A Family-Friendly Guide to Oklahoma’s Best Attractions With Wonder Wherever We Wander

The Road Diaries

This summer, we have decided to spend a few months in Oklahoma with family. Normally, Oklahoma would not be on my list of places to visit in summer thanks to the extreme heat, but we’ve found ourselves missing family lately and we needed to straighten some things out with our rig anyway, so here we are, revisiting some of our favorite Oklahoma attractions.

Some people might think Oklahoma would be a boring place to hang out, but the truth of the matter is, there are actually a number of great things to do in Oklahoma with kids. We’ve already explored these amazing places with our little adventurers, and I’m here to use our experiences to guide you through visiting Oklahoma’s top attractions with kids. 

The Best Time to Visit Oklahoma

First, let’s talk about when you should visit Oklahoma. The answer is not summer. Seriously, July and August often see temperatures over 100 degrees (°F)! Instead, I highly recommend visiting in the fall, which is when our family usually pays the family a visit. We find that the end of September through the end of November tends to provide excellent camping weather in this part of the country.

Other than fall, spring can also be nice in Oklahoma. Just be aware that tornado season begins at the end of April and runs through the beginning of June. This means that while the daytime temperatures will likely be lovely, you’ll have to contend with a decent amount of thunder, lightning, rain, and hail, and you may even have to hide from tornadoes.

In addition to our annual fall visit, we also tend to visit once in the spring, but those storms are never something I look forward to.

Family-Friendly Guide to Visiting Oklahoma Attractions

Now that you know when to visit Oklahoma, let’s talk about the best things to do in Oklahoma with kids and how to navigate these Oklahoma attractions with the little ones in tow.

The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is the most incredible urban park we’ve ever been to, and I’d be willing to bet it is among the best in the country. The park is home to a variety of play areas, including an entire Swing Hill, a whole Slide Vale, and a water play area called Charlie’s Water Mountain. For hours of playtime fun, be sure to hit up Chapman Adventure Playground as well. 

Because this park is so enormous, I highly recommend packing a picnic lunch to enjoy during your time there. A stroller is a must for young children. Bring skateboards, bikes, etc if your kids might enjoy the skatepark!

If you need to park your RV, the 33rd Place Parking lot has space, but you will want to check your route for low clearance bridges and tunnels ahead of time. Some people claim it’s better to drop your RV off at Riverwind Casino before heading downtown. 

Jenks Aquarium

Not too far from Tulsa in a town called Jenks, there is a nice aquarium that our family has enjoyed several times over the years. It isn’t the biggest aquarium out there by any stretch, but it is intimate, the staff there are knowledgeable, and they offer opportunities for memorable activities. 

I highly recommend taking a look at the feed schedule before you go and planning your day around watching some of the animals be fed. We especially love watching the playful otters chow down. 

If the kids need to burn off some energy after exploring the exhibits, head outside to the playground. This structure features some of my kids’ favorite options, including a super fun roller slide!

Boy playing at Science Museum Oklahoma, one of the best Oklahoma attractions
Image source: Wonder Wherever We Wander

Science Museum Oklahoma

Easily the best attraction in Oklahoma City, Science Museum Oklahoma is a must-do if you’ll be in the area with kids. This is an enormous science center, and is one of the best we’ve seen in our 9 years of traveling (and we use our ASTC pass as much as possible!).

Our kids adore the CurioCity section, especially the enormous interactive playground. The Tinkering Garage is also popular, as it offers all kinds of opportunities to build and create, something both of my kiddos adore. If you have a space lover in your group, the planetarium show should be on your to-do list, and the live shows are always a hit. 

Science Museum Oklahoma has an enormous dining area, so packing and eating lunch in the museum is not a problem. There is also the option of buying food there, but it is incredibly expensive.

This museum is a part of the ASTC reciprocal program, so if you have an ASTC pass, be sure to use it for free entry! Parking is free and the lot is large (with overflow available), but it does fill up on weekends and during school breaks. 

Oklahoma City Zoo

Right next door to Science Museum Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Zoo is another OKC must-see attraction. While we like the science museum better, I have to admit the zoo is also really, really well done and might just be among the top 10 in the country. 

We absolutely love the elephant presentation and the giraffe feeding. Our 4-year-old adores the petting zoo and the Endangered Species Carousel, and the caretaker chats are always worthwhile. Of course, you will want to make time for the two awesome playgrounds in the zoo during your visit. 

The zoo can easily be a full day attraction. For this reason, we recommend packing snacks and a lunch, as well as a stroller for little legs that are likely to get tired.

This zoo is part of the AZA reciprocal program, so you can save 50% if you have an AZA pass. As is the case with the science museum, parking is free and the lot is large (with overflow available), but it does fill up on weekends and during school breaks. 

Note: If you want a cheap, easy meal after visiting the zoo or the science museum, there is a McDonald’s with an indoor playground just down the road, as well as a Sonic Drive-In with an outdoor playground.

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Looking for some outdoorsy fun? Head up to Lawton to visit the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. This place is beautiful, and the bison and elk who call the land home are so super cool to see roaming around. 

During your time in the park, we highly recommend checking out the visitor center to learn more about the land, the history of the place, and the plants and animals that call the park home. A drive up Mount Scott is another must-do and offers some gorgeous views. There are plenty of trails for hiking (something you really won’t find in the OKC area) and the various lakes offer opportunities for fishing and paddling. 

Because potable water is hard to come by at the park (in fact, there may be none at all), you will want to pack plenty of water. We carry a couple gallons of water in the back of our car for this reason. As you might imagine, cell service is spotty, so download maps ahead of time and don’t rely on keeping in touch with travel companions via phone. Plan to spend the whole day (or more, if you can) and pack plenty of food. Admission is free!

Boy playing at Chickasaw Cultural Center
Image source: Wonder Wherever We Wander

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Somehow, we hadn’t made it down to Sulphur to check out the Chickasaw Cultural Center until very recently. What we found was wonderful! 

The center features a large and well maintained campus. The video is shown in an awesome, state-of-the-art theater with a huge screen and is a great way to start a visit, as it explores some of the history of the Chickasaw tribe. We also really enjoyed the little living history village (though there were no reenactors during our visit) and found the information provided about each building fascinating. 

The highlight of our day was the stomp dance demonstration, which allowed us to watch some traditional stomp dancing and even join in a couple of dances. This was so cool, especially for the dancers in our group (we visited with multiple sets of family friends).

Admission to the cultural center is free, but some activities (like the museum) do cost a small amount. Parking is also free and is in a large lot that could likely fit an RV. The center sits right next to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area—there is actually a walkway from one to the other—so combining the two into a single day-trip is possible, but it would be better to give each attraction a full day if you can. 

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Last on my list of Oklahoma attractions is the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. This is another Sulphur attraction that we somehow missed until recently, and like the cultural center, it is well worth seeing.

Run by the National Park Service, this park is as well maintained and presented as you’d expect from an NPS site. We started in the Travertine Nature Center where the kids got Junior Ranger books and we watched a movie about the park. From there, we took a ranger-guided hike that was absolutely fantastic. A representative from the Chickasaw tribe was helping lead the hike and was extremely knowledgeable about the area and the history of the park. 

For the kids, the best part about this visit was our swim at Little Niagara. This spot included picnic tables and shade, restrooms, a shallow section for the littles, a deeper area for strong swimmers, and even a place to “slide” down the falls. Just be aware that our kids did end up with small leeches after playing in the shaded, still waters. 

This is a great park to visit with kids. I highly recommend starting in the nature center like we did to get a feel for what there is to do and going from there. Pack swim stuff, sunscreen, bug spray, water, walking shoes, and a lunch and you should be good to go! Admission is free, but RV parking is extremely limited (maybe even unavailable completely) unless camping in the park. 

Trailer in Oklahoma campground
Image source: Wonder Wherever We Wander

Kid-Friendly Oklahoma Campgrounds

Obviously, you will need someplace to park your rig while spending time in the state and exploring Oklahoma attractions. We usually park on my grandma’s land, so this isn’t something we think about often. That said, we have spent some time in Oklahoma campgrounds in the past 9 years, so I do have some suggestions for places to camp with kids. 

Oklahoma City East KOA Holiday

We’ve stayed at the Oklahoma City East KOA a few different times and have enjoyed our stays each time. We stayed a few months at a time each time we parked here and paid the (surprisingly affordable) monthly rate. The daily rate is a bit high, but that is to be expected from a KOA.

We really, really love the individual shower rooms at this campground, and the small but well kept pool is a godsend during the hot months. Sites feature full hookups, there is a small playground in the park, and a dog park is available. The easy access to the interstate is also nice. 

Wes Watkins Reservoir

Located even further east from OKC, Wes Watkins Reservoir is a good choice if you only need to stay for a few days. At only $25 a night, it is incredibly affordable and the sites are clean and well shaded. It’s also nice to have access to the swimming beach at the reservoir. 

The bathhouses do leave something to be desired and there are no sewer hookups at the sites, so showering is a bit of a pain while staying here, but if it’s only for a few days, it is possible to shower in the rig and dump tanks at the dump station on the way out. 

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

We’ve never stayed here, but we did drive by one of the campgrounds during our day trip and it looked wonderful. I’ve added it to my list of campsites to check out in the future, and I recommend you do the same if you plan to spend any time in Sulphur. 

According to the NPS website, this park is home to 6 different campgrounds. Of these, The Point Campground and Buckhorn Campground have water and electric hookups—as well as bathhouses—and seem to be the best bet for RVers. 

Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area

Finally, there is Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area (LETRA). This campground is located in the Wichita Mountains and is actually one my family visited often when I was a kid. It features clean restrooms with showers, full-hookup sites, and beautiful mountain and lake views. 

We adored the water slides and the swimming beach when I was little, and I imagine my kids would feel the same today. The onsite mini golf looks like a lot of fun, and the camp store is handy for sure. 

We have never stayed in Tulsa (with the exception of one overnight in a Cracker Barrel parking lot), so I don’t have any campground recommendations in that area, but I do know there are plenty of options

As you can see, there are actually a number of excellent Oklahoma attractions. Any of these would be super fun things to do in Oklahoma with kids, but honestly, my husband and I enjoy doing most of these things on our own as well. Which ones will you add to your travel itinerary?