Downtown Tulsa has seen a boom in development during the past 10 years, and it’s not just bars, hotels and housing being built at warp speed. Downtown is a great, walkable area for families, with plenty of activities to entertain kids of all ages. From family-friendly restaurants to parks and museums, and even sugar havens, here’s a list of spots worth exploring with the kids.
Elote Café & Catering, 514 S. Boston Ave.
Elote may be one of downtown’s most kid-friendly eateries. The food is fresh, healthy, and locally sourced, and the kid’s menu, rather than chicken nuggets and corndogs (not that we don’t love chicken nuggets and corndogs), offers a child-size sampling of what the adults enjoy. Plus, if you’re willing to let the little ones stay up past their bedtime once in a while, you can enjoy some weekend luchador wrestling in the restaurant’s miniature ring.
Caz’s Chowhouse, 18 E. Mathew B. Brady St.
What restaurant is more family-friendly than one that feeds kids for free once a week (in this case, every Thursday)? On the menu is straight-forward, homestyle and Southern cooking, with choices like meatloaf, fried catfish, pot roast, and chicken and waffles. Definitely start your evening with a basket of Pucker Chips (fried pickles).
Coney Island, 107 N. Boulder Ave.
Tulsa’s very first coney shop is still in business downtown near the Brady Arts District. You can’t beat their chili-cheese coneys (order three and they’ll throw in a free soft drink), and kids love to sit in the old-school wooden desks they’ve lined up in lieu of traditional tables and chairs.
Glacier Confection, 15 E. Mathew B. Brady St.
A chocolate lover's paradise. Glacier didn't land on Food Network's 2017 list of the Best Chocolate in America by accident. Their tastes run from rich and decadent (see for yourself and build your own truffle box) to simple pleasures (milk chocolate-covered almonds by the bag) that your kids will love.
Andolini's Sliced & Gelato, 114 S. Detroit Ave.
Here, you can eat your pizza—they’re all personal-size—with a knife and fork, like they do in Italy, then follow up your meal with a cup of creamy, homemade gelato. The case up front boasts more than two dozen flavors, and the good folks working behind it will let you taste as many as you want.
Ida Red General Store & Soda Fountain, 208 N. Main St.
This good ol' fashioned general store has a row of shiny red stools that pony up to a soda fountain where milkshakes, floats and coffee drinks are blended to perfection and topped with a cherry. Kids will love the retro candy section, where they can fill their goodie bags with bulk candy and treats.
Tulsa Geoscience Center, 610 S. Main St.
The Tulsa Geoscience offers kids creative ways to learn about science. There’s a fossil station, where kids can make their own replica fossils, as well as an earthquake/tsunami station, a fluorescence station, a rock and mineral station, a chemistry station, and more. The center is mostly geared toward student groups and birthday parties, but individuals can take along on many of the group tours; just visit tulsageosciencecenter.org to view the schedule and book a tour.
John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, 321 N. Detroit Ave.
Built in 2009, John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park is a beautiful green space that serves to tell the story of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Two public art pieces, Hope Plaza and the Tower of Reconciliation, educate and inspire with their depictions of the African American struggle—from the slave migration to settlement of free blacks in Oklahoma—and the horrific events that took place in 1921, as well as the resilience of the black community at the time, who rebuilt their neighborhoods and businesses after the riot.
Woody Guthrie Center, 102 E. Mathew B. Brady St.
In addition to bringing Woody Guthrie’s extensive archives back to Oklahoma, the Woody Guthrie Center also offers an interactive public museum that traces the history, not only of Woody Guthrie’s life, but of folk music as well. The center also hosts concerts and other events on a regular basis.
Chapman Centennial Green, 600 S. Main St.
Downtown Tulsa offers a surprisingly ample amount of green space, perfect for letting the little ones run wild and burn off excess energy. Chapman Centennial Green is located in downtown’s central business district, and is home to occasional outdoor plays, concerts, and festivals. There’s also a modern water fountain kids have been known to splash around in from time to time. (But you didn’t hear that from us.)
Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge, 211 S. Elgin Ave.
This eight-lane retro-inspired bowling alley in the heart of downtown Tulsa’s Blue Dome District isn’t just a place for adults to play; during the daytime hours (say, 4-8 p.m. on weekdays and 12-5 p.m. on weekends) it’s a great place to take the kids to knock over a few pins. Note that the alley is all ages until 8pm.
ONEOK Field, 201 N. Elgin Ave.
Downtown’s minor league baseball stadium, where the Tulsa Drillers play every spring and summer, is also home to the city’s revived professional soccer team, the Tulsa Roughnecks FC. The park’s designers definitely had families in mind when they created the space—two expansive lawn areas mean your kids don’t have to worry about sitting still, and there’s also a playground and a splash pad for half times and seventh-inning stretches. Keep an eye on the events calendar for special activities as well.
Guthrie Green, 111 E. Mathew B. Brady St.
We told you downtown has a lot of green space, right? Guthrie Green is home to weekly events that the whole family can enjoy, from fitness classes to concerts to outdoor movies and more. Food trucks park there at least once a week, and there’s a fountain for splashing during the warmer months.
Owen Park, 560 N. Maybelle Ave.
While not technically in downtown Tulsa, Owen Park is less than five minutes away, just northwest of the city’s center. Tulsa’s first park still has the pond that was built when a stock of nitroglycerine belonging to the Western Torpedo Company was accidentally detonated in 1904. The blast left a huge crater in the ground that was later filled with water and used as a swimming hole (though no one swims in it now except for the ducks and geese that frequent the neighborhood). The park also has a splash pad, playground, and plenty of picnic tables and shade trees.
Tulsa Children’s Museum Discovery Lab, 506 N. Maybelle Ave.
One of Owen Park’s many amenities is the Tulsa Children’s Museum Discovery Lab, which occupies the park’s former recreation center. The museum offers a rotating array of exhibits designed to educate kids about science, math, and engineering, as well as afford them (and their parents) a good time. The tape slide is a fan favorite, and The Workshop, a maker’s lab for tots, lets kids put their skills and creativity to use and gives them a souvenir to take home.
Holly Wall is a freelance writer and a native Tulsan who loves ethnic cuisine, live theatre, road trips and running. Curious with a penchant for the quirky, she's always on the lookout for something new to try and a good story to tell.