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Oklahoma City is one of the pit stops on historic Route 66. Spend a few days here, exploring the great fun and FREE things to do. Then head off to one or more of the nearby destinations, like Norman and Sulphur. The names might not be appealing, but you’ll find plenty of super kid-friendly things to do.
Oklahoma may not be the first United States destination that pops to mind when planning a family vacation. However, this beautiful and history-rich state is a surprising hidden gem for family vacations. As a family on a debt free journey, we love that Oklahoma is also a budget-friendly place to explore. And I always find something new, even though I lived there for four years. From art museums to nightlife to children’s activities, boutique shopping to botanical gardens, there’s plenty to love about Oklahoma City!
Free Things to Do In Oklahoma City for Toddlers & Kids
1. The Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum
Take the kids to learn about Oklahoma heritage and enjoy a free craft. On the third Thursday of every month beginning at 10 a.m., admission is free and the craft is included!
2. Oklahoma Railway Museum
Trains have been capturing the imaginations of kids for generations. Admission to the Oklahoma Railway Museum is free and it is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There is an additional cost for train tickets; trains run the first and third Saturdays April through August.
3. Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Featuring vibrant contemporary art, stunning Chihuly glass pieces, Ansel Adams works and rotating exhibits in their art galleries, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in the City’s arts district is absolutely free on select Sundays in the spring and fall. Children under 17 are always free.
While you’re there, you can check out the gift shop, the full-service cafe, and the movie schedule. Visit the website for free admission dates, current exhibits, and movie showtimes.
4. Martin Park Nature Center
Oklahoma City is rich in natural beauty and a great place to get outside. Martin Park Nature Center is the perfect place for families to do just that. Free to the public, Martin Park Nature Center offers 2.5 miles of trails, a visitor center with animals, a nature center and a nature-themed playground and outdoor recreation.
5. Oklahoma City Zoo
For more fun for animal lovers, Oklahoma City Zoo offers free admission on sales tax appreciation day. Check the website for details. The zoo also is a member of the AZA reciprocity program. If you have a membership to your local zoo or aquarium that is part of the reciprocity program, you can get into the OKC Zoo free. Check the list here.
Free Things to Do In Oklahoma City with Tweens and Teens
6. Tour the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion
If you’re visiting Oklahoma City through May, visit the Governor’s mansion for free every Wednesday. Hours are 12 to 3 p.m. and reservations are required. It’s just a mile from the State Capitol.
Bricktown is a great place to take teens and tweens on a visit to Oklahoma City. It’s a district of lively restaurants, shops and entertainment venues with live music. Walking around Bricktown is one of our favorite free things to do in Oklahoma City.
It has a cool industrial vibe with the repurposed warehouses. A waterway runs through the district and water taxis take you to your destination. These cost but the atmosphere is absolutely free. Check for special events.
8. 45th Infantry Division Museum
Take your tweens or teens to experience the history they will study. The 45th Infantry Division Museum is one of the largest military museums in the country. Indoor exhibits include World War II artifacts and firearms. Outside, you’ll find aircraft, tanks, and more. The museum is free but does accept donations.
9. Route 66
Oklahoma offers the largest driveable stretch of historic Route 66 with more than 400 miles of the Mother Road. If you’re visiting Oklahoma City with teens this is a great opportunity to let them drive the road that built America.
Route 66 is full of quirky and historic places to visit, including The Milk Bottle Building. Built in 1930, this store features a can’t-miss large milk bottle on top. The store is on Classen Boulevard, which is part of the original Route 66. Drive historic Route 66 and stop for Oklahoma’s famous Braum’s ice cream.
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10. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
This moving memorial is located on the site of the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in a 1995 bombing. The website for the Oklahoma City National Memorial says it best: “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.”
The Oklahoma City National Memorial offers a beautiful place to learn and reflect on the impact of that day for teens and tweens who weren’t even born when the bombing happened. The grounds of the historic site are free to visit.
11. Myriad Botanical Gardens
While there is a fee to go inside the conservatory, it’s free to wander around the grounds of this beautiful in-town botanical garden. Spring is our favorite time to visit Myriad Botanical Gardens, when the grounds are bursting with color. Currently undergoing a massive renovation is the iconic Crystal Bridge Conservatory.
12. Oklahoma River Trails
Walk or bike along the Oklahoma River on level paths with scenic views. With over 13 miles to explore in downtown Oklahoma City, the river trails are an ideal FREE activity for all ages.
Fun Oklahoma Road Trip Ideas
There are fun things to do throughout Oklahoma state, many of them free. Because Oklahoma City is located smack in the center of the state, it’s a great base for day trips and road trips throughout the state.
Here are some of our favorite OKC weekend getaway ideas:
Sulphur and Chickasaw National Recreation Area
About 90 minutes south of Oklahoma City on I-35, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is filled with natural pools and scenic mountain vistas. With a recreational lake open for boating, historic structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps along with a resident herd of bison, families can play in Chickasaw for a long weekend with ease.
Stay in charming nearby Sulfur, Oklahoma, and don’t miss a stop at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. It provides a regional road trip snack with savory and sweet pies. We sampled the cherry and apple along with the pizza-style and beef and vegetable. Starting with a super flaky pastry dough, it’s filled and pinched before your eyes.
About 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, Tulsa is a thriving city boasting a number of entertainment districts, with world class sporting and cultural venues for families. This former territory for relocated Native Americans boomed in the early 1900s when oil was discovered. Hard times followed including a massive race riot in 1921 and devastation caused by the Dust Bowl.
There are plenty of free things to do in Tulsa to make a visit with kids more affordable. Tulsa has a couple of fun souvenir shops worth a visit. Ida Red General Store is popular, with two locations, but I preferred tiny and quirky Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios. Opened in 2018, the former Route 66 gas station carries a line of Tulsa gifts emblazoned with the shop’s namesake, who stands a full 21-feet tall outside the shop.
Lake Murray State Park
About 100 miles south, near Chickasaw, Lake Murray is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest state park. The obvious choice is boating or water sports, but there’s also a golf course, ATV/motorcycle area and hiking. And the park offers plenty of camping from primitive sites to deluxe RV sites in addition to the Lake Murray Resort. Wander over to Tucker Tower, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project at the southern end of the lake. It now houses a museum to the WPA and the views of Lake Murray here can’t be beat.
Just a half-hour south of OKC, Norman is best known as the home of the University of Oklahoma. But, as Oklahoma’s third-largest city, Norman also has a growing arts and music scene, including the annual Norman Music Festival and the Norman Medieval Fair, the largest weekend event in Oklahoma. But the UO campus is a big draw here, especially if you’re traveling with college-bound teens.
On the campus, find the Sam Noble Museum, one of the two largest natural history museums in the world associated with a university. It has more than 7 million artifacts and contains 195,000 square feet on 40 acres of land. The museum exhibits include the largest Apatosaurus on display in the world and the oldest work of art ever found in North America — a lightning bolt painted on an extinct bison skull.
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, also at the university, has more than 10,000 works of art, including OU’s Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism, and the Eugene B. Adkins Collection, one of the most important private collections in the nation of works by the Taos artists, along with Native American and Southwest art.
If you’re visiting on a weekday, head to the National Weather Center for a 45-minute tour. More than 550 scientists, meteorologists, climatologists, students and staff from The University of Oklahoma and multiple federal and state agencies work there to improve the understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and severe weather events. Tours are at 1pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reservations are required and must be made at least two weeks ahead of your visit.
Guthrie, Oklahoma’s territorial capital, is being restored to its historic splendor, making the town’s downtown area the largest Historic Preservation District in the nation. Take a trolley tour through downtown to find fascinating history, one-of-a-kind stores and more than a dozen bed and breakfasts housed in charming Victorian-era buildings, or hear the history behind local hauntings on a spooky Guthrie Ghost Walk. Discover the diverse collections of Guthrie’s many museums, including the Oklahoma Territorial Museum & Carnegie Library.
Head two and half hours northeast of OKC to Bartlesville to ring the train bell of the AT&SF Steam Locomotive No. 940, the last of its kind, and ride the rides at the magical Kiddie Park, a throwback to amusement parks of yesteryear — the kiddie rides require one ticket, at 50 cents/ ticket. If you’re an architecture buff, spend the night at the boutique Inn at the Price Tower, located inside the only skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Download Oklahoma travel guides here. (There’s even an Oklahoma travel guide coloring book to download for free.)