Travel Tips and Tricks

Don’t Overlook This Neighborhood: Oklahoma City’s Plaza District Is A Revival of a Cultural Hub

Oklahoma is cool, I promise!

When I tell people I love Oklahoma City, the usual reaction is confusion. Oklahoma City? Is there anything to do there? Many people who have never visited, or don’t know anyone from Oklahoma, assume Oklahoma City is just flatlands and tumbleweeds, with no culture to be found. Every year I visit Oklahoma to see my family, and I’ve gotten to see the growth of Oklahoma City. There’s a thriving arts community, as well as widespread food and drink options. Over the years I’ve developed a love for Oklahoma City’s Plaza District. The street has great thrift stores, local shops and spaces for theater and art. Here’s your guide to one of the coolest streets in Oklahoma.

The Plaza District’s history starts in the 1920s.

In the 1920s through the 1930s, the Plaza District began as a commercial street in a growing neighborhood. The Plaza District thrived all the way up to the 1970s, until the commercial area diminished and crime rates rose. In 1997, neighborhood residents and and volunteers stepped up to revitalize the Plaza District, to engage the community and support local art and business.

Located on NW 16th Street in Oklahoma City, the street is full of unique places to grab a bite to eat.

The Mule has a wide array of sandwiches, and is open late if you want to go for drinks. The Press has a mix of everyone’s favorite southern comfort food, open for brunch, lunch and dinner.

My personal favorite is the Empire Slice House, a pizza place with a lot of character. The walls are collaged with album covers, colorful pictures of celebrities and graffiti — even in the bathroom. They have pizza slices topped with every topping you could think of, with names like “Notorious P.I.G.,” “Foghorn Leghorn,” “Figgy Stardust,” and “Doug E. Fresh.” Plus, they have a patio and beer on tap.

If you’re looking for dessert, try Sasquatch Shaved Ice. It’s a non-profit snow cone stand with “a mission to provide empowering, supportive employment opportunities to youth in the Classen Ten-Penn neighborhood of Oklahoma City.” My family’s go-to dessert is always pie. Pie Junkie has homemade pie, which you can buy by the slice or in whole pies.

Oklahoma City
Decor at Pie Junkie
Oklahoma City
Outside of Empire Slice House on a sunny summer day
Oklahoma City
Inside of the bathroom at Empire
The Plaza District is full of local art shops and thrift shops

Bad Granny’s Bazaar is an amazing and dense thrift store, full of clothes, kitschy knick-knacks, jewelry and more. DNA Galleries totes work made by contemporary artists in the form of the usual drawings and paintings. But they also sell artist-made products like t-shirts, magnets and stickers. Out On A Limb is a handmade and upcycled boutique, focused on sustainability in fashion.

If you want a tattoo, or get your hair cut basically in a record store, the Plaza District’s got you covered.

“No Regrets Tattoo” markets a friendly environment to get a tattoo. Velvet Monkey Hair Salon offers a wide array of hair styling options, but also a back room record store. Once you walk through the salon, you can make your way to the back to find Size Records, one of OKC’s most renowned record shops. After visiting, you’ll be convinced classic record stores and hair salons should always be attached.

If you’re looking to take photos, the Plaza District has ever-changing street art.

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City

Each fall, the Plaza District holds a street festival to celebrate the district and the arts.

The 20th annual festival will happen this year on September 29th. The festival will have live music, performing artists and activities for kids. On the second Friday of every month, the plaza hosts ‘LIVE on the Plaza,’ a block party with music, shopping and special events.  The Plaza District is a growing hub of arts and culture in Oklahoma. The Plaza District Association continues to foster community and a space where people can learn, create and socialize.

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Mariel Cariker is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she...