The Very Best of Oklahoma

The great state of Oklahoma is known for its many casino’s and tornadoes, but I want to reassure you that it has so much more to offer than it’s very shiny, very flashy gambling facilities and unthinkable weather.

Oklahoma is the home much of our countries Native America history, it has some of the most beautiful state parks, museums and festivals full of so much history and yes of course, those casino’s everyone is talking about. I want to make sure that I give you a glimpse of some of the parts of Oklahoma that are not common knowledge, some inside local advice if you will.

Fun Facts About Oklahoma!

Let’s start off with some fun facts, shall we?

  • The world’s first installed parking meter was in Oklahoma City, on July 16, 1935
  • Okmulgee owns the world record for largest pecan pie, pecan cookie, pecan brownie, and biggest ice cream and cookie party
  • Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma.
  • At around 200, Oklahoma has more man-made lakes than any other state.

More than Casino’s and Tornadoes

Did you see that, Garth Brooks was born and raised in this amazing state. The rumor is Nashville the place to be, but in reality Oklahoma’s your best bet if you want to make as a country singer. Need more proof than the King of Country, well there is also Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Ronnie Dunn, and many more so hurry on over aspiring country singers were waiting for you! All joking aside I want to make sure that you understand how truly incredible Oklahoma really is.

How to Get Around

With a perfect combination of city and country, Oklahoma is a center spot to meet all personality types. Depending on which part of the state you choose to state can determine the transportation style you want to choose also. While, I highly recommend driving or renting a car while visiting Oklahoma because of the relaxed nature of the state, however there are some areas like Oklahoma City that have public transportation. Unlike some states, Oklahoma does not normally have a ton of traffic and we have plenty of parking, so that should not be a problem either.

Route 66

If you have ever wanted to take a road trip, Route 66 is one of the most well known historical routes in the United States. Oklahoma is right in the heart of this beautiful history. So you can enjoy a great road trip see some historical town and follow the best of Route 66.

State Parks

Oklahoma is home to many beautiful state parks, each with its very own unique charm that has a lasting affect on those who visit them. If you are looking for an unforgettable nature experience you can find an array of activities such as lodging, fishing, swimming, hiking, Kayaking and hunting at most if not all of the Oklahoma State Parks.

My families favorite Oklahoma state parks to visit is Beavers Bend.

Beavers Bend

Beavers Bend is a wonderful place for nature lovers of all ages and is located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River.  It is a wonderful place to slow down, unwind and enjoy the beauty and nature that Oklahoma has to offer. Whether you enjoy the luxurious glam-ping experience or the one with nature experiences, you can find it here.

Beavers bend offers many different options for luxury cabin rentals. These cabins are beautiful, spacious and modern. Most offer a extra amenities such as hot tubs on the balcony, playground equipment for the kids, and full kitchens, which makes our stay so much more relaxing. We have booked our cabins through several different cabin rentals in the past, but our favorite, hassle free choice is Beavers Bend Adventures.

Beavers Bend also provides tent/RV camping, along with many other activities and rental services. Some activities that you can participate in are:

  • Biking
  • Canoeing/Rafting/Kayaking
  • Various children’s Programs
  • River Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming
  • Tennis Court
  • Watchable Wildlife
  • Rock and Mineral finding
  • And More

For more information on activities, camping information and prices visit the Beavers Bend State Park Information website.

Places To Eat Near Beavers Bend

When you visit this amazing state park, you can always cook yourself, but if you want to enjoy some great dining experiences here are two of my favorite places.

The Grateful Head

This groovy pizza joint is a neat change of scenery. Their menu is fully loaded with oddly creative recipes that are worth trying. I recommend the “tree hugger” or the “funky chicken,” both are amazing! For the not so adventurous type, you can make your own safe pizza.

Blue Rooster

This is my favorite place to eat, it is not only a fun place, but the food and service has always been great. The Blue Rooster serves fried anything you can think of, family style. We always walk away satisfied. Another thing I love is that it is a great place for kids, they roll out a piece of paper to cover the table and the kids (and adults) stay entertained until the food is served. This is a must try!

The Gathering Place

Not too long ago, Facebook went crazy about a place called the Gathering place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The reviews were amazing, the captions read that it was equivalent to Disney World, but free. I want to tell you, it is a pretty amazing place. We recently went and our kids had an amazing time and I highly recommend it.

There is something to do for all ages, and I mean ALL ages. I found my husband in the play area’s, “testing” the safety of the slides several times.

We got to the park at 9 am and the park was relatively empty. We did not have to fight large crowds of people to enjoy any part of the park. We spent the day climbing ropes, playing in the sand, making tornadoes, climbing in sitting pods and swinging on zip lines, the possibilities were endless!

From a Mom’s Point of View

It was definitely the place to be full of fun and excitement for all member’s of the family. As as a mom I value some parts of the park that my kids or even my husband would never have thought about. There were several bathrooms throughout the park and the were so CLEAN. My children visit the bathrooms a lot, I am certain we went to them all and everyone of them were very well maintained.

The parking was plentiful! now it appeared to get a little busy when we were leaving in the afternoon. Even then though, there were many parking options, unlike some places that you visit. This is always a nice way to start off your trip.

The play area’s were themed and backed by education. I LOVE when my kids are learning while they play. There is an interactive part of the park where you can make tornadoes, learn about music, sounds and echos… We spent quite a bit of time in this area, just trying to figure it all out. The coolest part is that it was designed into a maze, so that alone kept my children busy.

The Thought Behind It

I was fascinated with the amount of thought that was put into creating such an amazing park. The toddler area was not only size appropriate, but the color schemes, the theme and deliberately placement so that parents can see their children was mind blowing and quite honestly, relieving. There was a sand are where toddlers could play and a soft padded ground area.

The bigger play areas had the same thought behind it. The themes were so uniquely interesting. It was not something you have seen over and over again. They put forth the effort to match the theme to the play. The crazy slides were located at the “inventors” play area, the green hanging pods where located in the tree play area, the maze was the theme of the arts and science play area… They put a lot of effort into making sure it was a great experience.

Other’s Amenities

We spent most of our time in the play areas, but there were several other amenities as well. There was a skate park, kids activities and so much more.

They also have a couple eating options with plenty of healthy options that even the kids will love. They have an option to eat outside on the lawn, on picnic tables and inside in the cafe. The prices were a little higher than we normally like to pay, but for free entry they have to make money somewhere.

They do allow you to bring in coolers and outside food. We brought snacks and a small cooler full of drinks and a lunch for my dietary restricted daughter in to the park and had no issues.

In conclusion…

Oklahoma is a great place to visit if you are looking for a slower pace relaxing visit. It is not only full of so much history, culture, nature and fun. I highly encourage Oklahoma as a place to visit for all ages.

Danielle Farrington, MBA
Impossibly Imperfect
 
 
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The Very Best of North Carolina

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Though I’ll be sharing a huge variety of activities for you to enjoy in my beautiful state, I am an outdoor lover, so I’ll start with one of the best budget-friendly and family-friendly activities you can enjoy anywhere in North Carolina – our state parks!  This year, NC State Parks have continued the NC 100 mile challenge where the goal is to log 100 miles of outdoor activity over the course of the year.  This can be hiking, walking, running, biking, swimming, or kayaking and you can earn badges and prizes along the way.  This is a wonderful initiative to encourage physical activity with the whole family (including furry friends) while exploring the 27 state parks.  Fun fact – ask for a passport at any of the state parks and you can request a stamp at each park you visit. Once you have visited all 27 parks you will earn a reward, so it’s a fun challenge for those who are ambitious and want to hike portions of the Appalachian Trail and/or Mountains To Sea Trail.

One of my favorite parks is Hanging Rock State Park which is up near the Virginia border and offers a nice variety of trails as well as places to camp.  We love bringing our Cattle Dog Mix (Sasha) along for our outdoor adventures.

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Now that you’ve seen some of what the state parks have to offer, let’s delve into the major regions of North Carolina and what each one is famous for.

The Piedmont Triad

First, we’ll start with the Piedmont Triad, which is the north-central region where I live.  The Triad is made up of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston Salem and has a lot of kid-friendly activities.  Just north of us, you can visit the home of Andy Griffith in Mayberry!

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Greensboro

  • We boast a large variety of public artwork throughout the city as well as student-created Jeansboro sculptures due to the large influence of Wrangler in this city.
  • Along with Charlotte and Raleigh, Greensboro was a resettlement city for Montagnards so you will notice many Lao and Vietnamese restaurants and markets due to this population.  I love the ethnic diversity in Greensboro!
  • Stop in for the best dessert of your life at Maxie B’s and be sure to grab a hot dog at Yum Yum.
  • Take your pooch to The Barking Deck where you can enjoy some brews while they play with other dogs.

High Point

Winston Salem

The Triangle

Next up is the Triangle which consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  You may be most familiar with this area of the state because it is basketball central.  

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Raleigh

  • The beautiful State Capitol building is definitely worth a visit
  • The train station was recently revamped and is quite modern and clean.  We love traveling via train here for New Years and other holidays.
  • Check out the NYE celebration here with the Acorn drop.

Durham

Chapel Hill

The Coast

Any beach lovers out there?  If so, North Carolina has some gems for you in that category.  When we were first married, my husband and I lived in Wilmington for a few months, which is right on the coast.  Thankfully it is recovering from the recent hurricane damage and is starting to flourish once again. There are so many nice coastal cities, it was hard to narrow it down!

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Wilmington Area

  • Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach, along with Topsail are all wonderful places to enjoy the sun and sand, as well as fishing.  You can even stay in a shipping container for a unique accommodation just 2 blocks from the beach in Carolina Beach!  We stayed here recently and it was a blast. It’s also pet-friendly!
  • Visit the Riverwalk, Battleship NC, and enjoy some volleyball at Capt’n Bills or Dig and Dive.
  • Visit Fort Fisher’s Aquarium.
  • Check out the Venus Flytrap Trail to see some carnivorous plants.
  • Try to locate all the Bear statues in nearby New Bern.
  • Enjoy fresh sushi and home-made sake at Genki.

Outer Banks

  • This area has a less touristy and more untouched feel than most beach areas since it’s a little harder to get to, but it’s definitely worth the trip!
  • Make sure to see the lighthouses – Hatteras, Bodie Island and Ocracoke are my favorites.
  • Ocracoke Island is just a short ferry ride away from the mainland and is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with your significant other.  They have plenty of Inns and B&B’s on the island.
  • Enjoy seeing wild horses in Corolla
  • Visit the original Duck Donuts.  Maple Bacon flavor is legit.
  • Stop by the huge sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

Maybe the beach isn’t really your thing and you’d rather spend time in a big city with plenty of options for shopping, professional sports, the arts, fine dining, etc.  Charlotte has a lot of options for you if so!

Charlotte Area Attractions

  • Pro sports – go watch NASCAR or see the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights or Charlotte Checkers play.  
  • IKEA – even if you don’t need to buy anything, it’s a fun activity to just walk through.  Be sure to try the Swedish meatballs and chocolate cake.
  • Indoor Skydiving at iFLY
  • US National Whitewater Center – this place has EVERYTHING!  Rafting, music festivals, SUP, ropes courses, mountain biking, trail races, rock climbing, kayaking and much more.  It’s also pet-friendly and you can bring your own hammock to chill in.
  • Enjoy a night out in NODA enjoying some shopping, music and the arts.
  • South Park Mall – if you just want to shop at a posh mall that has all the top shelf stores, this is your place.

As you can tell, Charlotte isn’t lacking for things to do, but it can get rather hectic and congested with traffic.  For a more relaxed setting, why not head to the mountains? I must admit, growing up I was a total beach girl, hated the cold and didn’t appreciate the mountains.  Then, I married a mountain man who went to school in Boone, and he has slowly won me over and showed me just how much there is to love about the colder temperatures and stunning scenery.  Some of our favorite mountain towns are below, but you can’t go wrong with any of them in NC!

Mountain Towns

Boone

  • Named after the famous pioneer Daniel Boone, it is home to Appalachian State University, Appalachian Mountain Brewery and countless outdoor activities for both winter sports and water sports in the warmer months.
  • Not far from Boone is Blowing Rock where kids will love the Tweetsie Railroad.
  • Nearby Banner Elk is a fun stop and is famous for the Wooly Worm Festival.

Asheville

  • Probably most famous for The Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway, this eclectic hippie town is home to countless breweries and a huge selection of restaurants.
  • Our favorite restaurant/brewery is Bhramari Brewing!  Just around the corner from Wicked Weed and much less crowded.  
  • If you visit in warmer months, be sure to check out Sliding Rock and the many swimming holes and waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.  
  • You can save money by camping at Lake Powhatan which is a short drive to downtown Asheville or by staying at Airbnb’s just outside the city.

Chimney Rock, Pilot Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain

  • These all deserve a visit as well, but beware of the crowds – it’s best to visit very early in the day or in the off-season in order to find parking and not be grouchy.

Other Unique Sites in NC:

Lastly, don’t you dare leave North Carolina before trying our vinegar-based BBQ.  You can find this in many cities, but my absolute favorite place for this is located between Charlotte and Greensboro in a famous restaurant called Lexington BBQ.  No frills, just amazing flavor and friendly service.  After having mustard based BBQ while living in South Carolina and tomato-based BBQ while living near Kansas City, I can confidently say vinegar based has won my heart, forever and always.

Thank you so much for reading about North Carolina, and please let me know if you have any questions or need any more information on any of the places I’ve mentioned.  I’ll be glad to help if I can!

Author Bio

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Emily is a nutrition and movement coach certified by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition who has made it her goal to plank in as many new places as possible.  After struggling with serious health issues for several years, she learned the importance of embracing healthy living both at home and on her travels. She started her blog The Planking Traveler as a way to share her passion for wellness with others and offer them support in their own health and fitness journeys.  Through sharing her planking adventures, non-toxic living tips, and free fitness opportunities, she hopes to inspire you to embrace enjoyable movement and optimal nutrition as a sustainable lifestyle instead of just a temporary fix to lose weight.  

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Emily thank you for sharing North Carolina with us! I have been there to the Outer Banks and it is beautiful! I hope to visit again sometime.

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