With ample museums, vibrant live performances, and enough art-deco architecture to keep a body gazing up and agog for hours, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has no shortage of big-ticket attractions to keep the average visitor busy. Those who prefer to invest their time in something a bit offbeat, however, are in for a treat; tucked among the skyscrapers and stages, they’ll find a number of unconventional memorials and monuments that pay tribute to the history, heritage, and cultural-quirk of T-Town. Here are a few of our favorite activities that await the intrepid traveler, just off the beaten path:
- Find Mr. Right
At 76 feet and 43,500 pounds, the Golden Driller is the fifth-tallest statue in the United States (photo courtesy of Greg McKinney)
Know anybody looking for someone tall, dark, and handsome? How about seventy-six-feet tall, mustard-yellow, and chiseled to perfection? Meet the Golden Driller, Tulsa’s homage to the turn-of-the-century boom that earned the city the honorary title of Oil Capital of the World. Not only is this Teutonic titan the fifth-tallest statue in the United States (his right hand rests on a genuine Oklahoma oil derrick), it’s 43,500 pounds of stoic good looks and rippling abs make it quite possibly the most handsome.
- Take a Trip to the Center of the Universe
Tulsa’s Sonic Center of the Universe is an acoustic anomaly; those who stand in its center will hear any noise they make reflected back to them much louder, but those outside hear nothing (photo courtesy of Tugs on the Road)
It’s closer than you think. And also, perhaps, smaller. From the outside, Tulsa’s Center of the Universe looks unassuming enough—an eight-foot, circular patch of brickwork on the Boston Avenue Overpass—but step into the center and your perception will alter radically. Thanks to the parabolic reflectivity of the circular planters (talk to a science guy about that one), any sound made within the circumference of the circle will be magnified and echo back to the person in the center, but will be rendered all but inaudible to someone standing on the outside only a few feet away.
- Visit the City’s Centennial Time Capsule
After another time capsule, a 1958 Buick by the name of Miss Belvedere, was discovered to have been sitting in a “sealed” concrete bunker of muddy water for fifty years, the city of Tulsa opted to bury the next time capsule aboveground, encasing it in a vault, and then covering it with dirt (photo courtesy of Marc Carlson)
Then make yourself comfortable. In 1998 the people of Tulsa celebrated their centennial anniversary with a time capsule. The contents? A teddy bear, a pair of inline skates, $200, a business card from an Arabian horse dealer, a photo album, a case of root beer, the face-plate from an ATM, and an impressive collection of Beanie Babies, all tucked snugly in a 1998 Plymouth Prowler. You can visit the rather conspicuous looking “burial” site (another time capsule gone awry—one involving a 1958 Plymouth named Miss Belvedere that sat interred in muddy water for fifty years—taught Tulsians a hard lesson about burying things underground) in Centennial Park, but you’ll have to wait another thirty years or so to get your hands on the contents.
- Meet Some Massive Metacarpals
Once called “Healing Hands,” now “Praying Hands,” this 60-foot-high statue is reputedly the largest of its kind in the world (photo courtesy of Jill Reed)
Joining the ranks of Tulsa’s sculptural oddities is the largest pair of praying hands (and reputedly the largest bronze sculpture) in the world. Because, why not? Designed in 1980, the hands were cast in Mexico and shipped to Tulsa in all their thirty-ton glory at the behest of televangelist Oral Roberts, who wanted them to stand vigil over his City of Faith (a medical complex constructed after an alleged conversation between Roberts and a 900-foot Jesus). Though the City of Faith is now defunct, the mighty metacarpals remain, now standing guard over the preacher’s eponymous university.
- Go Funky Spelunking
Once a speakeasy, Tulsa’s Cave House is now a private residence open for “I’ve Always Wanted to See Inside” tours (photo courtesy of Sterling 918)
Tulsa may be famous for the Art Deco treasures of its downtown, but some of the most interesting architecture in the city is a bit more rustic in style. Built in the 1920’s, the Cave House began its existence as the Cave Garden Restaurant: charming diner with outdoor seating by day, speakeasy by night. Guests who preferred the latter option—bootleggers, moonshiners, or folks just looking for a nip during prohibition—entered the house through a series of tunnels that ran deep in the hillside behind the cave and emptied out into a fireplace inside. Though, for reasons unknown, the tunnels have now been closed off, visitors can still explore the labyrinthine interior of one of Tulsa’s quirkiest landmarks.