14 Free Things to Do in Seattle
Seattle can be expensive. Look in the right places, though, and there are still plenty of free ways to spend time in Emerald City without spending a penny.
1. Explore Pike Place Market
Touristy, but justifiably so, Pike Place Market is one of Seattle’s top sights and absolutely free – except for the money you’ll be tempted to spend here. The range of stalls, from fishmongers and florists to food, demonstrates the Port of Seattle’s importance and why it became such a valuable jewel in the Pacific Northwest’s crown. Any day of the year this is a great place to shop and people-watch.
2. Relax a moment in Waterfall Garden Park
Waterfall Garden Park was one of Seattle’s first small ‘parklets’ or ‘pocket parks.’ Tucked quietly into the Pioneer Square neighborhood, it has a 22ft waterfall and is a great spot to take a break during a busy day of sightseeing.
3. Tour the Frye Art Museum
In addition to free admission and parking, Frye Art Museum provides complimentary tours throughout the week. On your own or with a guide, explore the rotating collections of 19th- and 20th-century American, French, and German paintings and sculptures.
4. Stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park
The Space Needle isn’t the only large-scale metal construction in the city; Olympic Sculpture Park, managed by the Seattle Art Museum, is home to over a dozen large artworks, with access free and open to the public every day from dawn until dusk. From the sweeping red Eagle to the unusual Echo, this is a great place to partake of Seattle’s art-loving culture.
5. Wander through Ballard Locks
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more commonly known as the Ballard Locks, are more than just an effective link for ships moving between Puget Sound and lakes Union and Washington. In addition to watching the parade of boats using the locks to traverse the waterways, another popular activity is sea-life spotting at the fish ladder section of the locks.
6. Join the Silent Reading Party
The first Wednesday of every month, the Sorrento Hotel turns their Fireside Room into a social-yet-quiet literary occasion, when a mix of people claim the couches and armchairs to consume great written work. Everyone is welcome but the event is popular, so it’s worth putting a standing event on your calendar so you don’t forget to turn up early and snag a spot.
7. Take an urban hike at Discovery Park
Covering 534 acres near the Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park provides a variety of terrains for those wanting a bit of outdoor time in the heart of the city. Choose between forested trails, the rocky beach and exploring the West Point Lighthouse – as far west as you can be within the city limits. All are free and beautifully preserved by the city for your enjoyment.
8. Take an art walk
Throughout the summer months, Seattle’s neighborhoods take turns opening their gallery doors for the artistic-minded to explore at will. Pioneer Square galleries open the first Thursday, Belltown hosts on the second Friday each month and Capitol Hill’s event is on the second Thursday. In addition to free gallery access, many local businesses hold daily specials for these nights, making them perfect for a cheap evening out.
9. Take in a Ladies Musical Club performance
The Ladies Musical Club exists to further interest in classical music in Seattle through free performances throughout the city. From West Seattle to Wallingford, this women-only group selects and produces a variety of classical music styles, staging shows in smaller, community venues.
10. Get the locals’ view of the skyline
There are far cheaper ways to take in the Seattle skyline than by forking out for the Space Needle. Enjoy the view over Lake Union from Gas Works Park while families and dogs frolic on the grassy hills, or contemplate the free but priceless panorama of the entire skyline (Space Needle included) from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill.
11. Share your works in progress
On the first and third Monday of every month, the mics at Hugo Houseare open to any and all writers in the city through an event called Works in Progress. Listeners are also welcome, though we’ve heard that the stories are not necessarily family friendly – it is a public open mic night after all!
12. Get some free exercise
With the great outdoors on their doorstep it’s no surprise that Seattleites love their exercise, and there are plenty of ways to get some – many of them free. If you need somewhere to get back in cycling shape, try a few circuits on the Green Lake Park 2.8mi loop; while runners should head for Myrtle Edwards Park and hit the paths along the shores of Elliot Bay.
13. Get cultural at the Seattle Center
Nearly every weekend of the year, the Seattle Center plays host to a variety of events, including many cultural festivals collectively known as Festál. From the Irish Festival in March to the Polish Festival in July and CroatiaFest in October, you can immerse yourself in ethnic food, dance, and celebration, all without spending a dime on admission.
14. Watch the sunset or light your own fire
Pyromaniacs can indulge their fiery tendencies in Golden Gardens Park, one of the few public parks that allows open fires (in designated areas). The park also provides one of the best views for sunsets on those days where Seattle is graced with a cloudless sky. The only thing you’ll spend is time deciding on your favorite location to enjoy the moment.
7 Things to Do in Detroit
Though its ups and downs, Detroit has never lacked in creativity or industriousness. In fact, you can say that's what made it a world-class city to begin with, what with its trail-blazing motor vehicle industry and, of course, Motown, easily the most globally renowned record label in history. It famously struggled as a city in the years after the recession, but locals are fired up these days and their creativity and entrepreneurial grit have restored Detroit's magnificence. Here are a few things to see, do, taste, and try next time you visit Motor City. 1. Visit a Shrine to American Music Motown Museum (Liza Weisstuch) There are plaques and big signs outside of Berry Gordy’s former house indicating that you’re approaching the Motown Museum, but if they weren’t there, you could easily overlook the house on the none-too-notable West Grand Boulevard. This childhood home of Gordy, founder of Motown, later came to house Studio A, one of music’s most famous rooms in the world. Today, the house is a museum of, if not a shrine to, the iconic label (motownmuseum.org). The main thing to know is that you can only go through om a guided tour, which is offered every 30 minutes. Tour guides, each one an engaging entertainer in his/her own right, take you through the history of the label, from the early careers of Smoky Robinson, the Jackson 5, Diana Ross, so many others, to the heyday of the studio where legends were made. Gallery-esque displays feature treasures like Michael Jackson’s crystal-encrusted glove. It’s also a showcase of crowning Hitsville moments and behind-the-scenes personalities, like the songwriters and etiquette instructor Maxine Powell, who taught the Supremes how to strut and gave the Temptations their polish. The tour finishes up in the renowned studio A, where you can marvel at original recording equipment and Little Stevie Wonder’s piano. You can feel the power within the walls. It’s the same power McCartney felt when he visited and, the guide will tell you, he got down on his knees and kissed the floor. 2. Listen to the Sounds of Detroit Today Northern Lights Lounge (Liza Weisstuch) When you enter Studio A, you’ll see a bass guitar propped upright next to the piano. The base belonged to Dennis Coffey, a Motown session musician who recorded on some of the best known albums in history. Coffey is still alive and playing gigs, and you can catch him each Tuesday at Northern Lights Lounge (northernlightslounge.com), a unpretentious bar with a cozy lodge-meets-rec-room feel, a well-worn slab of mahogany, round booths for groups, and a stage where funk, soul, R&B, and jazz are king. Coffey wrote the book—literally—about being a session musician, which you can buy at the gig. Detroit is like New Orleans in that it’s almost hard to avoid seeing live music. For a full-on concert, check out what’s on at the Masonic Temple (themasonic.com), a vintage gem that Jack White saved from the wrecking ball and turned into an auditorium for contemporary acts. There’s a packed lineup of jazz musicians—local and national—at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (officialbakerskeyboardlounge.com), said to be the oldest jazz club in the world. Local and national rock bands perform at Smalls (smallsbardetroit.com), an intimate spot with pub grub and pool tables. And check the schedule at Third Man Records, another Jack White endeavor. They often host rock and alternative bands on their in-store stage, some of which are recorded and pressed into exclusive records. 3. Wander Detroit's Oldest Neighborhood, a Hub of Modern Creativity Cork & Gabel (Liza Weisstuch) Historically, Corktown was a vibrant district where Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine in the 1940s lived and prospered and built Victorian-style homes. The neighborhood, the oldest in Detroit, is anchored by Michigan Central Station, an architectural marvel with marble finishes, soaring arches and 14 marble pillars. A series of mishaps left it derelict in recent decades, but Ford purchased it in 2018, which, in a way, was the ultimate mark of Corktown’s revival. New, hip businesses have opened at a steady clip since the early 2000s. Today, the hip district is a destination for its many restaurants and bars, like the Motor City Wine, a laidback bar/shop with a popular patio and live music most nights; Sugar House, a craft cocktail bar that’s turned out to be an incubator, of sorts, for many bartenders who went on to open their own bars; Astro Coffee, a charming locally-minded café that was one of Corktown’s early revivalists, and Lady of the House, noted chef Kate Williams's restaurant featuring creative American fare and a thoughtful menu of cocktails, beer, and wine. The newest eatery to move in, the gastropub-esque Cork & Gabel, serves a German/Irish/Italian menu in a sweeping industrial-chic space 4. Fun and Games Maryland has duckpin bowling (short, fat-bottom pins, softball-size ball), New England has candlepin bowling (thin pins, slightly larger ball), and Detroit has feather bowling, which sits at the intersection of shuffleboard, bowling, and bocce ball. Long popular in Belgium, it’s said to have arrived in Detroit in the 1930s, brought over by immigrants who gathered at Cadieux Café to hurl a heavy wood object resembling a wheel of cheese down a curved dirt-covered alley at a feather. The Café is still a lively place to try the game—and other Belgian signatures, like steamed mussels and the country’s distinctive beer. If more contemporary sports are your preference, you're in for a treat. Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers’ stadium, sits smack in the middle of downtown, surrounded by plenty of restaurants and green spaces. Take note: Comercia is celebrated for its food offerings. And as if America’s pastime isn’t kid-friendly enough, this open-air stadium features a carousel and a Ferris wheel. The longstanding Joe Louis Arena, home the Red Wings, the city’s NHL team, and the Pistons (basketball), was demolished years ago and replaced by the sleek Little Caesars Arena, a $862.9 million stadium in Midtown. Rounding out the urban trifecta is Ford Stadium, home of the Lions, Detroit’s NFL team. 5. The Great Outdoors Detroit may be legendary for its motor vehicle industry, but these days, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors on foot. The Detroit International River Walk, for instance, opened along the Detroit River in 2007 and stands as a model of urban revitalization. The five-and-a-half-mile riverside path passes through once-blighted areas and William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, which features fishing docks. Attractions like a custom-designed carousel, fountains where kids can splash around in, outdoor performance venues, beautifully landscaped “Garden Rooms,” and public art. There are bike trails as well as walking paths, the latter of which terminate at Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park that separates Michigan from Canada. 6. Cass Corridor: Where Makers Take the Spotlight Third Man Records (Liza Weisstuch) Everyone knows Motown and Ford defined Detroit; a company that carries the torch for the city's defining manufacturing culture is Shinola, a luxury goods maker established in the city in 2011 and known for its exquisite watches, bicycles, leather goods, jewelry, and more. Its watches and watchbands are handmade at a factory in a local historic building. You can take a tour there to learn about the intricate details of Swiss-style watchmaking. Or just marvel at the finished products at the company’s flagship store in Cass Corridor, a pocket of Midtown that was once known for its Victorian mansions, several of which have recently been rehabbed after many years of neglect. The Corridor is a mini-neighborhood, of sorts, with businesses that typify the city’s creativity and industriousness. The focal point of the street is Third Man Records, crowned with a giant radio antennae on the top. Jack White’s studio/retail store that also houses a stage for live performances and a vinyl-pressing plant. (You can see the action behind windows in the store, or sign up for a tour.) Across the street is Nest, a shop that stocks books about the city, locally made jewelry and home goods. 7. Get Cultured One of the excellent docents at the Detroit Institute of Arts, with Diego Rivera's mural "Detroit Industry" (Liza Weisstuch) One of the many things that makes Detroit so visitor-friendly the fact that all its epic cultural institutions sit practically side-by-side. The Cultural Center Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was planned in 1910 and its landmarks endure: the grand Detroit Public Library (1921), a white marble Italian Renaissance-style building; the Beaux Arts-style Detroit Institute of Arts (1927), and the Horace H. Rackham Education Memorial Building (1933), part of the University of Michigan. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History opened next to DIA in 1965 and the kid-friendly Michigan Science Center, complete with a planetarium, a 4D theater, and hands-on exhibits, opened its doors in 2011. You don’t have to spend much time traveling from place to place, a major boon because each institution is so densely packed with things to see that you’ll need as much time at all of them that you can get.
21 Free Things to Do in Boston
Bostonians pay notoriously high prices for baseball tickets and real estate. But fortunately, budget travelers can experience the best of Boston without paying a cent. Here’s the scoop on 21 free (or nearly free) things to do, see, hear, eat and even drink. 1. Follow the footsteps of revolutionaries on the Freedom Trail The Freedom Trail is the best introduction to Revolutionary War-era Boston. This 2.5-mile, red-brick path winds its way past 16 sites that earned this town its status as the Cradle of Liberty. Follow the trail on your own, or hook up with a free guided tour by the National Park Service. Departing from Faneuil Hall, the tours max out at 30 people, so arrive early to secure your spot. Outside of the tour season, you can download a map to use. Many of the sites along the trail are also free to enter. 2. Sit in the Governor’s Pew in King’s Chapel The stately Georgian architecture of King's Chapel contains a bell crafted by Paul Revere and the prestigious Governor’s Pew, where George Washington once sat. It’s a lovely setting for weekly noontime recitals (Tuesday). Admission is always free, but a $4 donation is recommended. 3. Eat lunch at Boston’s historic marketplace Lunch is not free, but the history lesson is. Take a look around the Great Hall and listen to a ranger talk about historic Faneuil Hall and its role as market and meeting place. Then head to Quincy Market to take your pick from dozens of affordable food stalls. 4. Take a tour of the Massachusetts State House Visit the Massachusetts State House, the so-called `hub of the solar system’ to learn about the state insect (the ladybug) and to pay your respects to the Sacred Cod. Free tours led by The Doric Docents (volunteer tour guides) are Monday through Friday and visit the ceremonial halls, the legislative chambers and the executive branch. 5. Experience a sailor’s life aboard the USS Constitution The USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship, and it is docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Navy officers lead free tours of the upper decks, where you will learn about the ship's exploits in America’s earliest naval battles. You don’t need money, but you do need a photo ID. 6. Explore the fort and lounge on the beach at Castle Island Castle Island isn't really an island, but a vast, green waterside park with amazing skyline views. The massive Fort Independence is open for exploration and free tours. Otherwise, you can relax on the beach, fish from the pier or dip your toes into the chilly harbor waters. 7. Walk the Black Heritage Trail On Beacon Hill, the 1.6-mile Black Heritage Trail explores the history of abolitionism and African American settlement in Boston. Download a map for a self-guided walking tour; or meet up with the free NPS tour, which departs from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. 8. Climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument The landmark obelisk marks the site of the fateful battle in June 1775 that turned the tides of the War for Independence. Climb the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument to the top for an impressive panorama of city, sea and sky. You’ll expend nothing but energy. 9. Enjoy a day at The Boston Public Library The Boston Public Library was built as a 'shrine of letters’ but it's also a temple of art and architecture. Free guided tours depart from the main entrance; or you can pick up a brochure and guide yourself around the stunning, mural-painted halls. The BPL also hosts author talks, musical performances and other free events. 10. Get a glimpse of Boston’s excellent art collections Boston is considered the Athens of America, so you should probably check out the art. On Wednesdays after 4pm, admission to the Museum of Fine Arts is by donation (pay what you can, though $25 is suggested). On Thursdays after 5pm, the Institute of Contemporary Art hosts Free Thursday Night. 11. Tour JFK's birthplace John F Kennedy was born and raised in this modest clapboard house in Brookline, now listed as the JFK National Historic Site. Listen to Rose Kennedy’s reminiscence, as you peruse the furnishings, photographs and mementos that have been preserved since the Kennedys lived here. Guided tours are half an hour Wednesday through Sunday (9:30am - 5pm). The site will be closed from November 2019 through 2020 for renovations. 12. Get the inside scoop on America’s oldest university Students lead free historical tours of Harvard Yard, also sharing their own perspectives on student life. The one-hour tours depart from the Smith Campus Center. Space is limited, so arrive early during busy seasons. 13. Admire the Longfellow National Historic Site For 45 years, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived and wrote poetry in this stately Georgian manor near Harvard Square. The Longfellow National Historic Site is open Wednesdays-Sundays through October 27. The mansion contains many of the poet’s personal belongings, as well as lush period gardens. 14. Enjoy open-air entertainment at the Hatch Memorial Shell The Charles River Esplanade is Boston’s backyard, a fine venue for picnics, bike rides and leisurely strolls. Even better, all summer long, the Hatch Memorial Shell hosts free events like outdoor concerts, family flicks and Dancing in the Park. 15. Hobnob with artists at SoWa First Fridays From the former factories and warehouses in the South End, artists have carved out studios and gallery space. The SoWa Artists Guild hosts an open studio event on the first Friday of every month (5 to 9pm). Come examine the art and mingle with the resident creatives. 16. Sneak a peek inside Fenway Park If you can’t get tickets to the big game, you can still sneak a peek inside Fenway Park. The Bleacher Bar is accessible from the street, with a window looking onto center field. The bar gets packed during games when there’s usually a waiting list for window seating. 17. Winterland fun in Harvard Bundle up! Boston is full of opportunities for winter fun. Havard Common Spaces hosts a Winter Fest at The Plaza which is open and free to the public. Try your hand at ice curling, ice bowling or ice shuffleboard. 18. Grab a cheap and tasty lunch from the Falafel King Two words: free falafel. That’s right, Falafel King customers are treated to a free sample while they wait. If you’re looking for lunch, this hole in the wall is quick and delicious. 19. Sample Boston’s finest on a Samuel Adams Brewery tour Head to Jamaica Plain to see the birthplace of America’s original craft beer. On the Samuel Adams Brewery Classic Tour, learn about the history of the company, witness the brewing process and sample the goods. By 'goods’, we mean frothy lagers, refreshing pilsners and tasty ales. Tickets are first-come, first-serve; tours run Monday - Saturday (11:15am-5pm) and are open to all ages. Must be 21 to drink. The suggested $2 donation is passed on to local charities. 20. Lunch with a side of history at Boston Common Unwind at America's oldest park. Enjoy a family picnic or just relax and people watch. Summertime is for Shakespeare and the winters are for ice skating at Frog Pond. 21. Let your kids romp at the Boston Children's Museum From the Art Studio to the Construction Zone, the Boston Children’s Museum is fun for all. It’s not free, but 'Target Fridays' mean that admission is only $1 on Friday after 5pm.
Travel by Train: 7 Awesome Routes for Seeing the U.S.A.
When you're not in a rush to get to your destination, there's no better way to travel than by the slow, steady pace of a train. Though often associated with a European vacation, there are plenty of scenic and adventurous rail routes that you can take right here in—and across—the United States. Train travel offers an up-close look at your very own backyard, whether you're chugging along through the mountains or unhurriedly making your way through the scenic Northeast—all for a price that's often lower than a flight. Ready to see the country by rail? Here are seven train trips that can’t be beat. 1. Adirondack: An International Journey, With Landscape Views Take the stress out of an international flight and climb aboard Amtrak’s Adirondack (amtrak.com/adirondack-train), which takes leaves from Manhattan’s Penn Station and arrives in Montreal less than 11 hours later. The train winds its way through the Hudson Valley’s wine country and the farms of Albany and the Adirondack Mountains. It’s an especially popular route for leaf peepers during the fall, as the already breathtaking scenery is painted in glorious shades of orange, red and brown. (For prime views, make your way up to the dome car.) And pro tip: Since this is an international route, be sure to pack your passport. One-way tickets start at $70. 2. Pacific Surfliner: California Dreaming Surf the coast by rail on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (pacificsurfliner.com), which takes you through 351 miles of beautiful southern California. The golden coast journey starts in San Diego and ends in San Luis Obispo, stopping in SoCal hotspots like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carpinteria, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Juan Capistrano. The train tracks hug the Pacific coast and riders can often spot dolphins, California sea lions, and even whales—right from the comfort of their seats. The Pacific Surfliner includes a café car—with plenty of wine options—as well as a bike rack, so you can easily take your wheels and hit the trails as soon as you hop off the train. One-way tickets start at $61.25. 3. Sunset Limited: Watch the Dynamic Southwest Change Before Your Eyes Amtrak’s southern-most route, Sunset Limited (amtrak.com/sunset-limited-train), takes riders on a 48-hour scenic journey of the American southwest, from New Orleans all the way to Los Angeles. From the bayou to the canyons of southwestern Texas to the California mountains, pass through scenery that’s largely inaccessible by car, so have your camera out and be ready to capture it from your seat. Though this route doesn’t take you to into the national parks, the train will stop at their doorsteps. As part of a partnership between the National Parks Service and Amtrak, a national parks guide will often be on board to explain the changing vistas and landscapes as you slowly make your way through, which is all part of a partnership between Amtrak and the National Parks Service. One-way tickets start at $314. 4. Grand Canyon Railway: An American Natural Wonder Awaits Avoid the traffic of Grand Canyon National Park and ride to the iconic destination in style on the Grand Canyon Railway (thetrain.com). The round-trip train route, which takes a little over two hours, begins in Williams, Arizona, and arrives inside Grand Canyon National Park, giving riders plenty of time to explore before heading back in the afternoon. On the journey, riders are lucky enough to get magnificent views of the Ponderosa Pine Forest in Williams, the wide-open prairies, and the San Francisco peaks, all while marveling at (and feeling) the change in elevation. Travelers can also often catch glimpses of wildlife such as elk, mountain lions, and bald eagle throughout the trip. Round-trip ticket prices from $70 to $226. 5. Napa Valley Wine Train: A Toast to the Vineyards of California Just when you think that being in Napa Valley couldn’t get more elegant, the Napa Valley Wine Train (winetrain.com)—a beautifully restored 100-year-old railcar—makes any visit to wine country even more indulgent. The train’s route is short—just 30 miles from downtown Napa to St. Helena—but it’s an unforgettable way to view the vineyards as you ride through California farmland, all while holding a glass of wine in your hand. You can choose between a three- or six-hour trip, depending on whether you want a tasting tour, or a gourmet, multi-course meal served on board during your journey. And of course, there is plenty of wine tasting to be had while you’re chugging along. Ticket packages start at around $200. 6. Vermonter: A Breathtaking Trip Along the Eastern Seaboard Watch the New England landscape shift from big cities to beautiful pastoral scenes on Amtrak’s Vemonter train (amtrak.com/vermonter-train), which runs daily service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, a small town in northern Vermont. The trip, which clocks in at just under 14 hours, winds through all the east coast highlights: the big metropolises of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and the quaint countryside of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The Vermonter not only provides unbelievable views out your passenger window of skyscrapers, farmland, beautiful churches, and sweeping valleys, but it’s also a great source of transportation for skiers, as it provides easy access to resorts like Bolton Valley and Sugarbush. One-way tickets start at $74. 7. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: A Vintage Steam-Powered Journey Through Colorado Step back in time and experience Colorado’s beauty on the coal-fired, steam-powered Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train (durangotrain.com), which offers service between the two mountain towns. The train trip, 3.5 hours each way, allows passengers to eat lunch and explore the former mining town for a couple of hours before heading back to Durango. Along the way, riders can glimpse canyons along the Animas River and the plentiful spruces of the San Juan National Forest as the train steadily chugs along through the changing elevation levels. Riders can also opt to be dropped off to fish and hike at secluded locations that are inaccessible by car. Round-trip tickest start at $89.
6 Things To Do in Tulsa, Oklahoma
If Oklahoma native son Woody Guthrie could write a song about Tulsa today, he would sing about the vibrant creativity, the enterprising entrepreneurs, and the friendly locals, an idealized portrait of the kind of America he immortalized when he sang This Land Is Your Land. From its grand art deco architecture to its trendy cafes, shops, breweries, and bars, Tulsa pulls the rug out from whatever you're expecting from a trip to cowboy territory, particularly this town once known for its place in American history as the end of the Trail of Tears. That's in no small part due to a giant ongoing investment that Tulsa native and public-school alum George Kaiser, the billionaire banker and oilman-turned-philanthropist, is making in the city. (More on that in a second.) Here are a few places to check out and things to do to that bring the city's history and newfound energy together. 1. Gather at the Gathering Place (Shane Bevel) There is really no straightforward way to describe the Gathering Place (gatheringplace.org), which sprawls across 100 acres along the Arkansas River. It's part theme park, part public park, part recreational hub. It embodies a five-acre state-of-the-art playground that feels like something out of a German fairy tale forest, a stylish lodge-like community center with a giant fireplace and free Wi-Fi, plus a skate park, sports courts, nature trails, a labyrinthine “sensory garden” for kids with interactive, multi-sensory features, two desensitization spaces designed to have a calming effect on children with autism, a water play-space with contraptions that spray water seven feet into the air, family-friendly eateries and concession stands, green spaces, and even more. The $465 million Gathering Place was developed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, making it the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history. 2. Get Your Kicks (Liza Weisstuch) Of the many, many changes that Route 66 has undergone since it was established as one of the nation's original highways in 1926, the most recent ones have included closures of old roadside eateries and while many landmarks remain, others have disappeared over time. It’s in the name of renewal that in May, Mary Beth Babcock erected Buck Atom Space Cowboy Roadside Attraction, a 21-foot fiberglass statue of an animated astronaut, outside her store, Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66 (buckatomson66.com). It’s a tribute to an era when these mighty “muffler men” kept watch on the road from Chicago to L.A. Its retro style befits her store, a treasure trove of books, figurines, and sundry gift items that evoke the atomic era. This is just one of the stops on the walk down Tulsa’s stretch of the historic road. Set off from downtown, where it's designated as 11th Street, and you’ll pass a cemetery, established in 1902, the charming modern housewares and furniture shop Jenkins & Co. (jenkinsandcotulsa.com), the iconic Meadow Gold sign, which once tempted travelers with promises of ice cream, then a cluster of stores including Buck Atom's, a used record shop, a vintage clothing spot, and a depot for furniture made with reclaimed materials. Wrap up at Soul City, a vibrant old-school bar with indoor and outdoor stages and live music every night. 3. See Where Art and History Meet (Liza Weisstuch) You can go to the Philbrook Museum to gaze at the Renaissance paintings, works by Rodin, Picasso, and Pueblo artists, and plenty other gorgeous art and ancient artifacts. You can go to wander in the sprawling, meticulously landscaped gardens. Or you could go to get a sense of the way Oklahoma oil moguls lived when Tulsa was the Saudi Arabia of the west. The Philbrook (philbrook.org), located about three miles from downtown, is set in a 72-room Italian Renaissance villa built as the home of Waite Phillips, the magnate who founded Philips Oil. In 1938, Philips and his wife donated the villa to the city as an arts center, and the building itself is as much of an attraction as the works it holds. He clearly spared no expenses in construction--teak floors, marble fireplaces, ornate ceilings, Corinthian columns. His passion for beautiful things also shines through in the downtown buildings that he funded. The Philtower and Philcade, art deco masterpieces, are grandiose office buildings that still anchor the city's skyline. 4. Action! An Iconic 80s Movie Comes Alive (Liza Weisstuch) The house at 731 N. St. Louis Avenue is quite ramshackle and the yard is unkempt. It doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm. Unless, of course, you recognize the home from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, the 1983 movie starring a pack of young heartthrobs whose names are now cornerstones of American pop culture: Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon. It's based on the book written in 1967 by Tulsan S.E. Hinton when she was 15. It’s never gone out of print and remains on the reading list in many American public schools. According to Danny Boy O’Connor, founding member of 1990s hip-hop group House of Pain, the house is a national treasure, so when he visited Tulsa and discovered it in disrepair, he bought it and launched a Kickstarter campaign to rescue it from its scheduled date with a wrecking ball. With help from musician Jack White, he raised the money, gut-renovated the place, and painstakingly restored it to match how it looked on screen, down to stains on the wall and grime on the stove. With the support of Ms. Hinton, filled it with costumes and artifacts from the movie, including Coppola's director's chair, many editions of the books and VHS copies, and stills from the film. Tours, which involve meeting downtown for a van that will take you to tour the house and cruise around to a few of the various sites featured in the movie, (theoutsidershouse.com) 5. Dine Around: Mother Road Market Throughout America, food halls have begun to seem like the new shopping mall, not least because every city has one. Tulsa's Mother Road Market (motherroadmarket.com) makes for an exciting visit for a few reasons. First, the premise: It's a nonprofit. The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation operates the market as well as a commercial kitchen with incubator programs that help entrepreneurs launch businesses. Check out the Kitchen 66 stall for pop-ups from the program's emerging food companies. Second, the Nashville hot chicken at Chicken and the Wolf, a local cult favorite that draws fans each day for its signature chicken--just be sure to heed the warnings that accompany the hottest menu items. There are vegan versions, too. (The owners also run a standalone hot chicken restaurant and the funky Lone Wolf Bahn Mi.) There's also an outpost of the much lauded Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, the requisite food hall taco stall (& Tacos), Nice Guys Shrimp Shack, the hard-to-resist Big Dipper Creamery and OK Cookie Monster, globally accented options at Bodhi Bowl, and, perhaps most attention-grabbing of all, Umami Fries, known for its fry options with kimchi or beef toppings. Add to that a sweet little general store with local produce, the full-service Wel Bar, sprawling covered outdoor area in the back with communal tables and a green space for kids to run around, and you can practically make a day of it. 6. Perk Up: Coffee Mania Let it be known: Tulsans love coffee. Coffee shops here, however, go far beyond the standard “third-wave” cafés, the term used to describe places that focus on single-origin beans, fair trade, and meticulous brewing techniques. Like many places around the U.S., coffee drinks at these cafes are made with the same level of craftsmanship as artisanal cocktails. Unlike many places around the U.S., Tulsa has several spots where you can hang out all day drinking top-rate java and stay in your seat when evening arrives and the cocktail menu goes into effect. Cirque Coffee (cirquecoffee.com), for instance, has stools along a long wood counter, cozy couches, colorful murals, and shelves of whiskey, gin, tequila, vodka, and rum on the wall. The sounds of an espresso machine resound through the airy warehouse-chic space all day long. Come evening, the many folks who’ve been typing on their MacBooks fold them up in favor of the beautiful hard-covered cocktail menu, which offers familiar classics and many originals, including, fittingly enough, creative coffee cocktails. (See: The Hotrod, a mix of cold brew coffee, curacao and simple syrup) Hodges Bend (hodges-bend.com), on the other hand, looks has all the trappings of a nouveau-vintage cocktail bar—exposed brick walls, dark wood furniture, pressed-tin ceiling— that also serves terrific coffee and specialty java drinks made with their own blend. Drinks here include classics, a few originals, and a thoughtfully curated wine list. A globally-accented menu ranging from duck confit tacos to veggie bibimbap round out the offerings.