Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 8: Oklahoma City

This is the eighth post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest starting with the first
secondthirdfourthfifth, sixth, and seventh posts from the trip. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places mentioned below gave me free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. None of that has any bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend to you without hesitation. If there are gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

When I left off telling you about The Day with Not Enough Time, we had just arrived at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  

Oklahoma's is the only capitol in the world with an oil well underneath it. 


We have a routine when we visit Capitols: pose for pictures outside, go inside and get Trevor's Capitol Connection stamped, photograph the rotunda, and then pop in and out of everything else that is open to the public. 

Another map of Sequoyah. Imagine how different things would be now if Oklahoma and Sequoyah had joined the US as two separate states. 

We usually spend 30-45 minutes at a Capitol unless they have an elaborate museum on site or we take a guided tour. I was counting on us getting in and out of the Capitol in less than 45 minutes to allow time to drive to our next destination. This was going to be tight, so we did something we never do: we took the elevator from the ground floor to the highest public floor, instead of taking the stairs. In the elevator, I got to talking with a nice man who followed us over to the rotunda viewing area. Steve went around to take photos while we continued to chat. 

And then the man told us to follow him. He led us past a big STAFF ONLY sign and into the House chambers. 

There, he told us all about the ugly drop ceiling that was removed during a renovation. They discovered this gorgeousness underneath. 

Our new friend (who, as you've now figured out, was a congressman) was eager to show us more of the beautiful Capitol and it killed me to have to excuse ourselves and leave. I would have loved to see more. But I was super excited to head to our next destination. 

The American Pigeon Museum is only open two days a week, neither of which were days we'd be in town. But, they will open for a private showing for a group of any size. If you're going to be in Oklahoma City but the museum isn't open when you're there, contact Lauren. It's totally worth the visit. 

If you'd asked me to name three pigeon facts before arriving, I would have come up with the following:
1) The passenger pigeon is extinct. 
2) Doves are pigeons.
3) Bert's dance Doin' the Pigeon is one of the best things ever.  

OK, #3 might technically be an opinion and not a fact, but the point is that I didn't know much about pigeons. If, like me, you don't know nearly enough about pigeons, boy do I have a place you need to go. 

The American Pigeon Museum has three main sections. The first, pictured above, is all about the types of pigeons. Homing pigeons are the ones used as messengers and for racing, while fancy pigeons are specialized breeds kept by hobbyists. Some owners keep fancy pigeons as pets, while others show them in competitions. 

This part of the museum also has a nice children's area with pigeon-themed artwork, stuffed animals, books, coloring pages, and more. 

The second part of the museum covers the role pigeons have played during wartime. During WWI and WWII,  pigeons were used by the military to transport messages. I had never heard of the Dickin Medal of Honor, awarded to animals for their military service. Pigeons were the first to receive this award in 1943. Since then, a total of 32 pigeons have been honored. 

The third section of the American Pigeon Museum is all about racing. 

I knew pigeon racing was a thing, but I had no idea how it worked. It's been called "the sport with a single starting gate and a thousand finish lines." Since a pigeon will only fly to its own home, how can you race two pigeons with different homes? Pigeon racing clocks. 

The distance and time are measured. The winning bird is the one with the fastest rate of travel, which is not necessarily the first one to get home. Races, which can cover 600+ miles, are won and lost by seconds. Modern electronic timing devices (RFID-chipped pigeon rings) worn by the pigeon make determining a winner a lot easier. 

There's also a type of racing known as one-loft. For this type of race, breeders send their newborn chicks to a single trainer so they can imprint on that location as their home. After several months, the owners gather at that location. The birds are driven to a common spot and released, then they fly back to their home as the onlookers cheer. It sounds festive and fun and super quirky.  

One-loft racing is considered the best way to prove the value of a bird's bloodline and often has the highest prize money. Didn't know that pigeon pedigrees are a thing? Me neither. But they totally are. 

This pigeon knows far more about his family tree than I do about mine. And he's about a million times more likely to win a race than I am. 

Want to learn more about pigeon racing and everything else pigeon? This is the place. I doubt you'll find anywhere with as many books about pigeons. 

As fantastic as the American Pigeon Museum is inside, my favorite part was out back. Lauren (and her charming 5-year old son) introduced us to 12 of the many (MANY) pigeons they care for. I've never petted a pigeon before. 

They are the caretakers for their own pigeons, plus those of other pigeon enthusiasts. When the museum is open, 12 of the fancy pigeons are on display in the small cages you see in these photos. The rest of the time they are in huge enclosures off-site. 

The fancy pigeons were absolutely fascinating. This one's feathers pretty much completely block its vision, which seems like a very poor bird design and obviously is achieved by selective breeding and not natural selection. 

I love this curly pigeon. I had no idea that curly feathers are a thing!

We learned so much at the American Pigeon Museum! You should definitely visit. Admission is free, but they depend on donations to stay open, so buy something from their gift collection or leave a donation. We did both. 

Our final stop for the day was dinner. I'd been told we HAD to try Tucker's Onion Burgers, so that's where we went. To make their signature burger, they start by caramelizing onions, which they add to the ground beef. The burgers are cooked to order and they are spectacular. 

They take orders in a way I've never seen before. Regardless of whether you are eating in or taking out, the bag your food comes in is the order form. The person taking your order makes a stack of bags that equals the number of people eating. They circle the relevant toppings on the bag, then move on to the next person. You can't see my whole bag, but you can see that I got a single burger with cheese and mayo. (Lettuce and tomato too.) 

Their fries are tasty (we shared the pile you see) and their homemade lemonade and cherry-limeade are to die for. Everything at Tucker's was fantastic. Best of all, we didn't need to hurry! Finally, a place where we could linger on the Day with Not Enough Time!

We packed a lot into our final day in Oklahoma City, but it wasn't nearly as hectic as this day had been. I'll tell you all about it on Monday. 


Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 7: Oklahoma City

This is the seventh post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest starting with the first,
secondthirdfourth, fifth, and sixth posts from the trip. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places we visited gave me free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone and we paid full price for the rest. That has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If there are gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The most challenging thing about traveling the way we do is creating the schedule. When we visit a city for the first time, I try to fit as much as possible into every day. I want to see it all. That's not possible, of course, so I do a ton of work ahead of time, researching all the places we want to go and making the tough decisions to cut certain activities from the list. Then it's a matter of piecing those things together based on when they're open and where they're located geographically. I also consider the weather. I try to schedule outdoor activities for first thing in the morning if the day is forecast to be above 90°F and in the warmest part of the day if the temperatures will be below 40°F. There are other factors as well. I've never counted up how many hours I spend preparing for one of our big trips, but it's at least as many hours as the trips themselves. 

All this to say, the time I put into planning trips pays off. Most days go exactly as expected, with the right amount of time scheduled for each stop. And then there are days like Wednesday, April 12. 

The plan was: 9:00 am Zoo, 11:00 Museum, 12:30 Lunch, 1:30 Museum, 3:00 Capitol, 4:00 Museum, 5:30 Dinner. I thought that would be enough time at each location, including the travel time between each place. I was wrong. April 12, 2023 will forever be etched in my mind as the The Day with Not Enough Time. I underestimated the amount of time we would need at literally every place we visited. 
It all started out so promising. We were at the Oklahoma City Zoo bright and early, even before their (beautifully decorated) gates were open. 

For the next 90 minutes, we enjoyed everything that this outstanding zoo has to offer. We admired the animal-created paintings and wished we had more space in our suitcases.

We visited Raptor Ridge, which reminded us of "our" raptors.

We toured the Zoozeum, which had information about the history of the zoo. What a great idea! 

One of my favorite exhibits at the OKC Zoo is called Oklahoma Trails. It is a raised boardwalk that takes you through the distinct life zones of Oklahoma and shows examples of animals that live in each. 

We had two super neat experiences that we loved. First, we got to feed flamingos. I LOVE flamingos! (Need a flamingo craft idea?) 

We each received a cup of water with floating flamingo chow in it. The flamingos knew the drill. When they saw the cups, the hungry ones came running and plunged their heads into them. 

Flamingos are filter feeders, so they gulped a bunch of water and flamingo chow, then let the excess water seep out. 

The flamingo Steve was feeding would take a big mouthful of flamingo chow and eat it, dry its beak on the grass, and put its face right back into the water. Every time until the cup was empty. Plunge, eat, dry, plunge, eat, dry. 

Our other special experience was Gorilla Trek VR. We got into pods ('motion platform seating') and put headsets to experience a 360-degree live action film about a beta gorilla challenging the alpha. It was intense being so close, but it was so cool!

The OKC Zoo is beautiful and a great place to spend such a pretty day.

However, the OKC Zoo is bigger than it seems (and it will soon be even bigger). I didn't budget nearly enough time to see everything, even though we were hurrying. Zoos are one of Trevor's favorites and he begged me for more time. We discussed it and agreed that we would stay 30 minutes more and make up the time at our next destination. Little did we know that I'd grossly underestimated the time we'd need there too. 

We power-walked through the rest of the zoo, practically running, then raced over to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

We started with the Playing Cowboy exhibit, which was really interesting. 

As we were leaving that gallery, we were struck by something about the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It. Is Enormous.  

You could easily spend the entire day here. There's so much to see. 

Unfortunately, we did not have all day. In fact, we only had one hour, since we'd borrowed time in order to stay longer at the zoo. Trevor had taken control of the map and was aggressively pushing us along, but it was clear we couldn't see it all in the time we had. 

We made the decision to skip going out to lunch as planned. That gave us an extra hour. 

We made it through the enormous building, pleased to have seen everything (albeit much faster than we would have preferred). And then we discovered there's a sizable outdoor portion of the museum

Here, there are hands-on activities and helpful interpreters teaching about the homes and lifestyles of the people of the West (both indigenous and settlers). 

Like I said, you could easily spend all day at this museum. And you should. It's really impressive. 

We were pleased with ourselves when we arrived at the Oklahoma History Center. We were back on schedule. We had 90 minutes to see everything. I knew we wouldn't be able to leisurely enjoy every detail, but I thought we'd be able to squeeze most of it in. 

We took our pictures with the Liberty Bell replica...

... then went inside to look around. You're greeted by a series of famous Oklahomans, which is neat. 

Oklahoma is home to 39 Native tribes. Most of them were relocated to what was then called Indian Territory. This map shows the ancestral homes from which they forcibly came. 

There is a LOT to see and do at the Oklahoma History Center. 

I Spy a moon rock


As was the theme of the day, we didn't have nearly enough time to properly see it all. Darn it! We did our best though. It's a great museum.

We raced out, only a little bit behind schedule, and zipped to our next destination. Once we got there, (spoiler!) we would not have enough time. Tomorrow I'll tell you about it, and the rest of the places we visited on The Day with Not Enough Time.