We love museums of all types, so when we are planning our trips we keep an eye out for unique stops. Oklahoma City is home to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. This attraction is filled with stories and artifacts about Western history. When I first reached out to the museum regarding our visit, I assumed we would spend up to 2 hours there. After an educational conversation, I decided to alter our schedule to allow 3+ hours. Our visits are done in a quicker overview style, so that we can pack more stops into our itinerary. For your visit you may want to reserve at least a half day to ensure a more thorough experience.
We want to thank the Visit Oklahoma City and the National Cowboy Museum for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
Once we arrived at the National Cowboy Museum, we began our exploring in Prosperity Junction. This over-sized space is a replica of an old cattle town. Visitors are transported back to the end of the 1800’s. We could imagine ourselves strolling the streets just after sundown. Each of the buildings represent a business that would be commonplace during that era.
The space that holds Prosperity Junction is huge. With 40 foot ceilings, they can even hold two-story structures. We passed through the railroad depot, checking out the artifacts. Across the street is the local hotel. Just down the way we found the local church. Inside, the space was arranged much as it would have been in one of the many small towns that sprung up around the railroad path.
Life In The West
The various buildings have displays that look just like what we imagined. The local General Store is filled with goods and merchandise that had been shipped across the prairie at great expense. While many people would have lived on farms and grown their own food, there were still plenty of residents in the towns who would be required to purchase all of their goods. Next door we found the Sheriff’s office, which looked like he had just stepped out of the room.
Behind the office we noticed the jail area. Here is where those who failed to follow the law ended up. I took the opportunity to see what this would have looked like. How did I do?
Hold On. It’s Going To Be A Bumpy Ride!
The National Cowboy Museum would be remiss, if it didn’t include the rodeo. This classic event is not only an exciting diversion, but usually a major community gathering. The dioramas are so life-like that it brings back memories of these events from our younger years. Displayed memorabilia includes trophies, saddles, and even some of the belt buckles that are synonymous with the rodeo stars.
A fun diversion at the National Cowboy Museum is taking selfies. The museum staff has made this easier by placing “Selfie Spots” throughout the building. These are located at prominent points, which have picture perfect backgrounds. The cowboy riding the bucking bronc was just such a spot. We are trying harder to remember to take selfies for our memories and these markers certainly helped. Be sure to take a few of your own selfies during your visit. It’s a great way to memorialize your experience.
Riding Into The Sunset
We all know the role that westerns have played in the movies. In the early years of cinema these were paramount to the success of many studios. The national Cowboy Museum has a large exhibit dedicated to this section of the entertainment industry. A small cinema sits in the middle of the gallery and runs a loop of entertaining clips.
Around the perimeter are displays of items from various stars of the silver screen, as well as television. Being a lover of westerns, I loved seeing all of the pieces, especially ones that I readily recognized. In one area, Crystal found a device that tested her knowledge of shows from the golden age of television. We were hit and miss on our ability to correctly answer the questions.
Heading Into The Frontier
We moved into the premier exhibit on the Frontier West. This includes displays that most of us associate with the Wild West. The collection includes pieces from the military, hunters, Native Americans, and other early frontier inhabitants. Encompassing about 6,500 square feet of space, this series of galleries kept us busy for a considerable amount of time.
The military area includes pieces associated with the frontier forts and the patrols that protected them. Lots of uniforms and accessories are displayed, and it’s amazing how well preserved many appear. There are also plenty of the weapons that would have been used during that period of history.
The frontier exhibits also include a collection of Native American pieces. Oklahoma is home to a large group of Native American tribes. Most were relocated to the region from points farther east, as the US government moved to claim their original home lands. Many of the artifacts on display are great examples of the detailed beadwork commonly found in various tribes clothing and accessories. The colors and designs have held up so well that many pieces look nearly brand new.
The gallery of Native American artifacts is substantial. Crystal found the jewelry amazing and noted that many of the pieces must weigh a lot. We finished our exploration of the inside galleries. They have a wonderful art section that includes lots of paintings and sculptures. Since the majority of these are copyright protected, they do not allow photography.
The National Cowboy Museum has a beautiful outdoor water garden area. A small waterfall provides background sights and sounds for a peaceful period of reflection. The shaded space has seating areas and some golden koi fish. Even on a hot summer day the area was a cool spot to spend a few moments.
Kids Are Covered At National Cowboy Museum
A separate building is positioned opposite the garden area. We stepped inside and found that it contained the Children’s Cowboy Corral. Designed as an interactive space, we found a place to strap on chaps and spurs and practice our saddle work. Informative signage helps teach facts about life as a cowboy.
Further into the building, we found a couple other spots for play. For a while we watched some of the families playing make believe in the makeshift cabin. It was a good area to build a fire and sit around the outdoor kitchen. Down the hall is a wagon with a diagram showing all of the parts and pieces that would be needed for traveling the trails across the prairie.
Show Us Your Selfie
With our time running out, we made our way back to the main building. Before leaving, we thanked the staff for their hospitality. Everyone is so welcoming and helpful at the National Cowboy Museum. Speaking with one staff member, we found out that there are tons of artifacts held in storage. The exhibits are periodically rotated with pieces, so we would find new things to see on our next visit. We really like the sound of this and hope to make it back this way to spend more time exploring this massive space. When you visit, be sure to take a few selfies to share with us. You can email your best shots to [email protected] and we will post some of our favorites on our social media accounts. Be sure to include your account names, so we can tag you in the posts!