ADVERTISEMENT

6 Things To Do in Tulsa, Oklahoma

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
chairs sitting at big window with view
Shane Bevel
Creative energy blends with homegrown midwestern charm in this historic city off of Route 66.

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

Tulsa-Oklahoma-Adventure-Playground-Aerial.jpg?mtime=20190506121133#asset:105717(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

Tulsa-Buck-Atoms-Cosmic-Curios.jpg?mtime=20190502105102#asset:105699(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

Tulsa-Philbrook-Museum.jpg?mtime=20190502105104#asset:105701(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

Tulsa-Outsiders-House.jpg?mtime=20190502105103#asset:105700(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.

Keep reading
AdventureBudget Travel Lists

6 Glamping Sites That Will Change the Way You Look at Nature

If you’re keen to enjoy the great outdoors but not interested in roughing it, then glamping is for you. Thanks to upgraded accommodations and actual beds, glamping is a more luxurious experience, with amenities that may include running water, electricity, personal chefs, fine linens, and en suite bathrooms. Plus, you don’t have to worry about packing toiletries, bedding,and towels – it’s all part of the package. From deluxe safari tents to small cabins and bungalows, this classy getaway not only lets you gently commune with nature, it also allows you to participate in activities you may have missed if you were staying at a hotel. Ready to upgrade? Here are six top picks for when tents and sleeping bags just won’t do. 1. Wild Lotus Camp, Antigua (@wildlotuscamp/Instagram) This family-owned glamping business offers large, sturdy upscale tents on Valley Church Beach, just steps from the Caribbean Sea and protected rainforests. The tents, located in a private garden surrounded by exotic flowers and plants, feature a double bed, a seating area, and solar-heated shower and lighting. The secluded Deluxe tent comes with a rum-stocked minibar, a Bluetooth speaker, fold-away bikes, and snorkel gear. But the real draw here is wild turtle season. At its height from July to October, you can watch turtles hatch on the beach outside your tent, then swim with them in the clear turquoise water. Or take in the landscape with a climb to the peak of Mount Obama (named after the 44th US president), the island’s highest point in the Shekerley Mountains. The Nest Beach bar, located on the shoreline, serves meals and cocktails, and a short walk takes you to Sheer Rocks and Dennis’s Cocktail Bar for romantic dinners, especially during sunset. wildlotuscamp.com 2. Sandy Pines Campground: Kennebunkport, ME Located near Goose Rocks Beach and Dock Square, this seaside campground is the epitome of high-low accommodations. Meant to evoke an old-school tableau of New England communal camping, Sandy Pines is a family-friendly destination teetering on the Atlantic. For true glamping, 16 luxe safari tents are available; each has a different design theme and includes a king-size bed, deck, mini-fridge and beverage cooler, and a combination heater/fan. For something more low-key, check out one of the 12 wooden A-frame Hideaway Huts, each equipped with a full-size bed and fire pit. This year, Sandy Pines unveiled six unique retreat options, including a decked-out Airstream, a glass house, and a Conestoga wagon. Entertainment, like bocce and badminton, movie nights, and even a Kid’s Kamp, ensures that everyone keeps busy. Resort-style amenities like the heated saltwater pool and laundry facilities add to the sense of luxury. The property’s Grand Lodge is a hub for the glamping community, while the General Store sells groceries and essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, charcoal, and propane. Make your way to the snack bar for freshly baked goods and sandwiches, plus local beer and wine. sandypinescamping.com 3. Eastwind Hotel & Bar: Windham, NY (Courtesy Eastwind Hotel & Bar) A lively and welcome addition to New York’s Catskill Mountains, Eastwind deftly straddles luxury and nature with design-forward glamping accommodations alongside a boutique hotel. The three Scandinavian-inspired Lushna wood cabins are standalone A-frame units with insulation and a glass window for panoramic views. Built on stilts, these tiny cabins include a queen-sized bed, private bathroom with sauna, posh Frette linens, and Wi-Fi. A BBQ kit is available on request to use at the fire pit on the property. Glampers also have access to all the hotel’s amenities, such as the Salon, a cocktail and coffee bar set in a sprawling living room–like space with huge windows, couches, a dining area, and an expansive outdoor deck. Seasonal prix-fixe Saturday Evening Suppers and a bar menu with small plates are available. Eastwind also has a year-round calendar of programs and activities, like concerts and foraging walks. To explore the surrounding Catskills, take a refreshing hike to Kaaterskill falls and Saugerties Lighthouse, or hang out at one of the plentiful water holes like Woodstock’s Big Deepa. eastwindny.com 4. Leanto Orcas Island: Washington Orcas Island’s modest glamping grounds are situated near the south-end loop of Moran State Park. An ferry ride from the port city of Anacortes lands you on the 5000-acre island, which boasts five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Sunrise Rock and Cascade Falls are walking distance from each other, but if you want to catch a panoramic view, the summit of Mount Constitution is about five miles away. There are five glamping sites to choose from, the smallest featuring one tent with a queen-size bed and the largest offering two tents, one with a queen-size bed and the other with two twin daybeds. All accommodations also come with a table and chairs, dresser, and luggage rack. Outside there are Adirondack chairs, a grill and fire pit, a picnic table, and tents are equipped with flashlights and lanterns. There is no running water on the site, so you’ll be sharing the grounds’ toilets and coin-operated showers with the visitors on the old-school camping grounds. Meals are not included, though grilling utensils are available for loan, and you can add the “morning coffee” option when you book if you need that initial shot of caffeine. There are plenty of restaurants and markets on the island if you want a night out or need to replenish supplies. stayleanto.com. 5. Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat: New York, NY (Courtesy Collective Retreats) Just a few minutes by ferry from both Manhattan and Brooklyn, Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat, lets you escape the bustle of the city and sleep under the stars – albeit in a luxury tent inspired by Scandinavian minimalism. Governors Island, a former military base that opened to the public in 2004, is filled with historical buildings, pop-up art and cultural exhibits, and green space like the Hills, which feature four giant slides and British artist Rachel Whiteread’s permanent installation of a New England-style concrete cabin, not to mention dazzling skyline vistas. The Collective is nestled on the western side of the island, and its accommodations are contained on a central lawn. All tents include plush beds, electricity, WiFi, and a French press for coffee; Journey tents are the basic option, but you can upgrade to the higher-end Summit tents, which come with 1,500-thread-count sheets, private decks, and en-suite bathrooms. At the highest end are the Outlook Shelters, non-tent shelters that feature larger floorplans and stunning views of the NYC skyline. Have dinner at the quaint Three Peaks Lodge, a restaurant offering a farm-to-table cornucopia, or opt for something more casual and grab the BBQ-in-a-Box or a wrap, salad, and juice from Magic Mix Juicery. Nighttime brings campfires, s’mores, and the knowledge that you’re safe from run-ins with bears or moose in this urban enclave. collectiveretreats.com. 6. Under Canvas Grand Canyon: Valle, AZ (Courtesy West Elm) A 25-minute drive into the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Under Canvas is the perfect way to get up close and personal with one of the Seven Wonders of the World. An extravagant campsite with nearly 100 safari tents offers access to varied activities, like horseback riding and hiking through the campgrounds, which cover 160 acres of juniper forest. The two main tent styles – the Deluxe and the Stargazer – are furnished with a king-size bed and feature ensuite bathrooms, wood stoves, and private decks, but the Stargazer stands out for its groovy viewing window. A third option, the Suite Tent, has an additional lounge area with a queen-size sofa bed for a family or group. Package options include guided tours by foot, bike, helicopter, and jeep, plus meals served at the camp’s fast-casual restaurant. (Boxed lunches are available for those planning to spend the day out and about.) The communal firepit offers gratis s’mores and a prime view of the stars. undercanvas.com.

Budget Travel Lists

20 Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Vacation Rental Destinations

Here at Budget Travel, we appreciate a deal as much as the next frugal traveler, but for our purposes, budget doesn’t necessarily translate as cheap. To do the mental math on what, exactly, qualifies as a good-value proposition, we take into account tangible factors like location, weather, and experiences to have along the way. But we also think about the intangibles—less quantifiable, more subjective elements like uniqueness and Instagrammability. It’s a complicated equation, but home-share rental site Vrbo (vrbo.com) is attempting to simplify things a bit, courtesy of its first-ever Bang for Your Buck Index. The company recently released a list of domestic and international destinations that provide travelers with the best value, based on last year’s booking data. Factoring in considerations like proximity to the beach, diversity of dining options, and the array of activities on offer, here's where you'll get the most for your money—all for $250 per night or less. Top 10 Domestic Destinations for Rental Value With an abundance of beaches—not to mention its collection of theme parks—it’s no wonder Florida claims five of the 10 spots on Vrbo’s domestic list. Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Cape Canaveral offer prime opportunities to work on that tan, while Orlando is the gateway to Disney World and Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a break from the ocean, book a trip to Lakeland, east of Tampa, to explore the city’s eponymous lakes, or venture out of state and head west instead: Tucson and Prescott, Arizona, both cracked the top 10, as did Moab, Utah, in the heart of canyon country. Looking for something a little less expected? Branson, Missouri, receives surprisingly high marks, while family favorite Myrtle Beach rounds out the list. Overseas Bargains If, in your mind, it doesn’t count as vacation unless you've stepped off a plane onto foreign soil, not to fear—there’s plenty of value to be had in Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Caribbean, as long as you know where to look. For a truly economical experience, forgo hotspots like London, Paris, and Rome in favor of the Iberian peninsula: Porto, Lisbon, Madrid, and Seville all provide warm weather, great food, and arts and culture galore, minus the sticker shock of their higher-profile European peers. (On the continent, Prague and Berlin are also good bets.) Chasing those sunny days? You can’t go wrong with Puerto Rico, and Carolina is Vrbo’s pick for the island’s best-value destination. Up north, Calgary and Halifax offer boundless natural splendor and cultural institutions in profusion, plus a favorable exchange rate to boot. And on the other side of the world, Tokyo is an unexpectedly budget-friendly gem.

Budget Travel Lists

6 Things to Do in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Castle, a medieval wonder, sits right in the city center, its presence a reminder of this rejuvenated town's rich history. In Victorian times, Cardiff was a coal capital of the world until the industry fell off, taking the city down with it. But in the last two decades, major projects have been unveiled, like a sleek government building and a modern performing-arts center, both of which contributed to the rejuvenation of Cardiff Bay. The Welsh capital is a mere 150 miles from London, easy to get to by train or bus and surrounded by bucolic country villages. Here are a few things to do—and see and eat and drink—in this revitalized urban destination. 1. Explore Cardiff Castle (Stelios Kyriakides/Dreamstime) “I hope you like history, because I have 2000 years of it,” the guide said as he commenced a tour of Cardiff Castle (cardiffcastle.com). Indeed, the 11th-century castle, which was gifted to the city after World War II, is a living encyclopedia of Welsh history and architectural marvels. A tour is recommended so you can get a detailed explanation of the Roman ruins, the castle’s large structures, the ornate interior-design details, and the influential families that occupied its quarters over the centuries. Your ticket entitles you to an audio device for a self-guided tour of the castle grounds, including the keep. (You can climb a narrow, winding stairway to the top for sweeping city views). And make sure to visit the long underground tunnels: they served as a bomb shelter during WWII, and today, the stone walls are adorned with wartime-era posters and Churchill’s speeches are piped in on speakers. Also make time for the military museum in the basement of the welcome center, which chronicles three centuries of Welsh military history. 2. Walk Cardiff Bay The very first thing to do when you get to the city is not read a guidebook or ask your concierge where to go. Head straight Mermaid Quay, the rejuvenated stretch of Cardiff Bay, for a crash course in the history of the town. The port was one of the biggest in the world at the turn of the 20th century, thanks to the region’s huge coal reserves. Today it’s a destination anchored by the Millennium Arts Centre (wmc.org.uk), a sleek building that hosts opera, symphonies, and theatrical productions, and the Senedd (assemblywales.org/visiting/senedd), home to the National Assembly since it opened in 2004. There's also Pierhead (pierhead.org), the port's old office building that now houses an exhibit about Welsh democracy. Along the water, check out a display that explains the port's role in the city’s economy. Then take a stroll along the waterside paved path to see the church where native son Roald Dahl was christened, as well as an adorable alligator sculpture that pays tribute to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author. From there, follow the crescent-shaped course just over two miles, across a short dam, to Penarth, a quaint town with shops, cafés, and casual eateries, or head back to the main area for a tour of the Senedd, coffee in the lobby of the Millennium Centre followed by a show, if you plan it right, and a twirl on the iconic waterside carousel. 3. Snack on Welsh Cakes (Liza Weisstuch) Italy has gelato, France has macaroons, and Tokyo has bubble tea. When it comes to sweets in this coastal capital, it’s all about Welsh cakes, a cross between a biscuit and a cake. You can sample an amazing variety of them around the city. At Fabulous Welsh Cakes (fabulouswelshcakes.co.uk), located in a shopping arcade a stone’s throw from Cardiff Castle, the staff prepares the cakes on a griddle visible through the window. They make over 50 flavors, which rotate regularly. At Victorian-style Pettigrew Tea Rooms (pettigrew-tearooms.com), you can have a more classic experience and order tea with your snack. Vegan options are available at Wild Thing (wildthingcardiff.com), an airy new eatery focused on meat- and dairy-free fare. And at the historic Cardiff Market, watch a small team of bakers in a compact kitchen make many flavors from start to finish, then taste them fresh from the oven. Just don't ask for jam. "You don't need anything on them, luv," the baker will tell you with a smile. 4. Raise a Glass to Beer Once upon a time, classic British pubs were your only option here. Today, however, craft beer is all the rage, and hip, lively bars serving lots of it are located just a few short blocks away from one another in the compact city center. Beelzebub (craftydevilbrewing.co.uk), which serves made-in-Cardiff Crafty Devil Brewing Company’s ales, is an airy pub with a long mahogany bar and outdoor seating that opened last year as a result of a crowd-funding effort. Get there early if the local rugby team is playing and even earlier if they’re playing at Principality Stadium, the nearby sports arena that’s home to the national rugby union team, as tables fill up fast. And don’t miss Tiny Rebel (tinyrebel.co.uk), a popular late-night haunt adorned with colorful murals. All the beers on tap are made at the brewery, about 13 miles north. 5. Shop Around Cardiff is a city of glass-covered arcades, many of which have been standing since Victorian times. There are plenty of familiar shops and souvenir depots occupying the storefronts here, as well as high-end retailers specializing in distinctly British products like tweed and wool clothing. But stay attentive while wandering through the sheltered cobblestone streets, and you’ll be rewarded by an assortment of small shops that capture Cardiff’s indie spirit, including Spillers (spillersrecords.com), which dates back to 1894, making it the oldest record store in the world. The Castle Emporium (thecastleemporium.co.uk) is a spacious old warehouse with a collection of distinctly local businesses, like Head Above the Waves (hatw.co.uk), the retail arm of a nonprofit that raises awareness—and money—to promote mental health in the music industry. The hats, shirts, and other merchandise are emblazoned with positive-reinforcement messages. The Sho Gallery (thesho.co.uk) sells what co-owner Dan Hardstaff describes as “bits and bobs,” like locally made greetings cards, jewelry, and art as well as novelty stationery items and home goods. All the framed artwork is for sale. If you need a skateboard, tattoo, or haircut, you can check that off your list at the Emporium, too. 6. Day-trip to Hay-on-Wye (S Richardson/Dreamstime) The countryside throughout the United Kingdom is dotted with villages that are typically described as charming and picturesque. Few, arguably, have the wow factor of Hay-on-Wye (hay-on-wye.co.uk), a small hamlet (population 1,500) about 60 miles north of Cardiff known as the Book Capital of the World. Some 250,000 literature fanatics flock here each spring for the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, described by President Bill Clinton as the "Woodstock of the Mind" when he attended in 2001. The festival offers a packed schedule of talks, readings, and panel discussion with blockbuster writers, but bookworms make the pilgrimage-worthy journey here year-round because of the bookstores—nearly 30 at last count, all of them jam-packed, many of them featuring comfy couches and reading spaces, and most of them selling valuable antique volumes. There are themed shops, like ones that specialize in mystery or music, As well as antique stores, pubs, a market with local food and provisions, and a cheery modern general store called The Old Electric Shop, which sells charming home goods, handmade soaps, locally crafted wool hats and clothing, creative children’s gifts, and even more.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Places to Experience Incredible Interactive Art

Quiet galleries lined with impressive collections displayed at arm’s length will always have their place, but lately, multi-sensory art installations that put the observer at the center of the action are capturing people’s attention. Destinations where visitors can interact with art through movement, touch and sound—often using the latest in digital technologies—are popping up everywhere. Here are seven solid locations that offer immersive experiences for a variety of audiences. 1. Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return: Sante Fe (Kate Russell/Courtesy Meow Wolf) Built in a former bowling alley in Santa Fe and funded by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return launched in 2016 and quickly garnered a reputation as an iconic immersive-art destination. Meow Wolf visitors start by entering the home of the fictional Selig family and, before long, start to discover portals throughout the house (hint: check the refrigerator), leading to fantastical spaces created by local artists. These surreal environments, which combine light, sound, and all manner of images and structures, are part of a mysterious story line involving the Selig family. While some visitors work hard to unravel the mystery, most just choose wander, explore, and experience the sensory wonderland. Meow Wolf is wildly popular, so expect to wait in line. Plans are in place for Meow Wolf Las Vegas AREA15 to open at the end of 2019. There are also spinoff experiences in the works for Denver and Washington, D.C.Admission from $17; meowwolf.com. 2. The City Museum: St. Louis Located in a repurposed shoe warehouse, the City Museum has been pushing the limits of art and fun since 1997, long before anyone thought to use the term “immersive art” to describe the sculptures, climbing structures, subterranean passageways, and multi-story slides filling the 600,000-square-foot space. Sculptor Bob Cassily and a team of around 20 artists created the destination’s large-scale, fanciful features using salvaged construction materials and other reclaimed objects found throughout St. Louis. The school bus hanging over the edge of the museum’s roof provides a hint of the over-the-top experience that awaits inside; an airplane fuselage suspended by a construction crane and accessible by a winding maze of caged ladders also beckons from the front of the building. Admission, $15; citymuseum.org. 3. Factory Obscura: Oklahoma City (Todd E Clark/Courtesy Factory Obscura) Those born after the ‘80s may not have cherished memories of creating or receiving a custom-compiled mix tape, but Factory Obscura aims to explore and evoke the nostalgia of this bygone art form with its first permanent installation, Mix Tape. An immersive art collective that got its start creating temporary installations throughout Oklahoma City, Factory Obscura introduced the first phase of Mix Tape, including a giant interactive boom box built into the building’s façade, in March of 2019. The full 6,000-square-foot playlist-themed multi-sensory adventure opens in September 2019. Fans of the OKC-based band the Flaming Lips may recognize the location: a brightly decorated downtown art complex called the Womb, located in Oklahoma City's historic Automobile Alley building and created by front man Wayne Coyne. It's been an event venue, music-video set, and art space for the Lips. An installation by Coyne, titled King's Mouth, is the centerpiece of the Mix Tape lobby. Free; factoryobscura.com. 4. Wisdome: Los Angeles (Courtesy Wisdome LA) People who have attended festivals like Burning Man or Lightning in a Bottle will likely feel at home at Wisdome, an immersive entertainment art park in downtown L.A. that opened at the end of 2018. Wisdome’s five 360-degree geodesic domes offer digital art, surround sound, and virtual reality experiences, often with a psychedelic bent. Samskara, the featured installation for 2019, is the work of artist Android Jones and includes a 3-D digital-art exhibit, a fractal-heavy 360-degree film that viewers take in while lying on the ground, and an interactive VR gaming experience. Wisdome also regularly hosts concerts and special events that are enhanced by the venue’s immersive elements.Admission $29 adults, $19 for students, $9 for children; wisdome.la. 5. ARTECHOUSE: Miami & Washington, D.C. (Courtesy ARTECHOUSE) Featuring a new installation every three months, this intimate experiential digital-art gallery gives visitors a chance to see how different artists are currently combining art, technology, and science. The ARTECHOUSE flagship location in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2017, features three distinct digital-art spaces as well as a popular bar that overlooks the exhibits and serves augmented-reality cocktails that imbibers activate with their phones using an ARTECHOUSE app. ARTECHOUSE opened a Miami Beach location in 2018, and a New York City location is set to open in 2019. D.C. admission from $16 for adults, $13 for students, seniors, and military; Miami admission, $24 for adults, $20 for students, seniors, and military, $17 for children 14 and under; artechouse.com. 6. Asleep in the Cyclone at 21C Museum Hotel Louisville: Louisville Asleep in the Cyclone offers the unique opportunity to have a site-specific art installation all to yourself for an entire night. Located in a guest room at the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Asleep in the Cyclone is the work of artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, who say the installation is meant to create a parallel universe where guest inhabit an environment created wholly by the artists. Inspired by the 1960s hippie commune Drop City, some of the room’s features include a colorful geodesic ceiling, a record player with a vinyl collection selected by the artists, and a curio cabinet filled with collages, books, and sculptures they created. Nightly rates from $341; 21cmuseumhotels.com/louisville. 7. Mattress Factory: Pittsburgh While some interactive art destinations cater to all ages with an almost amusement park-like atmosphere, this contemporary museum housed in a former mattress factory is not the kind of place you take the kids for a free-ranging play date. (No kids under 14 are allowed without parental supervision). The Mattress Factory has been specializing in site-specific installation art since it opened in 1977 and currently contains permanent installations from a number of well-established artists, including two Infinity Mirror rooms by Yayoi Kusama, light sculptures by James Turrell, and the final work by the late transgender artist Greer Lankton, “It’s all about ME, not you,” a haunting and emotionally raw recreation of her Chicago apartment filled with paintings, dolls, and other personal ephemera.Admission, $20; mattress.org.