I had a great time in Tulsa – thank you, Jack White, for putting it on my radar.
Here’s what I especially loved about it – and why you might want to check it out also.
The aesthetics and the vibe of the downtown area are super cool. I’m always fantasizing about gritty old buildings that can be converted into lofts. In Tulsa’s case, old buildings are most likely to be transformed into bars and restaurants.
The people are super friendly. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. I met even more people working in hospitality and the arts than I usually do. And as always, they are absolute fonts of knowledge on what to do (and what to skip) in their cities.
I have written about this before and will do it again now. If you are in a new city, find one spot that you love and sit at the counter. You’ll get the lay of the land very quickly and the best recommendations! And, btw, big shout out to the Hodges Bend staff, especially the bartender (Tyler?) for all the stellar restaurant recommendations.
What impressed me on this trip was how many young Tulsans are moving back to their hometown after living in bigger cities like Denver or New York. They’re excited to be back and from what I can tell are shaking things up, especially on the restaurant scene and the arts.
The culture. Tulsa has a strong art scene. The Philbrook Museum is world-class. But music is really at the heart of the city. I like music, but it’s not “my thing” so I can’t talk about it in depth other than to tell you that almost every conversation in Tulsa will start with what music you’ve seen. Not surprisingly, virtually every bar and restaurant features live music.
Tulsa also benefits from the civic-mindedness of its moneyed families, e.g., the Kaiser family just spent $500 million to create Gathering Place – a state of the art riverside park spanning 66 acres along the Arkansas River. It includes an enormous skateboarding park, playgrounds including ones specifically for autistic children, bike trails and a spectacular boathouse which features a “cabinet of wonder” art installation by world-renowned artist Mark Dion. It is magnificent. And, on top of that, the Gathering Place has an endowment to keep it FREE in perpetuity.
One thing that perplexed me was Tulsa’s size. To me, it felt like a really small city. It reminded me of Bentonville (pop: 44K). Imagine my surprise when I found that Tulsa city proper has a population of 400K and total Metro Tulsa is almost a million.
Scroll down for my seven top reasons to check out Tulsa. I highly recommend you tack on a few days and visit the city the next time you’re in that neck of the woods.