When we really think about it, Oklahoma City and Kansas City have a lot in common. Both are located in the heart of the country and filled with welcoming residents. They are located on the I-35 corridor, which bisects our nation. They are both transportation hubs and share a history associated with the cattle industry. Something else that these two cities have in common is their new streetcars. Kansas City launched its RideKC operations in the spring of 2016, and Oklahoma City followed within a couple of years. A visit in the summer of 2019 showed us how the OKC Streetcar is coloring a new downtown.
During our previous visit to Oklahoma City, we saw the construction work being done for the soon-to-be transit system. After experiencing the convenience of our hometown system, we hoped to have a chance to sample the OKC Streetcar. When a Route 66 road trip took us through the region, we found our opportunity. Working with Visit OKC, we planned a 24 hour stop in the heart of downtown.
We want to thank Visit OKC and the local businesses for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Beginning in Bricktown
Once we arrived, our first stop was in Bricktown. This entertainment venue is home to the American Banjo Museum, which was a stop we missed on our previous visit. Growing up on shows like Hee Haw, we had seen and heard plenty of picking and grinning. This was a chance to learn about the history of this unique instrument. You can imagine our surprise to find that the museum holds hundreds of banjos. It also tells the background of some familiar musicians.
Pops of Color
It seems that since beginning our travel blog, we have become more aware of all of the colorful landscapes that can be found in North America. This is especially the case for me since I spend a good deal of my time looking through a camera lens. Downtown Oklahoma City is filled with a myriad of colorful buildings, many of which are associated with the growing art community. We discovered that this expanding tribe of artisans is coloring a new downtown, and the OKC Streetcar is helping connect the dots.
Oklahoma City was the first destination where we made a return visit, since starting our blog. During our first visit, we had the pleasure of meeting Tabbi Burwell, from Visit OKC. She was such a great resource, that we couldn’t wait to see her again. This visit would offer a chance to meet Meg Cathey, who is on Tabbi’s staff. Working with the two of them, we were able to hammer out an itinerary that would include a nice cross-section of experiences. Knowing our desire to stay close to the downtown sector, they suggested we visit a brand new attraction called Factory Obscura.
This art-based collective was just kicking off during our visit, but we could already see that it would be a huge hit. Mix-Tape is the moniker that they have applied to their 6,000 square-foot experience. With a rotation of art installations, it’s hard to say what you will find there. During our visit, the piece was named The King’s Mouth. After removing our shoes, we crawled into the mouth and enjoyed a relaxing and unique audio-visual experience. We will certainly need to visit again just to see what new fun we find.
Let’s Do Lunch
Right across the street from our art experience is S&B’s Burger Joint. We had arranged to meet Tabbi and Meg for lunch at this eclectic rock & roll eatery. With a menu filled with namesake burgers, as well as some delectable sides, we knew it would be an amazing meal. Sure enough, we all picked unique choices, and I tossed in one of their over-the-top shakes. It may have been a lot of calories, but I knew we had a lot of walking in our future. As we dined, we took in the quirky and colorful vibe of this place.
A Friendly Face
During our visit in 2018, we had stayed in the Automobile Alley section of OKC. This strip is filled with historic buildings that housed car dealerships, as well as businesses that supported them. As we explored the area, we saw workers heavily concentrated on preparing the street for the OKC Streetcar, which was to come. We saw a few shops that were hanging on during this construction period and decided to check them out. We are so glad we did because it gave us a chance to meet Traci Walton.
Traci is the owner of Plenty Mercantile, which is such a cute shop. Filled with quirky gifts and artistic pieces, we found ourselves finding so many pieces we just couldn’t live without. It’s a good thing we travel by car since it allows for plenty of purchases. While shopping, we were introduced to Traci, and we had a long discussion about the changing landscape of downtown. When we returned in 2019, we had to drop by to see how she was doing. We were shocked that she would readily remember us, but it goes to show just how welcoming people are in the Central U.S.
Coloring a New Downtown
After a short chat at Plenty Mercantile, it was time to make our way to a nearby OKC Streetcar stop. As we walked up the street, I saw this brightly colored bison in a window. Being quite unabashed, I stepped in to ask if I could grab a photo of it. The staff was quite accommodating, and we chatted as I worked. Back outside, I joined up with Crystal to complete our walk to catch the next streetcar.
We rode the OKC Streetcar back to where we had parked our car. It was late enough in the afternoon for us to check into our hotel, which was just a couple of blocks away. The Colcord Hotel is a boutique-style lodging option located in close proximity to Bricktown. We knew a return visit would be coming later, but for now, we wanted to check out the hotel.
After finding our room, we explored what we would later find out is OKC’s first skyscraper. At twelve stories tall, it must have been quite a sight when it was built in 1910. It has had multiple upgrades, but still contains much of its luxurious charm. With all of this exploring going on, we had worked up our appetites. Time to enjoy an amazing dinner at Flint Restaurant, which is located inside of the Colcord. Wow! This is what luxury dining is all about. Now to head out for more exploring.
Bring on Bricktown
From our hotel, it was a short walk to the heart of Bricktown. We made our way down to the river level, where we watched the tour boats passing by. All around us people were dining or enjoying drinks and conversation on outdoor patios. Our attention was directed to a group of people stepping into a local winery. We decided to follow them and made our way to Put A Cork In It. Inside we found a few groups enjoying tastings, so we thought that sounded like a good idea, as well.
John, the owner, showed us to a table and brought us sampling menus and a couple of glasses. A short conversation focused on determining our wine preferences. Fortunately, we both agree, for the most part, so John started bringing out some varieties for us to sample. there were some really good flavors going into our glasses, and each variety he served was slightly sweeter than the previous. Crystal and I thought the use of animal crackers to cleanse the palette between samples was quite clever and fun.
Rolling Into the Evening
With a slight buzz going, we thought it would be a good idea to grab some fresh air. Back to the riverwalk for some more sightseeing. A crowd was waiting in line to play miniature golf, so we decided to forego that activity and instead check out Hey Day. This bowling and arcade heavy attraction looked like a fun place to spend some time. Neither of us was in the mood to bowl, but we loved the use of color and lights in this space.
We moved up to the second floor, where we discovered a small arcade. We both knew that things were about to get competitive. A couple of rounds of racing allowed us to show off some skills. We went looking for air hockey but came up empty. No problem, our second favorite game is SkeeBall. Once again we found the use of lights and colors to add to the entertainment factor. I can’t remember who won, but I know that we both had a great time.
We departed Bricktown on the OKC Streetcar and watched as the city lights passed by. Riding the loop, we saw many of the familiar landmarks of downtown OKC, except now they took on an ethereal tone. While the streetcar made all of the expected stops, we found that most people seemed to have the same idea as us. We all sat in silence and just took in the night scenes.
During our first visit, we toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. This memorial had left quite an impression on us. While the horrific event that occurred there will never be forgotten, neither will the survivor spirit of those that came to the rescue of their neighbors. When the OKC Streetcar stopped nearby this spot, we decided to step off for another view. As we made our way through this space the stillness of the night surrounded us. It definitely added a new level of solemness to this site.
Coloring a New Day
We strolled back to our hotel, which was only about four blocks away. Our busy day was catching up with us, and we were ready to catch a good night’s sleep. The next morning we had planned to have breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Having the OKC Streetcar right outside the hotel’s front door was certainly handy. Four short blocks away we arrived at Kitchen 324. This downtown dining experience was hopping with business. With a menu full of amazing eats and delectable treats, it was no surprise.
After breakfast was our last opportunity to ride the OKC Streetcar. Back at our hotel, we packed up for our return to Kansas City. We still had a couple of stops in Oklahoma City, but these would take us out of the downtown region. As we waited for the valet to retrieve our car, we took another look around the area. A passing streetcar confirmed that this transportation option is coloring a new downtown in Oklahoma City. If you haven’t visited downtown OKC in a while, perhaps it’s time to plan your next getaway. There is so much to see and do, and they have the streetcars to help get around downtown.
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