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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Saddle Up for Stillwater

Stillwater at a Glance

Location: North-central Oklahoma between Tulsa and Oklahoma City

Access: Off Interstate 35 at the intersection of state Highway 51 and U.S. 177

Hotel rooms: 1,520

Contact Info:

Visit Stillwater


Meeting Hotels

Holiday Inn and Suites Stillwater-University West

Guest rooms: 120

Meeting Space: 2,100 square feet

Best Western Plus Cimarron Hotel and Suites

Guest rooms: 76, including 10 suites; 50 rooms available for blocking

Meeting Space: 4,245 square feet

Off-Site Venues

Tumbleweed Dance Hall

Meeting Space: 100,000 square feet indoors, plus capacity for 10,000 people outdoors

Payne County Expo Center

Meeting Space: 85,000 square feet

Who’s Meeting in Stillwater

National Rural Water Association

Attendees: 500

Special Olympics Summer Games

Attendees: 5,000

Cimarron Valley Quilters Guild

Attendees: 200

If the name Stillwater sounds like a town from the Old West, that’s because it is.

The city was settled by hardy folks who joined the run into the Unassigned Lands of central Oklahoma in 1889. Their descendants embrace all things Western: wide-open ranges, cattle and horses, rodeos, and get-out-and-experience-them woodsy trails, parks and lakes. And yes, cowboy boots, Stetson hats and pickup trucks.

Stillwater even has its own music genre: Red Dirt. This mix of folk, country, blues, bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll always tells a story. And Stillwater’s Big 12 Conference member, Oklahoma State University (OSU), is home to the fighting Cowboys; their mascot, Pistol Pete; and 52 national championships.

Destination Highlights

Alive with lovingly restored storefronts, eclectic boutiques, intriguing museums, linger-awhile cafes and restaurants worth writing home about, 11-block Historic Downtown Stillwater is also the location of the city’s institution of higher learning.

“We’re the nation’s ‘Friendliest College Town,’” said Cristy Morrison, Visit Stillwater’s president and CEO. “We truly believe that’s a promise we can keep. People you’ve never seen before say hello, and if you look lost, folks will always help you find your way.”

Major pluses of this agriculture-based community include no big-city traffic, easy fly-in via two American Airlines flights daily from Dallas/Fort Worth and no strain on the pocketbook.

“Room rates are reasonable here,” Morrison said. “You can get a lot done — live music, art and dance lessons, for instance — more affordably than in larger places.”

Outdoor recreation abounds at nearby Lake McMurtry and Lake Carl Blackwell. Both offer ample opportunities for camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and mountain biking. Boomer Lake features a paved 5K walk/run/bike trail. Attendees will want to arrive early or stay post-meeting and bring their families for fresh-air fun.

Kids will love Lost Creek Safari: Exotic Animal Park, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified habitat that allows up-close encounters with such critters as kangaroos, monkeys, a zebra and porcupines. And Insect Adventure is a bug-petting zoo with 18 types of tarantulas, where folks can learn about insects that eat styrofoam and about making bulletproof vests from spider silk.

Distinctive Venues

Opened in 1976, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater honors the greatest amateur wrestlers — high school, college, Olympics and world — in our nation’s history. Among those lauded are such noted individuals as former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, actor Kirk Douglas and 12 U.S. presidents.

Jack Carnefix, the facility’s operations manager, explained: “The Wrestling Hall of Fame is equal to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts; and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. We’re here to preserve wrestling’s history, recognize individual excellence and inspire future generations.”

Meeting space includes a conference room for 15 and a larger room for up to 100.

At White Barn Estates, a 4,200-square-foot pavilion can host 300 guests for a reception and provide playtime at mini-golf, bumper boats, water balloon wars and sand volleyball. A creativity-focused venue downtown, the Prairie Arts Center leads up to 20 people in artsy teambuilding through paint-your-own pottery mugs.

Run by the OSU Department of Wellness, Camp Redlands is akin to renting your own state park, with a ropes challenge course and a recreation center.

Groups can compete at the 18-hole Karsten Creek Golf Club. Named a Five-Star Facility by Golf Digest, Karsten Creek features a golf shop, a dining room and a practice facility. Tucked in trees that overlook the 18th fairway, three stone-and-cedar guest lodges with six rooms each are a great size for a woodsy corporate retreat.

Major Meeting Spaces

Home to a number of Stillwater’s annual events, the Payne County Expo Center offers nearly 100,000 square feet of space and includes theater seating for up to 1,700 and standing room for up to 400 at a reception. In this agriculture-based community, the center has animal pens and stalls and rodeo grounds. Outside catering is available.

In the center of Stillwater, OSU is rife with meeting venues, including three performing arts centers. The caveat for planners is that university events get first option at all spaces.

With 21,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, the Conoco Phillips OSU Alumni Center can accommodate gatherings of eight to 400, and the nation’s largest student union, OSU’s Student Union Conference Center, has 20 meeting rooms, including a 7,535-square-foot ballroom for up to 850 seated guests, in-house catering and dining options, and a wide terrace under the stars.

Adjacent to the college campus, the Wes Watkins Center focuses on OSU’s internationalization and outreach programs, with lots of high-tech meetings spaces, among them a courtyard for up to 120 and an exhibit hall for up to 750.

With some 25,000 students, OSU affords access to expert speakers in numerous colleges, so planners don’t have to bring in meeting lecturers.

Two meetings hotels are near the campus. The Holiday Inn and Suites Stillwater-University West offers 24-hour business and fitness centers, reception space for 120 and an outdoor patio that works well for meetings. The Best Western Plus Cimarron Hotel and Suites boasts a Western-inspired atmosphere and five meetings rooms, including a dedicated boardroom for 10.

After the Meeting

Rowdy, foot-stomping times abound at Tumbleweed Dance Hall, which accommodates crowds of up to 2,500. Add 10,000 to that number in an outdoor event space. Home of the annual world-famous three-day Calf Fry, this 100,000-square-foot venue offers privatized and full-venue buyouts, corporate-function staff and catering that can include a barbecue.

A jumpin’ little juke joint, Eskimo Joe’s is famous for its cheese fries and T-shirts. This college-town favorite was voted Best College Post-Game Hangout by Sporting News.

Among Stillwater’s myriad entertainment spots, Willie’s Saloon, which features the city’s red dirt music, introduced the music world to country-singing hunk Garth Brooks.

Craft beer aficionados can sample local brews at the Iron Monk Brewing Company. Tours happen twice a day and include tasting flights. Its taproom seats 99.

For quieter gatherings, Sparrow Beginnings has 8,500 square feet of space for 400 seated in a pastoral setting.

“Our 30 acres overlook rolling hills and fields with lots of trees and walking paths,” said owner Susan Hartford. “We have fishing poles, canoes on a pond and a natural amphitheater with permanent seats.”