Located in northeast Oklahoma, most people know Tulsa for oil (in the 20th century) or art (in the 21st)… if they know anything about Tulsa at all! But if you’re planning a trip to Tulsa or passing through and want to explore further, you might be surprised: there are loads of great things to do in Tulsa, and some fascinating day trips from Tulsa worth planning.
It’s especially interesting when you realize that Tulsa is within close reach of some incredible outdoor destinations: swimming holes, waterfalls, lakes, and more. If you want to plan a day trip from Tulsa to cool off on a hot Oklahoma day, it’s easier than you might imagine!
In this post, I’m detailing 19 of the best day trips from Tulsa, with everything you need to know to plan a trip and what to do once you get there. All of these destinations are within a three-hour drive from Tulsa, so you can visit any of them in a single day. By the end, you’ll be inspired to base yourself in Tulsa even longer than planned, assuming you aren’t already a local!
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), [Gáuigú (Kiowa), Wichita, Caddo, O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ (O-ga-xpa), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Muscogee (Oklahoma), Cherokee (Oklahoma), Kaskaskia, Wichita, Otoe-Missouri (Oklahoma) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
- Distance from Tulsa: 87 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 85 minutes
Arcadia is one of the many day trips from Tulsa you can make on a long weekend. The lovely town of Arcadia is a hot spot along the iconic Route 66, with thousands of travelers making it their obligatory stop on their journeys along the “Mother Road.”
There are several quirky places worth visiting, with most celebrating and remembering Route 66 heydays. The Old Round Barn and The Route 66 John Hargrove’s Place are among the most popular sites. Arcadia’s Round Bar has a remarkable history that dates back to 1898 and has undergone a recent restoration. The Route 66 John Hargrove’s Place will take you on an “express trip” through Route 66 with the miniaturized versions of major attractions across this route. If you’d like to explore the natural side of Arcadia, head out to Arcadia Lake, where you can explore more than fifteen miles of scenic hiking and biking trails.
- Distance from Tulsa: 50 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 45 minutes
If you’re organizing a day trip with your family, Bartlesville is a great alternative as there are attractions for every age and interest.
Bartlesville was Oklahoma’s first oil boomtown, so you’ll find tons of history related to the oil industry and how it impacted the town. Bartlesville Area History Museum, Phillips Petroleum Company Museum, and the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 are top places to get a comprehensive view of the town’s history. For the arts and culture vulture, you have the Price Tower Arts Center. The Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve is a great place to get the kids soaked in knowledge about Oklahoma’s flora and fauna.
2. Bentonville, AR
- Distance from Tulsa: 113 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Bentonville isn’t technically in the Great Plains, as it is in Arkansas. Nonetheless, Bentonville is still one of the Tulsa day trips you should consider, easily accessible in two hours. The birthplace of Walmart, Bentonville, has lots of museums and sites that relate to the retailer, such as the Downtown’s Walmart Museum.
Walmart memorabilia isn’t the only attraction in Bentonville. The city has lots of other attractions that will pleasantly surprise you with their beauty. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a stunning building whose architecture alone is worth a visit. The museum houses a world-class collection of American art, ranging from Rockwell to Warhol. Its green surroundings are just as beautiful as the paintings you find inside, with 120 acres of lush Ozark forest enclosing the museum. There’s also another fabulous spot travelers can visit, especially architecture buffs: Frank Lloyd Wright’s House, one of the most significant contributors to American architecture.
- Distance from Tulsa: 23 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 28 minutes
Located just 30 minutes from Tulsa, the town of Bixby is a lovely hub for nature lovers. On a day out, visitors can enjoy a walk through history and nature at the Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum. The park has several statues and a memorial for 9/11 and a memorial to the children of the Murrah Building bombing.
There are numerous trails, and the park has access to the river. Bixby is also home to several farms which open their doors to visitors to pick berries or pumpkins in season, including Joe’s Farm, Carmichael’s Produce, and Gibson’s Gardens. When the night falls, set out to explore the Bixby restaurant scene. Savastano’s Pizzeria is a popular pick for authentic Chicago-style pizza with a deep dish measuring two inches high, 14 inches in diameter, and weighing eight pounds.
4. Blue Hole Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 60 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 62 minutes
Blue Hole Park is an unbeatable destination when it comes to family day trips from Tulsa. Located about seven miles from Salina, Blue Hole Park houses a large natural spring-fed lagoon, whose waters become a favorite spot for locals and travelers alike during hot Oklahoma summers. Visitors have to pay a small admission fee to enjoy the crystal clear waters.
Once you’ve paid, walk around to find the perfect spot and get ready for a fun day outdoors. Children can safely enjoy a swim in the lagoon’s shallowest spots while the family cools off on the side. The lagoon also has deep areas where adults can go snorkeling. If the need to move your legs strikes, Blue Hole Park offers picturesque trails to appreciate the scenery.
5. Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Distance from Tulsa: 150 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Oklahoma is home to sizzling temperatures during the summer months. Perhaps, that is why it has so many refreshing spots to shelter from the baking sun. Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur is one of them. Opened in 1902, this gorgeous recreational area is the oldest national park area in the state and offers an abundance of outdoor activities, including a swim in the cold water.
In Chickasaw, you’ll find natural springs everywhere with the most freezing and crystal-clear waters. The surrounding landscape is equally beautiful with travertine rock walls and the rolling Arbuckle Mountains.
6. Eufaula Lake
- Distance from Tulsa: 84 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 92 minutes
A visit to the largest lake in Oklahoma is one of the perfect day trips from Tulsa if you’d like to wander in nature for a whole day. In addition to being a prime spot for fishing, thanks to its rich diversity of fish, Eufaula Lake offers a wide choice of activities that will fill up your day. The lake boasts 800 miles of picturesque shoreline and covers around 100,000 surface acres. Sunseekers can head out to one of the many beautiful beaches, whereas water lovers can spend their day jet-skiing.
When hunger strikes, grab a bite at one of the delicious waterside eateries. If you prefer to stay onshore, partake in golfing, wildlife watching, or hiking.
- Distance from Tulsa: 39 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 43 minutes
Foyil is another little town sitting along the legendary Route 66. Its claim of being home to The World’s Largest Totem Pole raised Foyil to fame.
In 1937, Nathan Edward Galloway, a local wood carver and violin-maker, set to craft the Totem Pole as a way to overcome the boredom of his retirement days. Nine years later, Galloway finishes the ninety-foot high Totem Pole. It resides in Galloway’s property, and you can climb up the Totem’s internal ladder to the very top of the nine-story structure.
Those who enjoy historic landmarks can pay a visit to Historic Texaco Gas Station along Andy Payne Blvd. The Filling Station has classic features of “Craftsman-style”, with a hipped roof that projects over the pump island.
8. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees
- Distance from Tulsa: 78 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 86 minutes
Boasting five state parks, the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is a haven for nature lovers. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees sits at the foothills of the Ozark Mountain Range and offers unlimited outdoor experiences.
A single day is not enough to explore all that the park has to offer. You can practice almost any water sports on its 46,500 surface acres of water. There are walking trails at the Bernice Nature Center and around the lake area, where you can explore the natural beauty of the park. Wildlife watching is a popular activity as well since Grand Lake is home to abundant wildlife species, including quail, dove, white-tailed deer, turkey, rabbits, raccoons, waterfowl, and squirrels.
9. Lake Wister State Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 140 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Lake Wister State Park is the perfect day trip for those who want to avoid large summer crowds. This gem of a park hides in southeastern Oklahoma and boasts the same stunning views you’ll find in Beavers Bend State Park. The only difference is the absence of crowds.
Lake Wister State Park offers unlimited scope for all kinds of outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, biking, boating, and water skiing on the 7,300 surface acres of Lake Wister. While this might not be a standard activity, photographers should seriously consider bringing their cameras to Lake Wister State Park. Its 115 miles of scenic shoreline offers breathtaking views, with the pine and oak-covered mountains acting as a backdrop.
Little Sahara State Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 185 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 3 hours
Want to get an adrenaline fix for the weekend? Get in the car and set out to visit Little Sahara State Park, home to the beautiful sand dunes of Oklahoma.
The sands are massive and spread over a not-so-modest 1,650 acres. Bear in mind this park is a great adventure place for people with ATVs, ORVs, and off-road bikes. There’s not really much to do if you go without any off-road vehicles. You can also visit the observation deck or do the small hiking trail to work your legs. If you want to extend your stay, you can spend the night in one of the campsites.
- Distance from Tulsa: 49 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 55 minutes
Located just one hour southeast of Tulsa, a day trip to Muskogee might appeal to history and art buffs. Muskogee used to be a destination for the aboriginal tribes who had to abandon their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States after a forced relocation in the 1830s. Muskogee is also home to The Indian Agency, a site for meetings among the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes during colonial times.
Today the building serves as the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and preserves the art, history, and culture of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole tribes. More contemporary attractions include the Thomas Foreman Home, the USS Batfish WWII submarine at the War Memorial Park, and Military Museum.
11. Natural Falls State Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 77 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 72 minutes
Some people call it Natural Falls State Park, others “Dripping Springs”. No matter the name you choose, this beautiful park nestled in the Ozarks is a natural wonder. The gorgeous Natural Falls State Park has as a centerpiece an impressive 77-feet tall waterfall. Visitors can also explore completely untouched areas of the park or enjoy a walk through the park’s four hiking trails.
For those who want to spend the whole afternoon, the park has all kinds of amenities available in the surrounding area, like grills, volleyball courts, and comfort stations. Feel free to bring a picnic and find a nice spot to relax in nature.
12. Oklahoma City
- Distance from Tulsa: 106 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 100 minutes
All the things you can do and see in Oklahoma City will amaze you. From incredible museums to green spaces to shopping malls, there are activities to keep you busy for the whole day. In Industrial-chic Bricktown, you’ll find some of the best entertainment in the city, with an eclectic mix of restaurants, chic wine bars, and clothing boutiques, home decor, and specialty food items.
For a little splurge, plan some time to explore OKC’s shopping districts, including the Paseo and Plaza Districts. Fishing enthusiasts and boaters can spend some time at Lake Hefner Park. You can’t visit Oklahoma City and not explore the city’s western/cowboy culture. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum exhibits an internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts and houses the world’s most extensive collection of American rodeo photographs, barbed wire, saddlery, and early rodeo trophies.
- Distance from Tulsa: 56 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 64 minutes
Deep in the heart of Osage County, you’ll find Pawhuska, a city whose essence is a mix of American Indian and Western culture. The town bears the name of Chief Paw-hui-skah and is home to 80 impeccably preserved buildings from the 1800s.
You’ll also find the Osage Nation Museum and the beautiful Cathedral of the Osage. Besides the historic attractions, Pawhuska is the gateway to the Joseph H Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. The preserve covers around 40,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, which over two thousand bison and numerous other animals call home. The best way to explore the preserve and its wildlife is to take the 50-mile scenic drive, which takes about two hours at a leisurely pace with time for stopping.
14. Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 160 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 30 minutes
What if I told you you could combine two destinations in one day? As a matter of fact, you can. You can explore Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park on the same day that you visit Oklahoma City, as you can drive right through this city to get to the park.
The Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park is an excellent stop to have fun in the outdoors. You can enjoy almost every activity here. Those who enjoy exploring the surroundings can walk along The California Red Trail or enjoy birdwatching. Adrenaline-seekers can go rock climbing on the steep red walls or rappelling down the canyon walls. Families with young children will have the best time exploring the easy quarter-mile Rough Horsetail Nature Trail with interpretive signs.
15. Redbud Valley Nature Preserve
- Distance from Tulsa: 15 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 21 minutes
The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is one of the best Tulsa day trips for those who want a break from city life. A place of quiet and exotic beauty, The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is home to plants and animals you won’t find anywhere else in northeastern Oklahoma. Shady north-facing slopes, limestone bluffs, and floodplain forest make up most of the park’s landscape. A rugged one-mile trail will take you through the three habitats.
Redbud Valley Nature Preserve offers picnic facilities near the visitor’s center, for those who want to enjoy a picnic lunch while enjoying the serene beauty of the area.
16. Salt Plains State Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 165 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 35 minutes
As you can see from this list, Oklahoma boasts a diverse terrain, with the Salt Plains State Park being one of the most impressive ones. Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains are the result of a prehistoric ocean’s salinization. This barren white landscape stretches out over a seemingly endless horizon on the west side of the Great Salt Lake.
Besides contemplating the sprawling beauty of this salt-covered land, there are many other things you can enjoy. Digging for selenite crystals is a popular activity, especially for families who visit with children. Digging season takes place between April 1st and October 15th, so schedule your day trip around these dates if you want to enjoy this activity. Visitors can also enjoy bird watching since the park is home to more than 300 bird species. There are also plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
17. Sequoyah State Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 48 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 50 minutes
It’s hard to beat Sequoyah State Park when it comes to outdoor adventures. With over 19,000 surface acres of water and 225 miles of shoreline on Fort Gibson, at Sequoyah State Park you can boat, swim, ride a horse, sunbathe at the beach, ride a bike, watch animals at a mini-petting zoo… and the list goes on.
The park’s huge areas of water and its shoreline are popular with water lovers while the surrounding parkland lends itself for hiking and horseback riding, theater being a favorite thanks to the critically acclaimed Sequoyah Riding Stables. Children will love spending time at the mini-petting zoo. There’s also a two-mile paved trail for those who want to go for a run or a walk to explore the surroundings.
18. Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center
- Distance from Tulsa: 125 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours
A visit to Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center isn’t one of the most popular day trips from Tulsa. However, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit this archaeological site. Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is the only publicly accessible prehistoric Indigenous site in Oklahoma. The on-site museum preserves 150 acres of the site along the Arkansas River, which used to be the hub of commerce, politics, and culture for Caddoan-speaking Indians from 850 to 1450 A.D.
There are fascinating exhibitions showcasing artifacts and objects from the ancient Indigenous people. Don’t miss walking the outdoor trails, which take you to the lands where the Spiro people buried their dead and built the bases of their influential economy. We guarantee you’ll leave the museum wanting to research and learn all you can about the Spiro people.
- Distance from Tulsa: 75 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Nestled at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Tahlequah is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and has been named one of the top 100 best small towns in the United States.
This day trip is ideal if you want to immerse yourself in the Cherokee culture and traditions. There’s a recreated ancient Cherokee village (Diligwa) you can tour to get a sense of how they lived and the Tahlequah Original Historic Townsite District, which has all the street signs written in English and Cherokee. But you can also get a bit outdoorsy and explore the Illinois River on a canoe. Don’t leave without enjoying a slice of pizza at Sam & Ella’s Chicken Palace!
19. Turner Falls Park
- Distance from Tulsa: 160 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 2 hours, 50 minutes
There’s no better way to finish this list of day trips from Tulsa than with Turner Falls Park. Located in Davis, Turner Falls Park offers endless pursuits to keep visitors busy. The park has numerous hiking trails, climbing spots, and natural rock caves you can explore. However, the park’s gem is the stunning Turner Falls, one of the tallest in Oklahoma at 77-feet high.
Turner Falls cascades over a high ledge into a beautiful natural swimming hole, where locals love to have a dip during hot summer days. There also are many clear streams, wading ponds, and beaches where families can enjoy more water activities.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
- Distance from Tulsa: 205 miles
- Travel Time from Tulsa: 3 hours
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is one of the best road trips for outdoor enthusiasts. The refuge spreads over 59,000 acres and offers something for every interest. There are 12 man-made lakes, 15 miles of trails, and even rock climbing. If seeing wildlife is something you enjoy, you’re up for a treat.
You’ll see prairie dogs, wild longhorns, and elk wherever you set your eye on. The bison are all over the place and just extraordinary to watch. Do the trip up to Mount Scott. It has the best views! Places like the Holy City are worth a drop by. Camp Doris is a good place to camp if you want to hike and get primitive.
Which of these day trips from Tulsa are you inspired to take now? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!