Head to Tahlequah for a variety of entertainment options, from leisurely float trips to shopping to down-home dining.
If only for its rich Native American history, Tahlequah is well worth visiting, but it also offers modern entertainment options that make for an easy-to-reach day trip or weekend getaway.
The capital of the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah was the end of the infamous Trail of Tears for the Keetoowah Band of Cherokees in 1839.
A sophisticated people, the Cherokees had a written constitution, published a newspaper in both Cherokee and English and set up the first higher-education school for women west of the Mississippi.
The Cherokee Heritage Center and interactive museum and Cherokee Courthouse are both excellent places to learn more about these important Oklahomans. The heritage center, five miles south of Tahlequah, includes a replicated ancient village where visitors can see artisans, crafters and others enacting the daily life of a small Cherokee town. Tahlequah also is home to Northeastern State University, which has an active student theater and NCAA sports teams.
Tahlequah offers a unique mix of rustic accommodations and national chain motels, “comfort food” and ethnic cuisine and a historic past with modern recreation.
To get there: Just a 75-minute trip from Tulsa, take Highway 51 east to Tahlequah for a scenic view of the northeastern Oklahoma landscape.
To learn more: Call the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce, (918) 456-3742, or visit Tour Tahlequah or Tahlequah Chamber.
Kate Young Kelly, tourism director with the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, shares these suggestions for a perfect day trip.
Have an early lunch at Sam & Ella’s Chicken Palace — where, oddly, pizza rules. Stroll downtown to shop at Everything Under the Sun, the Mustard Seed and the Keetoowah Gift Shop and then head to Vidalia’s for dessert.
Tour the Original Townsite Historic District, take a short drive to Western Hills for horseback riding and indulge in delectable barbeque at Fish’s Barbeque.
Kelly also offers these tempting reasons to extend your visit.
Stay at Mary Geasland’s Guesthouse, have coffee and bagels on the deck at the Iguana Café, float the Illinois River and then enjoy the River City Players or Downtown Country
Spend the night in a yurt (an Asian tent) at Elephant Rock Nature Park, fish and swim the Illinois River and then indulge in an elegant dinner of buffalo filet mignon, trout or quail at the Echota House.
Get in 18 holes at Cherry Springs Golf Course.
If it is the weekend, head for Jincy’s Kitchen in nearby Qualls, Okla. The restaurant is located in an authentic rural general store (featured in both “Where the Red Fern Grows” movies), and the menu is reminiscent of grandma’s best Sunday dinners.
Here’s a fresh idea for anyone planning a shower, reunion or “girls getaway”: The Scrappin’ Pad offers a unique retreat for individuals or groups of six to 12 who enjoy scrapbooking. In addition to a spacious crafts room equipped with the latest dies, cutters and shapers, as well as delicious meals and unlimited snacks, guests can enjoy spa amenities such as massages, pedicures/manicures and facials. Area attractions include shopping, fun along the river or gaming at the new Cherokee Casino.