Sometimes I get stuck in thinking the only valid way to take a vacation is to plan an entire week of exploring places I’ve never been before. That’s a lovely experience and something I enjoy greatly — but I have to be reminded that a weekend trip, even to an area I’ve been to many times, can have just as much value. This past weekend, Samantha and I stayed overnight in Oklahoma City and had a wonderful time.
The initiation for our travel weekend was the annual Burger Day Festival in El Reno. It’s been an annual tradition since 1989 and is built around cooking the World’s Largest Fried Onion Hamburger, a dish that El Reno is known for. Although they didn’t do the giant burger this year due to ongoing COVID concerns, it was fun to walk through downtown, talk to some of the locals, and take photos of the car show. Oh, and enjoy a normal sized onion burger! Whether you dine at Sid’s, Johnnie’s, or Robert’s Grill you can’t go wrong.
The biggest surprise was El Reno Walls, an art installation in the middle of downtown. Next time you’re in the area, stop and talk a walk through the alley that runs parallel to Rockford Island Ave and Bickford Ave between Woodson and Russell Streets. It’s a beautiful display of creativity and color! It looks like it will be a rotating display annually.
After we finished wandering the festival, we drove Historic Route 66 back to Oklahoma City. The road has had many alignments through the state capital over the years and signage is lacking – but hopefully that will soon change. The folks in city planning are excited to mark the various alignments to help with wayfinding and boost local pride in the road.
There are always a few landmarks I stop and see, such as the Milk Bottle Building near 23rd and Classen. Right next to it is a small park I’d not ever taken notice of before, featuring a statue of two soldiers: one American and one South Vietnamese. It’s called Brothers in Arms and is dedicated to veterans of the Vietnam War. The monument is in the heart of “Little Saigon”; a short walk around the block offers a wealth of cultural experience and, from what I’m told, some of the best Asian food in the region.
One mile east of the Asian District is the area’s newest resident: an eight-foot-tall robot statue! This is the second metal robot installed on Oklahoma’s Route 66 (the first stands proudly at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios in Tulsa). They are both based on classic tin toy robots and provide a quirky photo op. Oklahoma Tourism and the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission hopes that more towns along the road invest in installing one of their own to add another “Only in Oklahoma” series of attractions.
Even though it was only mid-afternoon, we checked into the evening’s lodging since it was nearby. The Classen Inn dates back to 1963 and was fully refurbished last year, transforming a tired motel into a vintage-chic boutique destination. It ended up being a GREAT place to spend the night with the added bonus of being within walking distance to the Sunnyside Diner for breakfast. I wish we had a place like this in Tulsa!
Since we had decided to stay overnight rather than cram everything into a single day, it gave Samantha and I plenty of time to just relax and explore areas that we hadn’t appreciated before. Scissortail Park in downtown OKC is one of those areas – a beautiful 70-acre park right on the southern edge of downtown. Lots of people were out enjoying the mild weather, many of them getting photos taken; it’s prom season! It’s already impressive, but there’s another section of the park south of I-40 that’s still being built to connect the existing park to the Oklahoma River.
Saturday ended with an excellent dinner at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. During our meal, I was alerted to a much less exciting Route 66 development: a vintage gas pump had been stolen at the former Owl Court, now Brew Brother Coffee, in the Britton District. I made a note to go visit with the owner in the morning and see if there was anything the Oklahoma Route 66 Association could do to help.
But this post is long enough – I’ll write again soon to talk about that visit and the rest of our weekend trip in the City.