One of my favorite weekends of the year is upon us. Hanson Day 2015! (For more on what Hanson Day is all about, head to this post.) Each year, Hanson Day is a fantastic excuse for me to go back to my “other” city – the place I called home for five years, fell head-over-heels in love with and moved away from with full intent to return someday – which means I spend a lot of time revisiting my favorite Tulsa haunts.
Each year for Hanson Day, Isaac, Taylor and Zac kindly put together a guide to Tulsa for all the out-of-town fans visiting. I think it’s awesome because not only is it a list of some of their favorite places; it’s also a list of a ton of places offering some cool Hanson Day items and discounts just for Hanson Day attendees.
But, truth be told, I rarely find myself visiting any of them – not because they aren’t great, but because I have my own list. Now, I don’t claim to be a Tulsa expert – the city has grown and changed quite a bit since I left nearly, gulp, six years ago – but I am a Tulsa fan and honorary Okie to boot, as proclaimed by my Oklahoma girls. (Yes, indeed – Texans can be honorary Okies if you keep your Texas ego mostly in check.)
So if you and your girls (or guys!) are looking for a few new places to check out, from restaurants to shopping to activities for down time, I’ve got you covered.
(Please note: none of these places offer a Hanson Day item or discount. They are simply some of my favorite spots around the city I recommend you check out.)
Here are the places you’ll find me hitting up this weekend:
Tulsa has no shortage of great local eateries. Here are a few of my must-haves:
3401 S. Peoria Ave.
This restaurant is a must must must stop on every Tulsa trip. After moving to finish college at the University of Tulsa, my RA quickly introduced me to this local landmark. It’s where my family hosted my post-graduation lunch. It’s where I always wanted to go for birthday celebrations. It is by far my favorite place to eat in Tulsa. The art deco decor absolutely charms me. Parking is always easy to find. And no matter what you pick, the food is always amazing. (Good ol’ fashioned American picks, BTW – burgers, sandwiches, salads.) My personal faves are the cheese fries (pictured above), mac & cheese and burgers.
Queenie’s Cafe and Bakery
1834 Utica Square
If Luke’s from Gilmore Girls was a real place, it’d probably look a lot like Queenie’s. The girls and I hit up Queenie’s for an early lunch before we all headed home a few years ago, and without any prompting they all started talking about how Stars Hollow-esque it was. Queenie’s was a place I, unfortunately, discovered towards the end of my years living in Tulsa, but I got in as many visits as I could.
It’s a quaint little cafe with lots of personality, charm and amazing meals. I highly recommend getting there for breakfast – their cheese grits are spectacular. Great sandwiches as well.
Blue Rose Cafe
1924 Riverside Dr.
Given Blue Rose is one of the first places our favorite band played in Tulsa, I’m always a little surprised it doesn’t make the official guide. But not to worry – the relocated Blue Rose Cafe makes mine! If it’s a gorgeous day (let’s all say a little prayer to the music gods for minimal rain this weekend, shall we?), their patio is the perfect place for a delicious lunch. Fare is similar to The Brook, plus some fun cajun-inspired dishes. My burger (can you guess my favorite food?) I had a few years ago was amazing. Decor here will make any music fan smile. Plus, souvenir cups FTW!
112 S. Elgin Ave.
Website I’ve been eating this pizza since Joe Momma’s was located in an out-of-the-way industrial park in southeast Tulsa. Back then I was a bright-eyed, bushy tailed cub reporter masquerading as a managing editor for a monthly newspaper and had the district pleasure of interviewing Joe Momma’s owner Blake Ewing – a guy who now sits on the Tulsa City Council. His story about the hunt for the perfect pizza crust always stuck with me after that interview – and kept me coming back because it was seriously the perfect pizza crust. Joe Momma’s now has a downtown location – aka Hanson Day adjacent! – meaning Jenny would probably kill us all if we didn’t go there at least once during our visit. (She’s is Joe Momma’s biggest fan from Indiana.) Killer pizza + great beer selection = always a perfect spot to visit with the girls.
Updated 5/13/16: Sadly, Joe Momma’s had a major fire last summer and has not reopened…but I’m looking forward to checking out some new pizza spots this year and reporting back! Follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend.
I’ll be honest: Village Inn is probably not the greatest place you’ll ever eat. It’s not even the greatest place you’ll eat in Tulsa. But it holds a certain Oklahoma charm for me. Village Inn is basically a smaller chain version of IHOP or Denny’s – think chain diner that’s open 24 hours. And we don’t have them here in Houston. There was one just a few blocks down the street from the TV gig I had in Tulsa, and we often found ourselves grabbing a late, late dinner or early breakfast at Village Inn. It was pretty typical pancakes, eggs, etc. fare with some homemade pies in the case to drool over as you waited for table, but it holds a special little place in this Tulsa groupie’s heart.
Sometimes, the activities we do outside of Hanson Day end up being my favorite part of the weekend. Here are a few of my best picks:
By far our favorite Tulsa activity is hitting up one of the Tulsa Townies bike stands at Tulsa River Parks and enjoying a ride up and down the trails along the Arkansas River. I’m pretty sure we all look like idiots who have never ridden a bike as we try to regain our bearings (Hanson Day is the only time I hop on a bike these days), annoy the serious bike riders on the trails and generally act like fools when we finally get going (someone always busts out Spotify on their phone for a sing-along)…but MAN do we have fun doing it! If you’re looking to get out of downtown, see some of Tulsa and get a little exercise…this is the way to do it.
View of downtown Tulsa
556 N. Frisco
I’m going to let you in on a secret. This pick is one of my personal hidden gems of Tulsa. When I lived there, I knew the person that, at the time, owned this particular piece of land overlooking downtown. It had a hold-your-breath-gorgeous view of the city, and the owner had a really fantastic plan for it. But those plans fell through and, as far as, I know (and as far as Google Maps shows me)…the lot is still vacant.
Want to see downtown Tulsa from one of the most amazing angles possible? Grab your favorite map app, put in the above address and prepare to Instagram the heck outta the Tulsa city skyline. (Fair warning: There is a fire station at the bottom of the hill, and I’ve frequently seen cops staked out at the top of the hill. Don’t be surprised if they try to run you off – it’s happened to me…but that view! Worth it!)
Before you laugh at me for putting a gas station on my list, know this: QuikTrip is a way of life. Of all the things I miss most about Tulsa, QuikTrip comes just after my beloved McFarlin Library on the TU campus. Never have I felt such loyalty to something as silly as a convenience store, but I do. Here’s why:
QuikTrip is a company that knows how to develop brand loyalty. Their clerks greet you the very – and I mean THE VERY – second you open the door (test em!) and wish you well on your way out. They are always friendly. Fountain drinks are always cheap. The bathrooms are clean. The gas is always reasonably priced. And dang it, you just can’t beat that $2 for 2 (all beef) hot dog deal. Trust me – they will be the best gas station hot dogs you’ll ever eat. (And after five years of hosting Halloweenie Roast, I am a hot dog snob.)
But above all else, it is literally a quick trip. Those clerks are trained to work at lightening speed – I promise they’ll ring up your items faster than you can open your wallet to pay. QuikTrip is a must-have Tulsa experience. Just trust me on this one.
The Coffee House on Cherry Street
1502 E. 15th St.
While a coffee house might qualify as food in your book, it qualifies as an activity and an experience in mine. And nowhere in Tulsa offers a better experience than The Coffee House on Cherry Street. It is the quintessential coffee house, full of unique sitting spots, delicious brews and yummy baked goods. If you need a spot to get away from the craziness and relax for a bit, there is nowhere better. (Plus, the Cherry Street District is a pretty fun area to browse – lots of local restaurants, shops and even a few art galleries!)
Tulsa has no shortage of locally owned businesses. Here are a few of my recent favorite shops and spots to find new treasures:
Blue Dome Arts Festival
2nd & Elgin
Of course, Mayfest happens the same weekend as Hanson Day, but just a little ways off the beaten path you’ll find the Blue Dome Arts Festival. This festival started just before I left Tulsa, and it quickly became a favorite of mine. So many amazing local vendors making awesome jewelry, clothing, art and so, so much more! It’s a blast to browse – and yet another reason I’m praying for little rain. I can’t wait to roam through the booths!
3734 S. Peoria Ave.
We happened across this store by accident last year as we were wandering by storefronts in the Brookside area. While I too am completely over the mustache craze, I really appreciate their play on words name. This shop is full of cute, one-of-a-kind clothing and goodies and was a blast to explore. Jenny went home with a fun tank top for the 4th of July we made her buy because it was too funny and absolutely perfect for her.
114 S. Elgin Ave.
While I do indeed have a drawer full (and I mean full) of band T-shirts, I’m not much of a T-shirt gal. But a few years ago, I bought a couple at Boomtown Tees and was hooked. They have tons of cute Oklahoma tees you won’t find anywhere else (like my “Tornadoes bring all the Okies to the yard” one I picked up). Excellent place for some unique souvenirs!
What are your favorite Tulsa spots?
Hanson Day veteran? What are your favorite spots in town for eating, shopping or just having fun? Share them in the comments or come find me on Twitter. Bonus reading: Check out Holly’s guide to Tulsa she put together last year! Lots of great picks there as well.
Headed to Hanson Day this weekend too? Don’t be shy – say hi if you see me standing in line somewhere or at one of the events. I’d love to meet you!
All businesses and sites shared in this post are strictly my opinion. I’ve received no compensation from any of them to share – I just genuinely like them.