Today had to be my most anticipated day of the trip. It was packed full of activities and I could not wait to conquer all of what Oklahoma City had to offer. We began the morning with an emotionally overwhelming trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Learning about the devastation caused by Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in 1995 was one of the most sobering things I have ever encountered. The museum captured the emotions of that April morning in such a powerful, striking way. I did not walk out as the same person that walked in.
In order to decompress from the Memorial, we headed to the Overholser Mansion, located in Heritage Hills area of northern Oklahoma City. Built in 1903, the home transported us back in time.
The tour guide and décor did a good job of helping us picture life in the early 1900s.
We learned of the wealthy Overholser family that lived there until the selling of the home in 1972 to the state of Oklahoma for education purposes. Drawn to the ornate woodworking and lavish furniture of the home, I really enjoyed living in 1903 for the hour-long tour. What it must have been like to live so extravagantly!
Following the wonders seen at the Overholser Mansion, my fellow LEAP Center students and I traveled to Cattleman’s steakhouse to enjoy some home cooking and western atmosphere. Now while it was hard to compare it to anything back home in Texas, the Chicken Fried Chicken and chocolate pie definitely made their way onto my list of best foods. Also interesting were the lamb fries we tried…
After a tasty meal, we then made our way over to the Oklahoma History Center. Even though we only had an hour and a half to enjoy it, I must say Oklahoma has never seemed so versatile. There were exhibits on cowboys and kitchens, dresses and divas, and even some history about Oklahomans in space. As a true Texan born and raised, I can still admit that through learning about the beauty and history of this state, Oklahoma now holds a place in my heart.
Before the sun was able to completely get away from us, we were able then to enjoy the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Conservatory in downtown Oklahoma City.
Taking in the beauty and humidity surrounding us, we spotted many exotic flowers and towering trees that would beautify any locale.
Upon leaving the Conservatory, we strolled the gardens outside and proceeded to spot a live wedding, some feisty ducks, and a child or two running loose. People-watching has never been so entertaining.
Before saying goodbye to Oklahoma City once and for all, we begged Professor Yawn to let us stop by an extravagant, tacky, over-the-top-sweets shop to indulge our inner-kid. Laden with bags of chocolate truffles, cupcakes, and sweet candies we reluctantly made our way back “home” to Norman to finish off the night at the University of Oklahoma’s historical campus. We discovered the campus’s old, gothic style buildings and, more importantly, the breathtaking interiors. Although younger than Sam Houston State University by a decade or so, OU’s history pervaded every step we took through the beautiful campus grounds.
Finally to finish up such an exciting day, we headed to a quaint Vietnamese restaurant. Each student tried something new, whether it was pho soup, lettuce wraps, or a banh mi sandwich. Full, exhausted, and ready to sleep our lives away, we sped back to the hotel to calculate the hours of sleep we would get before waking up to wrap up our trip tomorrow. Looking back on such a wonderful day, I realize how truly blessed I am to live in a country with so many opportunities and wonderful histories to learn.
Day 4 was a flurry of activity! Crisscrossing the Norman/OKC area we continued where we left off—picking up new experiences and learning more.
Our first stop was Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, which serves as somber reminder of the tragic Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995.
Winding through the museum you get to know the victims, discover heroes and, most important, never forget what happened that morning.
What I’ll never forget from the museum is the recording they offer of a meeting from the morning of the bombing—the audio captures the dramatic and sudden shift from casual meeting sheer panic. It left me with goosebumps.
Also poignant is the “And Jesus Wept” Statue erected by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, located across the street from the bombing Memorial.
Leaving the memorial we arrived at the Overholser Mansion, a turn of the century Victorian style home. The home was built for renowned Oklahoma City businessman and philanthropist Henry Overholser and his family.
The Overholser family lived in opulence and their lifestyle of luxury was perfectly preserved in the beautiful home.
Lunch was the next stop, which we satisfied by going to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the historic stockyard area of OKC. Cattlemen’s is a continuation of the cowboy heritage and the food did not disappoint. Lamb testicles was the appetizer of choice (certainly exotic, but not overly tasty) and for the meal I had a Chopped Beef Sandwich, brought to us by a waiter who insisted on calling us “partner.”
Having satisfied our stomachs, our next stop was to learn more about Oklahoma at the State History Museum. Here we learned everything about the state: its Native American cultures, contributions to film and aviation, and its history from pre-statehood through the present. It was the state’s contributions to film that I found most fascinating, where I learned one of my favorite character actors Wes Studi (Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans), was born in Oklahoma.
Moving on from the state’s history, we went to the Myriad Gardens towards the center of OKC. The site is fascinating for its “duck pond,” which is loaded not only with ducks, but also koi; the tropical environment within the Conservancy; and the beautifully landscaped grounds.
What was most interesting to me was that the area was part of a recent urban development plan that Oklahoma has implemented to beautify the city, raising the quality of life and attracting tourists—such as us!
We stopped at a nearby gourmet dessert boutique where I picked up some delicious peanut butter truffles, and the other students indulged equally. Jessica bought $42 worth of candy, although it should be noted that she generously offered to share.
Moving on back to Norman, we walked the campus of OU, checking out the student union, the clock tower, and the reading library…
It was a beautiful campus.
Ending the day with dinner at Coriander Cafe not far from the university we had a wonderful meal. The Vietnamese cuisine was definitely outside my normal, but this trip is all about new experiences and the Banh Mi sandwich I had was superb.
In sum, this day was the culmination of everything that’s been great about Oklahoma City and Norman, and I will be leaving Oklahoma tomorrow with a new-found appreciation for the state.