The Wild West is alive, well and thriving in Oklahoma City, where there’s plenty to whet any Western appetite.
For starters, don’t miss the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, a 220,000 square-foot facility showcasing the best in Western art and artifacts. Nine galleries display treasures of the Old West, including rodeo, cowboy and Native American memorabilia. Be sure to see a replica bunkhouse at the museum’s American Cowboy Gallery. Also housed in the museum is Prosperity Junction, a turn-of-the-century Western town. And in the Children’s Cowboy Corral, youngsters can dress up and pretend to be a cowpoke.
From the museum, a visit to the historic Stockyards City is a must. It’s home to the world’s largest cattle auction and is listed on the National Historic Register. If you’re there on Monday or Tuesday, you can watch a live cattle auction. Stockyards City also has saddle and hat makers, Western art and antique galleries, and a myriad of shops selling Western tack and cowboy duds.
While there you must eat at the Cattlemen’s Steak House. It’s been a fixture for over 100 years and serves the best steak and lamb fries in the city.
Oklahoma City bills itself as the “newest frontier,” and rightfully so. You’ll find a number of ranches on the city’s outskirts, one of the best of which is Express Ranch in suburban Yukon, just 20 minutes from downtown and home to owner Bob Funk’s 14 Clydesdales. The ranch is open to the public and free of charge. It’s worth a visit to see how well these horses live in their pristine stable, complete with a brass nameplate on each Clydesdale’s stall.
Just about any time you come to town you can attend a horse show at the State Fairgrounds Arena. Oklahoma City is home to quarter and Morgan horse shows and reining competitions, as well as the International Finals Rodeo.
If you’re not too saddle sore at the end of the day, cap off the night at Club Rodeo, a new Western bar and dance hall where you can shed your wanna-be cowboy status and get in the arena with real bulls. Hardly anyone stays on for eight seconds, but you’ll be able to tell tall tales about your night in the rodeo limelight.
You’ll probably find one day won’t be enough to savor the Western flavor of Oklahoma City. If you can hang around a bit longer, you’re sure to discover more ranches, rodeos, cowboys and cowgirls—a regular Wild West bonanza.
M.J. VanDeventer is the editor of Persimmon Hill magazine.