We had never been to Oklahoma so we thought it would be a good overnight stop for us during our summer travels. The next day we went to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
The museum is open from 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily. It costs $8.50 for adults; $7.00 for seniors; $4.00 for children 6-12; and under 5 children are free. They accept all major credit cards.
The museum is located at 1700 NE 63rd Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They can be reached at 405-478-2250. There is a huge free parking lot. The museum is fully handicap accessible.
My first impression was how beautiful the outside of this museum is. An entire side-360 feet- of the building has a mural done by Tom Ryan. It is western motif done as a salute to the west.
I got the feeling I was entering a ballroom because a long canopy covers the outside of the building. On this Wednesday in June it was raining so this canopy came in very handy. Ronald Reagan had just died and we couldnt miss the marble statue of him as we entered the lobby. The museum is gorgeous. It looks more like a ballroom than a museum with glossy tiled floors and long hallways. After we paid I was very impressed that there were several volunteers standing in the lobby area. At first we were just going to ask advice on what they would suggest we see first but instead one spent about 15 minutes with us explaining the entire museum.
We followed their suggestions and started in the theater where you will see a 15- minute orientation film. It is narrated by Tom Selleck and well worth the time. The museum is huge. Rooms and galleries unfold one after the other. We spent about 2 ½ hours here and if Western History were something we were more interested in we could have spent several more hours. In many cases we just touched the tip of the iceberg. There are many areas in which you can take photographs. One I took was in the lobby. Youll see The End of the Trail which is James Earle Frasers sculpture of a horse and rider. It is 18 feet tall and weighs about 4 tons!
The museum became more and more overwhelming to my husband and me the more time we spent here. Although we had a map and my husbands map skills are excellent even he at times wondered how we got from one room to another. I say this particularly to illustrate the extent of galleries in the National Cowboy Museum. The first items we saw were paintings and sculptures. The long hallway to the left is used for special exhibits. This area was being set up for an exhibit with price tags in the thousands for some of the beautiful items. The exhibit area is used both for touring exhibitions as well as special in-house exhibits which is what we were seeing being put in place.
One picture you will take is of the Canyon Princess. This 18 tall, 16,000 pound white cougar sits at the end of the main corridor. It is a gorgeous piece carved from a single slab of Colorado marble.
The William S. and Ann Atherton Art of the American West Gallery includes paintings and sculptures from award winning painters/sculptures and works from artists such as Charles Russell and William R. Leigh. I know little about art and art museums are not where you will usually find me. I found this museum to be different than traditional art museums because of the types of galleries. This particular gallery was one of the more traditional one.
I very much enjoyed two galleries: the Arthur and Shilfra Silberman Gallery of Native American Art and the Native American Gallery. The pieces in the Silberman Gallery change a few times a year displaying various aspects of Native American Art. I truly believe I was Native American in another life so anything pertaining to this culture holds my attention. The paintings are beautiful as are the pottery pieces and clothing made of intricate bead work. In the Native American Gallery youll not only see clothes but tools and utensils used by this culture.
I sat out the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms. There are benches and seats around the museum. My husband was interested in looking at the collection of Colt, Remington, Sharps and Winchester Firearms.
The American Cowboy Gallery was really well done though one I wasnt personally interested in. My husband was fascinated by the collections of saddles, bridles and the many, many different types of barbed wire that has been used by the working cowboy over history. This room was interesting in the way they had some of the artifacts, especially the barbed wire, was set up. There were pull-out drawers after pull out drawers with the names of the type of barbed wire on the draws.
The Western Performers Gallery is new. Youll have a chance to see the ways the West has been shown in books and movies. There is a huge collection of memorabilia including John Waynes Collection of firearms and artwork. Some of you may not know that President Ronald Reagan had been a movie star in many western films before his last job. You will see posters of movies that other stars of the west such as Tom Selleck were in. This will be interesting to you especially if you are a film buff.
I had mixed feelings about the American Rodeo Gallery. The gallery itself looks like a rodeo and shows artifacts of rodeos, clothing and memorabilia. We were able to sit on benches and watch clips of various types of rodeos from roping cattle to seeing how long the cowboy could stay on the horse! My husband found it interesting but we both did not like to see the way the animals were treated thus the mixed feelings. Youll find computer kiosks that show inductees to the Rodeo Hall of Fame. It is a very well done gallery and for many may be the highlight of this museum.
Youll walk into a set of doors which is a replica of a 1900 Western cattle town. You can either walk in or look into full sized structures such as a saloon, school and church. It was interesting that the Pledge of Allegiance was written on the board in the school. During that era, Under God was not written in the Pledge and you can see that those words are not on the chalkboard.
Youll find an area on hands-on, interactive area for children. They can dress up as cowboys, learn about ranch life and pretend they are in a bunkhouse.
Unfortunately due to the weather we couldnt walk around the gorgeous gardens but we could see from the glass walls how pretty the area surrounding the museum is. Youll see a waterfalls and ponds. This alone sets the museum apart from any I can remember visiting.
A truly jaw dropping display is in the Sam Noble Events Center. Youll see landscape artist Wilson Hurleys five panoramic triptychs of the American West. Each scene is 18 x 46 feet! Scenes such as the Pacific Ocean and national Parks are shown. We didnt know what each one depicted but a staff member was very helpful in telling us about each. You can get postcards and other information about these beautiful panoramas in the gift shop. The Events Center is available for a fee to host banquets and conferences.
Before you leave if you are hungry you can eat in their restaurant, Dining on Persimmon Hill. We didnt eat here but youll get a view of the gardens. It is open daily for lunch.
The museum store is very large and has some beautiful items. You wont just find souvenirs; youll find sculptures, paintings, clothing, hats and memorabilia. You may want to walk into it even if you dont intend to buy anything.
Jos Final Thoughts:
I have given you an overview of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. There is a lot more to see such as the statue by James Early Fraser of President Lincoln and the life size sculpture of a military person on a horse with a bayonet in his hand which I took a picture of. The pictures came out well even though many of the areas are dark.
This is not a museum that I would go back to but I think many will love it. It is certainly worth the price of admission if you find yourself in the area. There is enough to see and do to keep both adults and children busy for several hours so it makes a great rainy day attraction. AAA rates is a gem and although it wasnt my favorite site so far on this trip, I recognize how beautiful and well done it is and will give it 5 stars.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question. Reviews of our 3-month summer journey follow:
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Bella Notte This is a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky
Buckstaff Bathhouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas
Bicentennial Mall State Park in Nashville, TN
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN
Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN
National Civil Right Museum in Memphis, TN
Graceland in Memphis, TN
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma
Souper Salad in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Taste of Thai a San Diego restaurant
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