Lawton, nestled in the southwestern part of Oklahoma, is a city bursting with vibrant culture, rich history, and an array of recreational activities. Often overshadowed by bigger cities, Lawton's charm lies in its unique blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. Whether you're an adventure seeker, history buff, or just looking for a fun family day out, Lawton has something for everyone. With the Wichita Mountains forming a picturesque backdrop and a community that thrives on art, music, and history, there's no shortage of "Fun Things to Do in Lawton, OK."
From the sprawling landscapes of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to the bustling lanes of Central Mall, Lawton is a city that promises adventure at every turn. Its deep-rooted Native American heritage provides a unique twist to its attractions, making it a haven for those eager to delve deep into America's past. And for those who wish to experience the city's contemporary side, Lawton offers modern entertainment facilities, plush resorts, and delectable dining experiences.
Indeed, one could argue that the real beauty of Lawton lies not just in its attractions but in its people. The city's residents are known for their warm hospitality, making every visitor feel right at home. This community spirit, combined with the myriad of activities on offer, ensures that there's no dearth of "Fun Things to Do in Lawton, OK."
In this guide, we'll take you on a whirlwind tour of Lawton, uncovering its hidden gems and popular spots. Each section will dive deep into a particular attraction, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of what to expect and how to make the most of your visit. So, without further ado, let's embark on this exhilarating journey through Lawton!
Discovering the Rich History at the Museum of the Great Plains
The Museum of the Great Plains stands as a testament to Lawton's deep-seated history and its role in shaping the American West. Located in the heart of the city, this museum offers a captivating journey through time, highlighting the stories, cultures, and events that molded the region.
Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted by life-sized exhibits that depict the everyday life of early settlers and indigenous tribes. One of the most striking displays is a replica of a Plains Indian village, complete with tepees, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience the customs and traditions of the Native Americans.
But the museum isn't just about ancient history. It also sheds light on the challenges and triumphs of the 20th century, from the oil boom to the struggles of the Dust Bowl. Interactive exhibits provide hands-on learning experiences, making it an ideal spot for families with children.
The Museum of the Great Plains also boasts an outdoor exhibit, featuring historical buildings and machinery that played a pivotal role in the region's development. The old trading post and the 1902 Elgin Depot are particular favorites, offering a glimpse into the bustling trade activities of yesteryears.
One standout feature is the children's discovery area. Designed to provide a hands-on learning experience, this section allows kids to immerse themselves in the world of the Plains Indians and early settlers. They can try their hands at traditional crafts, play indigenous games, and even participate in storytelling sessions, ensuring that their visit is not just educational but also fun-filled.
Another highlight of the museum is its research facility. Equipped with thousands of documents, photographs, and records, this section is a treasure trove for researchers and historians. It provides invaluable insights into the socio-cultural evolution of the Great Plains and its impact on modern-day America.
But it's not just the exhibits that make the Museum of the Great Plains a must-visit. The architecture itself is a testament to the region's heritage. The building, with its modern design interspersed with traditional elements, encapsulates the essence of Lawton – a city that embraces its past while looking forward to the future.
The museum also regularly collaborates with local artists and craftsmen, showcasing their work and providing a platform for cultural exchange. From pottery and beadwork to paintings and sculptures, the art displayed here reflects the rich tapestry of cultures that have called the Great Plains home.
For those looking to take a piece of Lawton's history home, the museum shop offers a wide range of souvenirs, books, and crafts. Each item is carefully curated to ensure that it represents the essence of the Great Plains, making it a perfect memento of your visit.
Exploring the Beauty of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, spread over 59,000 acres, stands as an iconic representation of Lawton's natural splendor. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, this refuge offers a myriad of activities set against a backdrop of rugged beauty. From scenic drives and picturesque hiking trails to rare wildlife spotting opportunities, the Wichita Mountains promise a one-of-a-kind adventure.
Upon entering the refuge, one is instantly captivated by the grandeur of the Wichita Mountains. These ancient granite peaks, some of the oldest in North America, have stood the test of time and provide a unique terrain for exploration. The refuge is crisscrossed with trails catering to hikers of all skill levels. The Charon's Garden Wilderness Area is particularly popular among seasoned hikers, offering challenging trails and breathtaking vistas.
However, the refuge is not just about its scenic beauty; it is a sanctuary for diverse wildlife. Bison, elk, white-tailed deer, and longhorn cattle freely roam the vast grasslands, reminiscent of the Great Plains' earlier days. Birdwatchers, too, are in for a treat, with over 240 bird species recorded in the refuge.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is deeply committed to conservation. The prairie restoration programs here are a testament to the dedication towards preserving the natural habitat. This also means that visitors are given a rare glimpse into the ecosystems of the past, a time when vast prairies dominated the landscape.
For those looking to learn more about the refuge and its inhabitants, the Visitor Center offers a wealth of information. Interactive exhibits, films, and guided tours provide an in-depth understanding of the region's geology, history, and biodiversity. Rangers often lead interpretive programs, sharing fascinating stories and insights about the refuge's flora and fauna.
A unique aspect of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the Holy City. This 66-acre replica of Jerusalem, built into the Wichita Mountains, is known for its annual Passion Play, attracting thousands of visitors. The Holy City offers a serene environment for reflection and prayer, with its chapels, sculptures, and stunning panoramic views.
No visit to the refuge is complete without witnessing a sunset over Mount Scott. The drive to the top is a journey in itself, with winding roads offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. Once at the summit, the world below unfolds in a mesmerizing array of colors, making it a perfect spot for photographers and nature lovers alike.
Adventures Await at Lake Lawtonka
Located at the foothills of the Wichita Mountains, Lake Lawtonka is a shimmering oasis that offers an array of water-based activities. Covering an area of 2,400 acres, this man-made lake is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.
Fishing enthusiasts often flock to Lake Lawtonka, lured by the promise of largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. With its clean, clear waters and well-stocked population, the lake offers an ideal setting for a relaxing day of fishing. Numerous fishing docks and designated areas ensure that anglers of all ages and skill levels have a rewarding experience.
Water sports are another major draw at Lake Lawtonka. The expansive water body is perfect for boating, jet skiing, and kayaking. Rental facilities around the lake ensure that visitors have easy access to equipment, making it convenient for those who don't have their own gear.
For those who prefer staying on land, the shores of Lake Lawtonka offer plenty of recreational opportunities. Picnicking is a favorite activity, with several designated areas equipped with grills, tables, and restrooms. The lush greenery, combined with the lake's serene ambiance, makes it a perfect spot for family gatherings or a quiet day out.
Camping is another popular activity, with two main campgrounds – the East and West Campgrounds – providing amenities for both tent and RV camping. Waking up to the sound of gentle waves and witnessing the sunrise over the Wichita Mountains is a truly magical experience.
Nature trails around the lake offer a chance to explore the local flora and fauna. These trails, ranging from easy to moderate, are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a morning jog. Along the way, visitors can spot various bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers.
Unearthing Native American History at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center
Tucked away in the heart of Lawton is a repository of rich Native American history - the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center (CNMCC). Serving as a bridge between the past and the present, this museum offers an unparalleled insight into the lives, culture, and history of the Comanche Nation, one of the most dominant Native American tribes in the Southern Plains.
As you step into the CNMCC, you're immediately transported into the world of the Comanche people. The museum's exhibits, curated with meticulous detail, trace the tribe's journey, starting from their earliest days as nomadic hunters to their vital role in shaping the history of the Great Plains.
One of the standout displays is the 'Numunuu: The Comanche People' exhibit, which offers an immersive experience through life-sized dioramas, artifacts, and multimedia presentations. This exhibit paints a vivid picture of the Comanche way of life, their traditions, ceremonies, and their unparalleled horsemanship.
Another highlight is the 'Comanche in the Military' exhibit. The Comanche people have a storied military history, and this section pays tribute to their contributions, especially the famed Comanche Code Talkers of World War II. Their unique code, based on the Comanche language, was instrumental in Allied victories and remained unbroken throughout the war.
The CNMCC also delves deep into the arts, showcasing the tribe's rich artistic heritage. Traditional beadwork, pottery, paintings, and textiles adorn the walls, each piece telling a story of its own. These exhibits not only highlight the craftsmanship of the Comanche people but also serve as a testament to their resilience and adaptability.
Beyond the static displays, the museum is a hub of activity, hosting various events, workshops, and lectures throughout the year. These programs, often led by tribal members, offer visitors a chance to engage with the community, learn traditional crafts, or simply enjoy performances that bring Comanche legends and stories to life.
For those looking to take a piece of Comanche history home, the museum shop offers a curated selection of authentic Comanche crafts, books, and souvenirs. Each item is a reflection of the tribe's rich heritage and serves as a memento of your visit.
A Day Out at Elmer Thomas Park
Nestled within the city limits of Lawton lies a verdant oasis known as Elmer Thomas Park. Spanning over 60 acres, this urban park is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, offering a plethora of activities for visitors of all ages.
Upon entering the park, one is immediately struck by its scenic beauty. The serene Lake Helen, located at the heart of the park, offers a picturesque setting for a day out. The lake's calm waters are perfect for paddle boating, with rentals available on-site. Anglers, too, can try their luck, with the lake being home to various fish species.
For families, the park boasts a range of amenities. Playgrounds equipped with modern play structures ensure that the little ones have a fun-filled day. Picnic areas, complete with grills and shaded by tall trees, are ideal for a relaxing meal amidst nature.
One of Elmer Thomas Park's standout features is its miniature train ride. This beloved attraction takes visitors on a leisurely tour around the park, offering panoramic views of the landscape and a unique perspective of the park's attractions.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the park's walking trails. Winding through wooded areas and around the lake, these trails offer a tranquil environment for a morning jog or an evening stroll. Along the way, one might spot various bird species, making it a favorite among birdwatchers.
Throughout the year, Elmer Thomas Park transforms into a hub of activity, hosting various community events. The Festival of Lights during the holiday season is a particular favorite, with the park illuminated in a myriad of colors, creating a magical ambiance.
Thrills and Spills at the Comanche Nation Waterpark
The Comanche Nation Waterpark, located just a stone's throw away from downtown Lawton, offers a refreshing escape from the Oklahoma heat. A favorite among families, this waterpark combines the thrill of water rides with the serene ambiance of a lazy river, catering to visitors of all ages and preferences.
Upon entering, the towering water slides immediately catch the eye. From high-speed body slides to multi-lane racers, adrenaline junkies are sure to have their fill of excitement. For those seeking a milder thrill, the family raft ride offers a delightful journey through twists, turns, and gentle drops.
The park's lazy river, with its meandering course and gentle currents, is perfect for visitors looking to relax and unwind. Guests can lounge on inflatable tubes as the river takes them on a leisurely tour of the park, offering a different perspective of the waterpark's attractions.
Kids are in for a treat at the Comanche Nation Waterpark. The children's play area, equipped with miniature slides, splash pads, and interactive water features, ensures that the little ones have a fun and safe experience. The waterpark's design places a strong emphasis on safety, with lifeguards stationed at key points to ensure that everyone has a carefree time.
Beyond the rides and attractions, the Comanche Nation Waterpark offers a range of amenities to enhance the visitor experience. Cabana rentals are available for those seeking privacy and shade. These cabanas, equipped with comfortable seating and refreshment options, offer a private oasis amidst the buzz of the waterpark.
No day out is complete without some delectable snacks, and the waterpark doesn't disappoint. Multiple food outlets serve a variety of treats, ranging from classic hot dogs and burgers to healthier salad options. And for those looking to beat the heat, the park's ice cream parlor offers a range of flavors to satisfy every sweet tooth.
Shopping and Dining at Central Mall
Central Mall, situated in the heart of Lawton, stands as a testament to the city's evolving urban landscape. Combining the best of retail, dining, and entertainment, Central Mall offers a holistic shopping experience that caters to visitors of all tastes and preferences.
As you step into the mall, the sheer variety of retail outlets immediately stands out. From high-end fashion brands to local boutiques, Central Mall offers a diverse shopping experience. Whether you're in the mood for some retail therapy or simply window shopping, the mall's wide corridors and aesthetically designed spaces ensure a pleasant experience.
Beyond shopping, Central Mall is a gastronomic delight. The food court boasts a plethora of options, from classic American fast food to international cuisines. For those seeking a more refined dining experience, several restaurants offer a sit-down meal in a cozy ambiance. Whether it's Italian pasta, Asian stir-fry, or a classic steak, Central Mall promises a culinary journey that tantalizes the taste buds.
Entertainment is a key aspect of Central Mall's appeal. The state-of-the-art cinema multiplex screens the latest blockbusters, ensuring that movie buffs have a memorable cinematic experience. The mall also hosts various events throughout the year, from fashion shows to community gatherings, adding a touch of vibrancy to the shopping experience.
Strolling Through the Historic Mattie Beal Home
History enthusiasts visiting Lawton will find a hidden gem in the form of the Mattie Beal Home. This magnificent two-story mansion, built in the early 20th century, offers a glimpse into the city's rich heritage and the lifestyle of its early inhabitants.
The story of the Mattie Beal Home is intrinsically linked to the Oklahoma Land Lottery of 1901. Mattie Beal, a young telephone operator, was the second name drawn in the lottery, granting her a claim to a sizable portion of land. The mansion she constructed on this land stands as a testament to the architectural styles and sensibilities of that era.
The home, with its unique combination of Victorian and Georgian architectural elements, is a visual delight. As visitors step inside, they are transported to a by-gone era. The meticulously preserved interiors, complete with period furniture, artifacts, and personal belongings, offer an immersive experience.
Guided tours of the Mattie Beal Home provide fascinating insights into the history of the mansion, the life of Mattie Beal, and the broader context of early 20th-century Lawton. Each room has its own story, from the elegant drawing rooms to the servant quarters, painting a comprehensive picture of life during that period.
Relishing Art at the Leslie Powell Foundation & Gallery
Art and culture aficionados will find a haven in Lawton's Leslie Powell Foundation & Gallery. Established in the mid-20th century, this institution has been pivotal in promoting visual arts and literature in Southwest Oklahoma, ensuring that Lawton's artistic heritage thrives amidst modernity.
Stepping into the Leslie Powell Gallery, visitors are immediately enveloped by a world of artistic expression. The gallery showcases a rotating collection of artworks, ranging from contemporary paintings and sculptures to traditional crafts, reflecting the diverse tapestry of artistic styles and mediums. Both local and nationally acclaimed artists find representation here, making it a hub for artistic dialogue and discovery.
One of the unique features of the gallery is its commitment to promoting emerging artists. Regular exhibitions provide a platform for budding talents to showcase their work, bridging the gap between established artists and newcomers. These events often become interactive, with artists discussing their inspiration, techniques, and artistic journeys, providing invaluable insights for aspiring artists and art enthusiasts alike.
Beyond visual arts, the Leslie Powell Foundation has been instrumental in promoting literature in the region. Regular poetry readings, book launches, and literary discussions bring together authors, poets, and the community, fostering a love for the written word.
The gallery's design, with its open spaces and ambient lighting, ensures that each artwork gets its due prominence. The serenity of the space, combined with the vibrant artworks, creates an atmosphere that inspires creativity and introspection.
Tee Off at the Lawton Country Club
For golf enthusiasts, Lawton presents a pristine escape in the form of the Lawton Country Club. With its meticulously maintained greens, challenging courses, and scenic beauty, this club is a testament to the city's commitment to sports and recreation.
Nestled amidst the rolling plains, the Lawton Country Club offers a golfing experience that blends skill with nature. The 18-hole course, with its strategic water hazards, bunkers, and undulating greens, promises a challenge for both novices and seasoned players. The backdrop of the Wichita Mountains adds a touch of serenity to the game, making each round a memorable experience.
Beyond golf, the Lawton Country Club is a hub of activity. The clubhouse, with its elegant architecture and modern amenities, offers a range of dining and recreational options. The swimming pool, tennis courts, and fitness center ensure that members have diverse options for relaxation and exercise.
Regular events, from golf tournaments to social gatherings, foster a sense of community among members. The club's commitment to fostering sports is evident in its training programs, with seasoned professionals offering lessons in golf, tennis, and other sports.
Energizing Events at the Lawton Speedway
The roar of engines, the thrill of speed, and the exhilaration of a race – welcome to the Lawton Speedway. For decades, this racetrack has been the heart of motor racing in Southwest Oklahoma, drawing enthusiasts from all over the region for its pulsating events.
Situated on the city's outskirts, the Lawton Speedway offers a unique racing experience. The oval track, designed for sprint car racing, ensures close battles, tight overtakes, and edge-of-the-seat finishes. Whether you're a seasoned racing fan or a newcomer, the energy and thrill of a race day here are unparalleled.
Beyond the main events, the speedway often hosts special races, including vintage car races, monster truck events, and motorcycle races. These events, apart from their racing thrill, offer a glimpse into the broader world of motorsports, making it a haven for automotive enthusiasts.
The spectator facilities at the Lawton Speedway are designed to enhance the race-watching experience. Elevated stands offer unobstructed views of the track, ensuring that fans don't miss a moment of the action. On-site food and beverage stalls keep the energy levels high, adding to the festive atmosphere of a race day.
Immersing in Local Culture with the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra
For those who appreciate the finer things in life, the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra offers an escape into a world of musical grandeur. Established over half a century ago, this orchestra has become synonymous with musical excellence in Southwest Oklahoma, bringing classical masterpieces to life with its captivating performances.
Housed in the McMahon Memorial Auditorium, the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra boasts a repertoire that spans across centuries and genres. From the timeless classics of Beethoven and Mozart to contemporary compositions, each performance is a testament to the musicians' dedication, skill, and passion.
Under the guidance of seasoned conductors and directors, the orchestra has honed a sound that is distinct and impactful. Each musician, whether playing the sweeping notes of a violin or the resonant tones of a cello, contributes to an ensemble that is harmonious and enthralling.
Beyond its regular performances, the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra is deeply committed to community engagement. Outreach programs, educational workshops, and interactive sessions bring the world of classical music closer to the residents of Lawton. These initiatives, often targeting schools and community centers, nurture the next generation of musicians and music enthusiasts.
Special events, from festive concerts to collaborations with guest artists, add diversity to the orchestra's calendar. These events, often sold out, are a testament to the orchestra's place in the hearts of the Lawton community.
Basking in the Beauty of El Sill Hill
A hidden gem in the landscape of Lawton is El Sill Hill, a natural vantage point that offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding beauty. Located near Fort Sill, this hill is a favorite among locals for its serene environment, walking trails, and breathtaking sunsets.
As you ascend El Sill Hill, the hustle and bustle of the city gradually fade, replaced by the tranquil sounds of nature. The pathways, though moderately challenging, are well-marked, ensuring a safe ascent for visitors. Along the way, information boards provide insights into the local flora and fauna, making the hike both enjoyable and educational.
Upon reaching the summit, visitors are rewarded with a 360-degree view that encapsulates the essence of Lawton. The sprawling cityscape, juxtaposed with the distant silhouette of the Wichita Mountains, creates a picturesque setting that is perfect for photography, meditation, or simply basking in nature's beauty.
El Sill Hill is also a haven for birdwatchers. Its elevated position and diverse vegetation attract a variety of bird species, from soaring eagles to chirping songbirds. The hill's tranquil environment, combined with its rich biodiversity, ensures a rewarding experience for nature enthusiasts.
Lawton, a city nestled in the southern part of Oklahoma, is often overshadowed by its larger counterparts. Yet, as we've explored, it's a treasure trove of experiences that showcase the region's rich history, culture, and natural beauty. From its historical landmarks and cultural institutions to its serene natural spots and bustling urban centers, Lawton stands as a testament to the diverse tapestry of experiences Oklahoma offers.
The essence of Lawton lies not just in its attractions but in its spirit. It's a city that reveres its past while embracing the future, ensuring that both residents and visitors have a myriad of experiences to indulge in. The rich Native American history, reflected in the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, tells tales of resilience, culture, and a deep connection to the land. The Wichita Mountains, with their rugged beauty and abundant wildlife, serve as a reminder of nature's grandeur and the importance of conservation.
Lawton's urban spaces, such as the Central Mall, offer a modern contrast to its natural and historical sites. Yet, even here, the community's spirit shines through. Events, gatherings, and cultural festivities ensure that there's a palpable sense of community, making even the most modern spaces feel intimate and welcoming.
The city's commitment to the arts, highlighted by the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Leslie Powell Foundation & Gallery, showcases its sophisticated side. These institutions are not just venues for artistic expression; they're hubs of community engagement, ensuring that the arts remain accessible and relevant.
As we've journeyed through Lawton's attractions, one thing becomes clear: the city's true charm lies in its diversity. Whether you're an adventurer seeking thrills in the Wichita Mountains, a history buff delving into the tales of the Great Plains, or an art enthusiast immersing in classical symphonies, Lawton promises an experience that resonates.