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Coming Sooner: New Attractions in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City leads the way in bringing exciting new attractions to the Sooner State. Riversport Rapids brings world-class rapids, and whitewater rafting and kayaking to the region for both the novice and the expert in your group. And a stay at the city’s new 21c Museum Hotel will cap off any itinerary.

Elsewhere, the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton is sure to please history buffs with its new interactive exhibits. And Tulsa’s future Gathering Place will feature indoor and outdoor space for get-togethers and recreation.

Riversport Rapids

Oklahoma City

Whitewater rafting and kayaking have arrived in Oklahoma City at the $45.2 million Riversport Rapids whitewater center that opened in May. At one of only three man-made whitewater venues in the nation, pumps recirculate treated water through two channels to create Class II-IV rapids. Located in the city’s Boathouse District, the center offers groups the opportunity to raft, kayak, tube and use inflatable kayaks, also known as duckies.

“Groups can stay in Bricktown and walk five minutes to the attraction,” said Tabbi Burwell, communications manager for the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Or they can stay in the Meridian District and opt to take Oklahoma River Cruise ferry service or the Bricktown water taxi to the Boathouse District.”

The whitewater experience lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes and includes an orientation session, raft instruction and multiple runs down the channels. The center provides all equipment: kayaks, rafts, paddles, lifejackets and helmets. There are viewing areas for those who just want to watch.

“This is a great venue for team building,” said Burwell. “It’s very intensive because you’re in rapids almost the whole time, so it will definitely keep a group entertained.”

The recreational channel makes rafting accessible to novices. Professional guides give instruction and safety lessons. Certified instructors will provide additional lessons and coached programs for those who want to build skills. The competitive channel offers high-octane Class IV rapids on the Olympic-style course and will challenge elite athletes from around the world for training and competition.

“Once groups are off the water, the SandRidge Sky Trail offers a six-story ropes course, a free-fall jump of 80 feet, a zip line across the river, climbing wall and four high-speed slides,” said Burwell. “The Boathouse District can put together a group package that involves only the rapids or the entire district. They also organize picnics and have a new on-site restaurant.”

21c Museum Hotel

Oklahoma City

With an art museum, a boutique hotel and a chef-driven restaurant, the 21c Museum Hotel opened in June in Oklahoma City’s Film Row district. Much more than just a place to spend the night, the 21c is anchored by a contemporary art museum that hosts exhibitions, site-specific art installations and a roster of cultural programming. The “21c” stands for 21st century; the exhibition space shows the work of living artists.

Penguin statues are a signature at each 21c property in the country, and each location features birds of its own color. The hotel founders purchased the penguin sculptures after seeing them perched around Venice, Italy, at the 2005 Venice Biennale as part of a public art project. Penguins were installed as part of the opening exhibition in the first 21c hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, and were wildly popular. The Oklahoma City property has 25 purple penguins.

“It’s very contemporary and different than any hotel in the city,” said Burwell. “Guests that aren’t staying at the hotel can still enjoy the restaurant and museum on the first floor, which isn’t like any museum I’ve been in. This is truly an attraction, as well as a hotel.”

Film Row is a short drive to Bricktown, and the newly revitalized area touts a rich history. Paramount Pictures and MGM once had studios here. The hotel is in the former Fred Jones Assembly Plant where Model Ts were produced. The building had been vacant for many years. According to Burwell, the architects kept much of that history intact. The building still has the original showroom floor and pillars, among other features.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.