The Sooner State
Oklahoma is located in the South Central region of the United States. It has a rich Native American past. Oklahoma's name is taken from two Choctaw words: "okla" means people and "humma" meaning red, so Oklahoma literally means "red people." Summers are hot, humid and windy, with moderate snowfall and freezing conditions in winter. Be aware that Oklahoma is in America's Tornado Alley. Major attractions include a number of American Indian historic sites and museums such as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the State Capital Building and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. You will definitely need to rent a car to get around and explore most of the state. For more information visit: travelok.com.
Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill contains many attractions, like a reproduction of an Ancient Village, and collections of historic artifacts, objects and exhibits about Cherokee culture. Visitors can learn about traditional music, arts and crafts, language and other cultural traditions at the center and during special events.
The Five Civilized Tribes Museum helps to preserve the history, music, art and culture of five Native American tribes – the Creek, Chocktaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole through traditional art and artifacts. The museum, located in Muskogee, also hosts art shows, workshops and lectures throughout the year.
The Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton focuses on the natural and cultural history of the Great Plains dating back to the time of Paleo-Indians around 11,5000 BCE. Some of the highlights of the museum include Native American artifacts and outdoor exhibits, such as a prairie dog display, Red River Trading Post and amphitheatre.
Learn about Western history, art and culture at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The museum’s collections feature over 28,000 artifacts from Western and Indian culture, including photographs, artwork, clothing and much more.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Visitors can view an outdoor memorial and see the Memorial Museum to learn more about the incident, the victims and the strength of Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a popular attraction in Oklahoma City for both adults and kids. The zoo houses over 1,800 animals including sea lions, elephants, gorillas, lions, bears, animals native to Oklahoma, a butterfly garden and much more. The Tulsa Zoo is a similar attraction in Oklahoma and features almost 2,500 animals! The Tulsa Zoo is located in Mohawk Park.
The Oklahoma History Center features exhibits, galleries, classes and events related to the history of Oklahoma, including military history, art, literature and important historical events. The history center is located in Oklahoma City and is open 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday.
- Haunted Tours of Oklahoma City
- OK Buffalo Tours
- Oklahoma River Cruises
- Ouachita Mountains Rock Climbing Adventures
- Route 66 Mobile Phone Tours
- Sure Beats Walking Segway Tours
- Tulsa Spirit Tours
- War Eagle Floats
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
Art and Cultural Museums
- Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa
- Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Shawnee
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City
- Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Tulsa
- Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa
- Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman
- Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa
- Red Earth Museum, Oklahoma City
- American Theatre Company, Tulsa
- Arts Council of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City
- CityRep, Oklahoma City
- Civic Center Music Hall, Oklahoma City
- Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, Norman
- Goddard Center, Ardmore
- Oklahoma City Ballet, Oklahoma City
- Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, Oklahoma City
- Performing Arts Center, Broken Arrow
- Price Tower Arts Center, Bartlesville
- Rodeo Opry, Oklahoma City
- Theatre Tulsa, Tulsa
- Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa
- Tulsa Opera, Tulsa
- Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa
- Tulsa Symphony, Tulsa
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
There are two major league professional sports teams in Oklahoma:
Minor League Sports
Professional minor league sports are a fun and often inexpensive way to watch popular American sports:
- Oklahoma City Barons (hockey)
- Oklahoma City RedHawks (baseball)
- Tulsa 66ers (basketball)
- Tulsa Drillers (baseball)
- Tulsa Oilers (hockey)
- Tulsa Revolution (indoor soccer)
The University of Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State University Cowboys have strong followings for their college football teams. The two schools also play one another during sporting events known as the Bedlam Series.
Other college athletic programs in Oklahoma include:
- Cameron Aggies, Cameron University
- Crimson Storm, Southern Nazarene University
- ECU Tigers, East Central University
- MACU Evangels, Mid-America Christian University
- NSU Riverhawks, Northeastern State University
- NWOSU Rangers, Northwestern Oklahoma State University
- OC Eagles, Oklahoma Christian University
- OCU Stars, Oklahoma City University
- OPSU Aggies, Oklahoma Panhandle State University
- Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, Oral Roberts University
- RSU Hillcats, Rogers State University
- Savage Storm, Southeastern Oklahoma State University
- SCU Eagles, Southwestern Christian University
- SWOSU Bulldogs, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
- Tulsa Hurricanes, University of Tulsa
- UCO Broncos, University of Central Oklahoma
- USAO Drovers, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Alabaster Caverns State Park in northern Oklahoma contains a rare alabaster cave that is almost a mile long. Guided tours of the cavern are offered daily and discounts are available for group tours when booked at least two weeks ahead of time. Hiking trails and camping are also available in the area.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area features hiking trails, camping, horseback riding, fishing, boating, biking and swimming within the park’s 10,000 acres. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is located in south-central Oklahoma near Sulphur, OK and about 90 miles south of Oklahoma City.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles, including American bison, Rocky Mountain elk and Texas longhorn cattle. Visitors can go fishing, camping, hunting, rock climbing, picnicking and explore nature trails to see some of the wildlife in the refuge.
Lake Murray State Park in Ardmore is the largest and oldest state park in Oklahoma. The clear waters of Lake Murray can be used for swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, scuba diving, wake boarding and jet skiing. On land, hiking, camping, nature trails, horseback riding and miniature golf are some outdoor activities available. Further information on other state parks in Oklahoma is available on the Travel OK website.
The Oklahoma City Trails are a group of trails, including walking, running, cycling, hiking and mountain biking trails, in Oklahoma City (OKC) and its suburbs. Some trails have not been completed, so check the OKC Trails website for the latest information.
Try out a game called disc golf at one of three parks in Oklahoma City. The OKC Parks and Recreation website also has information on other outdoor activities in the city, like fishing, swimming, tennis, hiking and golf.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Oklahoma has a mix of Southern, Southwestern and Midwestern influences. Combined with its varied cultural heritage, which includes German, English, Scotch-Irish and many Native American groups, Oklahoma cuisine consists of many styles of cooking. Dishes ranging from pecan pie to barbecue to Indian tacos to bison burgers can be found in the Sooner State. And if you’re in the capital, check out the many food trucks in Oklahoma City.
Find a local Oklahoma farmers’ market for fresh fruit and vegetables and, often, many homemade items like jams, sauces and baked goods.
Food Festivals & Events
- Frederick’s Fantastic Oyster Fry Festival, Frederick, February
- Chili & BBQ Cook-off, Muskogee, April
- Stilwell Strawberry Festival, Stilwell, May
- Prague Kolache Festival, Prague, May
- BBQ & Blues, Cushing, June
- Blackberry Festival, McCloud, August
- National Indian Taco Championships, Pawhuska, October
- Watonga Cheese Festival, Watonga, October
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Norman Music Festival is a free music festival that showcases independent music and Oklahoma musicians. The April event takes place over three days and features multiple indoor and outdoor stages, an arts market, food vendors and other fun activities.
Festival of the Arts is a fine arts festival featuring performance art, culinary art and visual arts over five days in April in Oklahoma City. Visitors can view and purchase art from over 100 artists, watch live art performances, taste samples from the culinary art areas, and enjoy activities for kids and adults.
Red Earth Festival is a Native American cultural festival held in June in Oklahoma City. Over 1,2000 artists attend the event and visitors can see traditional dancing, music, food, arts, crafts and other cultural activities. Arts and crafts are also available for purchase during the three-day event. The event also features a dancing competition with both Northern and Southern American tribes performing at one venue.
deadCENTER Film Festival is the largest film festival in Oklahoma. The event is held each June in Oklahoma City and features many types of independent films, including documentaries, comedies, dramas, short films and many more. Workshops, discussions and other special events also take place during the festival. Other film festivals in Oklahoma include the Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee, the Tulsa International Film Festival, Trail Dance Film Festival in Duncan and the Oklahoma Dance Film Festival in Tulsa.
Culturefest is a multicultural festival celebrating many types of cultures and traditions with live entertainment, dancing, music, food, artists and family activities. The event takes place in August in downtown McAlester. Other ethnic and cultural festivals in Oklahoma include the Prague Kolache Festival, the McAlester Italian Festival, Choctaw Oktoberfest, Scotfest and the International Festival.
The Standing Bear Powwow celebrates the culture of the Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, Ponca and Tonkawa tribes with traditional dancing, art, music, food and other cultural activities. The event welcomes the public and also includes food and art vendors. The powwow takes place at the end of September in Ponca City.
The Oklahoma State Fair attracts almost 1 million people each September at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. The fair has carnival rides, agricultural shows, competitions, live entertainment, concerts and plenty of food. A similar event is the Tulsa State Fair, which also attracts around 1 million attendees in late September/early October.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Oklahoma Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Oklahoma participants include:
- Craigslist - Oklahoma
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Public Transit Systems
Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in Oklahoma communities, such as:
Several bus companies operate in Oklahoma and make stops in surrounding states. Greyhound has the largest system of bus routes in the United States.
Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer travels from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, making stops in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore in Oklahoma.
Participants in Oklahoma can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Oklahoma FEMA updates on Twitter: @femaregion6
- National Weather Service
- Weather – Norman and Central Oklahoma
- Weather – Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma
- Weather – Western Oklahoma
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma need volunteers to help with tasks like sorting donations, helping at events, assisting in the office, preparing meals and picking fresh produce at a local farm. Both individuals and groups are welcome.
Volunteer Tulsa connects many types of organizations with volunteers looking to help out in the local community. Search for a volunteering opportunity based on your interests, time availability and locations.
The Salvation Army in Oklahoma City works in Oklahoma County, Cleveland County and Canadian County and often needs volunteers in the Salvation Army food pantry. Volunteers can sort donations and pack boxes to help feed families in need.
Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes for families and individuals in need of housing. Help at a home build by contacting a local Habitat affiliate in Oklahoma – no experience is required and both individuals and groups are welcome!
Volunteer at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and support a fun community event. Volunteers are needed before, during and after the event to help with tasks like handing out t-shirts, helping at the finish line and cleaning up after the event.