Oklahoma City at a Glance
Location: Central Oklahoma
Access: Will Rogers World Airport; interstates 35, 40, 235 and 44; Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer
Hotel Rooms: 18,758
Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau
ASM Global/Oklahoma City Convention Center
Exhibit Space: 200,730 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 29,874-square-foot ballroom; 65,000 square feet of pre-function space
Omni Oklahoma City Hotel
Guest Rooms: 605, including 29 suites
Meeting Space: 76,000 square feet
Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City
Guest Rooms: 225, including 20 suites
Meeting Space: 18,500 square feet
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown
Guest Rooms: 396, including 10 suites
Meeting Space: 26,270 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Oklahoma City
American Association of Meat Processors
American Institute of Parliamentarians
First known as Oklahoma Station, Oklahoma City sprang to life within hours when 4,000 to 6,000 settlers descended upon the territory and claimed property in the 1889 Land Run. From that wild and wooly beginning, Oklahoma’s capital has transformed into a modern metropolitan city that embraces its Native American heritage, wide-open spaces and a recreationally busy river flowing through it. Active oil derricks dot its capital grounds, buyers trade at the world’s largest cattle market, and the University of Oklahoma cheers on its football Sooners.
Oklahoma City has garnered numerous kudos recently. Travel + Leisure named it “One of the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2020,” and Meetings Today named it the “Number One City to Watch for Meetings and Events.”
If the question is “What’s new in Oklahoma City?” the answer is bound to be long-winded, thanks to citizens who care about their city’s growth.
In 1993, visionaries proposed the cutting-edge Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (MAPS), to be implemented in stages and funded by a “self-imposed tax” on residents, though the program has spurred a lot of private investment as well. Stage 4 is now in progress, with 16 projects planned. Starting with downtown development, MAPS became the fuel that has created a renaissance and rebranded the city OKC.
Implemented mostly within the past two years, MAPS 3 completed a 605-room Omni hotel; 40 acres of soon-to-be 70-acre Scissortail Park as a community gathering spot along the Oklahoma River with outdoor activities; a streetcar system that stops in 16 neighborhood districts; the OKC Riversport Rapids; and the largest project to date, the $228 million ASM Global/Oklahoma City Convention Center, which opened in February 2021.
“New development dramatically changes the face of the Oklahoma City landscape,” said Zac Craig, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It opens the city to new possibilities in the meetings market.
“OKC is brimming with rich Native American culture and Old West charm. You can see it in our art, our architecture, our restaurants. We’re an interesting blend of old and new. You can see it when you talk to our people. We can talk about the brick and mortar of new attractions all day long, but our greatest assets are our welcoming and friendly residents.”
Opened in September, the architecturally stunning First Americans Museum (FAM) on the Oklahoma River across from downtown, tells the collective stories of the 39 tribal nations in Oklahoma today. Because tribal members were involved in creating Smithsonian-affiliated FAM from architectural design to the development of its interactive exhibits, the visitor experience is powerful and authentic. Its entire design is a cosmological clock, and many of its architectural nuances symbolically reflect those of First Americans, including a seasonal sunset-view Winter Solstice Tunnel.
Five varied meeting and/or event spaces include the Hall of the People, a huge glass structure visible from Interstate 40 that can host up to 700 persons standing.
“FAM is the first place anywhere that we’ve been able to tell our stories from our perspective,” said Ginny Underwood, the museum’s marketing and communications manager. “We want to show that we First Americans are thriving and very much contributing to society today.”
Called “America’s best Western museum” by True West magazine, the 100,000-square-foot National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, was founded in 1955 and explores the state’s cowboy culture, its rugged spirit and its rich influences. Groups can stroll through a late-19th- and early-20th-century cattle town, order a drink in the Silver Dollar Saloon and explore replicas of a Kiowa tepee and a prairie sod house.
A shining star of OKC’s vibrant arts scene, the downtown Oklahoma City Museum of Art houses one of the world’s largest collections of Dale Chihuly’s glass art. Considered its most striking piece is a 55-foot-tall, tree-shaped tower of intricate, multicolored, magical Chihuly glassy marvels.
Major Meeting Spaces
A 10-minute drive from the airport, the ASM Global/Oklahoma City Convention Center features 500,000 square feet of meeting space downtown, complete with exquisite art and soaring glass walls. Its 29,000-plus-square-foot ballroom has 5,000 square feet of prefunction space and a park-view balcony. Managed by ASM Global, the new center is “a game-changer for the city as a meetings destination,” said general manager Al Rojas. “Already, 16 national conventions are booked through 2026.”
Across the street from Scissortail Park, the center offers attendees the opportunity to stroll between meetings. South of it is the 581,000-square-foot Paycom Center, home to the NBA OKC Thunder and major concerts and events.
Between the aforementioned centers, the new 605-guest-room Omni Oklahoma City Hotel boasts 76,000 square feet of event space and dramatic views of the downtown skyline.
Also downtown, the 110-year-old Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City is a gorgeous grande dame with 225 rooms, 14 floors, three towers and 18,200 square feet of meeting space. Its lobby Wall of Fame features such notable guests as Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, several U.S. presidents and famous sports figures.
“We call ourselves historically modern,” said Don Jackson, the hotel’s director of sales. “The Venetian Room, our original 1930s ballroom, is a historic space on the 14th floor, while our second-floor, mid-2000s Grand Ballroom provides 6,100 square feet of modern space.”
Among its numerous kudos, the property was named Historic Hotels of America’s best historic hotel in the organization’s midsize range — 201 to 400 rooms — for 2021.
After the Meeting
The official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site for rowing, canoeing and kayaking competitions, OKC’s Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River, is a mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Options include river cruises, canoe and kayak rentals, walking and cycling trails and the world’s tallest adventure course, the SandRidge Sky Trail.
For team building, corporate picnics and group recreation, Camp Trivera, also in the Boathouse District, feels like a getaway right in the city. Groups of up to 350 can gather in its auditorium; activities include swimming, zip lining and indoor rock-climbing.
Only a short walk away is the Bricktown Entertainment District, renovated old warehouses rife with restaurants, nightlife and entertainment options. There’s even a winery, Put a Cork in It, with event space. On a 40-minute river ride on the tree-lined Bricktown Canal aboard the Bricktown Ferry, ambassadors relate local history and point out important sites along the way. And in this multifaceted city known for its craft breweries, groups on a Ride OKC Bikes and Brews Tour can cycle and sip while learning about its craft beer culture, local facts and lore, art, architecture and food.
Finally, a must-see on any stop in Bricktown is the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, named by Trip Advisor as No. 1 of 123 Things to Do in Oklahoma City in 2020. Memorializing those whose lives were touched by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building here, the attraction offers the possibility of transforming a heinous act of violence into hope and healing.