Tulsa's first residents were Creek Indians who moved into the area in the early 1800s. Then came the railroad and cowboys driving cattle to the Tulsa railhead -- so far a typical settlement story for our state.
But history got turned on its head with the oil boom of the '20s, and Tulsa became a big town with big plans and grand buildings. Boomtown days may be gone, but Tulsa combines a fascinating history with a forward-looking spirit, and it's a great destination for a weekend getaway.
For home base, my husband, Jack, and I recently stayed at Hotel Indigo in Tulsa's Blue Dome District. Although part of the Holiday Inn family, each property is unique. The décor here is strictly Tulsa, highlighting its oil history. From wall-sized murals and oil-related items on display to a ceiling decorated with oil drum lids, guests get a glimpse of the glory and grit of Tulsa's past.
Start your adventure with a sample of some of the city's best cuisine. Libby Billings is one of my favorite chef/owners, so we like having the choice of two of her restaurants in the downtown area. If you're in the mood for Mexican, try Elote. For a more eclectic menu, the Vault, in an iconic mid-century modern building, has great food, craft cocktails and outdoor dining on a third-floor patio.
We usually linger over dinner, but if you're up for more activity, check out one of Tulsa's casinos. The Creek Nation still has a stake in the town with the modern River Spirit Casino. All the big casinos have concert venues and host touring entertainers.
We began our Saturday morning explorations with a bit of a drive to savor a taste of the town's culinary classics. The Savoy Restaurant has been ruining diets for decades with their homemade, mega-sized cinnamon rolls. Open only for breakfast and lunch, this family-owned eatery is a favorite foodie destination, but you have to get up early to get the special caramel pecan rolls served only on Fridays and Saturdays.
Save indoor activities for the hotter part of the day and head for one of Tulsa's oldest parks, Woodward Park. This is home to the Linnaeus Teaching Garden. With docents on hand to give gardening advice and demonstrations, the garden is a delight to the average visitor. Colorful flowers, a variety of vegetables, garden paths and fountains make this is a great spot to enjoy a summer morning.
The Municipal Rose Garden is located in the park, as is the Tulsa Garden Center, housed in a beautiful 1919 Italianate Revival mansion. Behind the garden center is an elegant Victorian conservatory with tropical plants.
Just south of the garden center mansion is another mansion, now home to the Tulsa Historical Society Museum. The two houses were built by brothers.
One of our favorite spots is just down the street at 3817 S. Peoria. Weber's Superior Root Beer Restaurant has a few stools inside and picnic tables outside. Hamburgers are cooked on a family heirloom grill made in 1891, and root beer is brewed according to an old family recipe. This is a great spot to pick up lunch to take to the Gathering Place (Tulsa's premier park), but Jack and I like to eat onsite so we can get our root beers in frosty mugs.
Spend a couple of afternoon hours at the Philbrook Museum of Art. The original part of the building was the mansion of oilman Waite Phillips. The gardens are a real treat, too.
Close to the hotel, dinner at Duet is a gustatory adventure. Once I tasted my appetizer -- deep-fried Brie with ancho maple drizzle and pickled blueberries -- I knew this place was something special. For jazz-lovers, there's a jazz club downstairs with live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
If you're willing to go a bit lowbrow, check out the melodrama at the Spotlight Theatre. It's old-fashioned fun with a sing-along in the interval. The theater is in a Bruce Goff-designed building, one of Tulsa's many art deco showpieces.
Sunday for us means church. At Tulsa's Boston Avenue Methodist Church, you can attend the 11 a.m. service and follow it up with a tour of the iconic art deco building. This is the crown jewel of Tulsa's architectural collection, featured in National Geographic Magazine after its 1929 completion. The Chalkboard Restaurant nearby in the Ambassador Hotel is a charming spot for breakfast before heading to church.
For lunch, check out the Brady Arts District -- lots of choices here. Enjoy Guthrie Green, a public space great for gathering, often the site of entertainment and other activities. Don't miss the Woody Guthrie Center to learn more about Oklahoma's musical spokesman for the common man.
This itinerary covered just a fraction of the attractions in Tulsa. Our trip was made before the current COVID-19 crisis, so while many of these places are reopening, check visittulsa.com, individual websites and Facebook pages when making your plans.
Tulsa -- set in the lush, rolling hills of northeast Oklahoma -- is a two-hour drive from Norman. If you're looking for a change of scenery, great food and interesting attractions, take a trip to Tulsa.