American Cities: Oklahoma City

All it took was one trip out of DFW and now we’re on a roll – only five days after we left Austin, we found ourselves enjoying another long weekend. This time in Oklahoma City.

We went to Oklahoma City for a number of reasons, one of which a was a museum on the way to OKC. Anyone who’s read even a few of my posts knows how much we love museums, so it should come as no shock that we went to three in one day.

If you’ve never been to a toy museum, you’re missing out. We’ve been to similar (but larger) toy museums in Ayutthaya, Thailand and Mexico City. Now we’d found another in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma: The Toy & Action Figure Museum.

Each museum is filled with toys, but they’re all curated differently. This one was easily the most humorous. A sign accompanied the display I photographed above:

“The Adult Collector’s Bedroom Diorama: This diorama depicts an average adult collector’s bedroom. We know it is an adult collector’s bedroom because only a grown man living at home with his mother could afford this many toys and still pay for other things such as food and clothing.”

This museum was relatively small – we spent about 45 minutes inside. But in addition to a well-curated selection of superheroes, there was also a Star Wars room (below), a Simpsons room, as well as displays for the X-Files, Matchbox 20 cars, cereal boxes, Pez dispensers, wrestler action figures, transformers, and more.

No photos could quite do this place justice (but there is a video on their website that’s impressive).

Museum number two was easily my favorite of the day, with a history that reaches a lot farther back: the First Americans Museum. They gave me a discount for being associated with the White Earth Reservation, which was incredibly kind of them. I’d have gladly paid full price and so was more than happy to spend some additional money at the gift shop when we were done.

We started at their Voices from the Drum exhibit. No photos were allowed, so we just gazed in wonder. The exhibit features 20 drums and shares the important role of the instruments within the Osage community. Only one of the drums has been used in a ceremony – the rest were created/decorated with this exhibit in mind.

Then we went to the “meat and potatoes” of the museum – what’s a vegan way of saying it? I’ll say the “beans and rice” of the museum : ) Located in the Tribal Nations Gallery, OKLA HOMMA shares the stories of all 39 tribes in Oklahoma today.

We started in the 270-degree Origins Theater which showed four tribal origin stories narrated and animated by Native community members. We continued on to the displays – the history contained in this museum is immense and we found ourselves reading every panel.

Another quote, this one a bit more powerful, “More than half a million tribal citizens live in Oklahoma. As Native people, we navigate two worlds in contemporary times. We reaffirm our right to self-determination. We reconcile past atrocities. We celebrate our diverse cultures. We ensure that our children, and their children, continue on as First Americans.”

We ended our tour upstairs with the exhibit WINIKO: Life of an Object. This was a collection in which many of the objects were on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit discusses that as Indigenous communities were being colonized, wealthy collectors and anthropologists collected cultural objects. It follows the life of some of these objects and what it took to get them back into Native hands.

The photo that I used for my cover image is titled Indigenous Brilliance and was created in 2020 by Joseph Erb (Cherokee Nation).

Our final museum of the day was a surprise to me, but ended up being more enjoyable than anticipated: the American Banjo Museum.

I learned so much in their first exhibit, America’s Instrument: The banjo’s roots come from enslaved Africans in the mid-1600s. The next exhibit, The Minstrel Era, explained major cultural shifts for the instrument that let to The Classical Era where the banjo was a featured piece in many concert halls. The exhibits continued through the roaring 20s, bluegrass, and folk music.

Upstairs was their special exhibit, currently Women of the Banjo. Yes, Taylor Swift was mentioned : )

Do I now have a favorite banjo? I do: The Vegavox Deluxe. There are a few photographed below. You can even play some banjos in their Learning Lounge, which I thought was a really cool touch.

The museums were our big “doing things.” Other than that, we spent our time in OKC eating and drinking. Keeping in the theme of the First Americans Museum, we went to Skydance Brewing. Indigenous owned, though we weren’t sure it would have beers for both of us: We were wrong.

I was soon swooning over their triple berry cobbler sour and Chandler was enjoying their forty nine oatmeal stout. But what really sealed the deal (and made me fall in love with them) was the fundraiser they were hosting. From what I understood, a group of regulars had advanced to the final round of a pool tournament taking place in Vegas. To raise some funds, they were selling Indian tacos. Which meant I got to kick back, drink a great sour, and eat some fry bread all in one place.

We had already made plans to go to a second brewery: Prairie OKC. They had 11 sours on tap and it sounded like heaven. But every one that I sampled was mediocre and the vibe was very millennial hipster – if it hadn’t gotten so late (and I hadn’t already had plenty to drink), we’d have made our way back to Skydance Brewing for sure.

Just like the breweries, our meals were hit and miss. We had an amazing lunch at The Red Cup. Advertised as a vegetarian restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to find a (nearly) vegan menu. The only animal product I noticed was a whole milk option in the beverages. We dug into a breakfast burrito and jambalaya.

But for dinner that night, we went to the Loaded Bowl. We wanted to love this – but when we ate our vegan buffalo mac bowl and mashed potato bowl they ended up being over-seasoned and meh. The worst part? No seating…we had to take our dinner back to the hotel.

So the next morning we returned to The Red Cup for another great meal: a bagelwich and biscuits & gravy. The “eggs” pictured below was tofu cooked to perfection! You’ll also see a photo of their free-wandering mascot.

Between the great meal, great drinks, and wide variety of museums, we already loved Oklahoma City. But we had one more stop before we drove back to DFW and it ended our time in OKC with a bang: the Literati Press Bookshop.

I swear we spent at least an hour and a half in this bookstore (and I easily could have spent all day) browsing and talking to those running the store. The press prints their own comics and I fell in love with The Rez Detectives and Glamorella’s Daughter.

They also had a wonderful selection of indigenous and local Oklahoma authors. I also walked away with two poetry collections: Andrea Gibson’s Lord of the Butterflies and Danez Smith’s Black Movie (yes, those happen to be the same two poets I purchased in Austin!). I also grabbed some indigenous children’s books: Powwow Day by Traci Sorell and Look, Grandma! Ni, Elisi! by Art Coulson.

There are few things in this world that I love more than a good bookstore (other than maybe a good library!). So I kind of feel like Oklahoma City has everything I’d need to call it home. Which makes it fun to say, since we started our US cities trips, that my two favorite cities are Birmingham, Alabama and Oklahoma City.

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