This past weekend my husband and I took a trip to Oklahoma and Kansas, and not just because you get some really awesome weird looks when you tell people you’re taking a vacation to Oklahoma and Kansas. Thanks to a lot of traveling and moving throughout my life I have been very close to having been to all 50 states for a number of years now. Prior to this trip I was down to three needed to complete all 50 and two of them were Oklahoma and Kansas.
We had no other vacations planned for this year so I decided that it was the perfect time to start tackling those final three. Since Kansas and Oklahoma are next to each other it was easy to get them both out of the way in one trip. We made Oklahoma City our home base and then drove back and forth to Kansas from there. It actually wound up being a much more enjoyable trip than I was anticipating.
We stayed in an area of Oklahoma City known as Bricktown, which for those of you readers familiar with Baltimore (i.e. probably all of you) is essentially Oklahoma City’s Inner Harbor. There are lots of bars and restaurants down there as well as some total tourist trap stuff. Sound familiar? It was a very convenient location and meant that we could pretty much walk to most everywhere we wanted to go. If you ever decide to go to Oklahoma City it would be my suggestion for where to stay.
Our hotel overlooked the minor league ballpark. You can even get rooms that look into the stadium, though we did not since the team was out of town the whole time we were there and thus wasn’t worth the extra money.
On Friday we walked the mile from our hotel over to the memorial and museum for the Oklahoma City bombing. There is a huge mural along the wall of one of the highways celebrating Oklahoma’s Centennial.
The memorial and museum are rather impressive and almost worth the trip to Oklahoma City just to see.
The memorial to those who were killed during the bombing as I’m sure most of you have seen at least in photos is an arrangement of chairs. There is one row for each floor of the building, with one chair in each row representing someone who was killed on that floor. The chairs representing children are smaller than those for the adults. I don’t have a picture of it, but there is also a plaque that lists the names of all the survivors, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen another memorial do and which I thought was a really nice idea.
The site is bounded by two gates. This is the outside of the one of the gates facing away from the memorial. The inside of the two gates read 9:01 and 9:03. There is a reflecting pool in between the two gates that represents 9:02, which is the time when the bombing occurred.
This is a picture of what is called The Survivor’s Tree, an American Elm, which managed to survive the bombing and subsequent cleanup and became a symbol of hope in the aftermath.
I have lots of pictures of the memorial, but nothing from inside the museum. The museum is really well designed though. When you enter you are set up for what was happening in Oklahoma City in the hours leading up to the bombing on what seemed to be nothing but an ordinary day. After going through the first room, you enter into a chamber where you listen to an actual recording from a water board hearing that was taking place at the time the bombing occurred. You actually hear the bomb go off during the recording. Once you exit the room you then enter into everything that happened after the bombing from the rescue in the immediate aftermath, the news coverage, survivor’s stories, the investigation into what happened and who the perpetrators were, and finally the trial of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and the building of the memorial. It was a really well designed and moving memorial and museum. I remember a lot from when the bombing happened, but also learned new things as well. I had no idea how much devastation the bomb caused beyond the immediate site. Hundreds of buildings in Oklahoma City were damaged so badly that they had to be torn down, which is just astounding to me. I always imagined the major impact just being contained to that immediate site.
After visiting the memorial, we did something uber-touristy. Oklahoma City built a series of canals around the Bricktown area that have a little “riverwalk” along them and also has what they call a water taxi that you can ride for a little tour, though I think it’s a misnomer since you can’t actually get off it anywhere except the point where you started. It’s something I doubt anyone but tourists ever does, but that’s okay because that’s what we were. Here’s a picture of the canal.
After that we went to the Harn Homestead, which was a homestead from Oklahoma’s territorial days that has been preserved in the middle of downtown just blocks from the capital. Based on our experience, I don’t think they see too many people there other than school groups, but it worth a quick look.
Saturday we drove the two and half hours to Kansas, of which I have no pictures but I swear I was there. We wound up driving all the way up to Witchita, which is about 45 minutes from the border. I figured we would just drive over the border and find somewhere to stop for lunch and then go back to Oklahoma. Kansas was even crappier than I thought. There is in fact nothing between the border and Witchita, not even fast food so we wound up driving all the way there. With no real plan we did serendipitously manage to stumble upon Old Town Witchita, which was kind of cute and had a number of restaurants. We had lunch at a brewery there before heading back to Oklahoma City.
That pretty much concluded our real touristy part of the trip. We went to see The Avengers last night at the movie theater conveniently located a couple blocks from our hotel, but we would have done that anywhere.
Now I can say I’ve been to Oklahoma and Kansas. I most likely won’t ever be back, but you could do worse than taking a weekend trip to Oklahoma City. Now on to Utah, which is the only state I still need to check off my list.