Late last year, EMBARK, Oklahoma City’s leader in public transportation, launched the OKC Streetcar program. The city celebrated with a week’s worth of festivities to kick off the Grand Opening on December 14. It didn’t stop there either. The excitement of our new downtown rail system carried into the new year. A local radio station even ran a contest for one lucky couple to tie the knot with an “off the rails” wedding on Valentine’s Day.
This $135 million project was over a decade in the making. The idea was conceived back in 2005 but didn’t come to life until a city businessman pushed to see it become part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (aka MAPS 3). Residents quickly got on board and voted to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase in 2009. Fast forward almost 10 years, and we have an OKC Streetcar mobilizing both locals and tourists through several Downtown OKC neighborhoods.
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The Start of Transformation in OKC
Being from Oklahoma, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the OKC metro area transform through the years. I’ll be the first to acknowledge my fair share of grumbling. I’m pretty sure our (once) lackluster city was known for nothing more than cowboys. I can even remember folks from the North asking if we still got around on horse and carriage. To the rest of the world, we apparently didn’t even have modern transportation… much less anything interesting to do. As you might imagine, the idea of actually traveling to Oklahoma City for a weekend break was laughable.
Needless to say, I was less than content. I moved to Texas back in 2008 after being offered a job I couldn’t refuse. I was able to leave my perceived God-forsaken hell-hole to create a new life in West Texas. For clarity, “hell-hole” is more in reference to my hometown about 40 minutes outside OKC. I don’t still entirely view it as such, but I came back. So, there’s that.
When I moved “home” in 2012, I noticed things about OKC were different. Devon Tower had been added to the skyline, a Scissortail Flycatcher now hovers over I-40 in the form of a new sculpture/bridge, and the city had acquired the OKC Thunder. Not only that, the Thunder were becoming a serious NBA contender. Undoubtedly, this acquisition, coupled with the Thunder’s rise in popularity, was bringing attention to Downtown OKC. People were excited and business was booming.
Underwhelming to Underrated and Why the OKC Streetcar Matters
Bricktown, once a dying tourist district, began breathing new life. Renovations, green spaces, a canal system similar to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and numerous other projects were propelled over the years by progressive leadership and supportive residents. These, and many more that are currently underway, all contribute to a growing reason to find yourself in Oklahoma City for the weekend.
One of the projects I’m most excited about is the completion of the new Scissortail Park. By 2021, this public park will span 70 acres of space connecting Downtown OKC to the shores of the Oklahoma River. If you’ve passed OKC while driving along I-40 lately, you may have noticed some major construction. Much of that is part of the brand new $288 million convention center being built alongside a new Omni Hotel.
Beyond just the revitalization of the core district of OKC tourism, is the revamp of the surrounding neighborhoods that you’ll have a tough time ignoring. Besides a better means of transportation for local commuters, the evolution of these neighborhoods is part of what makes the OKC Streetcar so exciting. It’s easier than ever to explore some of the best parts of Oklahoma City yet to be uncovered. America has no idea how underrated Oklahoma City actually is and it’s time for ya’ll to find out.
Visiting the Trendy Midtown District
Midtown is the cool kid in OKC. Despite being one of the smaller neighborhoods in the OKC, it has, arguably, the largest personality. Not only is it a gastronomic hotspot, but the neighborhood is also home to some of the trendiest local shops, and a vibrant nightlife. I wouldn’t blame you if you spent the entire day without ever leaving
Eat the Breakfast of Champions
If I had it my way, I’d kick off the day at Waffle Champion with a monumental waffle that defies every rule of my keto-friendly diet. Who am I kidding? What diet? Pass the Waffle French Toast! However, if I did want to eat healthy here, I could. Just looking at the Smoothie Bowl leaves me feeling a little hungry.
Tap into OKC Culture
After breakfast, walk off that waffle on your way over to the OKC National Museum and Memorial. Pass the Gates of Time and let it take your breath away. This beautiful memorial is a tribute to those involved in the April 19 Murrah Building bombing in 1995. It’s close to our hearts here in Oklahoma and a symbol of the capital city’s strength and hope in the midst of adversity. Visiting the OKC National Museum and Memorial is a great way to connect with the Oklahoma City culture and to honor the many victims and heroes we lost.
Did you say Pie and Cookies?
Before you know it, it will be time to eat again. You’ll be glad it is too. Stroll over to my favorite spots in OKC’s Midtown n
Every time I’m in the area I’ll swing by for no less than a snickerdoodle. Nobody makes them better,
Connect with Locals over a Cold One
Spend the afternoon meandering in and out of the many trendy shops or step into Elk Valley Brewery to chat up the locals over a cold brew. When you’re ready for another round of delicious local eats, check out The Collective. Here, you can enjoy music and games, make new friends, or sample one or many local brews while you enjoy the diverse food options made available by 9 different kitchens.
OKC Streetcar Stops in the Midtown Neighborhood
- #13 North Hudson at NW 11th and Hudson
- #14 Dewey at Dewey and NW 10th
- #15 Midtown at NW 10th and Hudson
- #16 NW 10th Street at NW 10th and Robinson.
- #17 Law School at Robinson and NW 7th
- #18 Memorial Museum at Robinson and NW 4th
Automobile Alley. Vintage yet Modern.
Automobile Alley is Midtown’s hip neighbor. Neon signs and a 1920’s vintage vibe collide as if to pay homage to both a rich history and a modern revival. In the neighborhood’s earliest days, the area was developed as a townsite. Even then, Broadway was the main thoroughfare and just wide enough for a covered wagon to pull a Uey.
In the 1920s, an automobile boom swept the nation and transformed this small residential neighborhood into a hub for car dealerships. Over two-thirds of the 76 OKC automobile dealerships were situated along Broadway along with a slew of other auto-related businesses. Remnants of this era can still be found throughout Automobile Alley.
Creativity in Every Aspect
Today, you can enjoy this creative district with equally creative shopping and dining experiences. Pick up a souvenir tee at the Oklahoma Shirt Company or help support local charities with a purchase from Shop Good. Twinkle Apothecary is a made in Oklahoma stop for 100% vegan beauty products with eco-friendly packaging.
Finding uniquely crafted cocktails throughout Automobile Alley can be a fun afternoon activity on its own. Stop for a pre-dinner cocktail at the old Pontiac building, now Sidecar Barley & Wine Bar, or uncover local wines at Water’s Edge. Craft beer lovers need not be disappointed. Automobile Alley has two of its own Oklahoma craft b
When it’s time to refuel, plenty of local flavors will be vying for your attention. Try Broadway 10, a personal favorite for dinner, for an upscale experience. Iguana Mexican Grill offers a delicious and delightfully fresh take of Tex-Mex. If your favorite meal is brunch, try Hatch.
OKC Streetcar Stops in Automobile Alley
- #10 Broadway Avenue at Broadway and NW 4th
- #11 Automobile Alley at Broadway and NW 8th
- #12 Campbell Art Park at Broadway and NW 11th
The Arts District
One of the largest collections of Chihuly glass has a permanent home in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. If that’s not reason enough to plan a stop in the OKC Arts District, then consider our 15-acre outdoor escape. The Myriad Botanical Gardens
If you’re in the area during lunch time, the OKCMOA is a reliably good option and Kitchen 324 is known for their excellent brunch. While you’re planning, check the Civic Center Music Hall schedule. Oklahomans love the theater too! Popular shows such as CATS, Wicked, and even Hamilton come to OKC.
Coming Soon: 70 Acres of Public Green Space
I think I’ve already mentioned this, but I’m really looking forward to the new Scissortail Park. Adjacent to Myriad Gardens, Oklahoma City’s most popular garden, 40 acres of public green space is set to open this fall with 30 more acres to follow in 2021. Ultimately, the park will connect downtown OKC to the Oklahoma River. According to the design, the park will feature everything from cafes to sports recreation areas to nature walks. In other words, OKC will have its own Central Park and we’re really excited about it.
OKC Streetcar Stops in the Downtown Arts District
- #5 Scissortail Park at Oklahoma City Boulevard and Robinson
- #6 Myriad Gardens at Hudson and Sheridan
- #7 Library at Hudson and Park
Plenty of Entertainment in Bricktown
Just because Bricktown is obvious doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. If you’re visiting Oklahoma City for a weekend getaway, this is likely where you will be staying. It’s a popular area for tourists because it’s walkable. Bricktown is also OKC’s entertainment district so there’s always plenty to do. Between the Thunder NBA franchise and the OKC Dodgers, you can attend a ballgame nearly year-round. If you’re looking for things to do with kids in the OKC area, this is a good place to start.
You can usually find local entertainers staged in Lower Bricktown during weekends in the evening. Horse-drawn carriage rides are always a hit with the littles and a cruise on the Bricktown Water Taxi is a pleasant way to peak into some of Bricktown’s history. Not to mention, with 7 stops throughout the Bricktown District, it’s easy to hop on board the OKC Streetcar when you’re ready to check out the surrounding neighborhoods.
Besides walking along the river or cruising on a canal boat, dine by the water at one of the districts many restaurants. Charleston’s, Jazmo’z, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop all offer patio seating along the RiverWalk. If dinner plans take you elsewhere, at least enjoy a cocktail or two with friends and a nice breeze.
Plenty of Fun for the Kids
If you’re worried about whether or not Bricktown will be any fun for the kids, squash that
Don’t Forget Souvenirs
In between ballgames, boat rides, and cocktails, be sure to peruse a few of the local shops that dot the Bricktown district. Exhibit C on Sheridan is a Native American gallery that offers authentic, artisan gifts as well as native artwork. For treats, stroll around the corner for candy
You can also pick out candy and a soda at the Bricktown Candy Co on East California, just a 5-minute walk from the corner of Sheridan and Oklahoma. While you’re at it, stop to grab a bottle of local wine from Put a Cork in It before you cross the river. You can even try before you buy. Sample up to three wines for free or purchase a flight of 7 for only $7.
OKC Streetcar Stops in Bricktown
- #1 East Bricktown Joe Carter and Flaming Lips Alley
- #2 Ballpark Johnny Bench Drive and Mickey Mantle Drive
- #3 Santa Fe Hub Reno and E.K. Gaylord Boulevard
- #4 Arena Reno and Robinson
- #20 Century Center Sheridan and Robinson
- #21 Bricktown Sheridan and E.K. Gaylord Boulevard
- #22 Mickey Mantle Sheridan and Mickey Mantle Drive
How to Use the OKC Streetcar Transportation System
Using the streetcar is an inexpensive and easy way to maneuver the Downtown OKC neighborhoods. With ADA accessible platforms, the OKC streetcar is an excellent option for locals and tourists of all abilities who arrive without, are unable, or prefer not to use a vehicle.
Tickets and Ride Etiquette
Download the Token Transit app to purchase your fare. You can choose single rides, unlimited 1-day rides, a 7-day unlimited pass, or even 30 day and annual passes. If you don’t have access to the app, you can purchase tickets at the platform through vending machines with coins or a credit card. When it’s time to board, proper etiquette is to allow riders to first disembark. If nobody exits, pressing the blue button will open the doors. To exit, press the yellow button inside. While riding, be courteous to your fellow passengers and stay alert to upcoming stops.
Tip: Arrival times and delays can be checked here or on the kiosk located at the platform.
A variety of fares are available depending on how and when you will be using the streetcar system. Additionally, discount fares and free ride days are frequently offered. Be sure to check the EMBARK website for current offers. Sometimes, you’ll also find cheaper fares listed in the app. Be sure to download Token Transit to your phone to see these as well as additional options such as the 7-day pass. Below are the fares as of May 2019:
- Single Ride $1
- 24-Hour Unlimited $3
- 30-Day Unlimited $32
- Annual $384
Seniors (ages 65+) and children (ages 7-17) are eligible for half-price fares. Children below the age of 7 are able to ride free. Currently, for the summer of 2019, EMBARK is offering free rides throughout downtown OKC on select dates. As of now, you can ride the Downtown OKC bus or Streetcar on the third Friday of each month from April to September. Be sure to check the website for updates as conditions may change.
Download a map of the OKC Streetcar Route.
Jenna Walker is a travel writer from Oklahoma who lives with her husband, two children, and three rescue pets. While out and about in the world, she loves spending time outdoors, exploring local culture, and trying new foods. Jenna knows that, often, we overlook our own backyard. You can also find her stories and guides on the website, The Oklahoma Experience.