Free in Ok­la­homa City

Who says that when­ever you travel, you al­ways have to pay?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TRAVEL -

IS Ok­la­homa part of the Mid­west, South­west or south­ern United States? Ask three dif­fer­ent peo­ple re­sid­ing in the Sooner State, and you’ll get three dif­fer­ent an­swers.

It’s a ques­tion with no solid an­swer, and so Ok­la­homa has taken a lit­tle bit of cul­ture from each and made it its own. It’s where peo­ple say “Y’all” and wave as they pass by in a mov­ing car. It’s where you’ll still hear ref­er­ences to cow­boys and In­di­ans, and where the state meal is made up of chicken-fried steak, fried okra and squash.

Nowhere is the meld­ing of cul­tures more no­tice­able than in Ok­la­homa City, the state’s cap­i­tal and largest city.

Home to nearly 600,000 res­i­dents, Ok­la­homa City is be­com­ing a boom­ing ur­ban area, with a pop­u­lar ma­jor bas­ket­ball team, The Thun­der; a 50-storey sky­scraper (the Devon En­ergy Center), and a host of op­tions for din­ing, mu­se­ums and recre­ation.

Here are five free things to see and do while in Ok­la­homa City.

Red Earth Mu­seum

Ok­la­homa is home to 39 Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes. The tribes come from all over the coun­try, hav­ing been forced to re­lo­cate here in the 19th cen­tury to what was known as In­dian Ter­ri­tory. They still have many dif­fer­ent cul­tures, lan­guages and be­liefs. Vis­it­ing each of the tribal head­quar­ters within the state makes for a daunt­ing task, but their in­flu­ence is felt through­out Ok­la­homa City, in­clud­ing at the Red Earth Mu­seum, a small non-profit gallery in the heart of down­town Ok­la­homa City.

The Red Earth Mu­seum dis­plays more than 1,400 Na­tive Amer­i­can items, which in­clude fine art, pot­tery, bas­ketry and bead­work. More than 1,000 Amer­i­can In­dian artists and dancers from across North Amer­ica turn up each year for the an­nual Red Earth Fes­ti­val, next sched­uled for June 5-7, 2014 (www.redearth.org).

Paseo Arts Dis­trict

De­vel­oped in the late 1920s, the two-block Paseo Arts Dis­trict is lined with stucco build­ings show­cas­ing their Span­ish in­flu­ence. More than 20 art gal­leries, a hand­ful of restau­rants and a few bou­tiques and gift shops line the street, which has been listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. The Paseo cel­e­brates a First Fri­day gallery walk each month in which visi­tors can see new work and en­joy live mu­sic and wine (http://www. thep­aseo.com).

Brick­town

Stroll along the brick streets of this ma­jor en­ter­tain­ment hotspot con­verted from a ware­house dis­trict. While pa­tro­n­is­ing the busi­nesses in Brick­town will set you back a bit in the wal­let – think up­scale restau­rants and night­clubs – go­ing just for the peo­ple-watch­ing and photo ops on a Fri­day or Satur­day night is worth the trip. In Brick­town, men wear­ing boots and cow­boy hats stroll along­side 20some­things out for a night on the town. Watch visi­tors take a wa­ter taxi down on the Brick­town Canal or a horse car­riage carry pas­sen­gers past the Chick­a­saw Brick­town Ballpark, where the mi­nor league Ok­la­homa City Red­Hawks base- ball team plays (www.wel­cometo brick­town.com).

Myr­iad Botan­i­cal Gar­dens

The 7ha (17-acre) Myr­iad Botan­i­cal Gar­dens of­fer a bit of re­prieve from the hus­tle and bus­tle of ur­ban life in down­town Ok­la­homa City. Trees, shrub­bery and other land­scaped ar­eas sur­round a small lake. A chil­dren’s gar­den, splash foun­tains, off-leash dog park and paths for run­ning and walk­ing of­fer visi­tors a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties. In the sum­mer, free con­certs, movies and chil­dren’s events are held through­out the gar­dens (www.myr­i­adgar­dens.org).

Ok­la­homa City Na­tional Me­mo­rial and Mu­seum

Even peo­ple who don’t know much about Ok­la­homa City will likely re­call the Ok­la­homa City bomb­ing. The me­mo­rial is where visi­tors can pay trib­ute to the peo­ple who were killed and those who sur­vived the bomb­ing at the Al­fred P. Mur­rah Fed­eral Build­ing on April 19, 1995.

While the Me­mo­rial Mu­seum has an ad­mis­sion fee, the out­door me­mo­rial, full of sym­bol­ism, is free and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Mon­u­ments at each end of the me­mo­rial note 9.01am and 9.03am, fram­ing the de­struc­tion that took place at ex­actly 9.02am.

Once in­side the grounds, visi­tors can walk along a re­flect­ing pool. Nearby, 168 chairs rep­re­sent the num­ber of lives lost, with 19 of the chairs smaller, rep­re­sent­ing the chil­dren who per­ished in the bomb­ing (www.ok­la­homac­ity na­tionalmemo­rial.org). – AP

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