We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see in your travels.
Afton: Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum displays over 40 custom built exotic vehicles by world renowned custom car builder and designer Darryl Starbird, as well as many other famous hot rod and custom car builders. Every square inch of the walls and floor space is full of photos and memorabilia of famous custom automobiles, including street rods, nostalgic custom cars, vans, pickups, sports cars and experimental bubble-topped futuristic looking concept cars.
Aline: The Sod House Museum preserves an original 1894 homesteader’s sod house, the last original sod house still standing on the prairie.
Atoka: During the Civil War many displaced Indians in Oklahoma Territory sided with the South, hoping that a Confederate victory might help them regain their lost independence. The Confederate Memorial Museum and Cemetery offers a unique look into the varied history of southeastern Oklahoma, including exhibits on the Civil War years, a display of prehistoric animal bones, the Choctaw Trail of Tears, and the Butterfield Stage Line.
Bartlesville: The Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve presents one of America’s must unique displays of Western art and artifacts; Native American pottery, baskets, beads, blankets, and cultural art; historical displays, and one of the most complete collections of Colt firearms. It is one of the most outstanding western art collections in the world that also represents the culture and lifestyles of America and the American West.
Claremore: The Will Rogers Memorial, with exhibits on America’s favorite humorist, is located in Claremore. Rogers and his wife are buried at the memorial.
Claremore: The J.M Davis Gun Museum is one of the largest and finest private collections of firearms in the world.
Clinton: The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum tells the story of the historic route’s impact on the state.
Dewey: You can relive those thrilling days of yesteryear when the good guys wore white hats and cowboys only kissed their horses at the Tom Mix Museum. Before going off to Hollywood to be a celluloid cowboy, Tom Mix was the Town Marshal of Dewey and a real cowboy. The museum displays some of his costumes and has exhibits on his life and career.
Drumright: Visitors can learn about the oil boom days in Oklahoma at the Drumright Community Historical Museum, housed in the 1916 Santa Fe Railroad Depot. Displays on the museum grounds include oil drilling equipment and a cannon that was used to shoot the bottoms out of burning oil tanks.
Duncan: The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center commemorates and celebrates the great history and heritage of the old Chisholm Trail and the other great cattle trails of the late 19th century. The complex includes the largest bronze sculpture in Oklahoma, a monumental statue of a cattle drive, and an adjacent museum and visitor center.
Elk City: The National Route 66 Museum tells the story of the people who traveled the Mother Road, and those who lived in the towns along the historic route. Exhibits include old cars, road signs, and artifacts from the days when traveling was an adventure.
Enid: The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center includes exhibits on the region’s history and a frontier village with restored buildings.
Enid: The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma is the state’s largest collection of railroad equipment, memorabilia, and related items, including rolling stock, model train layouts, and railroad memorabilia.
Erick: Country music singer/songwriter Roger Miller is honored at the Roger Miller Museum in Erick. Displays include his high school essays, the singer’s motorcycle, stage costumes, musical instruments, photographs, and memorabilia.
Fort Gibson: Oklahoma’s first military outpost was established here in 1824, and for years Fort Gibson was the most crucial military post in the west. Today visitors can tour the grounds of the old fort and see original and reconstructed buildings from the time when it was a working military post.
Foyil: Totem Pole Park is a collection of roadside kitsch that includes a 60 foot tall concrete totem pole, a carved tree, and a twelve foot high arrowhead, to name just a few of the wonders to be found here.
Grove: Har-Ber Village is one of the largest antique museums in the United States. The museum is a reconstructed turn-of-the century village of over one hundred buildings.
Guthrie: The State Capital Publishing Museum displays early newspaper printing equipment and tells the story of the frontier editors who helped civilize the Wild West.
Guthrie: The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum in historic downtown Guthrie displays early day pharmaceutical products, patent medicines, and medical remedies.
Guthrie: The history of the Sooner State is told at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum with displays on the famous Land Run, exhibits on outlaws and lawmen, and the stories of the settlers who tamed the prairie.
Guthrie: Nearly 20,000 lighters and “fire starters” are displayed at the National Lighter Museum, the nation’s only museum devoted to the collection of lighters.
Henryetta: The Henryetta Territorial Museum is housed in Henryetta’s original one-room school, built in 1905 with lumber hauled from Indiana. The museum’s displays include the memorable photographic works of Joseph W. Hardin, pioneer artifacts, and Territorial exhibits.
Kingfisher: The Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher displays a large collection of artifacts devoted to the famous cattle trail, along with other Old West exhibits.
Muskogee: At the Five Civilized Tribes Museum displays and artifacts from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes tell the story of these native peoples and the Trail of Tears that brought them to Indian Territory.
Muskogee: Oklahoma is a long way from the ocean, so you may be surprised to find a World War II-era submarine on display at the Muskogee War Memorial Park. The USS Batfish had a distinguished record, earning nine battle stars for her service in the Pacific. She sank fourteen ships and damaged three others during seven combat patrols. During a four day period in February 1945, the Batfish sank three Japanese submarines, earning the Presidential Unit Citation.
Oklahoma City: Science Museum Oklahoma exhibits include Admiral Crowe’s World Hat Collection, the Wheels to Wings Bicycle Collection, and the Parlor Car and Toy Train Collection and Exhibit; vintage aircraft and memorabilia, a Mercury space capsule simulator, the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, and over 350 hands-on science exhibits.
Oklahoma City: The National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum is the ultimate goal for any player, coach, umpire or administrator who aspires to greatness in the sport. With less than 400 inductees, the National Softball Hall of Fame is among the most difficult sports halls in the nation in which to gain membership. Visitors can tour the facility to learn more the sport’s greatest athletes and their accomplishments.
Oklahoma City: A fine collection of Western art by the likes of Frederick Remington and Charles M. Russell, along with displays on every area of the Old West, make the National Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Museum a great place to learn about everything from trail hands to rodeo stars and movie cowboy heroes.
Oklahoma City: The 45th Infantry Division Museum here recalls the exploits of the Oklahoma infantry unit that served with honor and distinction in World War II and Korea. Displays include artifacts from the early days of Spanish exploration to the present day.
Oklahoma City: The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame celebrates the athletic and artistic excellence of the sport’s most accomplished athletes and connects them with future generations of young gymnasts and fans.
Oklahoma City: The Harn Homestead Museum includes a collection of buildings from Territorial Oklahoma, including homes, a schoolhouse, log cabin, and other historic structures.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum was created to honor those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The Memorial and Museum are dedicated to educating visitors about the impact of violence, informing about events surrounding the bombing, and inspiring hope and healing through lessons learned by those affected.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum displays a remarkable collection of antique fire apparatus dating back to the mid 1700s, and the first fire station built in Oklahoma Territory in 1864. Many items from the oldest fire company in the nation, commanded by Benjamin Franklin, are on display. Exhibits also include the world’s largest patch collection. The museum is one of the most outstanding facilities in the nation devoted entirely to the preservation and display of antique fire fighting equipment and apparatus.
Oologah: At the Will Rogers Dog Iron Ranch and Birthplace Home, visitors can tour the working ranch and house where the beloved humorist was born on November 4, 1879.
Park Hill: The Cherokee Heritage Center tells the story of the Cherokee people from the days before the first white man set foot on North American soil to the present day, with exhibits on the Cherokee culture, alphabet, traditional arts and crafts, and their forced journey down the Trail of Tears.
Pawhuska: Dating back to 1938, the Osage Tribal Museum, Library and Archives is the oldest tribally-owned museum in the United States and displays a collection of over 6,000 objects tracing Osage tribal history and culture.
Pawhuska: Displays at the Osage County Historical Society Museum include exhibits on the first Boy Scout troop in the United States, which was founded in Pawhuska in the spring of 1909. This troop preceded the organization of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 and had a charter from the Boy Scouts of England. A statue of a Boy Scout in the British uniform of 1909 is located in front of the museum. Other exhibits cover pioneer and western life, ranching, antique railroad cars, and a one room school.
Ponca City: The Pioneer Woman Museum tells the story of the women who helped settle this wild territory.
Sallisaw: Sequoyah’s Cabin was once home to Sequoyah (George Gist), the teacher who in 1821 invented a syllabary that made it possible to read and write the Cherokee language.
Shattuck: Windmills are synonymous with the Old West, and you can see 45 vintage windmills, along with a sod roofed dugout of the type settlers lived in at the Shattuck Windmill Museum.
Stilwell: The Washington Irving Trail Museum is one of Oklahoma’s best-kept secrets, an off-the-beaten-path museum filled with exhibits about Oklahoma’s fascinating past. Here you will learn about early day explorers, lawmen and outlaws, a Civil War battle, the beginnings of country music, and see an extensive collection of early Southwest Indian artifacts.
Tulsa: The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, housed in a renovated 1910 mansion, displays exotic dolls, toys and miniatures. The museum houses the thirty-year collection of dolls and toys gathered by Mrs. Ida Dennie Willis, along with other collections, Native American dolls and artifacts, ethnic and advertising dolls, and handcrafted, miniature houses, and a Gypsy caravan.
Tulsa: The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium brings the past and future together with exhibits on Tulsa’s rich history in the aerospace industry that include historic aircraft, a wind tunnel, space vehicles, and hands-on exhibits.
Tulsa: The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art houses over 10,000 items ranging from historical documents and Bronze Age works of art to Holocaust exhibits covering over 4,000 years of Jewish history and culture.
Tulsa: The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame promotes, preserves, and illuminates the true art forms of jazz, blues, and gospel music, and works to identify and honor the Oklahoma musicians who have made significant contributions to its development.
Tulsa: The Gilcrease Museum houses one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive collections of art and artifacts of the American West.
Don’t forget to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Chesapeake 1880 by my friend Ken Rossignol, a tale of life in the Chesapeake Bay region as the industrial revolution changed the world forever. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – It doesn’t cost extra to be nice.