On a recent trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma we made it a priority to visit the city’s latest project “The Gathering Place,” a riverfront park built entirely from donation dollars. The mission for the park’s construction was to build a park that not only beautified the area but attracted diverse populations to positively interact with one another while enjoying the outdoors. Tulsa nailed it.
The entirely free park sits on 66 acres near downtown Tulsa. Thanks to 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations, The Gathering Place was built with $400 million in donations starting in September 2014. The park opened to the public two years later.
We arrived just after the park opened (regular hours are 9am-10pm) and found a parking spot just outside the Chapman Adventure Playground, an interactive area devoted to children (and adults). Soon after our arrival we found ourselves immersed in the fun of the park. Every inch of the park provides a sensory experience!
Within the Adventure Playground there are areas devoted to testing your strength (and desire for fun) and teaching areas with interactive stations about nature. At one point, my boyfriend and I became so excited wandering around discovering new areas that we lost each other!
Speaking of the park’s vast size, I would recommend picking up a map or viewing the website prior to entering the park. Volunteers walking the park can give you one as well. If you don’t want to spend time climbing wooden fortresses or swinging from ginormous chairs next to giddy children, you should visit the other areas built with just adults in mind such as Peggy’s Pond or the restaurants.
As an adult, I think there’s something completely freeing and almost rebellious about living like a kid again. I took advantage of the opportunity to cross a suspended rope bridge that connected wooden castles, walked through the Mist Mountain, and explored the Sensory Garden with careless abandon and complete curiousity. Without any concern from time, I allowed myself to giggle inside a mirror maze and trample along the path beside man-made waterfalls. It was worth every moment.
Parents toting children will enjoy interacting with their families and taking photos. We saw dozens of families snapping photos of kids playing joyfully at Swing Hill and areas like Slide Vale and Willow Beach. The backdrops for group photos are limitless.
After we took full advantage of the play areas, we walked to a glass enclosed, two-story ONEOK Boathouse located on Peggy’s Pond. Those interested in enjoying the water can check out paddle boats, kayaks and canoes from the lower level of the building. Although it wasn’t open yet, a fine dining restaurant called Vista at The Boathouse will offer affordable meals for all ages and provides alfresco patio seating on the second level.
Later, we meandered our way to the oversized chairs on the dock of Peggy’s Pond. I could easily see myself enjoying a coffee while reading from this tranquil spot, if I had more time. While serene and beautiful, I wished we were there at night to view the daily light show that takes place at 9pm. The park’s designers have meticulously added rows of lights to illuminate the shore after dusk.
Bringing your pup? Dog owners should bear in mind that pups are not allowed inside the park unless it’s Wednesday. However, we several dozen dog owners walking along the trail along the Arkansas River just outside of the park. The concrete sidewalks are wide enough to allow for cyclists, runners, and dog walkers to co-exist easily.
At some point when we return to Tulsa, we’ll visit the park again since we didn’t see the entire area even after two hours. For me, I love that the park requires you to relinquish all sense of adult responsibilities and instantly gives you the feeling of pure freedom that comes from acting like a a kid again.
Interested in visiting? Plan your next trip here. If you have any questions about navigating the park or what else you can expect from your visit to The Gathering Place, ask me in the comments section below!
Want to see bonus photos and videos of the park? Check out my Instagram!
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