Oklahoma is essentially a mining culture. Oil and gas extraction has enriched a few, provided boom and bust cycles of employment, bought off a lot of legislators and regulators, and, now, most likely due to the injection wells associated with "fracking," has triggered a huge increase in the incidence of earthquakes. So far, they've been fairly modest. It's just something that didn't happen before, another kind of environmental degradation.
I was raised here, left in the mid-80's, spent 20+ years in California, excluding 18 mo. in OKC in the late 90's. Left in the 90's due to extreme anti-gay prejudice and even threats from employers. I've been back here a little over a year, now. The level of ignorance is phenomenally increased. Knowledge common on the West Coast is almost unknown here. It's even more an Old-Testament culture than before, but, paradoxically, hostility toward gays is minimal, now, except for almost every single Republican politician, the Old Testament ministers and their sheep. The religious death grip is weakening, however. Tattoo was legalized a few years ago, and there's more of it here than on most of the West Coast, a reaction to the religious oppression. What was once a surprisingly progressive state is now an extreme "red" state and moving farther to the right. What passes for a daily newspaper has waged a campaign for generations to create a Republican haven, and it seems to have worked. The voters have approved an anti-union "Right-to-Work" law. Wages are very low, here - go figure. The state ranks near the bottom for almost any quality-of-life measure. To their credit, the Oklahoma City Council, in November 2011, passed employment protections for gays, so it's not all bad news. Yes, I know, a little behind the times, but better late than never. It took real courage and real political skill to pull it off. Most of the employers here have not gotten that far. Another paradox: The arts are alive and well, here; music of all kinds is thriving.
Visually, the place is challenged. This is a culture that has long loved concrete, asphalt and Bermuda grass. A swath of Bermuda grass passes for landscaping. They've lost a lot of tree cover. Trees will grow here, and there are efforts to beautify, but beauty is not part of the culture. It's going to take a major educational effort or an influx of new blood, and, frankly, why would anyone move here except that it's relatively cheap? From a practical standpoint, most locals haven't figured out that trees make shade and that they need it. Sprawl is unrestrained; McMansions with creepy, spiky, looming roofs proliferate in the Republican suburbs. What were once elegant older neighborhoods, full of trees and flowerbeds, are now mostly filled with decaying rental properties, trees and flowers mostly gone. One vibrant spot is the Asian District along Classen Boulevard. The business association there has sponsored excellent landscaping. There are other isolated spots of beauty, but they are exotic, here. Will Rogers Park has some pleasant green spaces for walking. The city recently paved the last dirt running path left in a city park.
Weather: Usually chaotic, weather patterns changing. Much hotter than when I was a kid in the 60's and 70's. Spring's a month earlier, storms much more intense, much more dangerous, now. Amazing hail storms now common, cars everywhere with hail damage. Climate change so obvious here, yet their Senator Jim Inhofe calls it a "hoax." Fall weather is usually pleasant, the best weather for a visit, cooling down by late September. Ice storms can be extreme in winter.
Tourism: Major draws are the death memorial for the OKC Bombing and the horse racing. Downtown has been cleaned up, looks much better, but the "attractions" are derivative and contrived. The portion of the Canadian River that runs through Oklahoma City was renamed the "Oklahoma River." Yes, it's Jingoville. It's also a gun culture. Watch out. Very easy to get shot, here.
What do I like about the place? Fireflies, a slower pace, uncrowded freeways - oh, yes, must catch the "art installation" that straddles I-40 West just south of downtown. A fallen oil derrick, maybe? Can't really stop to consider it, though. Odd, odd, odd. Yes, the people are friendly, but most people, most places are generally friendly. Avoid talking about politics, religion, sports - oh, they love their sports. It's hard to go anywhere in town that doesn't have a game playing on the television. Expect a blank look regarding anything requiring more than about an 8th-grade reading level. The dialect has devolved and can be painful - grinding diphthongs and tripthongs, lots of nasal vowels. Bizarre, mutilated syntax, like a rip on Dubya Bush. Oh, yes, what I love about the place? Remarkably, there are still some modern spirits here, quietly, patiently, humorously persevering. They are sprinkled about, in the Plaza District, the Paseo, the vintage shops, the local bookstores and coffee shops, in healthcare, animal care, human services, the universities. Of course, if you're into conventional consumerism, Oklahoma City abounds with it. Otherwise, you'll need to poke around.
When I traveled to Oklahoma City, OK, I had no idea what to expect. I was there for the weekend on business and have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. While I did not have much time to fully explore this new place, I will return to see all of the things I missed on this trip.
My first day there I wanted to do some shopping and found myself at Crossroads mall. This is an open and very family friendly mall. I was able to navigate this mall very quickly and found the items I needed. The people in Oklahoma seem friendlier compared to other larger cities I have visited. Even though it was Friday afternoon, the traffic was not near as bad as I expected and I quickly found my way back to my hotel.
That evening I met some coworkers for dinner and we found ourselves at Cheevers Cafe, which is very close to the capitol area where we were staying. Even though from the outside this appeared to be a tiny, run down spot, we were relaxed with the environment. A gluten free menu was included and this is something that can be rare to find in a smaller city. The steak and seafood was amazing and we were very satisfied with our meal for the evening.
I stayed at the Hampton Inn near the capitol and this was a great experience. Everyone on my team also used this hotel and everyone was very satisfied with the experience. Our rooms were near one another due to our request and we were able to communicate more effectively because they took the time to honor our wishes. Oklahoma City is a place I would love to return to explore with my family as I know they would also enjoy it.
I grew up in Oklahoma City, and I make it back a couple times per year to visit my mother. There are a few great things about Oklahoma City. For one thing, it's easy to navigate the streets and downtown area. Like many cities out West, the roads were planned and built with the automobile in mind. They are laid out in a nearly perfect grid, with a numbering system so you always know where you are. The skies in Oklahoma City are beautiful. There are hardly any clouds, and you get crisp blue skies more than 300 days per year.
In the past few years, a great downtown attraction in Oklahoma City has been built called Brick Town. There is a lot of shopping and there is a river where you can take boat rides. It is modeled after the River Walk in San Antonio, and it is really well done. One bad aspect of Oklahoma City is the wind. Chicago may be called the windy city, but I'm pretty sure it's windier in Oklahoma City.