Oklahoma has a turbulent history. Thousands of Native Americans were marched here from their homelands in the south, after the state was declared an Indian Territory in 1834. Four thousand Cherokee died of starvation and cold en route, on the infamous Trail of Tears. In the 1880s the Indians were relocated once more, as land-hungry white settlers muscled in. Today, an abundance of museums are devoted to Native American history and culture; Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum is one of the biggest and best.
An oil boom briefly brought prosperity to Oklahoma in the 1920s, only to be followed by the Great Depression. Thousands of destitute "Okie" farmers left their homes and set off west to California, inspiring John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath.
The state’s capital, the sprawling Oklahoma City, is no beauty, although multi-million pound initiatives have improved matters considerably; a handful of excellent museums add to its appeal. Oklahoma’s artistic and cultural hub, though, is Tulsa, located in the verdant, wooded Green Country in the northeast. In the south, the Kiamichi, Ouachita and Wichita Mountains have their own wild beauty.
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Oklahoma has cold winters and hot summers. January temperatures range from about -6 (Celsius) to 4 degrees or so. By May it is warming up to mid 20s, and August can go into the 30s. September is cooler, and October temperatures range from the 10s to low 20s.Typical Oklahoma weather is dry and sunny. Precipitation varies from about 38cm (15 inches) in the panhandle to more than 127cm (50 inches) in the southeast. Oklahoma City gets about 23cm (9 inches) of snowfall and is one of the windiest cities in the US.Most of Oklahoma’s severe weather is in the form of high winds. Oklahoma is in the tornado alley, and the peak tornado season is March to May.
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May through September is the high season and when most visitors step off their Oklahoma flights.
Oklahoma City has the Festival of the Arts in April, the Charlie Christian Jazz Festival and Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in June, and the World Championship Quarter Horse Show in November.
The Oklahoma State Fair draws crowds from September to October.
In spring you can get to most attractions with fewer crowds and lower prices. Autumn is also a good time to visit. It may take some searching, but you can find things to do in winter.
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To explore Oklahoma you need a car, but how else would you go down Route 66? There is train service to Oklahoma City, and bus service to the major cities, but little to the rest of the state.
Oklahoma City has the Metro Transit rubber-tyre trolleys that loop the downtown area and go between downtown and several hotels. There is also a bus service that will take you to most destinations. Tulsa has some local bus service and a self-guided walking tour of downtown.
If hiking, biking, and horseback riding are your preferred mode of transit, there are urban, mountain, pine wood, and prairie trails. With all the lakes and waterways, boating, rafting, and kayaking are also popular.
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- It ended here: the Trail of Tears, the forced march, ended at Tahlequah. The Cherokee Heritage Centre incorporates the Cherokee National Museum and Tsa La Gi Ancient Village. Muskogee is where the Five Civilised Tribes Museum is. The tribes are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. For souvenirs such as Indian jewellery, T-shirts, moccasins, rugs, pottery, Indian art, Pendleton blankets, beads and craft supplies, Lyon's Indian Store in Tulsa has been in operation since 1916. Tulsa is also the home of Gilcrease Museum, which houses the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of American Western and Native American art, artifacts, manuscripts, documents, and maps.
- Indian City U.S.A. in Anadarko was established in 1954. It was designed as an outdoor museum of reconstructed American Indian Villages to provide an insight into the routines, religious beliefs, and social life of the First Nations peoples.
- The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is in Stillwater. It promises that you will “feel the heat, smell the sweat and experience the excitement of ancient and modern wrestling”.
- Fishing and water sports are very popular on Oklahoma’s lakes. The state has about 200 lakes. The largest is Eufaula Lake. Water sports available include boating and canoeing, kite surfing, parasailing, water/jet skiing and scuba diving.
- The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is said to be the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left in the world. Tallgrass prairie originally covered 400,000 square miles in the US, but with urban sprawl and agriculture, less than 4 per cent remains. In 1996, the Government created this reserve of nearly 11,000 acres. More than 2,000 bison roam free on the land and a "patch-burn" model approach to prescribed burning protects the ecosystem.
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