A visit to OKC – Oklahoma City

Just as we drove out of Texas and into Oklahoma, a few raindrops became a torrential downpour, and Betsy was one of the many unhappy vehicles on I-40.  The rain became so fierce that several cars hydroplaned off the road in front of us, so at that point we decided to pull into a city park to take a break.  Nasty!

The following morning brought some sunshine and we continued on to Oklahoma City, or OKC as it is affectionately called here.

This city hasn’t been on our travel route in past years, but thanks to Steve’s desire to visit the southeast one more time we were able to take a route to include it and several other stops that are firsts for us.

Welcoming art – Skydance Bridge – inspired by the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird

Did you know that Oklahoma City was settled by the historic Land Run of April 22, 1889?  Well, we didn’t until we stumbled upon the Centennial Land Run Monument while walking along the south end of the city’s Bricktown Canal.  A series of 45 bronze sculptures commemorate the opening of Unassigned Lands in Oklahoma Territory, and feature larger-than-life figures depicting the frenzied energy and emotion from one moment during the race to claim new homesteads.

During that chaotic event in 1889, 50,000 anxious settlers massed along the border surged forward at the sound of a cannon shot at noon.  A tumultuous avalanche of wagons and horsemen rushed onto the Unassigned Lands to stake their claim for free land.

An amazing series of 45 bronze statues spans a distance of 365 feet
A river crossing makes the display dramatic, complete with horse hoof prints on the shoreline
The statues are 1 1/2 times life size, making Steve want to get out of the way!
A downed horse, and a woman cradling her baby
The monument was 25 years in the making.  Sculptor Paul Moore was a 5th generation Oklahoman

After our interesting history lesson, we continued meandering along the canal and entertainment district, having lunch at The Drake in the Uptown Plaza District.  We enjoyed their famous Lemon Cloud Pie free of charge, just because we were out-of-towners.  Such warm hospitality!  Our friendly server then suggested we take a peek at the art on the area’s plaza walls, a rotating public project that provides mural space for local artists.  We walked off the calories from that excellent pie as we viewed some impressive modern street art.

Bricktown Canal residents

Driving around OKC, we saw these squiggly lines painted on the road.  Can you guess what they’re for?  We were so curious that we had to ask one of the locals!

Slippery when wet!  We haven’t seen these anywhere else

Here’s some more trivia:  Did you know that the Oklahoma state capitol is the only capitol building that sits atop a giant oil field?  Active oil rigs can be seen all around the capitol grounds.  We also learned that the building was dome-less for 85 years after its initial construction.

Part of the original blueprint over 100 years ago included a dome, but it was only completed in 2002.  Our tour was somewhat limited due to a major restoration that has been underway since 2015.

Looking up at the interior of the new dome

Oklahomans are memorialized through many beautiful murals, paintings, and other artwork (some had been removed for the restoration) at the capitol.

Flight of Spirit – the painting is a tribute to five world-renowned Native American ballet dancers from the state of Oklahoma. This is just one of the many murals throughout the building
This is a nine-foot replica of The Guardian, a huge statue that stands prominently atop the capitol dome.  The one on the dome is 17′ tall

On a rare sunny day we visited the two components of The Oklahoma City National Memorial – the indoor Memorial Museum and the Outdoor Memorial.  Viewing the Outdoor Memorial first, we witnessed the symbolic elements that tell the story of that moment on April 19, 1995.  We’ve seen pictures of the memorial taken by our blogger friends, but being there in person was a powerful experience.

A “Gate of Time” is erected at each end of what was once the street in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  One is engraved “9:01” and the other “9:03”, and they frame the moment the bomb detonated at 9:02am.  The 9:01 east gate depicts the innocence before the attack, while the 9:03 west gate marks when the healing began.

Reflecting on what happened here

Remains of the Murrah building with 600 names of blast survivors

The Field of Empty Chairs faces the reflecting pool.  There are 168 bronze chairs, each etched with the name of a person – including 19 children – who died on that day.  They were arranged in nine rows that indicate the floor where victims were working or visiting at the time.  The memorial also pays tribute to those who survived the blast and the 12,000 rescue workers who came to help from all over the world.

Oklahoma National Memorial Museum

It was a sobering experience inside the Memorial Museum.  The self-guided tour is organized by chapter, starting with the history of the site, its neighborhood and the Murrah building.  Displays show what was happening in the city and around the world in 1995.

Chapter 1 – A day like any other in downtown OKC

The tour continued with us listening to a recording of a meeting underway when the blast occurred, including the chaos of people trying to escape the building.  From there we continued through chapters detailing the rescue efforts and recovery of the city during the days and years after the event.

Artifacts at the museum

We thought the museum was extremely well done.  It’s a factual tribute that doesn’t diminish the tragedy, but offers an inspiring contrast between the brutality of the evil and the tenderness of the response.

Murrah building after the blast
Overlooking the outdoor memorial where the building once stood
My 15 minutes of fame when I was interviewed at the exit 🙂

For us, the Outdoor Memorial was a beautiful and symbolic place of quiet reflection that became more meaningful after experiencing the story inside the museum.  It was a very emotional yet uplifting day.




  1. Don’t say Southeast one more time. That sounds like you’ll never come back. I’ve never been to OKC so thank you for such a nice visit. It seems we have too many beautifully done somber memorials at too many tragic sites.

    • Perhaps next time on your way down to Florida or way back up to your hometown, try to do an off the beaten route and include OKC. I know you will appreciate the tasteful memorial.

  2. Now I’m sorry we didn’t go south on the Riverwalk. Something for the next time, which hopefully includes a stop at the museum.

  3. Thank you for showing us this beautiful memorial to such a tragic event. I had a dear friend who worked in a building nearby and shared with me her memories of this horrific day.

  4. Excellent post and wonderful pictures. It is hard to believe that it has a been that many years. Thanks for the reminder of how precious life is and for those whose lives were tragically cut short that day.

  5. We have many more visits to the southeast ahead of us, and Oklahoma City has been on our list for a long time. It’s never been very high up on our list, but reading your post and seeing your photos makes me certain that I want to go there. The bronze sculptures of the Land Run are fantastic, the capitol building and artwork are lovely, and the memorial museum looks like an emotionally wrenching, beautiful tribute. Thanks for the tour—we’ll follow your lead!

    • The Centennial Land Run monument was a result of extending our canal walk otherwise we would have missed it. I also wanted to see their Botanical Garden but it was at the bottom of the list and we only had two days here. If you do go to the memorial, try to do museum first before the memorial itself.

  6. The designers of that memorial really did a wonderful job creating a beautiful site that appropriately pays tribute to all those who were affected and capturing the feeling of that day and its aftermath. I was also so impressed by the sculptures of the land race. What an awesome way to remember that event! Plus, murals! And pie! Who knew there was so much to see in OKC?!

    • I know OKC is a vibrant city. The only but is that it is in the Tornado Alley, that visiting it is not always on anyone’s priority list. And yes, there’s a lot to do there which we did but I just abbreviated my post 🙂

  7. Interesting post from the landgrab to the memorial. History has a way of fading away or changing over time but they did a great job preserving it and you did a great job writing about it.

    • Most of the time we only hear about tragedies in the news or learn their history from books. But visiting and experiencing the city has more impact. I do also think OKC have done well with their preservation of iconic events in their history.

  8. Wonderful post MonaLiza! You saw so much more than we did…..but then it rained the entire time we were there so we weren’t crazy about strolling around much. Next time, if there is a next time through OKC, we’ll definitely head for the Bricktown Canal area. The murals are beautiful and interesting and I would have LOVED to see those statues!

    • We lucked out that our short stay there the sun cooperated a bit allowing us to see more and there are more to see. I heard the Botanical Garden is also worth a visit. Perhaps you can do that on your way up or down the country.

  9. So glad you got to visit the Memorial. It is such an impressive and powerful memorial. We also visited the elementary school that was hit by a tornado. The Memorial that is part of school entrance in memory of the students that were killed that day was beautifully done. That area of OK has certainly seen its share of tragedy.

    • We actually drove to Moore to see the town that was wiped out but the city recovered quickly that we did not see any evidence of the tornado aftermath. Too bad we missed the elementary school memorial, I should have checked your post about that 🙂

  10. Thank you for this great tour-now we have to make sure we visit it. We do love to visit capitals-and this one sounds very special as I was moved deeply with every one else over the bombing of the Murrah Building-I worked in Federal Buildings for 20 years….and the thought of those precious 19 babies and children tears my heart up. 💔

  11. We have been to the memorial twice and both times were moved to tears. One visit was close to the Christmas holiday and wreaths were placed on all the chairs, a reminder of all those families that had a void in their lives during the holidays, particularly the laughter of children missing. Thanks for sharing so much of the history of OKC.

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