Five reasons to staycate

Scenes from a summer staycation at River Sprit Hotel and Casino.


I stumbled across the rapper Pitbull about 10 years ago at a Miami nightclub. I was floored by his energy. (Literally: my friends and I were on the dance floor the entire night.) So, when I heard Mr. Worldwide was coming to the 918, I called a few girlfriends and we planned a staycation.

Tulsa has a rich presence—our art deco; our art museums; our artistic entrepreneurs. But me? Not so rich. There’s something to say about sauntering around the city where you live—especially if you’re wanting to make your moo-la stretch.

Travel time to River Spirit Casino Resort, where Pitbull was scheduled to perform, took about 16 minutes and cost less in gas than a vodka soda. Even though we could have easily Ubered home after the concert, it was worth it to stay close to the action—or close to a toothbrush, dry change of clothes, and cold water bottles.

We got our pool bracelets when we checked in and immediately went to reserve our chairs (pro tip: rent a cabana in advance). Then we dropped off our suitcases in the room. (Why did we bring so much stuff? That’s the eternal question.)

Outside there were men wearing gold chains around their necks, women with gold bronzer on their skin, and sunlight pouring down everywhere.


Story has it that when Pitbull was three, he could recite the works of Cuba’s national hero and poet, José Martí—which is muy atractiva, if you ask me. My friends and I sipped fruity cocktails, told stories and read poetry. As the sky drank in the sun, the music grew louder and Pitbull sang:

Order me another round, homie

We about to climb, wild,

‘cause it's about to go down.

Don’t you hate that "I need a vacation after my vacation" feeling? No worries, homie. Since you don’t have a plane to catch, time can move a little more freely from morning to afternoon. You can piddle while packing. You won’t lose any time being jetlagged, and a time change won’t take any hours away. You can soak in every second of sunshine and spend less time standing in line for a rental car. Overall, the stress of needing to pack every single restaurant, experience, and shop into a short trip is less intense on a staycation.


River Spirit was Tulsa even when it wasn’t. It was a familiar Arkansas River scattered with new palm trees.

One might argue the best part of a vacation is not knowing anyone. It’s the people watching. It’s the game of telling a fictionalized story about the stranger sitting next to you. And in this vein, our stay felt like a vacation when I looked around the crowd and didn’t know anyone.

But that feeling only lasted a second.

As soon as I walked through that aforementioned crowd of strangers, it didn’t take long to recognize one or two. This turned out to be the best part of the staycation. I started to think of it as a huge-ass pool party that I didn’t have to plan—I just showed up, and there were my south Tulsa friends. My Brooksiders were there. My downtown posse was in full effect and were about to go down.

While my girlfriends put on eyelashes and we dressed for dinner, my phone flashed texts from new and old friends who wanted us to hurry to dinner. It became hard to argue with the poem I was reading: "It’s not where you are / but who you’re with / that makes the difference / between being content / and happy."

The best part of a vacation might be getting away from your surroundings, but the best part of a staycation is surrounding yourself with the ones you don’t want to get away from.

Later in the evening at will call, a very kind stranger with a handful of hundred dollar bills gave us two extra concert tickets. Had we not been so close to home, we couldn’t have phoned a friend at the last minute to tell him, "Drop everything. Come to Pitbull."

And he did drop everything.


If the purpose of going on a vacation is to see something different, then I would say the reason to take a staycation is to see something differently.

Seeing St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch might be something different for you. But seeing something you’ve seen before—like the Tulsa skyline from the vantage of a 26th floor hotel room—might make you ask new questions about the city you’ve seen a thousand times from a hundred different angles. Flip through a copy of the Official Guide to the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation on the nightstand, and you’ll see how the land has changed from 1837 to now.

Staycation creates space for curious thinking, and suddenly I began to see Tulsa as a tourist. For a long time, I made eye contact with a Dana Tiger painting. I tried to make out the scent coming down from the ceiling—geranium? Maybe a hint of clove?

I asked, "So, where are you from?" to everyone who got on the elevator. Turns out Tulsa really is as fun and friendly a place as I thought.


How far can you carry your practicality? I can carry mine pretty far, but I do have a battery inside my soul that needs detachment in order to recharge.

The slow, back-and-forth walk in the water from one end of the swim-up bar to the other is meditative. River Spirit was clean, the staff extremely friendly, and while it’s a big place, it doesn’t swallow you. From the pool, the towering gem-like hotel sits perfectly in the nook of a blue Oklahoma Saturday.

I recharged while drinking red wine at Ruth’s Chris Steak House with good, local company. (No one seemed to mind that my friends and I were wearing sundresses over wet bikinis in the dinning room of one of Tulsa’s finest steak houses.) I recharged while dancing off as many lobster mac & cheese calories as possible. I recharged at 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar as the bass slapped the beat with precision.

After a full day of drinking in the sun and a long night of dancing, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I remembered there would be no plane to catch the next day. And after waking up with a hangover, the pillow top mattress and room service combo made it seem like lady luck had returned a bit of my lifeforce.

So, let’s do this again next weekend, shall we?

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