If you’re headed to Oklahoma City, be sure to make the Myriad Gardens and Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Museum part of the trip. For longer drives, the Route 66 Museum is a fun diversion.
Oklahoma wasn’t part of my plans, but when I realized that it would take me three days to drive diagonally through Texas, I decided to head east through this plain state instead.
My first stop in Oklahoma was the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City along the western part of the state. I’d planned to be there earlier in the day, but after my longer than anticipated stop in Amarillo, Texas, I arrived forty-five minutes before closing (the museum is open daily from 9-5). Not wanting to return the following morning, I decided to take my chances and see what I could in the short amount of time.
The museum is unlike any other I’ve been to. The first building is a fun walk through the states that previously hosted old Route 66. Motion sensors activate to detail the journey as you walk along the road past classic cars in front of sets like old gas stations and movie theaters. If you love old cars, you’ll really enjoy this part of the exhibit.
The remainder of the museum is a replica of a small town on old Route 66. You walk across pathways toward small houses made to look like an old school house, doctor’s office, pharmacy, railroad station, farm, bank, mortuary, grocer, opera house, and other small town features. No matter how many times I peered in through the windows or walked into the rooms, the dummies, though far from realistic, made me double take and think I wasn’t alone.
One of the buildings is a separate museum that you enter and walk though. The first floor features home related scenes such as women at a salon and in the kitchen. The second floor of the museum is devoted to rodeos and includes photographs, cowboy boots, and other memorabilia. The pictures of the fearless rodeo workers will inspire just about anyone.
When I first arrived at the museum, the woman who sold me the ticket (it’s only $5 for the tour) said I probably wouldn’t have time to see the farm, but that I might not want to see it anyway. When I passed the large barn with old farm equipment lined up across the grass outside, I decided I definitely wanted to see the inside and made it a point to be at the door ten minutes before closing, but an employee locked me out and said it was too late to enter. Based on how well done the rest of the museum was, I’d say the farm was just as entertaining.
I spent the night in Elk City, then drove to Oklahoma City in the morning. I can remember watching in horror on TV when the Oklahoma City bombing first happened and years later reliving the terror when I watched a well-done documentary featuring interviews and footage with McVeigh explaining his motivations. I wanted to go today to stand on the ground where the bombing happened, where a beautiful memorial was created.
On either side of the reflecting pool stand two tall walls with doorways. The time 9:01 is engraved on one side and 9:03 on the other to signify the city before the bombing and how just two minutes later and forever after everything had changed. There’s no doubt that living through such a tragedy has impacted not only those living in Oklahoma City, but others throughout the country.
A chain link fence borders the front side of the memorial and is still filled with mementos and remembrances placed by the family and friends of the victims. Although it’s somewhat hard to see up close due to the height, be sure to look above the chain link fence to the inscription on the wall that reads, “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, those who were changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”
On the right side of the reflecting pool stand 168 chairs engraved with a name for each life lost in the Oklahoma City bombing. Nineteen smaller chairs represent the children who were killed.
On the left side of the pool stands a symbol for resilience– an elm tree that somehow survived the bombing unmarred.
This outdoor memorial is incredibly powerful and well worth a walk through if you’re visiting Oklahoma City. On site there is also a museum to honor the lives lost and attempt to explain what led to the bombing.
A few blocks from the Oklahoma City Memorial you’ll find a beautiful park and the Myriad Botanical Gardens. I wished that I had gone to the park after the memorial, not before, since it is so calming and peaceful. On the outside you can walk along the pathways by the labeled trees and flowers, peer in through the small pools where you’ll see ducks swimming, birds bathing, and lotus blooming, see a rabbit running around the plants, or watch a butterfly flutter by. If it weren’t for the skyscraper in close proximity, you’d forget you were in a major city.
Running through the center of the park is the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, a long greenhouse filled with tropical plants, flowers, and butterflies. There is an admission charge of $7 to go inside the Crystal Bridge and although it is nicely put together, I wouldn’t recommend walking through it on a 96 degree day when the temperature inside is pushing past sauna. The main lobby is air conditioned and does offer a gallery of beautiful flower paintings that are worth looking at even if you aren’t going inside the conservatory.
Though the timing wasn’t right for my visit to the gardens, I did see signs for yoga, Shakespeare, and other events in the park.
Oklahoma Short and Simple
There’s plenty to see and do in Oklahoma even if you’re just driving through. Oklahoma City offers several other museums and tourist destinations making it easy to spend longer in this capital city.