Love can be tough — and it’s had to be in the time of COVID-19, with whole families stuck at home for months at a time.
Date nights, couples’ escapes and romantic getaways can help couples strengthen their relationships and rekindle their romance. They also can boost the tourism, entertainment and hospitality sectors, which have especially suffered under the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
From cinematic landmarks to urban adventures, here are 10 Oklahoma road trip ideas for couples ready to get out of the house for a little alone time:
1. Find cinematic inspiration
If you’re a cinephile who can’t take another night of Netflix on the couch, have no fear. Oklahoma’s film and television industry has been steadily growing over the past few years, and for movie lovers, that means plenty of cinematic inspiration can be found across the state.
The beautiful Meadow Lake Ranch in Sand Springs, a bed and breakfast, dude ranch and wedding and event venue, in 2019 became the primary filming location for the Oscar-winning movie “Minari” and more recently hosted the production of the eagerly awaited FX series “Reservation Dogs.”
In Tulsa, Danny Boy O’Connor, a founding member of the hip-hop group House of Pain, has stayed gold by transforming a one-story house used in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation of Oklahoma author S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” into The Outsiders House Museum.
Three-time Academy Award nominee Terrence Malick, who grew up in Bartlesville, cast the Sooner State in a gorgeous golden light in his 2012 drama “To the Wonder,” with the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska proving a particular scene-stealer.
And Martin Scorsese has created quite a stir in Pawhuska and the surrounding area this spring by filming his star-studded, big-budget adaptation of “Killers of the Flower Moon” there.
2. Plot a romantic escape
A plethora of unique B&Bs, inns, Airbnbs and other overnight accommodations are scattered across Oklahoma, ranging from the Victorian elegance of the Pecan Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast in Davis to the tropical ambiance of Parrot’s Cove at Arcadian Getaways in Guthrie to the funky vibe of the Wichita Mod Lodge in Medicine Park.
Many getaway spots offer special amenities like the massages, facials and body wraps at Sulphur’s Echo Canyon Spa Resort, the wide onsite selection of reds and whites at Ringwood’s Indian Creek Village Winery and the museum-quality art exhibits at Oklahoma City’s 21C Museum Hotel.
3. Discover a flowering paradise
What’s date night without flowers? If your heart or your sweetheart is set on a bouquet, you can contribute to a good cause at the same time at OKC’s Curbside Flowers, 522 N Classen Blvd., where patrons can get bouquets, jewelry, greeting cards, candles, chocolates and plants year round. The full-service flower shop is a program of the Homeless Alliance and provides education, employment and training to people transitioning out of homelessness in Oklahoma City.
Instead of a bouquet, though, consider a jaunt to a blossoming landscape you can enjoy together. In OKC, the Scissortail Park Garden Spaces, Will Rogers Gardens and the Myriad Botanical Gardens provide horticultural havens from the urban landscape. (Even with the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory closed for its first complete makeover since it opened 32 years ago, the Myriad Gardens are still a favorite downtown OKC spot.)
Similarly, the Tulsa Botanic Garden, Tulsa Garden Center at Woodward Park and Philbrook Gardens at the Philbrook Museum of Art bloom with peace and plants in the middle of that city.
Muskogee’s Honor Heights Park is best known for its April Azalea Festival, but the idyllic 132-acre green space also features nature trails, a dogwood collection, reflecting pond and more. The Lendonwood Gardens just outside Grove include a Japanese pavilion and koi pond, an English Terrace Garden, an “Oklahoma Proven” garden and an Oriental Garden culminating in a 150-foot stream with several pools of water emptying each other.
Along with the formal garden near the heart of campus, Stillwater’s Oklahoma State University also is home to the sprawling 100-acre The Botanic Garden, where the weekly OETA show “Oklahoma Gardening” is filmed.
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4. Go parking
If you’re looking for the kind of parking that won’t get you in trouble with the cops, you’re in luck in Oklahoma. Mile for mile, the Sooner State offers the nation’s most diverse terrain, as showcased in more than 30 wildly divergent state parks.
Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom boasts one of the largest natural gypsum caves in the world, Gloss Mountain State Park in Fairview features peaks that sparkle in the sun due to their high selenite content, and Little Sahara State Park near Waynoka is an actual miniature desert with more than 1,600 acres of sand dunes.
Want to go stargazing with your sweetie? Kenton’s Black Mesa State Park in the panhandle boasts some of the darkest nighttime skies on publicly accessible land in the entire country, perfect for seeing stars.
5. Look for spectacular scenery
Oklahoma’s scenic attractions aren’t limited to its state parks: There are plenty of picturesque places where couples can enjoy a romantic picnic, walk or sunset amid spectacular visuals. An “Oklahoma oasis,” the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is situated in the pretty foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains.
Along with roaming buffalo, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Medicine Park is home to Rocky Mountain elk, white-tailed deer and Texas longhorn cattle, while the 54-mile Talimena National Scenic Byway from Talihina to Mena, Arkansas, offers stunning views for roaming motorists pretty much any time of year.
Add a little mystery to your couple’s getaway by checking out the enigmatic piece of Viking history is nestled in LeFlore County’s Heavener Runestone Park, which is home to a large sandstone with eight runic markings believed to be a boundary marker placed by Vikings between 600 and 800 A.D.
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6. Search for urban adventure
Couples shouldn’t sleep on the scenic spots offered in Oklahoma’s urban areas: In OKC, the sun sparkling off Lake Hefner, the bright lights of the Skydance Bridge and the growing number of murals in the Plaza District and beyond provide ideal backdrops for that date-night selfie. Whitewater rafting through Riversport OKC, Water Taxi outings on the Bricktown Canal and Ferris wheel rides in the Wheeler District and Bricktown are among OKC’s urban experiences.
In Tulsa, outdoor adventure awaits in Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area, Mohawk Park’s Oxley Nature Center and the nationally renowned Gathering Place, and offbeat finds like the acoustic anomaly known as the Center of the Universe, the looming Golden Driller and the unusual Cave House are worth a trip up the turnpike.
Architectural enthusiasts should circle Bartlesville on the map: The Washington County seat is home to Price Tower, the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright’s only fully realized skyscraper, and the next-door Bartlesville Community Center was the vision of William Wesley Peters, apprentice and protege of Wright.
7. Explore the unusual
Oklahoma is home to a confounding array of unusual roadside attractions, from the iconic Blue Whale of Catoosa and the towering Bumblebee the Transformer in Stillwater to the historic Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park in Chelsea and the playful Alien Landing Yard Art in Stroud.
Other quirky highlights spread across Oklahoma: Showman’s Rest and Bull Rider’s Reprieve, the Hugo cemetery where circus performers and rodeo champs are memorialized; the Holy City of the Wichitas, where Israel during Biblical times has been recreated near Lawton; and the American Pigeon Museum & Library, where OKC visitors and residents can learn all about the bird believed to be man’s oldest feathered friend.
8. Unleash your inner child
Believe it or not, you aren’t actually required to have a child with you to visit the animals at the Oklahoma City Zoo, to look at the bones at the Museum of Osteology in OKC or explore the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
If it’s just the two of you, you and your significant other might even feel the sparks flying when you test out the Tesla coil at Science Museum Oklahoma.
9. Plan an arty escape
Oklahoma City’s wide range of public art was recently ranked the best in the country by readers of USA Today, and the state capital also boasts the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center and artist collective Factory Obscura’s immersive “Mix-Tape,” both on Automobile Alley, along with beloved museums like the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and Oklahoma History Center.
But OKC doesn’t have the monopoly on artistic excursions: A slew of new murals, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center and Romy Owens’ epic public art project “Under Her Wing Was the Universe” provide ample artsy reasons to take a jaunt to Enid.
In Shawnee, painted horses pose around the city, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center and Seminole Nation Museum in nearby Wewoka spotlight Native arts, and the 101-year-old Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art offers an eclectic treasure trove of Tang dynasty terra cotta figures, Amazonian shrunken heads, the state’s only mummies and much more.
In Norman, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art displays stunning artwork both inside and out, while the city’s public art offerings range from the sculptures “Triptych” by Valerie Theberge and “Prairie Wind” by James Johnson to murals like “Norman Red-tail Hawk” by Rick Sinnett and “Tattoo Woman” by Derek Vosten.
10. Indulge your foodie cravings
The Sooner State offers an extensive menu of options for couples looking for new ways to indulge their foodie cravings. Many restaurateurs made improvements during the pandemic, from the fully enclosed patio at The Jones Assembly to the beautifully decorated expanded dining room at Basil Mediterranean Café.
For those who don’t limit their gourmand ways just to dining out, more than 50 farmers markets spread across the state serve up a cornucopia of locally produced fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, homemade breads and jams and other tasty treats. The historic Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, Edmond Farmers Market and Stillwater Farmers’ Market are among those that are open even during the winter months.
From sprawling rural facilities to city hot spots, Oklahoma also has a plethora of wineries and breweries on tap these days, and many offer private tours or tastings for couples looking for extra intimacy.
For pairs who prefer nonalcoholic beverages, Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia stocks hundreds of bubbly choices, Urban Teahouse in OKC brews up loose-leaf varieties from five continents, and the state’s overall caffeine game is strong, with coffee shops, houses and huts percolating in big cities, suburban areas and even small towns.
And since romance and chocolate just go together, consider an outing to the Bedré Fine Chocolate’s 34,600-square-foot manufacturing facility in Davis.