to Oklahoma to work. His aviation career began in 1924, when he worked as a parachutist for a flying circus at the age of 26. After working as a private pilot for wealthy Oklahoma oilmen for a few years, Wiley bought a high-wing, single-engine Lockheed Vega nicknamed “Winnie Mae” in 1930. Wiley was at the helm of this aircraft when he won the National Air Race Derby from Los Angeles to Chicago on Aug. 27, 1930. This garnered him national attention, and Wiley completed his first solo flight around the world in 1931.

During his career, Wiley also helped develop the first practical pressurized suit, which he used in an unpressurized cabin at heights reaching 50,000 feet. Because of the heights he reached, literally, Wiley is often credited with discovering the existence of jet streams.

While Wiley Post may be our most famous aviator, Oklahoma’s claim to aviation fame runs deep in its own right. In addition to the contributions made to both military and private aviation, Oklahoma City is home to the International Organization of Women Pilots, and you can learn more about the female contribution to early aviation at the 99s Museum of Women Pilots located near Will Rogers World Airport.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma City history, history, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Oklahoma on the Cutting Edge

While June is a time for outdoor shenanigans in Oklahoma, it is also an important month for one of Oklahoma City’s fast growing industries, biosciences. Each June a delegation of around 80 people representing the industry in Oklahoma travel to the annual BIO International Convention. The purpose of this trip is to network and spread the gospel of the bioscience industry in our region.

The bioscience sector in Greater Oklahoma City is an underrated aspect of the region’s outstanding economic success. It’s estimated bioscience employment contributes $4.1 billion to our economy and employs more than 27,800 workers. In fact, the sector accounts for more than six percent of the total employment in our region.

Not only are the numbers staggering, but these companies are on the front lines of developing medicines and technologies that save countless lives. You can learn more about this exciting field at the OKBio website.

bioscience, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Brief History of Tribes

Deeply and inexorably rooted in Native American culture and history, Oklahoma as a state proudly bills itself as “Native America,” with a statue called “The Guardian” depicting a Native American man with a spear and shield by former Seminole Chief and member of the Oklahoma Legislature (not to mention artist, obvi) Enoch Kelly Haney sitting atop the dome of the Capitol. The name “Oklahoma” even comes from two Choctaw words meaning red (“humma”) and people (“okla”).

A total of 67 Native American tribes have called Oklahoma home, and the state is currently home to 38 federally-recognized tribes producing an estimated $10.8 billion in economic impact. As with many indigenous cultures the world over that have been subject to the forces of imperialism or colonization, the history of Native Americans in Oklahoma is not only a source of pride for Oklahomans but is also complex, often tragic, and naturally difficult to sum up in a blog format. But, we endeavor to please, so here’s a brief sketch.

Prior to European contact, native tribes such as the Wichitas, Caddos, Apaches and Quapaws inhabited modern-day Oklahoma. As European influence and pressures elsewhere grew, other tribes migrated here including Pawnee, Osage, Comanche and Kiowa, in some cases displacing other native peoples. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 then forced all native peoples west of the Mississippi, and the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole) were relocated to Oklahoma (the eastern half of the state was known as “Indian Territory”), along with several others (Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Shawnee, etc.).

After more post-antebellum resettlement due to stresses partially brought on by the expansion of rail networks through then-Indian lands in Kansas and Nebraska, The Dawes Act of 1887 (and other subsequent legislation in the case of the Five Civilized Tribes) then effectively ended communal land ownership, with the government ceding plots to individual tribal members. The “leftover” land was then allowed to be resettled, often via land run (the method by which a large portion of central Oklahoma was opened). The Wheeler-Howard Law or Indian Reorganization Act ended the practice of allotment and renewed tribal government and organization rights in 1934. After World War II, Congress then decided to end recognition of some tribes, resulting in land forfeiture in some cases.

From 1968 to the present day, Native Americans have been able to claim more sovereignty and take advantage of more of a stance of “self-governance” toward the tribes from the federal government, reestablishing themselves as cultural and economic forces.

For a bibliography/source info and more on this complex subject, please check out:

history, native american, Oklahoma, western heritage
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day tripping out of Oklahoma City

If you’d like to get out of the metro area for a quick day trip, here are some places that are worth a look.

Located 90 miles away just north of Lawton, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a 59,020-acre refuge of mixed-grass prairie managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge. While not all the land is open to the public, there are plenty of wilderness areas that offer fishing, hiking, wildlife watching (buffalo, antelope and prairie dogs are among the animals), rock climbing and other recreation. If you’re not a hiker, you can even drive to the top of Mount Scott for some incredible views of the entire area. Be sure to grab a burger at Meers, a landmark restaurant nestled on the edge of the Wichita Mountains.

Other outdoor spots near Oklahoma City include: Roman Nose State Park in Watonga, Lake Thunderbird State Park near Norman, Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, Great Plains State Park near the Wichita Mountains, and Great Salt Plains State Park in Jet.

If you’re into the lore and history of U.S. Route 66, there are all kinds of stops within an hour or two of Oklahoma City that you can get to by traveling along the highway that crisscrosses Oklahoma. We’ve already mentioned POPS. For museums, the most well-known one is the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, but Elk City has its own, too: the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum.

Speaking of museums, if you end up in western Oklahoma exploring Route 66, check out the Stafford Air and Space Museum off of Interstate 40 in Weatherford, named after Weatherford native and astronaut Gen. Tom Stafford. It hosts 40,000 square feet of exhibits.

Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city, offers well known museums like the Gilcrease Museum, the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and the Tulsa Children’s Museum, as well as other attractions.

If you have kids to entertain, don’t miss going about an hour east of OKC to the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum in Seminole, where children of all ages can learn and explore.

[Image courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service]

Oklahoma, outdoor recreation, family-friendly, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Unusual and interesting spots in Oklahoma

You’ve day-tripped to some of Oklahoma’s hot spots outside and inside the metro area. How about the unusual and weird attractions?

See as many as a million bats fly over your head at twilight during the open-to-the-public Selman Bat Watches, which begin May 27 and end Aug. 2, at the Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom in northwest Oklahoma. Print out a registration form online to enter a drawing for one of the coveted spots. Tickets are $12 per adult age 13 and older and $6 for children ages 8 to 12. While you’re in the area, tour the caverns, which include the largest natural gypsum cave in the world that is open to the public.

If you’re into unusual roadside attractions, especially if you’re continuing your U.S. Route 66 exploring, you might want to travel to Catoosa for The Blue Whale. The icon was built in 1972 near what was then a swimming hole, and it has always been a popular novelty for travelers, even before it was restored around 1995.

Head northeast to Bartlesville for the Woolaroc Museum, which is located in the former home of Phillips Petroleum Co. founder Frank Phillips and then, as you explore the area, don’t miss the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Pawhuska.

Also note that Oklahoma is home to 38 federally recognized Native American tribes, and many of them showcase their own unique history with cultural centers. For a start, explore the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Capitol Museum in Durant, or the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee.

If you’re into archaeology and ancient history, the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center in Spiro is worth a trip. The mounds site, which was created between 850 and 1450 AD, is the only prehistoric Native American archaeological site open to the public.

[Image courtesy of The Blue Whale]

Oklahoma, western heritage, day-trip, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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‘Oklahoma’s Favorite Son’ – Will Rogers

Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn’t like, but you’re sure to like the famed all-in-one humorist, roper, cowboy, columnist, actor and social commentator if you go to the Claremore and Oologah areas to learn more about him.

Born in Oologah in 1879, Rogers rose to become the top male motion picture box office star in the early 1930s as well as the most widely read syndicated newspaper columnist. Sadly, he died in a plane crash in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post at age 55.

Learn all about him at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore and his Birthplace Ranch in Oologah.

Quotes from the man once dubbed “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son” have staying power. Here are some good ones, according to the official website run by his estate.

  • "Try to live your life so that you wouldn't be afraid to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."
  • "Broad-minded is just another way of saying a fellow is too lazy to form an opinion."
  • "Always drink upstream from the herd."
  • "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

[Image via the Estate of Will Rogers]

Oklahoma, history, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fried. Good. Onion. Good. Burger. Good.

The fried onion burger is an Oklahoma original, created by frugal chefs in the 1920s looking to make their beef stretch a little farther. They started pressing heaping piles of thinly shredded onions into their beef patties and found that the recipe wasn’t just more economical, it also tasted great.

From these humble beginnings, fried onion burgers soon became a staple across Oklahoma. Here are two OKC diners that serve up some of the best Onion Burgers you’ll find anywhere in the state.

Tucker’s Onion Burgers
Opened in 2011, Tucker’s is a relatively new purveyor of this classic dish. Their sleek, retro diners in Uptown 23rd and Classen Curve serve up fresh onion burgers as well as hand-dipped shakes, fresh cut fries, homemade lemonade and more.

Bunny’s Onion Burgers
Bunny’s is one of the classic Onion Burger joints in OKC, having served up onion burgers and other diner fare for more than 50 years. Visit their original location northside or their newest location southside.

If you want to head a little ways out of town for a scrumptious onion burger, we suggest making your way to El Reno. Located a mere 30 minutes west (and a little bit north) of Oklahoma City, El Reno is so famous for onion burgers that the town hosts an annual Fried Onion Burger Day the 1st Saturday of May. You don’t want to miss it. We promise. There’s a 750-lb. friend onion hamburger involved. For real.

Check out even more mouth-watering burger spots on Travel OK’s list of the top burger joints in Oklahoma.

[Photos courtesy of Tucker’s Onion Burger and Frontier Country Marketing Association]

Oklahoma, restaurants, food, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Capital Shenanigans

Back before Oklahoma became the 46th star on the United States flag, it was just a territory with dreams of gaining statehood. But even as a territory, it needed a capital city. The city of Guthrie (located just 35 minutes north of Oklahoma City) was chosen as the Territorial Capital in the months following the Land Run of 1889. And when Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, Guthrie became the state capital.

But you say, “Wait a minute. Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma.” Well, my friend, you are correct. The deal was that Guthrie would remain the capital until 1913 and then the people of Oklahoma would vote and choose a permanent location. It didn’t really go that way, though. Instead, Gov. Charles Haskell called for an early statewide election and on June 11, 1910, a majority vote chose Oklahoma City as the capital.

Legend has it that Gov. Haskell actually broke into the courthouse in Guthrie under the cover of night to steal the state seal and bring it to Oklahoma City. While we hate to ruin a great story, in all actuality, the Secretary of State brought the state seal by order of Gov. Haskell to the Huckins Hotel, making the Hotel the State Capitol of Oklahoma until the capitol building was completed in 1917. You can read a full account of the state capitol move here and here.

[Photo from Oklahoma Historical Society]

Oklahoma, Oklahoma City history, Guthrie, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do You Know Your Land Run?

April 22, 1889, marked an important date in Oklahoma history when thousands of settlers staked their claim on the Unassigned Lands of Oklahoma and created what we now call Oklahoma City. And since today marks the 125th anniversary of the Land Run, we think this is the perfect time to brush up on your Oklahoma history. Read on for some fast facts about the city that was built in a day – literally.

  • In March 1889, Illinois Rep. William Springer amended the Indian Appropriations Bill to allow Pres. Benjamin Harrison to open the region for settlement.
  • Under the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers could claim lots up to 160 acres in size – but they only received a title to the land if they worked and improved the land for five years.
  • People waited at the boundary of the new territory for weeks before the Land Run even started, and soldiers were tasked with keeping the rowdy crowd in line. Some sneaky citizens slipped through, though, and crossed into Indian Territory before the sound of the gun. These people were labeled “Sooners,” which is the source of the Oklahoma’s nickname “The Sooner State.”
  • Cannons and pistols fired at precisely high noon on April 22, giving the go-ahead for people to stake their claim on a tract of land. Those that participated in the mad dash were called “Boomers,” since they waited for the boom of the cannon to charge into the new territory.
  • The term “Boomer” did not originate with the Land Run, however. The term first referred to participants in the “Boomer Movement,” in which settlers claimed that the Unassigned Lands were public property and should be open to anyone for settlement. Leaders of this movement included David L. Payne (namesake of Payne County) and William L. Couch (first mayor of Oklahoma City).
  • An estimated 50,000 gathered to claim their own 160 acres of “free land.” By nightfall, 11,000 agricultural homesteads were claimed.
  • Many settlers were forced to contest others who claimed the same farm or lot, and a few of these legal battles made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision of Smith v. Townsend in 1892 caused those who entered the territory illegally to lose their claim on valuable land.
Oklahoma City history, history, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Stake Your Claim

We know, you are probably all jazzed up about this Land Run talk and you want to stake your own claim on part of Oklahoma City. You may not get 160 acres, but you can make a Land Run to a nice picnic spot for some OKC birthday celebrations of your own. Read on for some ideas for your own Land Run reenactment.

  • Myriad Botanical Gardens – Grab your friends and fam and head to this 17-acre paradise for the perfect picnic spot. And with Oklahoma City’s Festival of the Arts kicking off today, you will be in prime position to enjoy outdoor performances on the Great Lawn.
  • Boathouse District – While we know the Oklahoma River as the place to experience Olympic-level paddle sports, the Oklahoma River was originally one of the boundaries of the Land Run in 1889. Pay tribute to the adventurous spirit of both roles by checking out the Boathouse District’s Sky Trails or by renting a kayak and getting on the river.
festivals, food, history, Myriad Botanical Gardens, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City history, Oklahoma River, arts and culture, family-friendly
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Back in the Day

Even though Oklahoma City was built in a day, the journey from a railroad depot to a bustling city was not easy. From gunfights to claim jumpers, Oklahoma City’s history will show you how the West was won.

On the morning of April 22, a railroad depot and a few crude buildings made up “Oklahoma Station,” but by nightfall there were between 4,000 and 6,000 people in the area, each trying to defend their claim on 160 acres of land. Streets ran at odd angles, tents were pitched in a haphazard fashion and there was no provision for organized government. Citizens banded together to choose a provisional government, and by May 1, 1889, elections were held to select permanent officials. A volunteer fire department used a hand-drawn converted beer wagon to fight fires, and a provisional police force used their fists and guns to impose order on the city.

Despite the lack of industry and a few economic depressions, the city still continued to be optimistic about its future. By 1900 the population of the citied had almost doubled, making it the fastest-growing town in Oklahoma. And when the Chamber recruited two packing plants to Oklahoma in 1909 and 1910, Oklahoma City had secured its first major industry that employed thousands of people. From that time, Oklahoma City grew steadily and developed into the place that we call home today.

Oklahoma City history, history, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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