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Things to see and do in Northeast Oklahoma
Tulsa is home to two art museums worth visiting: the Gilcrease and the Philbrook.
Philbrook is an Italian villa housing art from Europe, Africa, Asia, Native America, and the American West. Along with the paintings and sculptures, the estate itself is impressive. The old oil tycoon mansion of some 125,000 square feet (after expansion) sits amid 20 acres of well-kept gardens.
Gilcrease is also an old oilman's collection nestled among gardens. Instead of an Italian villa, though, Gilcrease is thoroughly American. It claims to house the world's largest collection of art from the American West, including works by Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Remington, Charles Russell, and George Catlin. It also holds archives documents such as an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and a letter from Thomas Jefferson dated July 1, 1776.
Another oil baron left his mark north of Tulsa, near Bartlesville, with the Woolaroc Museum. The museum holds western and Native American art, as well as some more unusual items. For instance, you can find real shrunken heads (human), a two-headed calf (stuffed and mounted), a gun collection, and an airplane that was the first to fly from California to Hawaii non-stop. The grounds also include a 3,600 acre wildlife preserve and a petting zoo.
For performing arts, Discoveryland! (yes, the exclamation point is required) just west of Tulsa holds nightly performances of the musical Oklahoma! (exclamation point again required) during the summer months.
Northeast Oklahoma is home to many lakes and rivers, and hosts the western edge of the Ozarks. The Illinois River in the Ozarks is designated a scenic river, and is a popular river for canoeing and trout fishing.
Major lakes include Grand Lake (O' the Cherokees), Lake Tenkiller, Fort Gibson Lake, Oologah Lake, Keystone Lake, and Kaw Lake. The clear, deep waters of Lake Tenkiller make it a draw for scuba divers, while Oologah and Grand Lakes are popular sailing spots.
Hilly Osage County is home to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, 38,000 acres of hat-high grass where the buffalo still roam. Most of Osage County, other than the far southern and eastern edges, is still covered by tallgrass prairie, whether officially preserved or not. Grass might be a hard sell in the tourism department, but the West isn't, and here you will find a culture that is still dominated by real working cowboys on real working ranches.
Home Sweet Home
Dotting the map in northeast Oklahoma are some historical homes. The log cabin of Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee written language, is near Sallisaw and Fort Smith. Olympic legend Jim Thorpe's house resides near Yale, and Will Roger's childhood home is near Oologah. There is also a Will Rogers Memorial Museum in nearby Claremore for Oklahoma's favorite son.
In Ponca City, the Marland Mansion displays the wealth that came to this part of the country due to oil in the 1920's. Tours of the 55-room house and grounds, including several small museums, are available daily. The Pioneer Woman statue and museum are also nearby.
More miles of Route 66 run through Oklahoma than any other state. The old road follows along Interstate 44 in the northeastern part of the state. There are some odd sights to see along the way, such as the blue whale swimming in a pond near Catoosa.
Near Vinita, the world's largest McDonald's spans the modern I-44 in a single golden arch. You can enter the McDonald's from either side of the highway, and eat your McNuggets while watching cars drive by underneath the restaurant.