Wednesday, January 25, 2017

36 Hours in: Oklahoma City

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains....

We spent several hours at the Oklahoma City bombing national memorial and museum - totally worth it!
We're finally kicking off the travel section over here at Compendium, and we're doing it in the unlikeliest of places: Oklahoma City!

I should begin by saying that my guy and I have set a goal to see all seven continents and all 50 states, which we are eagerly working to complete. This has been a great way to force ourselves out of our winter doldrums and to force us to engage with places and people we otherwise may have avoided. Neither of us has spent much time out west or down south in the United States, so they are two regions we are really focusing on in 2017.
We got trapped by a non-moving train; another good reason to stay in one neighborhood! 
When our original plans to head to Texas fell through, we decided to go just a sidestep away and head to Oklahoma City instead. We weren't sure what to expect, but it turns out that there was more than enough to do to fill the weekend. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed this trip; I'm sure we will be back someday.

Things to Do

Some may have considered Oklahoma City cold, but for fog and snow-trapped Minnesotans the sunny 65+ degree weather was a welcome change. We were able to spend the day walking around to multiple things, enjoy the quiet city, and refresh after a busy few weeks after the holidays.

We spent most of our time in the Automobile Alley part of the Midtown District which was a wise choice. This area is just spread out enough to give visitors a good workout walking between locations, but nothing is so far away as to be daunting (think 1.5 miles or less from start to stop of each stop on our trip; all those .7 mile jaunts really added up later in the day!). This is also an area with a thriving hipster community. I've taken my share of potshots at the hipster community before, but I have to say it was oddly comforting to know that I could find some familiar, decent local beers and trendy decor just around anycorner.

The bulk of our tourist time was spent at the Oklahoma City Bombing National Museum and Memorial. This is a deceptively thorough museum; it doesn't look that big from the outside but holy cow, there is so much to do there! It took us several hours to get through the exhibits (and by the end we weren't even reading every single placard) and we spent another good chunk of time wandering the beautiful, peaceful memorial outside.
Don't miss the memorial's peaceful grounds and stark but beautiful tribute to the dead. 
It was such an interesting experience to re-visit this event 20+ years after it had happened; so much has changed since then. The museum did a wonderful job of putting guests into the context of 1995, particularly in terms of technology, and having guests experience how unexpected the bombing really was. It's easy to forget that this was an era pre-World Trade Center attack and that terrorism in America was still a really abstract concept. It also was interesting to see terrorism defined as conducted by homegrown, white power-centric hate groups, rather than associated with Islam. It definitely lent a more complicated perspective than what we think of as terrorism today. I really appreciated the complex view the museum took of the event and the way it utilized multiple perspectives to tell the story. The museum also has an excellent display of the investigation to find the perpetrators and follows it through the trials and convictions of those involved. Fans of CSI and Law and Order (or Quantico or Shades of Blue...) will really get into it.
This was pretty inspiring. 
Unfortunately, I wasn't familiar with Film Row while we were there and we didn't check it out - but as a huge fan of old school Hollywood, I will definitely be doing that when we return.

Pro tip: If you have a short trip somewhere (say a weekend, or three days or less), focus your efforts on a small area and get to know it really well. If you're too spread out, you'll spend more time coming and going than seeing the place you're suppose to be visiting! 

Things to Eat

This is where Oklahoma City really shone. I wasn't sure what to expect on the food front - I've never heard of an Oklahoma equivalent to, say, a Philly Cheesesteak - but we needn't have feared. It turns out that Oklahoman food is a good bridge from Midwest to Tex Mex, and definitely good for carnivores.

Who doesn't love saucy eggs?
For brunch, I highly recommend trendy Packard's. We were blown away by their inventive, affordable menu (particularly the cocktails) and had a great start to our day there. I had an awesome green chile pulled pork benedict on some fluffy homemade biscuits; my date had a duck confit hash with comeback sauce that also hit the spot. Don't take my word for it though - just look at the photos! And get there for an early brunch; the place was getting really full towards the 11 a.m. - lunch rush.
This stuff is FILLING - so glad we split! 
Lunch was a stop at Fassler Hall for some great German-style beer, duck fat fries and a grade A venison hot dog. It reminded me a lot of the new Surly Brewing Complex in Minneapolis, and it was a welcome stop between our long walks. In addition to having a huge, sun-lit patio, Fassler Hall featured lots of games (like full size Jenga) and was dog and child-friendly. I definitely recommend stopping by if you need a little more patio in your life. Veggie friends: they also had a good range of friendly items for you such as falafel dogs and pretzels. Fassler Hall welcomes all!
We got four full meals and some snacks out of this one order! 
Dinner was at the magnificent Cafe do Brasil, a better-than-Fogo upgrade to Fogo de Chao. The food was spot on (again meat heavy....sensing a theme? Sorry vegetarians, I'll get you back when we're on the West Coast and out of steak territory). In between caipirinhas we split a massive platter of roasted meats, silky beans and rice, fried yucca, plantains and polenta, and a knock-your-socks off chocolate and passionfruit mousse. It was a far more exotic meal than we intended but it was absolutely worth it - as was the price tag! We had way more food than we could stomach, so we took home the grade A leftovers and cooked them up after the flight back home.

Where to Stay

We had our second foray into Air BnB on this trip. It wasn't nearly as transcendental an experience as our first time, but I'd still recommend it as a great way to find a place to stay. We had an affordable room in a large loft-style house at a central location in the city. It didn't have the luxuries or amenities a hotel may have had, but that's okay; we really only needed our room for sleeping anyway. Uber got us there and back from the airport, and the rest of our forays around the city were on foot thanks to the good location of our neighborhood (right in Midtown). I'd highly recommend checking Air BnB options first if coming to Oklahoma City; save what you would spend on the hotel on a great meal instead!

How to Get There

We took a plane and I would definitely recommend this over other forms of travel between Minnesota and Oklahoma. It's a lot to drive and not the prettiest area to train through, but the flight is only one and a half hours. It was extremely direct and we had a great experience with Delta - flying is definitely the way to go. If we had spent more than a day here I would have rented a car upon arrival to allow us a little more flexibility, but it was just fine without one for this short trip.

Have you ever been to Oklahoma? What are your travel goals? Where should we swing by next? Let me know your recommendations - I'm always up for trying new things!