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. 

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