Oklahoma City

World Facts Index > United States > Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City -- or OKC, as it is known in the local verbal shorthand -- is a rapidly growing city that has cultivated big-city diversity and modern sensibilities without losing its southern frontier charm. Just over 1 million people call Oklahoma City home; well, the city and the many quiet towns which dot its borders, that is.

Visitors are often surprised upon arriving in this little metropolis: no longer is it the harsh, parched land many imagine -- associating the city with memories of the 1930s "Dust Bowl" Oklahoma. No, this is a land of lakes, forests, rolling green hills, red rock canyons, big sky and beautiful sunsets. And blended into these delightful pockets of nature are the neighborhoods of the city. Every personality and taste has a place here, whether athletic-, artistic-, or business-minded.

Downtown Bricktown
Today, after a multi-year revitalization campaign, Downtown OKC -- dubbed "Bricktown" for its old-fashioned bricked streets -- has truly regained its status as the city's premier dining and entertainment district. Stepping off the Oklahoma Spirit trolley, visitors find themselves in an urban hotbed brimming with good eats and a wealth of diversions. Refined cultural pursuits -- distinguished Ballet Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Philharmonic at the Civic Center Music Hall -- exist alongside those aimed at a sportsman's heart -- Wranglers arena football at the Myriad Convention Center and RedHawk baseball at the new Bricktown Ballpark. Those who come downtown soon find that having fun is a full-time pursuit. Board a Water Taxi and float down the Bricktown Canal, which runs throughout the district, enter a tropical wonderland in the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge, or join the festivities. There seems to be a perpetual party carrying on in these streets -- any holiday or special event brings out revelers. Downtown is also home to a bittersweet part of city history -- the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Here, visitors can reflect in its quiet solitude and celebrate the lives of the 168 men, women and children who lost their lives on April 19, 1995.

Stockyard City
If Bricktown is the city's modern nucleus, then Stockyard City -- adjacent to downtown -- is the neighborhood of living Oklahoma history. Its main attraction is the National Stockyard Exchange, where cattle auctions are held every Monday and Tuesday. But, a trip here is not complete without taking a meal at Cattlemen's Steakhouse. The 90-year-old restaurant continues to be a symbol of the old cattle baron lifestyle and serves some of the most mouth-watering steaks in the city. At every turn, visitors are reminded of the way of life in frontier times -- stores like Langston's, Shepler's, and Tener's can outfit you in authentic Western duds and performers at the Oklahoma Opry will serenade you with sweet country melodies. Don't pass up an opportunity to journey into this cowboy country.

The Paseo
North of Bricktown, around the area of 30th Street and Dewey, is OKC's only artists' district, the Paseo. Designed in the style of an old Spanish villa, the area's buildings house numerous galleries and studios, along with a few popular restaurants and coffee bars. One such popular meeting place is Galileo's Bar and Grill, an eatery with a Mediterranean flavor, which also hosts a poetry night. Memorial Day brings a flurry of activity to the area, when the annual Paseo Arts Festival is held. As you travel further north on Western, just outside of the Paseo, you will find a seemingly unending path of boutiques, salons, and shops perfect for browsing. Among them is the city's own "Restaurant Row". These six fine dining establishments serve a variety of cuisines and, be assured, some tantalizing tastes await you here.

Northwest, Nichols Hills & The Village
For the finest shopping experience, head to the twin communities of Nichols Hills and the Village, which hold a multitude of upscale boutiques and luxury services. Outlets like Penn Square Mall and 50 Penn Place carry only the most ultra-chic goods. This is the place to be seen -- hands-down the most exclusive area in the city. The larger northwest district revolves largely around one major thoroughfare: the Northwest Expressway. Not really a "neighborhood" per se, the street is synonymous with the district, as it cuts through the entire northwest side of the city and holds many of its dining and shopping treasures. Aside from Bricktown, no other area of the city compares to it in the concentration of commerce and interchange. The area also holds entertainment attractions like the Oklahoma City Art Museum and State Fair Park, as well as outdoor retreats like Hefner Lake, Martin Park Nature Center, and Will Rogers Park.

Northeast
Northeast OKC holds some of the city's most prominent establishments. As home to the State Capitol and governmental district on Lincoln Avenue, it is the power center. It is the place where pols and dealmakers meet -- a heady thought -- but throughout there is also a distinct undercurrent of fun. The world-renown Cowboy Hall of Fame brings western history to life; Frontier City lets you play in a Land-Run-era theme park; ponies thunder and adrenaline surges at Remington Park; the Oklahoma City Zoo delivers an African safari and aquatic harbor to you here in the plains -- and these are just a sampling!

Southside
While not often afforded the attention given to other areas of the city, the southside is an important district in its own right. Home to Will Rogers World Airport, it serves as the travel hub of Oklahoma City, where thousands of travelers come and go. Correspondingly, the surrounding area holds a high concentration of hotels. Respected names like LaQuinta, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Howard Johnson and Ramada are all here, along with many, many others. Whether you are searching for opulent luxury or practical lodging, you are sure to find it. The area seems to be strictly business, but don't be fooled -- clusters of great little eateries and shops are to be found all over.

Historic Route 66 Towns
As you travel west in the city, located along America's historic road, Route 66, are two perfect little towns, Bethany and Yukon. Both just minutes from the heart of the city, these towns specialize in laid-back living. Bethany is home to Southern Nazarene University, but is not a typical rowdy college town. Quiet, tree-lined streets only add to its small-town charm. Around every turn, visitors will find antique and country-flavored gift shops, as well as family-run restaurants. Yukon is similar to Bethany -- a tight-knit, family-oriented community -- but has one major distinction: it is the home of country music legend Garth Brooks. Here you can see the water tower emblazoned with his name in his honor. In these two towns, visitors can experience true Oklahoman hospitality.

Oklahoma City is where the cowboys of the old west still ride -- their thundering hoofbeats echoing through time to be felt as the hearty pulse of life here today. So brush off those dusty memories of an antiquated Oklahoma where covered wagons are the preferred mode of transportation, and meat and potatoes are considered haute cuisine. We're ready to show you a bustling, lively city, combining the best of the good old days with that of present prosperity.

History of Oklahoma City

Just over 150 years ago, Oklahoma City was little more than a wild plain, yet to be tamed by man and molded into a modern community. This history begins with the painful end of the way of life for America's native people. Beginning in the 1830s, Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes were forcibly removed from their own lands in the southeastern part of the country by the United States government and sent to a land that would one day become Oklahoma. There were few horses or wagons to accommodate the travelers, so this journey of many hundreds of miles was often made on foot and in all extremes of weather. Torn from the home they loved and saddled with a long, demanding move, tribes lost people in great numbers to exhaustion and sickness. The path to Oklahoma was disparaged with the name, The Trail of Tears.

Throughout the next two decades, Oklahoma was known simply as Indian Territory, but after the Civil War, a change was on the horizon. Following the war between the states, many frontiersmen settled in Texas and took up the lucrative career of cattle ranching. In order to transport their cattle back east, ranchers had to drive the herds into Kansas where the railroads were. Soon, the heart of Oklahoma was seeing hundreds of cattle drives, the most popular thoroughfare being a path named the Chisholm Trail. Texas ranchers took notice of Oklahoma in their travels, and saw its sprawling, open plains as a perfect place in which to expand their business.

Throughout the 19th century, the majority of land that would one day make up the state had been given to Native Americans forced by the United States Government to move from their homes. However, one tract of these lands, located in the center of Oklahoma Territory, was never designated for a particular tribe and was soon dubbed the Unassigned Lands. As the century drew to a close and westward migration became increasingly popular, pioneers and cattle barons began clamoring for the government to allow for settlement in this vacant area. When they met with little response from lawmakers, these trailblazers made their own path into the Unassigned Land and established homes. This attempt to draw attention worked, and in March 1889, legislation authorizing settlement of the land was signed.

The very next month, the territory was opened to homesteaders in the most spectacular way: a race for land. For days, pioneers camped around the borders, waiting until April 22, the day of the Land Run. It is estimated that around 50,000 people were on hand to make a dash for the perfect piece of Oklahoma soil to call their own. Some eager settlers could not wait until the appointed day, instead sneaking over the borders under the cloak of darkness to claim their plot in advance. Nicknamed "Sooners", these enterprising Oklahomans have forever left their mark on this city -- in name and in spirit.

The Land Run began on April 22, 1889 with a cannon blast at high noon. The ground shook with the thunder of footfalls, hoofbeats from lightning-fast stallions, and wooden wheels on covered wagons. This enduring image, captured in history books, Western Art and the American imagination, completely defines the essence of Oklahoma and its residents -- there is a lust for life and adventure here that is unmatched.

Oklahoma City began modestly, with 10,000 homesteaders and no city government. Soon realizing the need for leadership, residents came together to elect officials. Despite this effort to make the territory operate more like an established American city, outlaws flocked to this new frontier. Daring and flamboyant real-life characters made famous in Hollywood movies often called Oklahoma home -- names like the James brothers and Belle Starr. Oklahoma City was growing rapidly, due to a sharp increase in commerce and an influx of money obtained from railroads now coming through the area. In just 10 years, the city's population doubled from 10,000 to 20,000. Demand for settlement lands continued, and other land runs were held through 1906.

The new century found Oklahoma City prosperous, flush with the success of railroad commerce from the Frisco, Katy, Rock Island, and Santa Fe companies. Tracks criss-crossed the downtown area, bringing in and shuttling out grain, livestock, produce and other lucrative cash crops. Riding high, residents were jubilant when President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation granting statehood. Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state in the Union on November 17, 1907. Guthrie, a town north of Oklahoma City, was named the state capitol. During the statehood celebrations, a mock wedding ceremony of a frontiersman and a Native American woman was performed there, symbolic of the new state's heritage.

Oklahoma City, with its thriving railroad and industrial businesses, continued to grow, with the population climbing to nearly 65,000 by the end of the decade. City dwellers desperately wanted the state's capitol to be in their bustling town, not in humble Guthrie. So Oklahomans, known for having a populist streak, took the matter into their own hands, circulating petitions and holding a vote to move the capitol. The effort was successful, and in 1910, the state capitol was relocated to Oklahoma City, where it has remained.

The following two decades saw an explosion of wealth and accomplishment in Oklahoma. Oklahoman and Native American Jim Thorpe astonished the world at the 1912 Olympic Games when he took the gold medal in both the pentathlon and decathlon. Henry Ford opened an assembly plant in the city in 1915, and the machine revolution hit Oklahoma City. Downtown grew further still -- moving its boundaries outward and constructing buildings that reached high into the Oklahoma sky. It is in this period of construction that red bricks were used, forever marking the downtown area as "Bricktown". America was introduced to Oklahoma's favorite son -- a simple man named Will Rogers. The frontier equivalent of a Renaissance man, Rogers was an all-around entertainer who performed as a screen actor, radio personality, writer, philosopher, humorist and cowboy. Aviation also came to the forefront with legendary pilot Wiley Post. Post, who lost his left eye in an oil rigging accident, holds the distinction of being the first man to fly around the world alone. The nation mourned along with Oklahomans when Rogers and Post were killed in a 1935 plane crash.

Oklahoma City was enjoying its sunny economic climate when, on a fateful day in December 1928, oil was struck in Oklahoma City. Wildcatters flocked to the city and wells soon dotted the landscape. Millions of barrels of thick black crude left the state and money rolled in -- the black gold boom days were here, but they would not be for long. The 1930s brought the Great Depression, and Oklahoma found itself one of the hardest hit by economic trouble. This was only compounded by the fury of nature. Drought and the fierce Oklahoma wind stirred up storms of red dirt that covered the landscape. Farmers and ranchers watched their livelihoods die in the parched "Dust Bowl" environment. Photographs depicting this era of Oklahoma history are still ingrained in the minds of Americans, and many still associate the present-day city with these images.

Oklahoma City never fully recovered from the Great Depression. The city struggled on, but the second World War further depleted the city and its residents of funds, resources and spirit. The growth and expansion once celebrated was now a curse as families retreated to suburbs and adjacent small towns. The heart of Oklahoma City was in decline and deserted. Politicians and civic leaders strived to find a remedy for the ailing city, but numerous plans for renewal in the 1960s and 1970s were lost in the tumultuous social and economic climate.

The 1980s marked the lowest point, when the oil bust wiped out hope for a turnaround. Despite this setback, the strong Oklahoma spirit, displayed from the Land Run on, prevailed. Mayor Ron Norick formed a panel of community leaders to solve the problem, and a plan called Metropolitan Area Projects -- MAPS, for short -- was presented to the public. Residents knew this progressive plan had the potential to transform the city back into an attractive place in which to live and visit. In 1993, Oklahoma City citizens voted to impose a new tax to fund the project. It has been estimated that around $650 million in public and private funds have gone to make this project such a success. Initially, progress was slow. Modern-day pioneers led the way, most notably Spaghetti Warehouse, one of the first new residents in Bricktown. Once investors and companies realized the popularity of those initial establishments, the district began to rapidly fill. The Bricktown resurgence culminated in 1999 with the July 4 opening of the one-mile Bricktown Canal.

Oklahoma City has finally achieved a return to its former glory. This once simple homestead town is now America's Crossroads -- located at the junction of I-35, I-44, and I-40, as well as being a prominent stop on historic Route 66. Cowboys are rarely seen outside of a museum these days, but the same unbreakable spirit of those Sooners remain.

The Weather

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Avg. High 46 52 62 71 78 87 94 92 84 74 60 48
Avg. Low 25 28 38 48 57 66 70 68 62 50 38 28
Mean 36 41 50 60 68 77 82 81 74 62 50 38
Avg. Precip. 1.1 in 1.6 in 2.7 in 2.8 in 5.2 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 2.6 in 3.8 in 3.2 in 2.0 in 1.4 in

 

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