4 Charming Towns Worth the Drive From Tulsa
Tishomingo, Ada, Prague and Stroud are worthy of a road trip.
Chickasaw Nation Capitol Building
Every small town in Oklahoma has a story to tell. Many of these stories stretch back to the days of Indian Territory and provide a history lesson alongside the experience of the Sooner State in the 21st century. Tishomingo in south central Johnston County is just such a place.
The name of the town comes from a Chickasaw chief who died on the Trail of Tears as his people made their journey west. When the tribe settled, Tishomingo was designated the capital of the Chickasaw Nation. The capitol building was built in 1898 and stands to this day as a museum focusing on tribal history prior to statehood. The grounds are beautifully kept and feature several interpretive plaques and statues. The nearby Chickasaw Council House Museum is the home of a large collection of Chickasaw art and artifacts, which tell more of the tribe’s story.
Tishomingo also is known as the home of country music superstar Blake Shelton. A new restaurant and music venue opened on Main Street in 2017 called Ole Red, named for one of Shelton’s hit songs. It features traditional American fare and a stage that attracts a variety of musicians, who come to this town of 3,000 to perform for locals and tourists alike. Sometimes Shelton himself walks through the door to visit with folks and have a bite to eat.
Several communities that deserve closer inspection can be found along the drive from Tulsa. If you enjoy live music and prefer a historic venue, Ada is the home of the McSwain Theatre. The old Main Street movie house once hosted the likes of Roy Rogers and Susan Hayward for movie premieres before it made a transition into a stage venue. After a full renovation in 2009, the McSwain made a name for itself as a destination once again for theater performances and various live acts.
Founded in 1902 by Czech immigrants, Prague is named after the capital city of the Czech Republic (though it’s pronounced differently: praig instead of prog.) It’s also the hometown of Olympian Jim Thorpe. The town’s Czech heritage is on display every May during its annual Kolache Festival. There’s also a historical museum on Main Street and the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus and church.
Prague also is the hometown of the late Olinka Hrdy, a muralist and creative artist whose works once graced the Brady Theater and Riverside Studio in Tulsa.
If your path home leads you through Stroud, it’s never a bad decision to stop at the Rock Cafe. This Route 66 institution serves travelers from all over the world who come by to enjoy a meal prepared on “Betsy,” the restaurant’s 75-plus-year-old grill. When construction of the restaurant began in 1936, the rocks that were used came from the building of the Mother Road in the 1920s; the construction was so solid that it survived a devastating fire in 2008. If owner Dawn Welch is in, be sure to ask her how she was involved in the development of Pixar’s 2006 film “Cars.” It’s a fun conversation that truly illustrates the fact that every person has their own story.