An Insider's Guide To Downtown Tulsa
Experience downtown with these tips and tricks for navigating the districts — where to eat, get a drink, and find entertainment.
Downtown Tulsa is bustling. There’s something to do every night of the week, and the downtown districts are buzzing with activity and oozing their own distinct flavors.
As the editors of TulsaPeople, we’re here to help you navigate our seven districts — from how to get there, to where to shop, to the inside info on the best discounts or nightlife. This isn’t an all-encompassing guide, but rather some of our favorite places, dishes and sights in downtown.
The Tulsa Downtown Trolley is a free transportation service that provides travel within various downtown districts.
The trolley operates an established route 6 p.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday. Designated stops are located in the Tulsa Arts, Deco and Blue Dome districts, as well as near the BOK Center. During hours of operation, the trolley can be tracked in real time on its Facebook page. For more information, visit trolleymap.com.
Downtown is home to some of the city’s newest protected bike lanes, which make bicycling downtown safer and easier.
Tulsa’s newest bicycle program is This Machine, which provides pay-as-you-go bicycle rental throughout the city center. See more about this project on p. 16.
And, if you are in need of a cold one while cycling, don’t forget T-Town’s very own Tulsa Bike Bar. Customized routes take up to 16 riders to various bar stops in downtown. The pub crawl on wheels provides a safe, yet fun way to tour downtown’s lively districts.
Tulsans are known for their preferred mode of transportation: the automobile. In July, the City of Tulsa implemented a modern — and functional — parking meter system. ParkMobile allows drivers to pay-by-plate via mobile app. It’s simple, efficient and doesn’t have us digging for spare quarters, dimes and nickels when we really want to be out exploring our fair city. If you’re sans smartphone, you can still pay by coin or card, or by calling 877-727-5715.
The new system was first installed in the Tulsa Arts District, but the Mayor’s Office plans to remove outdated meters everywhere downtown within the year.
During Mayfest, the fountain at the center of East Fifth and South Main streets is a child’s summertime dream. It’s the one time of year where one can safely splash through the streets of Tulsa, which are closed to traffic.
Pro tip Your presentation is due at 5 p.m. That online business card company misspelled your name. You need posters made for the upcoming event you’re chairing. Have no fear, the folks at QuikPrint are here for fast, easy and last-minute printing. 402 S. Main St.
If you’ve never had reason to step inside one of these famous buildings, at least take in the lobbies of the Mid-Continent Tower (pictured above), Philcade and Philtower buildings to immerse yourself in a past era.
Take a walk The Tulsa Centennial Walk is a 2.5-mile circuit through downtown that allows walkers to encounter the location of many historic events and buildings. It starts at Chapman Centennial Green. 605 S. Main St.
Yes, downtown Tulsa is home to several underground tunnels that provide climate-controlled comfort for those walking between several historic buildings. Take a self-guided tour or register for one of the many guided tours available through Tours of Tulsa, the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, or the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture.
Another interesting, air-conditioned stroll is via the skywalk from the Hyatt Regency to the Williams and BOK Tower complex, where you’re bound to see several groups taking a walking break during the workday.
Psst! You don’t need a password to get into downtown’s newest “speakeasy,” Boston Title and Abstract. But, you will need to make a reservation via opentable.com. 522 S. Boston Ave., Suite B100. Access from East Sixth Street between South Main Street and Boston Avenue.
Fast food and cheap eats live in Deco District. Among others, this year Burger King and Taco Bueno opened at 324 S. Main St. in the Palace Building; they are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
From 5 p.m. to close on Thursdays, it’s half-price ramen night at Roppongi. And, it has vegan options. 601 S. Boston Ave.
Treat’s Convenience Store is an easy way to score a pop or snack for that afternoon craving. The shop also carries made-in-Oklahoma food supplies and gifts. 404 S. Main St.
Anchored by Greenwood Avenue, the district is home to multiple historic sites commemorating Tulsa’s tragic past — the 1921 Race Massacre destroyed much of the original area — as well as celebrating its future in the northeast corner of the city center. Greenwood is one of downtown’s largest districts in size, as it extends north to East Pine Street.
The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park provides a much-needed green space and place of reflection. It’s open 8 a.m.-8 p.m., daily. This fall, the park began hosting First Friday Arts in the Park. From 6-9 p.m., visitors can watch live performances, see local art and dine from various food trucks on site. 321 N. Detroit Ave.
Other noteworthy district sites include the B.S. Roberts Park and the Tulsa campuses for Langston University and Oklahoma State University.
Look down Throughout the district, pedestrians can view bronze sidewalk placards commemorating historic Greenwood businesses.
When attending a game at ONEOK Field, home of the Tulsa Drillers and Tulsa Roughnecks FC, don’t leave home without beach towels. You can use them to sit on the lawn and/or for kids to dry off after playing in the splash pad. Weekend game-time parking is easy; OSU-Tulsa provides it free of charge. ONEOK Field: 201 N. Elgin Ave. OSU-Tulsa: 700 N. Greenwood Ave.
Pro tip Four nights a week, Lefty’s on Greenwood hosts live music, making it a favorite nighttime destination. Sports fans also gather to watch games from its 11 TVs and partake in its drink and dinner specials. 10 N. Greenwood Ave., Suite A
The Greenwood Cultural Center, which honors the past, present and future of Tulsa’s celebrated Black Wall Street, is a beacon for history buffs. When planning a visit, make arrangements to tour the Mabel B. Little Heritage House (above), which depicts life in the thriving 1920s neighborhood. 322 N. Greenwood Ave.
You can’t go wrong with a helping of fried chicken from Wanda J’s Next Generation Restaurant. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the small eatery fills up fast during the meal rush. 111 N. Greenwood Ave.
Six of downtown’s earliest churches, many with gorgeous architectural detail, call this district home. Today, they are just part of the reason to be in the area.
’Tis the season to get spooky. Each year the Radix building adorns its exterior for the Halloween season. Pedestrians and motorists beware: Ghosts have been known to float along the roofline, and a giant spider has been seen crawling up the brick. 1120 S. Boston Ave.
Pro tip Every Monday, the McKeon Center for Creativity at Tulsa Community College puts together an “I Can’t” Workshop, where attendees have the opportunity to learn a new skill, such as screen printing, dance or building a robot. The free program starts at noon and continues through Nov. 12. See the complete schedule at tulsacc.edu/centerforcreativity. 910 S. Boston Ave.
Heads up Motorists should exercise extra caution in one of downtown’s more walkable districts. Be on the look-out for TCC students and lunchtime walkers and joggers.
Foolish Things is a comfy spot for coffee meetings and telecommuting, and its chocolate chip cookies are hard to beat. Tables are common areas, so prepare to get comfy with a stranger. On your way out, be sure to bus your own table by setting your used cups and flatware on the concrete bar. Tulsa Community College students receive a 10 percent discount; Tulsa-area teachers receive 15 percent off. 1001 S. Main St.
This summer, Magnolias Cafe opened on the first floor of the Sun Building. The Creole/Cajun restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, with daily lunch specials. Wednesday always features a buffet; Thursday is a loaded potato bar. 907 S. Detroit Ave.
Booming development in the retail, restaurant, art and hotel sectors near Guthrie Green has made this district a hub of activity. The district’s monthly First Friday Art Crawl has become a must for every Tulsan’s calendar.
Mainline hosts karaoke night beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturdays. The people-watching is prime, because this is where Tulsa’s musical theater set spends its free nights (or after shows, sometimes still in stage makeup). You’ll hear some amazing voices on show tunes, so it’s like a little trip to Broadway featuring local talent. The host, Ron Hammond, is an expert at making new folks feel welcome and comfortable, but if you want to perform, get there early. Sometimes by 11 p.m. the wait to sing is over an hour long. 111 N. Main St.
Did you know A gold Fender Stratocaster custom made for Bob Wills’ guitarist Eldon Shamblin encouraged the upcoming OKPOP’s gold color palette. Officials report groundbreaking this fall at 422 N. Main St.
Duet is one of the newest restaurants and music venues in downtown. It features an eclectic menu loaded with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, all set in a modern dining room aesthetic. 108 N. Detroit Ave.
Visit after dark to see artist Chris Wollard’s interactive sculptures come to life. Located along East Archer Street between North Main Street and North Boulder Avenue, the arch-shaped pieces are lined with LED lights that illuminate at night.
You need to know ahha Tulsa has changed its name and structure so that the organization and its building are more synonymous. Although entry is no longer free, the fee ($10.95, adults; $6.95, youth; free, members and kids under 2) gets you access to all three levels: THE GALLERY, THE EXPERIENCE and THE STUDIO. The studio is open to the public and has art supplies and creative prompts at all times, plus special, more structured programming on certain days. THE GALLERY and STUDIO are free to access on First Friday, but THE EXPERIENCE — a fully immersive, multi-sensory art adventure/installation — is not. And honestly, you wouldn’t want to be in there with throngs of First Friday folks. Here’s a pro tip: Brush up on some basic American Sign Language, because artist JP Morrison Lans has included a few secret messages. 101 E. Archer St.
Spinster Records is a vinyl shop that boasts new and vintage records, along with audio hardware and music-related goods. Live performances are a late-night norm, and an upstairs room provides a secret musical retreat. 11 E. M.B. Brady St.
Pro tip Made has saved our bacon for last-minute gifts more than we’d like to admit. Plus, the shop has special gallery space that features rotating artists each month. 219 E. Archer St.
Get to Valkyrie early if you care about sitting down, and don’t be shy about sitting at the big booths with groups of strangers. If you’re with friends or on a double date, play this special game: A page on the menu provides different descriptor words, so if you don’t know what to order, you can pick what sounds appealing, like “bubbly” and “fruity” or “dark” and “classic.” The expert bartenders then select a drink for you that fits the profile.
It becomes a game when you try to pick three words that describe you, and then decide if the boozy version of your personality is accurate. If you’re not afraid of cooties, everyone tries each other’s concoctions and discusses the accuracy of the match. 13 E. M.B. Brady St.
Out late? Indulgence in all things fun can sometimes mean a hankering for late-night eats. Local food truck TNT Wangs has a solid reputation for post-bar/concert food.
With a healthy mix of residential and commercial properties, along with retail, venue and food options, East Village is like a big-city neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown.
The northern terminus of the Midland Valley Trail is in the East Village, making the district easily accessible to the city’s walking and cycling traffic.
The Dennis R. Neill Equality Center completed the Lynn Riggs Theater in November 2017, and since then, the black box venue has played host to several productions. A new cabaret series, Third Thursdays in the Rainbow Room, runs through November, and resumes in 2019. On Oct. 18, audiences can enjoy the stylings of Rebecca Ungerman in “Oy, Gestalt!” 621 E. Fourth St.
First Street Flea, a curated downtown flea market on the first Sunday of the month, is hard to get to, but super worth it, for the murals alone. If you’re approaching from westbound I-244, exit on First Street and be prepared to slow down quickly. There always seems to be construction. Otherwise, take East Third Street westbound from South Peoria Avenue, turn right on Lansing Avenue, and then left on First, watching for speeding cars from I-244. The entrance actually does not face First; it’s on the other side of the building, along with plenty of parking. 856 E. Admiral Blvd.
Cheap eats East Village Bohemian Pizzeria has recently expanded, but its patio is still one of the best in town. If you haven’t tried it for lunch, do so immediately. Its lunch special is hard to beat — a lunch-sized pizza or calzone, with salad, for only $10. Trust us, you’ll need a take-home box. 818 E. Third St.
Liggett Studio’s public exhibitions, classes and studio space offer an artistic presence. In October, the studio will host a two-day bookbinding workshop. 314 S. Kenosha Ave.
Named after the early Tulsa Gulf gas station topped with its now iconic blue dome roof, this district is chock full of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
On trend Nashville Hot Chicken seems to be the new foodie craze. In the Boxyard, Open Container has made the spicy fried chicken dish an anchor to its new food menu. In sandwich form, it comes with pickles and slaw ($10). It’s also a flavor option for Open Container’s wings ($9). 502 E. Third St., #39
Pro tip Many drive through the Blue Dome to get to a performance at the nearby Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St. If you make your approach on South Detroit Avenue, there is often street parking outside the orbit of the expensive paid lots. Whatever you do, don’t park in the lot surrounding the Blue Dome itself. It’s private, and illegally parked cars are frequently ticketed.
Since 1956, Arnie’s has been serving up drinks for regulars at this neighborhood dive bar. Drink specials abound. There’s free food for customers on Fridays. It’s also one of Tulsa’s last refuges for smokers. 318 E. Second St.
Cheap eats A Monday lunchtime break helps get the week started right. At Fassler Hall, it’s half-price sausage day. What beats a discounted lunch that also includes free duck fat fries from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays? Nothing. 304 S. Elgin Ave.
One of the best deals downtown remains McNellie’s burger night from 5-11 p.m. on Wednesdays. The place fills up and stays full, so be prepared for a bit of a wait. But, have no fear, there’s still more than 330 beers to choose from while you wait. 409 E. First St.
A master plan for this new district, which surrounds the BOK Center and the Cox Business Center, is being developed to build on its reputation for stellar local and national events by adding attractive public spaces and more commercial development.
Central Library offers free parking for library guests for the first three hours; after that it’s $2 an hour. Enter the parking garage from South Denver Avenue and drive west, between the courthouse and the library. This area used to be closed to traffic, but it’s now a main entry point. Bring in your ticket from the parking garage and have it stamped by library staff in the lobby near the first-floor elevators to avoid payment upon exit.
Pro tip If you’re attending an event at the Cox Business Center, bring cash — or plan a stop by the ATM at East 15th Street and South Denver Avenue QuikTrip — so you can tip the valet.
Did you know West of I-244, Third Street becomes Charles Page Boulevard, which has a number of interesting studios and businesses and charming neighborhoods just beyond the IDL.
Cellar Dweller is a good spot to wait out post-event traffic or end the night on a relaxed note. The beer is cheap and the bar menu is straightforward, but the grungy speakeasy ambience can’t be beat. 417 W. Seventh St.
The Sushi Place is a quiet little spot for great rolls and sashimi, but it often flies under the radar. A house favorite is the 918 Crunch Roll with shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, and a sweet and spicy sauce. Follow the restaurant on Facebook for updates on happy hour specials. 115 W. Third St., Suite 100.