If you’re looking for a fun weekend trip with your kids, look no further than Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is about four hours from Kansas City, and it’s a great city to visit year-round.
The opening of The Gathering Place in 2018 (arguably the best park in the United States) has elevated Tulsa as a midwest must-visit family destination. While you could easily fill an entire weekend at The Gathering Place, you’d be missing out on many other fantastic family attractions. Our guide to Tulsa breaks down the best attractions, local eats, and places to stay.
Mom Pro Tip: We learned the hard way that the turnpike in Oklahoma only takes cash. So come prepared or better yet, bring a K-Tag as it works not only in Kansas but in Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida as well! The K-Tag is actually free to order so there’s no reason not to get it!
The Discovery Lab opened their new location near The Gathering Place in 2022. Exhibits like Ballapalooza, the HydroLab, Math and Music, and the Science Lab will appeal to all kids. There is also an area called the Little Lab specifically for kids four and under. Like Kansas City’s Science City and Wonderscope, The Discovery Lab is full of hands on fun for families. Speaking of Science City and Wonderscope, members have reciprocity with The Discovery Lab so remember to bring your membership cards! Wonderscope members must have the wonderful or sustaining level of membership to receive reciprocity (worth the upgrade if you have a lot of travel planned!) Teachers (with current ID) and kids under two both get in free; otherwise admission is $12 per person.
The Gathering Place is a huge park filled with dozens of whimsical playground structures, splash pads, a pond with free paddle boats and kayaks, art, educational activities, gardens and so much more. You really could fill an entire weekend here and not get bored. It can get crowded on weekends, especially in the middle of the day. We went on a Sunday morning and found it was not busy until close to noon. Mornings and evenings are the best times to visit during the heat of the summer, but with splash pads and interactive water features and lots of shade it’s not that hard to stay cool. If you need something to eat or drink, stop by the Rosebud Cafe or The Patio. The Gathering Place even has its own app to help you navigate your visit and see what events are happening.
The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is commemorated at both of these educational sites. Visitors can explore the history (and current and future life in Greenwood) through exhibits, photographs, and video. Now more than ever, it’s important to learn about what happened in Greenwood and the ways that should inform how we live our lives now.
You might be skeptical of an aquarium in Oklahoma, but by the time you walk through and under the shark tank, you will be a believer. Our kids loved the variety of fresh and saltwater fish, the playful otters, the giant sea turtle, and the sharks. The ocean-themed carousel and outdoor playground were a hit too.
The Philbrook is known not just for its art, but for its beautiful architecture and gardens. Kids 17 and under get in free, and there are events for families like storytimes, little garden explorers, big build Saturdays and family craft workshops. Check out the calendar for the dates you plan to be in town. Reciprocity is offered to members of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Overland Park Arboretum, and Powell Gardens.
This is the perfect spot for air and space fans. Check out the interactive displays, planetarium shows, and the special Tuskegee Airman exhibit. Reciprocity is offered for NARM members including the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Children four and under get in free!
Get out and enjoy nature at the Tulsa Botanic Gardens. Be sure to stop by the Children’s Discovery Garden and explore all the art throughout the grounds. Before you visit check and see if any of their annual festivals are happening during your visit dates. Reciprocity is offered to Overland Park Arboretum and Powell Gardens members.
The Tulsa Zoo is fun for all ages with tons of animals, a train and carousel ride, a fun playground, and a petting zoo. Kansas City Zoo and Sea Life Aquarium members get 50% off admission with their reciprocity program. Kids two and under get in free.
If your family enjoys hiking make a trip out to Turkey Mountain to explore the trails including a 0.8 mile paved trail perfect for strollers and wagons.
Where to Stay in Tulsa
The nice thing about Tulsa is that it’s really not a huge city and highways run throughout so you can get from one end to the other quickly even if you stay in the suburbs.
There are many hotels located downtown near the convention center and others scattered throughout the city. We’ve personally stayed at the Embassy Suites in Tulsa and would recommend it. Our other favorite hotels to stay at when we travel are Home2 Suites, Homewood Suites, Residence Inn, and Staybridge Suites. You can probably see what they all have in common! Our ideal hotel room is a one or two bedroom suite so that we don’t have to share a room (and a bedtime) with our kids. Having a kitchen is a bonus because then we can save some money by packing our own lunches or making some meals. Having access to a pool is also an important part of selecting a hotel because our kids like to cool down and burn off energy with a swim most days. Tulsa has a good mix of hotels with both indoor and outdoor pools.
Having space to spread out and access to a kitchen are things we really value when we travel and we’ve had excellent stays at two of the homes owned by this airbnb host. Other things that are important to us when we book through airbnb and Vrbo are the cleaning fees, cancellation policy, and of course, the reviews from previous guests. Our family often sleeps better in a house than a hotel but there are of course trade offs like no free breakfast and no pool (unless you book a house with one!)
Where to Eat in Tulsa
In addition to donuts and sweet and savory rolls, they also have vegan and gluten free options.
This is a fantastic breakfast spot with tons of options to choose from and a gluten free menu as well. Enjoy a mimosa or other drink with your meal!
You have to try their cinnamon rolls! They even sell pans to go! They have a great breakfast but you can also grab lunch here.
Tally’s is a 1950s style diner that serves breakfast all day at their two locations. They also serve lunch and dinner.
Lunch and Dinner
We typically don’t eat BBQ when we travel because Kansas City BBQ is superior, but Albert G’s is really good. There are three Tulsa locations to choose from and they offer a gluten free menu. Make sure you check out the complementary pickle, onion, and pepper bar!
This is a pizzeria with many Italian dishes as well if you don’t want pizza. We’ve only Door Dashed from them (ahhhh 2020 memories!) but hopefully on our next trip we’ll get a chance to dine in at one of their locations. The Jenks location is close to the Oklahoma Aquarium.
This is a chain but there are multiple locations in the Tulsa area, and it’s a great family restaurant. They serve a wide variety of dishes and offer a kids menu for kids 12 and under. They also offer a gluten free menu.
There are seven locations in the Tulsa metro to choose from. The pizza is delicious, but they have a large menu with other options as well. You can dine in or carry-out.
This restaurant offers way more than just burgers. They also serve breakfast and have a kids menu and specialty milkshakes! There are three locations to choose from.
This is a little more upscale but they also have a kids menu and a patio so it’s a great family spot if you love cajun food! Make sure you order the beignets!
This food hall has over a dozen restaurants to choose from as well as a great covered outdoor space with corn hole and room for kids to play. My kids like to get pizza by the slice and the grown-ups try something new every time!
This is a sports bar and brewery in downtown Tulsa. They’ve got great outdoor space and are right across from the minor league baseball stadium if you want to catch a game!
Stop by for the award-winning chili as well as a variety of other options if chili’s not your thing. They have a kids menu and they also serve root beer floats!
Our friends introduced us to Trenchers and now it is a must every time we are in town. The bread, the homemade chips, the Dutch Crunch and Coolio sandwiches, there’s so much to love! We usually order a custom sandwich for our kids since they like a simple turkey and cheese sandwich. This is the perfect place to grab and go if you want a picnic lunch.
Listen, you are not going to find a more inexpensive place to get an ice cream treat. I highly recommend the chocolate milkshake. There are over a dozen locations in the Tulsa metro to choose from. Hopefully Braum’s makes its way to KC soon, I will be a regular!
If you’ve missed Hurt’s since they closed their KC location during the pandemic, make sure you stop by their Tulsa location, open 24 hours a day. They are known for their brightly colored donuts and creative flavor combinations.
This is small batch ice cream made in-house at their two locations. Their have nine traditional flavors and seven limited-run to choose from.
This is another must for us when we are in Tulsa. Sample every flavor if you are indecisive but I always get dark chocolate paired with raspberry or strawberry and I don’t share with my family because this gelato is too good to share!
There are multiple locations around Tulsa. They serve mini donuts, ice cream and a variety of drinks.
I confess I am not a coffee drinker, but the friends we visit in Tulsa are so you can trust these recommendations!
This is a craft coffee roaster that also serves alcoholic beverages. Check out their menu here.
Located in a modern-looking barn this coffee shop also offers Savoy cinnamon rolls! See the menu here.
This is a popular new spot with a drive-thru available. See their menu here.