Where did summer go?
The start of another school year is a calendar page away.
Where should you go? Plenty of worth-your-while destinations can be reached on a tank of gas. Our writers offered their suggestions:
Distance from Tulsa: 2 hours, 10 minutes
If you’re looking for an art-filled day trip before the end of summer, head east to Bentonville, Arkansas. This arts-centric town has museums, shops, restaurants and entertainment for the whole family.
Bentonville is home to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (crystalbridges.org), which currently features Dale Chihuly. The two-part exhibit, open through Aug. 14, includes an outdoor portion with artwork made of glass set out in the forest nearby and an indoor portion that includes paintings, glasswork and more. Admission for the Chihuly exhibit is $20 for both portions or $10 for only the outdoor portion. There is no cost to view the museum’s permanent collections, according to the Crystal Bridges website.
Kids will enjoy the nearby Scott Family Amazeum (amazeum.org), an interactive museum focused on the arts and sciences. Find a climbable tree canopy, indoor cave and pop-up activities. Admission for kids 2 and older and adults is $9.50.
When you get hungry, there is Eleven Restaurant located within Crystal Bridges — and the High South food truck — but choose one of the many restaurants on Main Street and you’ll find yourself something good to eat: Oven & Tap (ovenandtap.com) offers diners a little Southern fare with hints of Italian flair, according to its homepage. Just a few blocks down the street, The Station Cafe (thestationcafeinc.com) serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cozy atmosphere with weekly specials.
Two doors from The Station Cafe on Main Street is The Walmart Museum (walmartmuseum.com), where folks can learn about the Walmart company and how it grew from Walton’s 5&10. The museum also includes The Spark Cafe, which is a tribute to Sam Walton’s love of ice cream, according to the website. Admission to the museum is free, and the Spark Cafe is a working soda fountain serving hand-made egg creams, ice cream sodas and the cafe’s own Spark Cream made with yellow and blue ice cream representing the iconic company’s colors.
Then if you’re looking to get in touch with nature, trails wind through the city and into the wooded parks that surround it. Plenty of lakes, state parks and campsites are available for overnight stays (bentonvillear.com).
Distance from Tulsa: 1 hour, 59 minutes
The Fayetteville, Arkansas, area holds a number of attractions that appeal to a wide range of interests.
Aviation and history buffs won’t want to miss the Arkansas Air & Military Museum (arkansasairandmilitary.com) at historic Drake Field. It holds many of the nation’s only surviving varieties of aircraft, and many of them still fly.
Considered one of the most romantic places in the state, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks (bgozarks.org) features an array of plants and flowers that showcase the beauty of northwest Arkansas. Admission charges are waived from 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays through August for Tyson Foods Tuesday Nights. Free concerts are scheduled July 25 and Aug. 22.
The nonprofit Terra Studios (terrastudios.com) is a wonderland of American arts and crafts, handmade collectibles and unique gifts, inside and outside the studio. It is the home of the Original Bluebird of Happiness and the Pink Bird of Hope. Live, local music is featured from 1-4 p.m. Sundays through December. Studio admission is free.
The craft beer culture is booming in northwest Arkansas, and a good way to get a taste of that culture is to get a passport book for the Arkansas Ale Trail (fayettevillealetrail.com), which provides a self-guided tour of eight breweries in the Fayetteville area. Passports are available at the Fayetteville Visitors Center on the Downtown Square.
About 30 minutes south of Fayetteville is Devil’s Den State Park (arkansasstateparks.com/devilsden), a haven for campers, hikers, swimmers, mountain bikers and horsemen. Fully-equipped cabins, campsites, a swimming pool, rental canoes, paddle boats and the 8-acre Lake Devil are among the amenities. (experiencefayetteville.com).
Distance from Tulsa: 3 hours, 54 minutes.
A drive to the Kansas City area is about the same distance as the drive to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, but it’s an easier trek because traffic isn’t as hairy.
If you’re looking to cool off before going back to school, the Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark (schlitterbahn.com) has aquatic attractions for thrill-seekers and people who just want to relax. Visitors can take their pick of water slides or float continuously on a tube around the premises.
Want to get out of the sun? The Great Wolf Lodge (greatwolf.com) in Kansas City is a hotel that doubles as an indoor water park resort. Other attractions, including mini golf, are on site.
Of course, Kansas City has a Major League Baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, but among the area’s many museums is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Go to mlb.com/royals for Royals’ dates and tickets and go to nlbm.com to check out the museum. A July 23 Royals game against the Chicago White Sox will feature a Marvel Superhero Day promotion.
Kansas City is known for its barbecue joints. Opinions differ about which is the best. But, if you want a change of pace, you can’t go wrong with Garozzo’s Italian Restaurant. According to garozzos.com, there are Garozzo’s locations in Kansas City, Overland Park and Lee’s Summit. The signature dish is chicken spiedini, but the bistecca modiga is incredible, too. Warning: Don’t order the pile of three-way pasta unless you have someone who can help you finish.
Stroud’s, the home of pan-fried chicken, also is a Kansas City staple. Stroud’s (stroudsrestaurant.com) has been serving pan-fried chicken and comfort food to diners since 1933. There are multiple locations, but Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor is housed in an expanded 1829 log cabin and farmhouse.
Distance from Tulsa: 3 hours, 19 minutes.
With more than 100 live shows, Branson has a reputation as the live show capital of the world. The vast majority are music shows. Go to branson.com to see a list. Also, fliers for shows are available in hotels and at visitor centers in the area. Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede (dixiestampede.com) is among shows where a meal is included with the price of admission.
Branson Landing (bransonlanding.com) is a newer destination for visitors. Built downtown on the shore of Lake Taneycomo, Branson Landing is a development with shops (including a Bass Pro) and dining options. Branson Landing boasts a scenic boardwalk and a $7.5 million water fountain attraction with free hourly performances beginning at noon each day. Two Hilton hotels are in the Branson Landing area. Hotel guests can park their cars and explore downtown by foot or trolley.
Branson is a town that embraces retro. Many downtown visitors check out Dicks 5 & 10 (dicks5and10.com), a throwback store where you can buy candy, toys and other items.
Silver Dollar City is a popular 1880s theme park located between Branson and West Branson. In addition to providing a glimpse of the past, Silver Dollar City features rides, live entertainment and many dining options. You can get wet on some of the rides if you need to cool down. Or, if you want to get out of the sun, visit Marvel Cave. It’s part of the park. Go to silverdollarcity.com for information about how to get splash and play combo tickets for admission to Silver Dollar City and White Water.
The “strip” in Branson, lined with show venues and shops, tends to get clogged up with automobile traffic, but veteran visitors know to use color-keyed routes to get where they are going more quickly. You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for go-carts and mini golf.
Food places are sprinkled all over Branson. If you want to get away from the strip, check out Rocco’s New York Style Pizza at 2722 Missouri 248. Rocco’s (roccospizzaandsubs.com) has $5.99 daily lunch specials with a drink and your choice of a personal-size pizza or calzone.
Distance from Tulsa: 2 hours, 35 minutes
What started out as a trading post along the Chisholm Trail has grown into the 50th largest city in the United States, trading the nickname of “Cowtown” for “The Air Capital of the World,” as many aircraft companies have manufacturing facilities here.
This year is the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail, so a trip to the Old Cowtown Museum (oldcowtown.org) is in order. This living history museum gives visitors the chance to experience a taste of what life was like in the 1860s — complete with gunfights on Main Street.
Those wanting to get close to all things wild will want to visit the Sedgwick County Zoo (scz.org), one of the largest zoos in the country, with more than 3,000 animals of 400 different species, ranging from tigers and elephants to tropical birds and Humboldt penguins, or stroll through the 30 different garden areas that make up Botanica, the Wichita Gardens (botanica.org).
For something unusual, the Museum of World Treasures (worldtreasures.org) has on display everything from Egyptian mummies to props from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” to a sizeable chunk of the Berlin Wall and a T. rex known as Ivan, as well as extensive displays on the World Wars.
Music Theatre Wichita (mtwichita.org) annually presents a summer season of Broadway-quality musicals — this year’s season features musicals that started out as movies. Remaining shows in the season are Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” from July 26-30, and “Newsies,” from Aug. 11-20.
Wichita is the birthplace of the restaurant chains Pizza Hut and White Castle, but the city’s restaurant scene is suitably diverse. Enjoy Mediterranean fare at Bella Luna Cafe (bellalunacafe.com), sample one of the pies at Angelo’s Italian Restaurant (angelositalianfoods.com), dig into the ribs at the family-run Bite Me BBQ (biteme-bbq.com), or try a Wichita staple that is the “crumbly hamburger” at NuWay (nuwayburgers.com), along with a mug of homemade root beer and a side of handmade onion rings.
Distance from Tulsa: 1½-2 hours
For a short day or weekend trip, don’t overlook OKC. For the kids, there are two wonderful museums. And for the adults, some exciting restaurants and breweries.
The Sam Noble Museum (samnoblemuseum.ou.edu), 2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman, is on the University of Oklahoma campus. Kids love the permanent exhibits with dinosaurs but also creative temporary shows like Great Balls of Fire, which runs through Sept. 10, and explores comets, asteroids and meteors.
Or hit Science Museum Oklahoma (sciencemuseumok.org), with its hands-on science experiments and planetarium. Right now, find the Backyard Bugs: An Oklahoma Insect Adventure show with giant animatronic insects and interactive exhibits.
If you’re a beer lover, try the new Stonecloud Brewing Co. (stonecloudbrewing.com), 1012 NW First St. It was started by a former brewer at Colorado’s Avery Brewing Co., and initial reports are glowing.
Also fairly new to the scene is Twisted Spike (twistedspike.com), which has a tasting room at 1 NW 10th St. Take a tour of the brewery and try any number of seasonals while enjoying food trucks on the outdoor patio.
The restaurant scene is also bustling, with new hot spots like Revolucion Taqueria and Cantina, 916 NW Sixth St., offering gourmet tacos and tequilas, and Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes, 1000 N. Hudson Ave., with fun takes on Tex-Mex favorites. For brunch, hit Packard’s, 201 NW 10th St., or Sunnyside Diner, 916 NW Sixth St. And you can never go wrong with S&B Burger Joint, 20 N. Ninth St. or 5929 N. May Ave.
Distance from Tulsa: 4 hours
Enjoy a fun day at the Great Wolf Lodge (greatwolf.com/grapevine), 100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine, Texas. The all-inclusive resort has a hotel, indoor and outdoor water facilities, spa, arcade, restaurants and shopping.
Dallas suburbs Grapevine and Southlake are often lumped together and regarded as sister cities. Escape the mall crowds and travel about 15 minutes down the road from Great Wolf Lodge to the Southlake Town Square, 1560 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, Texas. Southlake Town Square (southlaketownsquare.com) is stocked with a plethora of shops and restaurants.
Distance from Tulsa: 4½ hours
Jerry World, a.k.a AT&T Stadium, 1 AT&T Way, Arlington, is massive and is one of the great wonders of Texas. You don’t need to have tickets to a Cowboys game or a concert to walk inside. VIP, self-guided educational and art tours of the stadium take place daily. To schedule a tour, visit attstadium.com/tours.
At nearby Six Flags Over Texas, enjoy the barrel rolls on The Batman, ride forward and backward in less than a minute on the Mr. Freeze, experience some major Gs on the Titan or a huge drop on the Texas Giant. The theme park has a great children’s area if you have little ones in tow, but the park is hot, hot, hot in the summer so lather on the sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Also, save your Coke cans and receive discounted admission. To plan your trip, visit sixflags.com/overtexas.
Sports fans will want to check out Globe Life Park,1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington. Don’t worry if you show up last-minute, there are usually some tickets still available for a decent price. Buy your tickets and find a game at mlb.com/rangers.
While you’re in the Dallas area, make sure to check out Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (babeschicken.com) for fried chicken and comfort food sides.