Not many urban destinations can claim the diversity of outdoor recreation options we enjoy in OKC. From climbing to hiking to watersports, OKC has plenty of ways to play outside for casual fun or serious enthusiasts. And with more than 250 days of sunshine each year, you can enjoy many of those options year-round.
The Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River offers some of Oklahoma City’s more popular ways to spend time outdoors, enjoy views of the downtown skyline and get active. Located within walking distance of the hotels and restaurants of the Bricktown Entertainment District, the Boathouse District is the focal point for OKC RIVERSPORT’s rowing, kayaking, running, cycling and fitness programs.
Visitors can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and water bicycles and check out dragon boating. They can zip across the Oklahoma River and back on the SandRidge SkyZip or climb the six-story SandRidge Sky Trail and Slide, an 80-foot adventure course to be climbed while safely fastened in with a harness. Getting down requires sliding down the Sky Slide or dropping via the Rumble Drop.
And opening in May 2016 is RIVERSPORT Rapids, a new 11-acre whitewater rafting and kayaking center. This state-of-the-art aquatic adventure facility will be geared for both family fun and elite athlete training, adding even more outdoor recreation opportunities to the list.
The Youth Zone packs in plenty of adventure for the younger set – the Sky Tykes adventure course, the Cloud Bounce, a miniature zip line and the Extreme Air bungee. The Boathouse District playground is free.
Be sure to wear close-toed shoes in order to enjoy these activities.
Explore downtown on a bicycle with one of the latest additions to recreation in Oklahoma City – Spokies, the city’s bike-share program. Swipe your credit card at any of the eight kiosk locations (found at spokiesokc.com) and enjoy a 30-minute ride. When you’re finished, return the bike to any kiosk, which includes stops throughout the central part of Oklahoma City.
Operating under the same Boathouse District/RIVERSPORT umbrella as the Oklahoma River is the Lake Overholser Boathouse, located just south of the historic Route 66 bridge at the lake. Like the Oklahoma River, this boathouse (formerly known as the Route 66 Boathouse) area offers stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, walking and bicycling trails and other new adventures, such as a “stunt jump” free fall, an extreme swing, a climbing wall and a zip line. The area is open June through October.
Get closer to nature at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge at the north end of Lake Overholser. It is a pristine area of 1,000 acres that have remained unchanged since before statehood. Hiking the area will put you in close contact to whitetail deer, beaver and egrets and beautiful views of lakes, bottomland forest and marshlands. Adventurers also can fish or rent kayaks and canoes and explore the North Canadian River/Oklahoma River through the refuge.
One popular spot among the locals for all kinds of recreation is Lake Hefner, on the city’s central northwest side. On any given day, you’ll find walkers, runners, bicyclers, roller-bladers, skateboarders and more enjoying the Hefner Trails that circle the lake. Catch some of the city’s most glorious sunsets at Lake Hefner, as well as some waves, especially if you’re into sailing or water sports like kitesurfing. On the lake’s south side is the Lake Hefner Golf Course; on the east, at Britton Road off the Lake Hefner Parkway, are restaurants that sit on the lake.
OKC’s own Mat Hoffman is an unparalleled pioneer in the sport of freestyle BMX. He was the subject of the fantastic film “The Birth of Big Air,” produced by Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. Appropriately, Oklahoma City named its new action sports park for Mat in 2005 with the opening of the Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park. The park has been named one of the top 10 skate parks in the U.S. by National Geographic Travel Guide. There’s no admission fee, and the park is open from dawn to 11 p.m.
For hiking, nature and wildlife, visit Martin Park Nature Center at 5000 W. Memorial Rd., an oasis of calm by the busy John Kilpatrick Turnpike. The area features 2.5 miles of hiking trails cut through woods and grasslands of the 144-acre park. Visitors can see many species of animals. The park’s playground, trails and visitor’s center are accessible to those in wheelchairs, too.