Your Guide to Cultural Travel in Tulsa, OK


While I love Colorado’s beautiful scenery and great weather, I was excited to return to Tulsa, OK to see the evolution it has made over the years. As someone who grew up in Tulsa and moved to Colorado over 10 years ago, I was shocked by some of the similarities but was also quickly reassured by the obvious differences. Regardless, for someone desperate to move away, I was excited to come back and see how my hometown had changed.

While Tulsa is only an hour and a half direct flight from Denver, it feels like they’re worlds apart without the mountains to point you in the right direction. But Coloradans will soon find that this little “cow town” — which became the “Oil Capital of the World” almost overnight — resembles Denver in many ways, with its rich culture, colorful arts and music scene, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Tulsa is known as the “Center of the Arts,” and it’s easy to see why, with its designated arts district, a respected collection of world-class art museums, modern street art, a rich display of Art Deco architecture, and numerous contemporary art galleries .

Philbrook Museum of Art

This slide show requires JavaScript.

A must-see when visiting Tulsa is the Philbrook Art Museum. Housed in a luxurious mansion that once belonged to the Phillips family, the Philbrook Museum is more than just an art museum. It is a place of elegance to be seen not only with its art but also with its architecture and beautiful gardens.

Like so much in Tulsa, Philbrook Villa was built in the 1920s for oil money, which is evident in the 72-room mansion, which has travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, teak floors, and ornate ceilings reminiscent of Italian villas . But don’t just stay inside, be sure to walk through the 25 acres of gardens. The formal gardens feature diagonal walkways, stairwells and immaculately trimmed hedges and cobbled pathways leading to the Tempietto.

Visitors see works by well-known artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Moran and Clyfford Still, as well as local artists and popular temporary exhibitions such as the This is an adventure: Coincidentally Wes Anderson.

Art Deco architecture

This slide show requires JavaScript.

As previously mentioned, Tulsa got rich during the oil boom of the 1920s, and with it came the rapid wealth of the region’s oil magnates. With this surge of prosperity, artists and architects drew inspiration from the latest trend of Art Deco, which was dominating larger cities like NYC at the time.

Tulsa offers a beautiful display of this unique architecture with an easy walk to downtown. Visit the Art Deco Museum (free entry) in the historic Philcade building to learn about the rise and fall of Art Deco and the oil magnates who shaped the city’s skyline. And for only $25, grab these Art Deco Tour of Tulsa. The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) walking tour takes you through the buildings, even down through the “secret” tunnel system that connects downtown Tulsa. Notable buildings include the Boston United Methodist Church, Union Depot, Tusls Club, and the Pythian Building.

Modern art comes to life

This slide show requires JavaScript.

But it’s not just about art history in Tulsa, the progressive city also impresses young artists and admirers with its exhibition of street paintings — One of them just launched the world’s largest augmented reality mural “Majestic” in October 2021.

Stop at 108 Contemporary, housed in a restored 1920’s building, a gallery dedicated to showcasing local and international artists in a variety of craft mediums including glass, paper, fiber and more. Living Arts is another favorite where you can ‘experience’ the arts through performances, classes, demonstrations and rotating exhibitions by local and national artists.

For a taste of local flair, visit AHHA (the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa), located at the Hardesty Center in the arts district. The multi-story center houses a variety of exhibits, classrooms, immersive and interactive art exhibits, and a community gallery featuring exhibitions in partnership with its community of artists and nonprofit groups.

This slide show requires JavaScript.

In recent years, Tulsa has received a lot of attention following the airing of The Watchman, which debuted in 2019 for its opening scene of the Tulsa Race Massacre. This followed the 100th anniversary of the massacre in 2021 and continued this historic event Focus. In an attempt to come to terms with its past, Tulsa has taken some important steps toward racial reconciliation. This happened with the opening of Greenwood Rising, the renaming of the Brady Theater (originally named after W. Tate Brady who was once a member of the KKK) and the renaming of Brady Street as the Reconciliation Way in 2019.

The Greenwood Rising Museum tells the horrifying story of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but also sheds light on the history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, better known as Black Wall Street, the business mecca devastated by racial injustice over the years. The museum brings the history of Black Wall Street to life through interactive and informative exhibits. To celebrate the opening in the first year, admission is free until August 2022.

This slide show requires JavaScript.

Tulsa also boasts a thriving music and performing arts scene. As a child I spent many hours as a ballet dancer at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and attended concerts at Cain’s Ballroom, the Colony and the Brady Theater (now the Tulsa Theatre). It was nice to see that all of the venues were still there and showcasing musical talent and performances. For those Coloradans looking for outdoor music venues, Tulsa is bringing down the lawn-seated home on Guthrie Green.

As well as listening to music, learn about their history with a visit to the Woody Guthrie Center and the soon (May 2022) opening Bob Dylan Center. The Woody Guthrie Center honors his life and legacy with a variety of exhibits, over 100 notebooks, artifacts, photographs and a music bar where you can hear his original hits and old ballads. The Bob Dylan Center will showcase over 100,000 exclusive items from its archives, including previously recorded, unreleased recordings.

This slide show requires JavaScript.

While Tulsa certainly doesn’t offer the outdoor recreation opportunities of Colorado, It has one of the best bike systems and the most extensive parking systems, including its latest addition to the Gathering Place. Gathering Place is a riverfront park overlooking the Arkansas River that opened in 2018 and is designed to be an inclusive outdoor space for all. It quickly earned the title of “Best Urban Park in the Country” from USA Today in 2021. Spread over 100 acres, the park features hiking and biking trails, manicured lawns, ponds, public art and sculptures, athletic fields, a skate park, a 56-foot hill swing, and kayak, canoe, and pedal boat rentals. Admission is free.

Don’t miss out on Tulsa’s vibrant craft brewing scene with a visit to Marshall Brewing and American Solera. Sample your way through the burgeoning culinary scene with dishes from Lone Wolf Banh Mi, Bohemian Pizzeria and Wanda J’s in the Greenwood District for the best fried chicken in town. End the night with a few drinks downtown at Valkyrie, or visit historic Brookside at Brook Restaurant and Bar or have a drink on Cherry Street. And for a hotel that puts you at the center of the entertainment but keeps it fresh and modern, check into the Hotel Indigo Tulsa.

To learn more about Tulsa and what to do, go to

All photos courtesy of Jessica Hughes.


Comments are closed.