Tulsa downtown skyline and bridge

Tulsa has a bustling downtown. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Plan a Culture-Packed Weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma

While many know of Tulsa’s oil-industry roots, visitors are surprised to see the wealth of art deco buildings, art districts, music venues and craft-beer pubs and taprooms. And the Sooner State city is a joy to explore on foot: Flat, built on a grid and easy to wander, you’ll spend a fun three days taking in the sights, sounds and flavors of this heartland hub for culture and the arts.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Tour the Tulsa Arts District

Start your morning right with a healthy brunch at Chimera, famed for its vegetarian fare. One popular option: the homemade glazed vegan cinnamon roll topped with candied almonds. Alternatively, keep it light with a vegan tofu scramble. Both pair well with the “Spicy Mexican Mocha.”

Next, it’s time to explore the Tulsa Arts District. The red-brick buildings in this onetime downtown warehouse district have been transformed into studios, galleries and museums — and the cafés, bistros and bars that tend to crop up in creative communities. Together, the area is worth a daylong wander, so let’s get started, shall we?

Begin by listening to some of Tulsa’s musical history at the Woody Guthrie Center. The Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter’s life spans his Dust Bowl-era roots to his 1960s protest-movement involvement — and his songs (and this namesake center) tell those stories.

Stroll Guthrie Green, the adjoining park (checking out the bandstand’s calendar here). While you’re checking schedules, see what the landmark Cain’s Ballroom has on stage while you’re in town. Country, rock, folk and other greats have played this formerly dime-a-dance joint, now such a venerated venue that it’s worth it to step inside, even without tickets in hand.

Continue the historical — and musical — theme with a visit to the circa-1914 Tulsa Theater and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, housed in the Tulsa Union Depot, the former central train station.

Break for lunch at the colorful Sisserou’s Caribbean Restaurant for island-accented fare. Or try the funky Gypsy Coffee House, housed in a building constructed for the Gypsy Oil Company in 1906, which hosts live music every Friday and Saturday night.

Person browsing through bookstore
Spend part of the day browsing local shops. (Photo: Getty Images)

Switch to the visual arts in the afternoon — and if it happens to be the first Friday of the month, you’re in luck: The monthly First Friday Art Crawl throws open the doors to studios and other venues, often with special programming on tap.

Either way be sure to visit 108 Contemporary, a nonprofit community arts organization where you can browse the work of local artists, and Magic City Books, an independent bookstore.

For dinner, opt for Israeli-influenced cuisine at Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant & Bar, also in the Tulsa Arts District. Enjoy appetizers like hummus and falafel before savoring a mint-lemon salad and Moroccan lemon chicken. Be sure to save room for the delectable chocolate truffles served at Glacier Chocolate, a sweet place to end the day, just a 4-mile drive away.

Saturday: Explore the Pearl

Begin your morning with a stroll through Veterans Park (formerly known as Centennial Park), a green area with picturesque water fountains and plenty of trails to explore. Bordering the park is Cirque Coffee, known for its specialty roast brews and its other, funkier beverages like cereal-inspired lattes.

The Pearl is another art-and-culture district, this one located in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

Today, a focal point is the Church Studio, a former church that musician Leon Russell turned into a recording studio and part of the movement known as the Tulsa Sound of the 1970s. Over the years, songwriters and musicians such as Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder have recorded (or hung out) here.

Visitors — and music lovers — tend to gravitate next door to Studio Records, selling vintage vinyl (and new releases, too).

If it’s noon, it’s none too early for a self-guided tour of the Pearl’s breweries and taprooms — which are within a handful of blocks from each other and easy enough to navigate.

Stop first at Marshall Brewing Company, Tulsa’s first craft brewery, which opened in 2008. (And it opens at noon, another vote in its favor.) Be sure to visit the taproom for seasonal and limited-production selections, poured fresh from the tap.

Then check out the Dead Armadillo Brewery & Taproom for coffee oatmeal stouts and pale ales brewed with ginger and Nothing’s Left Brewing Co. to try the famed chocolate peanut butter stout.

Pulled pork sandwich with French fries
You can’t come to Tulsa and not try a hearty sandwich. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Pearl Beach Brew Pub delivers a beachy — yes, in this landlocked state — vibe with its massive (and rocking) beach-volleyball court, an outdoor amenity flanked by games, including cornhole, Jenga, beer pong and more.

By contrast, American Solera Brewing is a pretty place that serves farmhouse ale aged in oak tanks with blueberries — to take one example — in its modern indoor and outdoor spaces. And while some of these spots serve snacks, do stop for some real (and really good) food at Ike’s Chili — its namesake dish and the crispy chicken sandwiches are faves.

Take a break, wander back to the hotel and when you’re ready for dinner, the Chalkboard at the Ambassador Hotel offers a delicious change of pace.

The elegant dining room is housed in the handsome circa-1929 hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And the menu is elegant, too, featuring a classic beef Wellington, homemade ravioli and, for dessert, a decadent white chocolate bread pudding.

Sunday: Discover Art Deco — and Black History

Art Deco buildings in downtown Tulsa
Tulsa has some incredible Art Deco architecture. (Photo: Getty Images)

Get a slow start to your day at the Topeca Coffee Shop in the Deco District. Enjoy a root beer float latte or some freshly roasted coffee with a dollop of honey sourced from artisanal producers in Guatemala.

Once you’ve had your fill, venture next door to the DECOPOLIS Tulsa Art Deco Museum set in the opulent Philcade Building. Learn more about Tulsa’s rise as an art deco capital while browsing the museum’s many artifacts.

Afterward, take to the streets of the Deco District for a self-guided walking tour. The museum offers handy pamphlets that show you where to go to see the best sites, including the McFarlin Building and the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company Building, which was made from reinforced concrete and Indiana limestone.

After your tour, head to Lassalle’s New Orleans Deli for lunch. Take your pick from a variety of po’boy sandwich options, from a six-inch stuffed with catfish to a 10-inch filled with fried green tomatoes and boiled shrimp.

After lunch, visit the Greenwood District, formerly known as Black Wall Street. During an exploration of the neighborhood, learn how, at the turn of the 20th century, this area played host to the country’s most successful Black-owned businesses and enterprises.

Then came the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, a tragedy memorialized at the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation Park. Learn more about the devastation suffered by this community at the park’s plaza, which features 16-foot granite structures containing three bronze sculptures with actual pictures from the tragedy.

Start to wind down the day with a visit to the Greenwood Cultural Center, which tells the history of the jazz and blues boom of the area, before pulling up a seat at Wanda J’s Next Generation Restaurant. Here you can enjoy a delectable home-cooked dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens — a delicious end to your weekend exploration.