11 Things to Do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
I found a herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few hours north of Dallas/Ft. Worth, southern Oklahoma offers mountains, a former national park, a wildlife refuge and even a chocolate factory. On a recent trip north of the Red River, I explored the area between Lawton and Sulphur, Oklahoma. Here’s the ultimate list what to do in southern Oklahoma with kids .

What to do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

I pulled together a list of 11 places for family fun in Southern Oklahoma.

Lake Murray State Park

Lake Murray offers lots of water fun and it's what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Enjoy Lake Murray and its unlimited ways to enjoy the water. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few miles north of the Texas/Oklahoma border, Lake Murray State Park is the first and largest state park in Oklahoma.

With over 12,500 acres to explore, I found plenty to do. Boating and water sports are the obvious choices. But I also found a golf course, ATV/motorcycle area and hiking. Along with plenty of camping from primitive sites to deluxe RV sites are available.

First I stopped by the Lake Murray Resort that offers a range of accommodations, like newly renovated lodge rooms to historic cabins. I even found some floating cabins in assorted sizes.

Find Lake Murray Resort at 3323 Lodge Road, Ardmore.

Tucker Tower

Climb up Tucker Tower as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tucker Tower offers sweeping views of Lake Murray. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next on the list, a stop by Tucker Tower is a must for families. The historic tower rises up 60-feet above Lake Murray and acts as a beacon on the lake.

The tower is an original Works Progress Administration (WPA) project at the southern end of the lake. Today it houses a museum to the WPA in Oklahoma and the views can’t be beat.

Nature Center

Explore the Nature Center as what to do with kids in Southern Oklahoma
Walk through the exhibits at the Nature Center when exploring Southern Oklahoma. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next to check out the Nature Center is a family magnet. With interactive displays kids learn about the animals in the area, always a hit with my kids.

During our visit, my kids earned a Nature Center at Tucker Tower patch by completing a booklet.

Find Tucker Tower and the Nature Center at 13528 Scenic Highway 77, Ardmore. Both are free though donations are accepted.

Bedré Chocolate Factory

Stop by Bedre Chocolate Factory as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Like chocolate wasn’t enough, Bedre Chocolate Factory offers a playground. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Continuing north, I found a chocolate factory with convenient access right off Interstate 35, that bisects the state.

Over 40 years ago, a chocolate factory began in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. Now it draws all the road trippers traveling through southern Oklahoma. Bedré Chocolates offers a shop full of temptations. So grab a treat with the kids and watch chocolates roll off the production line from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

During our visit, we sampled their classic treat, the meltaways in nearly every flavor available. Along with traditional chocolate, my kids loved the salty snacks dipped in chocolate. As a kid bonus, I found a playscape right outside.

Find Bedré Chocolate at 37 N. Colbert Rd. and open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free to enter.

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Explore Chickasaw Cultural Center as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tour the Chickasaw Cultural Center when exploring Chickasaw with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next the Chickasaw Cultural Center blew my family away. With an extensive tribal cultural center across 184 acres, kids have lots of space to explore.

With facilities that include the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, it hosts reenactments and living history demonstrations. During our visit, we watched a stomp dance along with traditionally-dressed docents demonstrate Chickasaw crafts and agriculture.

Along with the village, I found a café, a gift shop, a fine art gallery along with a lake that kids can feed the fish. Such a beautiful facility that must be explored to appreciate.

Located at 867 Cooper Memorial Dr., the Chickasaw Cultural Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission varies.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Explore Chicksaw National Recreation Area as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Explore the natural pools of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with your kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Before I visited the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I had no idea it was the former Platt National Park. Sometimes national park gets reclassified and that’s the case for this area.

Though it might not be one of the big national parks, I found an area packed with historic buildings, natural pool swimming and scenic mountain vistas.

With a large recreational lake that beckons boat owners. And the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) historic buildings that add history. Finally the resident herd of bison is a must for kids. I found plenty of family fun for a long weekend.

Chickasaw National Recreation area features a couple of units. With the Platt Historic Unit, right outside the town of Sulphur, I found the Travertine Nature Center, the CCC buildings and the swimming areas. Then Arbuckle District offers Lake of the Arbuckles access at each of its three campground areas, Guy Sandy, The Point and Buckhorn. And an additional boat is located at Upper Guy Sandy area too.

The visitor center, Travertine Nature Center is free and open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most days. Find it at 1504 Perimeter Rd, Sulphur. The park is open 24-hours a day.

Bison Viewing

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
As my kids top choice, find the herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids love animals so stop at the Bison Viewing Area located off U.S. Route 177, just south of Sulphur. A herd of 10 buffalo call the Chickasaw Natural Recreation Area home.

After several attempts to see the buffalo, we caught the bison near twilight in the viewing area. During our visit, we even saw a couple of baby bison grazing near their mothers.

After exploring the Sulphur area for a couple of days, I decided to take the long road home. We drove over to Lawton, Oklahoma, before heading back to Texas.

About 90 miles west, I found a prairie landscape with rolling hills along wildlife refuge, the Comanche Museum and Cultural Center along with Fort Sill.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Explore the Comanche Museum when you explore Lawton with kids
The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center offers families lessons in the WWII contributions and arts of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our first stop, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, is a must for more information on Quanah Parker and the Comanche people. The Comanche Museum focuses on the history of the Comanche people from the beginning until today.

During our visit, we learned about the WWII Comanche Code Talkers. Seventeen Comanche men used their native language to communicate in an undecipherable code that helped to defeat Hitler during D-Day.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center is located at 701 NW Ferris Avenue. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed Sunday.  It’s free and took about an hour to explore.

Fort Sill Army Base

The grave of Quanah Parker at Fort Sill, another site to explore in Lawton with kids.
Sitting high on Chiefs Knoll at the Fort Sill Cemetery, we find the grave of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

 

Continue the history lesson and head over to the Fort Sill Army Base to visit the Fort Sill Post Cemetery (not be confused with the Fort Sill National Cemetery). As the final resting place of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his little sister, Prairie Flower on the high point of the cemetery, Chiefs Knoll.

Visit the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum for history on the fort. With 38 buildings in the area, there’s lots to see.

For artillery buffs, a visit to the U.S. Army Artillery Museum is a must. With an outdoor display, families can walk through to see Howitzers.

Since Fort Sill is an active U.S. Army Base all visitors over 16 must pass a background check at the Ft. Sill Visitor Control Center. It’s free and takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

As a top Oklahoma park area, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides a refuge for free-range buffalo, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, deer and elk over 59,000 acres. I suggest looking for animals at dawn and dusk, when they are most active.

With 11 different places to explore in Southern Oklahoma, plan a visit to Sulphur or Lawton with your family.

First stop off at the Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center for an interpretive display. Additionally the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers camping with 47 tent sites, 23 RV sites and 20 walk-in sites.

Open sunrise to sunset seven days a week with free admission. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers 30 miles of hiking trails though we drove through looking for wildlife.

Holy City of the Wichitas

Explore the World Chapel at the Holy City of Wichita when you explore Lawton with kids
The interior of the World Chapel in the Holy City of Wichita near Lawton. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, I found the Holy City of the Wichitas, a shrine west of Lawton.

In 1926, the late Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock started an annual Easter Pageant. In 1934 the 66-acre site got a federal grant and the Federal Works Progress Administration built many of the buildings that remain.

As an annual Easter Pageant, the Prince of Peace remains the longest running passion play in the U.S. Depicting the birth, life and death of Christ, the play drew a record crowd in 1939 of 225,000. With the Wichita Mountains as a backdrop, Jerusalem comes alive with Temple Court, Calvary’s Mount and the walls of Jerusalem.

Find the Holy City of the Wichitas at 262 Holy City Rd. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5p.m., free.

Where to Stay in Sulphur

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center

Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
With a Junior Suite my family enjoyed our time at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, Oklahoma, my family stayed at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center, located next the the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. With over 1,700 acres to explore, the Chickasaw Retreat offers the ultimate refuge for relaxing and reconnecting as a family.

During my stay, I enjoyed a Junior Suite with my family. With a spacious room, I found plenty of room for a roll-away or pack-n-play. In the separate kitchenette I found a small refrigerator, a full-size microwave and separate sink. The luxurious bathroom included a soaking tub for rejuvenating along with a separate shower.

In a separate building, I found a wellness center that rivaled any health club with lots of machines and an indoor track. With a steam room and a dry sauna, relaxing comes easy at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.

I also found the Sole’renity Spa, with services like manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, wraps and waxes. My kids enjoyed the indoor pool during our stay as well.

The indoor pool at Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Though indoors my boys, 9 and 12, enjoyed the pool during our trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Find Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center at 4205 Goddard Youth Camp, Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The Artesian Hotel

Stay at the Artesian Hotel when visiting Southern Oklahoma with kids.
With a complete renovation the Artesian Hotel offers families nicely appointed rooms. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Artesian Hotel offers refined lodging steps from all the sights in the revitalized downtown Sulphur, Oklahoma. The original hotel opened in 1906 and included five stories and named after the mineral water found on the property during construction.

After an extensive renovation, The Artesian offers visitors and locals a respite of refinement. The 81-room hotel features a traditional bathhouse, an indoor and outdoor pool along with shopping and restaurants. Make an appointment at the kid’s spa while you enjoy a treatment of your own at Sole’renity Spa.

Find The Artesian Hotel at 1001 West 1st Street, in the center of the revitalized downtown of Sulphur.

Where to Eat in Sulphur 

Springs at the Artesian

Eat at the Artesian Hotel during your visit.
Along with food adults crave, the kids meals offer yummy options kids love. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, my family enjoyed dinner at The Artisan Hotel restaurant, Springs at the Artesian. In an upscale dining room with seating for 140, I found homestyle-inspired entrees.

For our visit we sampled several entrees for dinner. My 12-year-old son ordered a classic cheeseburger served on a pretzel bun with bibb lettuce. Then my 9-year-old ordered the Chicken pot pie off the kids’ menu. With a flaky crust and loaded full of tender chunks of white meat chicken along with a rich béchamel sauce, this kid’s entrée would have satisfied me.

For dinner I ordered the Pecan encrusted Tilapia and along with a glass of merlot from the Springs at the Artesian’s full bar. To top off dinner, we enjoyed chocolate cake. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedré Café

Enjoy the Bedre Cafe when you visit Chickasaw Oklahoma.
With it’s vintage vibe the Bedre Cafe is a family favorite. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For a quick lunch we stopped by the Bedré Café, located on the street-level shopping area of The Artesian Hotel. In a 1950s inspired malt shop, I found a large selection of Oklahoma’s own, Bedré Chocolates. Along with assorted baked goods and a coffee-house style drinks, Bedré Café scoops up hand-dipped ice cream and along with shakes.

For lunch my family enjoyed a panini of the day along with a turkey club wrap along with a cup of tomato soup. All satisfying though my sons loved the Arbuckle Shake made with vanilla ice cream and Bedré chocolates the most, imagine that. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day.

Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies

Stop for a fried pie what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
As an Oklahoma original sample a fried pie at Arbuckle’s along Interstate 35. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located right off Interstate 35, Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies provides a regional road trip snack. With both savory and sweet pies, we sampled the cherry and apple along with the pizza-style and beef and vegetable. With super flakey pastry that’s filled and pinched before your eyes, the pies are a must when visiting South Central Oklahoma.

Located at Interstate 35’s exit 51 in an old Sinclair’s gas station and open breakfast through dinner. This is the original location with other shops across north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Allergen Alert: All pies are fried in peanut oil.

Fat Bully’s Burgers

Grab a burger at Fat Bullys what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
While you watch the sun set over the Arbuckle Mountains enjoy a burger. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After exploring the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I pulled the SUV into Fat Bully’s that features half-pound burgers and live music. During our visit, we sampled the metric burger and my youngest had a kid’s meal. All the burgers sat on toasted buns with trimmings on the side.

Located at 3133 Chickasaw Trail in Sulphur, Fat Bully’s serves lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Sunday. Live music on most Saturday nights and amazing sunsets every night.

 

Family Fun in Lawton Oklahoma

Stop by the Holy City of Wichita when you explore Lawton with kids.
The Holy City of Wichitas depicts the scenes of Christ in Jerusalem, like the World Chapel.

Lawton with kids

The Carful of Kids take epic road trips all the time. This trip has us driving from Central Texas to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. That requires a lot of driving so we stop in Oklahoma for some family fun before heading north.

A good day of driving got us to Lawton, Oklahoma, 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. We need to keep moving so we explore Lawton with kids.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

First stop, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, 20 miles northwest of Lawton. A refuge with over 59,000 acres that free-range buffalo, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, deer and elk, roam.

Stop off at the Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center for an interpretive display. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers camping with 47 tent sites, 23 RV sites and 20 walk-in sites.

Lawton, Oklahoma offers several sights perfect for family travelers. Learn about the Comanche people and the Last Comanche Chief Quanah Parker along with military history.

Open sunrise to sunset seven days a week with free admission. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers 30 miles of hiking trails though we drove through looking for wildlife.

Holy City of the Wichitas

Close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, I found the Holy City of the Wichitas, a shrine west of Lawton.

Explore the World Chapel at the Holy City of Wichita when you explore Lawton with kids
The interior of the World Chapel in the Holy City of Wichitas near Lawton.

In 1926, the late Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock started an annual Easter Pageant. The 66-acre site got a federal grant in 1934 and the Federal Works Progress Administration built many of the buildings remaining.

The annual Easter Pageant, the Prince of Peace remains the longest running passion play in the U.S. Depicting the birth, life and death of Christ, the play drew a record crowd in 1939 of 225,000. With the Wichita Mountains as a backdrop, Jerusalem comes alive with Temple Court, Calvary’s Mount and the walls of Jerusalem.

Explore the Holy City of Wichita when you visit Lawton with kids.
The Holy City of Wichitas recreates Jerusalem in Oklahoma in the shadow of the Wichita Mountains.

Open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset and free to enter though they take donations. The Holy City of the Wichitas is located at 262 Holy City Road inside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Comanche Chief Quanah Parker

We want to  explore Lawton with kids in part for the personal family history. My last name is Parker and Lawton features many sites important to Parker family folklore and the Comanche Nation.

Since I’m part of the large Parker family that’s lived in Texas since the 1830s, I wanted to share the legendary tale of Quanah Parker and his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, with my kids.

Explore the Comanche Museum when you explore Lawton with kids
The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center offers families lessons in the WWII contributions and arts of the Comanche Nation.

The tale of the Parker family became a Texas legend when a nine-year old Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from Fort Parker, in east Texas, in 1836. After an arduous bareback ride across Texas, she eventually assimilates into the Comanche Tribe. She melds into the culture and eventually marries the Comanche Chief Peter Nocona.

They had a son, Quanah Parker, who would become the last Comanche Chief. As Texas and Oklahoma settlers encroached on the traditional lands of the Comanche people, the Indian Wars broke out. After a bitter battle in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, Chief Quanah Parker would eventually move his people onto a reservation in Oklahoma.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Our first stop to learn about Quanah Parker and the Comanche people is Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center. The Comanche Museum focuses on the history of the Comanche people from the beginning until today.

During our visit, we learned about 17 men, the WWII Comanche Code Talkers, that helped to defeat Hitler during D-Day as code-talkers using their native language to communicate in an undeciphered code. During our visit, I also enjoyed the art display featuring Comanche artists.

Explore the Comanche National Museum when you explore Lawton with kids.
Learning about the Comanche code talkers of WWII at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center.

I found the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center at 701 NW Ferris Avenue. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed Sunday.  It’s free and took about an hour to explore.

Fort Sill Army Base

The carful of kids continue the history lesson and head over to the Fort Sill Army Base to visit the Fort Sill Post Cemetery (not be confused with the Fort Sill National Cemetery). As the final resting place of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his little sister, Prairie Flower on the high point of the cemetery, Chiefs Knoll.

Quanah Parker and his band of Comanches clashed with settlers moving into Texas and Oklahoma resulting in the Indian Wars and the Battle of Palo Duro in the Texas panhandle. After the overhunting of the buffalo and starvation of his people certain, Quanah Parker surrendered at Fort Sill in 1875.

The grave of Quanah Parker at Fort Sill, another site to explore in Lawton with kids.
Sitting high on Chiefs Knoll at the Fort Sill Cemetery, we find the grave of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Nation.

The federal government appointed Parker the chief of the entire Comanche people and he went on to become a successful rancher near Cache, Oklahoma before dying in 1911.

The Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum also features the original frontier fort along with 34 historic buildings. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to enter and all located in Fort Sill Army base.

 

Explore Fort Sill in Lawton with kids, especially for the Howitzers.
Last stop at Fort Sill, the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum and Park.

I have two boys that love guns so while explore Lawton with kids, we walk through the  U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum and Park. A park filled with Howitzers (wheeled artillery gun) from around the world and a must-do for kids that love guns.

Know before you go:

  • To gain access to Fort Sill, visitors are required to obtain a daily visitor pass at the Fort Sill Visitor Control Center at T6701 Sheridan Road.
  • All adults are subject to a  Department of Defense background check.
  • It’s free and took 15 minutes to complete the process.