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Oklahoma City

Increasingly known by its airport code as "OKC", Oklahoma City (pop. 580,000) is the largest city in Oklahoma and well as its capital, and the most recent city to score a major league sports franchise, the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City is the center of a metro area with about 1.3 million people and is the largest city by land area in the U.S. whose government is not consolidated with a county.And, according to the famous Route 66 song, it looks "so, so pretty."

Oklahoma City is a major oil, energy and aviation center and still features one of the top livestock markets in the world. Like Edmond, Oklahoma City was founded the day of the 1889 land run. Its success with railroad locations, livestock trade and more gave it the gravitas it need to wrestle the state (and former territorial) capital away from Guthrie during the 1910s, with the current capitol building dedicated by 1917. When oil was discovered in 1928 within the city limits, the boomtown times really took off.

Trivia: When oil was discovered in Oklahoma City on December 4, 1928 at SE 59th Street & Bryant, the gusher that took place took 27 days to be capped, during which time is spewed out 110,496 barrels of oil.

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Interestingly, Oklahoma City's history also includes being a major film exchange. The first film exchange sprang up in the city in 1907. By 1930, the likes of Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Fox Films had offices in Oklahoma City. The film exchange declined by the 1970s and today it has become a revitalized area known as the Film Exchange District.

Route 66 heads into Oklahoma City on Kelley Ave., then a short sort-of junction with I-44 sends you to Lincoln Ave., a wide boulevard Route 66 follows to the State Capitol. From there, it heads west on 23rd Street, accessible via an exit ramp heading due west from the capitol complex. A ride down I-235 south, which shows up shortly, gives you access to downtown Oklahoma City and many of its sights.

Sights in downtown Oklahoma City include Bricktown, a re-emerging cultural district and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, site of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building that killed 168 people, damaged over 350 buildings in the downtown area and shook the city — and the nation - to its core.

The site of the Memorial today includes fragmented sections of the Murrah Building itself, an overlook, information displays, a long reflecting pool where the building once stood and the "Field of Empty Chairs" — one for each of the 168 killed.

Back up I-235 to the NW 23rd Street exit, turn west (left) to follow Route 66 through Oklahoma City neighborhoods. Down NW 23rd Street, you traverse a busy retail and commercial district that include some classic older buildings such as the Tower Theater, built in 1937. Like too many great theaters, at one point it had to close. A recent renovation led to a reopening, including the bright marquee sign that began to light up the night again in 2009. Read more about that here. Nearby at the corner of NW 23rd& Hudson is Cheever's Café, a newer restaurant in an older building that once served Route 66 travelers as a flower shop. Try Juan's Queso Chihuahua or the Mixed Seafood Tamale... as you might have guessed, this isn't your traditional café or diner.

At May Street, turn right (north) and then left (west) at NW 39th Street, which rides along I-44 for a spell. Look for Ann's Chicken Fry House if you're still hungry and want a true helping of Route 66 nostalgia. This is the place to come if you're up for some fried okra, fried peaches, main dishes smothered in mashed potatoes and gravy and, of course, fried chicken. Once a gas station, you can spot Ann's today not by pumps but by a pink Cadillac and vintage police car out front. At night, there is plenty of neon!

Heading west out of OKC, you stay on a broad boulevard lined with businesses of all stripes, knowing that this was once THE way west from Oklahoma's capitol and largest city to California.

BEST WESTERN PLUS Memorial Inn & Suites
1301 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73114-1406
(405) 286-5199
BEST WESTERN PLUS Broadway Inn & Suites
6101 N. Santa Fe Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73118-7526
(405) 848-1919
BEST WESTERN PLUS Saddleback Inn & Conference Center
4300 SW 3rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73108-1024
(405) 947-7000
BEST WESTERN PLUS Midwest City Inn & Suites
6701 Tinker Diagonal
Midwest City, OK 73110-2960
(405) 737-6060
BEST WESTERN PLUS Greentree Inn & Suites
1811 N. Moore Avenue
Moore, OK 73160-3668
(405) 912-8882
BEST WESTERN PLUS Barsana Hotel & Suites
7701 C.A. Henderson Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73139-2422
(405) 601-1200
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