You're headed to Ardmore, Oklahoma and wondering what there is to do in this charming town. With its rich history and small town vibe, Ardmore likely seems sleepy at first glance but offers some surprisingly exciting attractions. This blog post explores some of the things you definitely won't want to miss during your first time to this southern Oklahoma treasure.
From outdoor adventures such as hiking and fishing to indoor activities like bowling and theater, Ardmore's got you covered for family-friendly excitement. And be sure to explore its unique museums and soak in the local history. You're going to find that Ardmore is full of rich experiences waiting to be discovered in this cozy corner of the Sooner State.
Exploring Ardmore's Rich History
One of the best ways to get to know Ardmore is by exploring its history. This southern Oklahoma town was once part of Indian Territory and has been shaped by Native American tribes, outlaws, and historic oil boomers.
Ardmore Event & Convention Center
Start at the Ardmore Convention & Visitors Bureau for pamphlets on self-guided walking tours of historic downtown. Enjoy stunning art deco buildings from Ardmore’s 1920s oil boom and learn how infamous outlaws like the Doolin Gang and Pretty Boy Floyd once terrorized the area.
Chickasaw Cultural Center Museum
For a glimpse into how Native Americans lived in the region, head to the Chickasaw Cultural Center. This state-of-the-art museum showcases artifacts, exhibits and recreated villages that bring Chickasaw culture to life. You can view traditional homes, tools, clothing, and more.
Amtrak Ardmore Train Station
Another must is the Amtrak Ardmore Train Station. While not necessarily just a museum, this station's historic décor tells the story of how the railroad shaped Ardmore.
Greater Southwest Historical Museum
If you want to go back even further in time, visit the Greater Southwest Historical Museum. It contains pioneer artifacts, vintage equipment, war memorabilia, and fossils, some over 200 million years old! You're going to get a real sense of how tough life was for Ardmore’s first settlers.
With so much history to uncover, you need at least a couple of days to explore Ardmore’s colorful past. But discovering the triumphs, hardships, and daily lives of those who came before us is what traveling is all about. Don't wait to visit & review Ardmore!
Outdoor Activities in Ardmore
Another good idea when trying to experience Ardmore is by getting outside. With its sunny weather and natural surroundings, there're plenty of recreational activities to enjoy in the great outdoors.
Lake of the Arbuckles
Just 15 minutes from Ardmore, Lake of the Arbuckles is a haven for water sports and leisure. Go boating, skiing, tubing, or just take a swim in the cool waters. The lake is also a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. If you prefer to stay on dry land, there're hiking and biking trails with stunning views of the lake.
A short drive from Ardmore, Turner Falls Park is Oklahoma’s oldest park and home to a stunning 77-foot waterfall. You can go hiking along the park’s many trails, some of which lead you behind the thundering falls. There are also opportunities for rock climbing, zip lining, swimming and kayaking. Campsites and cabins are available if you want to extend your stay in this natural wonderland.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Over more than 9,000 acres, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is a paradise for outdoor recreation. It contains gorgeous lakes, streams, and springs within a setting of rugged hills and woodlands. Activities include swimming, boating, hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, and more. The park's nature center offers educational exhibits and programs to help you learn about the area's natural and cultural history.
With its lakes, waterfalls, recreation areas and natural surroundings, Ardmore is an outdoor lover's dream destination. Go explore everything the city has to offer!
Family Attractions in Ardmore
Ardmore has some fantastic attractions to families with kids of all ages busy. Here are some places to visit:
- The Ardmore Railroad Depot Museum is a great spot for train enthusiasts. This museum is dedicated to the history of railroads in Oklahoma. It has historical train cars, a model railroad exhibit, and artifacts from Ardmore's railroad history. Kids always enjoy climbing on the antique caboose and steam engine.
- For passionate animal lovers, the Ardmore Zoo is a must-see. This zoo is home to over 300 animals including lions, monkeys, otters, and reptiles. The zoo has scenic walking paths, playgrounds, and hosts special events like zoo camps and nighttime safaris. Admission to the zoo is very affordable, making it a great budget-friendly option for families.
- If your kids have a need for speed, take them go-karting at Thunderbird Speedway. This raceway offers go-kart tracks for all skill levels. Junior tracks are available for younger kids and smaller go-karts. Bumper cars and arcade games round out the entertainment options here. Thunderbird Speedway is open every day of the week for hours of racing fun.
- For a unique adventure, visit the Greater Southwest Historical Museum. This museum depicts life in early Oklahoma through historic homes, churches, schools and shops. Kids will enjoy learning what life was like in the 1800s with interactive exhibits and reenactments. The museum is set on 6 wooded acres, with nature trails and a small lake. Picnic areas make it an ideal spot to spend the day.
With many kid-friendly attractions, Ardmore is an enjoyable destination for families. Your young ones are sure to make lifelong memories exploring all this town has to offer.
Annual Events and Festivals in Ardmore
Ardmore hosts several fun annual events and festivals throughout the year that attract visitors from many place.
Ardmore Main Street Wine & Food Festival
This popular downtown event in May features live music, crafts, and of course, lots of delicious food and drinks. You can sample wines, beers, and cocktails from local and regional producers while enjoying tasty treats from food trucks and local restaurants. It’s a great way to discover some a hidden gem around town.
Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting & Festival
Each September, this family-friendly event celebrates Chickasaw heritage and culture. Find traditional Chickasaw food, dancing, storytelling, and demonstrations of ancient arts like finger weaving, pottery, and archery. The festival is free and open to all.
In October, downtown Ardmore closes Main Street for this German-themed festival. Grab a stein of beer, bratwurst, pretzels, and enjoy live polka music. Kids will love the amusement rides and games. Many downtown businesses have special promotions and sales during the event.
Ardmore Festival of Lights
To kick off the holiday season in November and December, Ardmore puts on an amazing light display in Regional Park. Drive through the park to see elaborate Christmas light displays, animated scenes, and a 100-foot lighted tree. Bundle up, get some hot cocoa and enjoy this cheerful community tradition.
Between the wine and food fest, cultural celebrations, Oktoberfest and twinkling holiday lights, there’s an event for every season in Ardmore. Check the city’s event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit. These popular festivals are sure to make your trip to Ardmore even more memorable.
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