The first time we visited Pawhuska, Oklahoma, we went directly to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile to taste Ree Drummond’s frontier cooking for ourselves. We spent a day and a half in Pawhuska sipping coffee and eating cinnamon rolls upstairs in the bakery, shopping for kitchen supplies in the general store, and savoring every last bite of the most delicious chicken fried steak we’ve ever had.
Since then, spent a great deal of time in Pawhuska and quickly learned for ourselves there is so much more to see and do. The town has rich history, incredible art, unique shopping, and some of the most genuine hospitality we’ve come across in all our travels. Bottom line — if you come to Pawhuska and leave without dust on your car, you’ve missed out! Admittedly, this list does not include everything, but here is our growing list of 70+ things to do in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after you’ve eaten at The Mercantile.
1. Pour a pop at Handy’s
Handy’s is a convenience store that doesn’t sell gas or have a public restroom. Stop there anyway! What they do have is the best fountain pop in Pawhuska (that’s what the sign out front says) thanks to three choices of ice — cubed, pellet, or shaved and another little secret you can read about HERE. While you’re there, be sure to pick up an “I got a pop at Handy’s in Pawhuska, OK” postcard.
2. Stand in awe of stained glass at Immaculate Conception Church
We have been to Europe and have toured some of the most famous and impressive cathedrals in the world. None have stained glass windows quite like those at the Immaculate Conception Church in Pawhuska. The most famous window shows Father Shoenmaker bringing Catholicism to the Osage people.
To even be created, the window required special dispensation from the Pope because it depicts people who were alive at the time it was made. More impressive than that, though, is the 3D effect you see when you look at the windows up close. You can make your visit Tuesday-Friday from 10am to 3pm. The door on the north side at the top of the ramp is typically open and a volunteer guide can show you around and answer questions.
3. Walk across the swinging bridge
Be adventurous and try the swinging bridge! A favorite attraction of locals for years, the swinging bridge crosses Bird Creek just four blocks south of the Mercantile. Once the only way to get from one side of town to the other, the swinging bridge has been a favorite of visitors, and crossing it is a rite of passage, so to speak. The signs at the ends of the bridge tell you not to jump up and down, though locals will later ask you if you did.
4. Get your bling on at Salt Creek
Located in the heart of downtown on Kihekah Avenue, Salt Creek (look for the “SC” in the window) offers the latest in high fashion including Kendra Scott jewelry like what Ree wore on her People magazine cover.
You can also shop their selection of women’s clothing as well as cute gift items like locally hand-embroidered tea towels and bath bombs.
5. Buy the best plastic wrap dispenser on earth
Have you ever tried to tear off plastic wrap only to have it stick to itself and not behave making you want to cuss a blue streak? At the Pioneer Woman Mercantile, you can get the best plastic wrap dispenser ever made. They also make a great gift idea for that difficult-to-shop-for person and are reasonably priced at $12.
6. Indulge in ice cream at Charlie’s Sweet Shop
Ree Drummond’s Charlie’s Sweet Shop opened in the spring of 2019 and their Tillamook ice cream creations are worth every calorie. Located right downtown across from The Mercantile and under P-Town Pizza, Charlie’s serves a variety of ice creams by the scoop in a dish, a cone, or a sundae. Ree even made an exception to her own rules and to allow bananas to be served in the splits. We recommend the Bakery Blast (with fresh Mercantile cookies) and the Wild About Berries sundaes.
7. Follow the mooing yellow truck to the Buckin’ Flamingo
If you see a yellow truck with a conestoga wagon cover pulling a trailer with a saddled pink flamingo in the back, know that it is normal for Pawhuska. Follow it to the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo — a true must-see in the town! What started out as a pawn shop/bail bonds business has grown into a retail store just down Main Street from the Merc. It specializes in metal yard art, decor, unique items, as well as vintage and retro pieces. Heck, you’ll even find things that don’t even fit into these categories.
We loved walking around the store, looking at all of the different pieces and their creative displays (yard ornaments stuck in sand in a canoe, for instance). Just think of it as your one-stop-shopping-spot for cool stuff. Plus, we think you’ll love the super nice and interesting folks who work there. If nothing else, just making their acquaintances is worth the stop.
8. Order the Not Knots at P-Town Pizza
Just across the street from The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile, you’ll find her pizza place called P-Town Pizza. It’s typically less busy at lunchtime and they serve the most wonderful little fried pizza dough creations called Not Knots. Believe us, you want to order these life-changing puffs of happiness. And get the full order. #WeLoveCarbs
9. Learn about the Osage Nation
Start your study of the Osage Nation with a visit to the Osage Nation Museum. The oldest tribally owned museum in the country, it offers free admission (but free will donations are accepted). Wah-zha-zhi Spirit: A Celebration of Osage History and Culture is a permanent exhibit there. It showcases themes including but not limited to pre-history, government, warfare and traditional arts. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.
10. Try something on at Osage Outfitters
If you are looking for a unique pair of custom made cowboy boots or a cowboy hat that fits just right (yes, they steam and shape the hats right in the store at the hat bar), look no further than Osage Outfitters. Owners Joey and Callie have created an amazing store just a stone’s throw away from the Mercantile on Kihekah. Osage Outfitters carries dozens of quality boots for men, women and children, all made from the finest ethically sourced animal skins, including ostrich, hippo, and alligator.
You’ll also find some of the highest end western fashion in the area. If you see saddles on the sidewalk, you’re at the right place. Joey told us this was his first “inside” job, so he has a good understanding of what type of clothing real cowboys and ranch hands need and want. He said his wife Callie has great style and by browsing through the racks of modern and fashionable women’s apparel, we think he’s right. We loved this store, the owners’ hospitality, and the boots … oh, those boots.
11. Visit the NEW Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum
Opening in summer 2019, the new Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum is a great place to learn more about the cowboys, cowgirls, and western heritage in Osage County. It is located near downtown at 201 E. 6th Street.
12. Savor a skillet at El Vallarta’s
If you like Mexican food, you’ll love El Vallarta’s. Their lunch specials are delicious and come to the table quickly. We especially enjoyed the grilled chicken and rice skillet (splurge and get it topped with queso) and the fried beef burrito. You can’t beat the prices. Our lunch for two, which included chips and drinks, was under $20.
13. Search for bronze sculptures
Pawhuska treasures the Arts, and a quick look around town proves it. Throughout the town you’ll find number of bronze statues and sculptures, including several by famed sculptor John D. Free and his son John. See if you can find at least five of them.
14. See a show at Constantine Theater
The historic (and allegedly haunted) Constantine Theater in downtown Pawhuska is the second oldest performing arts center in Oklahoma. Originally a hotel, the building was converted into an opera house in 1911 and remained a theater until it closed in 1970. In 1987, a group of concerned citizens got together and restored the building, reopening it as a performing arts venue. Check the schedule and catch a show!
15. Furnish your home at Lorec Ranch
LOREC Ranch Home Furnishings is a home decorating store just down the sidewalk from the PW Mercantile on Kihekah Avenue. Inside, you’ll find creative decor with a western bent, much like what you’ll see inside the Merc. This makes sense, because the LOREC Ranch provided many of the furnishings found there, including the couch and tables upstairs near the bakery.
We loved the dyed cowhide placemats and huge dining room table and chairs. While there, check out the other small treasures hidden around the store like branding irons for your steak. Friendly staff, like manager Gay Kincaid, make every visit a special one.
16.Take a tour with Roaming the Osage
Every first visit to Pawhuska should begin with a guided tour by Roaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tours. Casey and his crew deliver a fantastic 90-minute overview of the community and its history while you sit back and relax in a comfortable Mercedes sprinter van with a retractable roof.
You’ll tour the town, learn the history of the Osage, visit the Tallgrass Prairie preserve and drive by the now-familiar entrance to the Drummond Ranch. They also offer a tour to the Lodge on the days it’s open to the public. Call Casey at (918) 440-5312 to book a tour before you come or just stop by 429 E. Main to see if they have open seats.
17. Play disc golf at Taylor Ranch
With two of the top ten disc golf courses in the United States and three overall, Pawhuska is quite the destination for disc golf enthusiasts as well as those new to the game. The city maintains a public disc golf course in Williams park, but the real action takes place a few miles south of town at The Lodge at Taylor Ranch.
There they have two championship courses (a round costs $5) including one hole on which players must clear a water hazard. Taylor Ranch also offers everything from Zumba classes to homemade apple butter and they even have a cabin for rental on Airbnb that is down by the water.
18. Take a picture by a mural
As we’ve said before, Pawhuska plays home to lots of public art including several murals. Take a moment to search them out and snap a photo like this one by the Osage Language building near Matthews and Main.
19. View the vista from Lookout Mountain
Head out of Pawhuska a few miles on Okesa Road and when you come to a fork in the road, keep to the right. You’ll immediately see a gravel road heading up a loooong hill. Drive up that road and you’ll be on the top of Lookout Mountain. There, you’ll find the memorial and gravesite for Chief Fred Lookout and his wife, Julia. Take a moment and pay your respects. You’ll also find an incredible, 360-degree panoramic view of Pawhuska, Bird Creek Valley, and Osage County. This view is definitely worth the trip.
20. Caffeinate with a Cowboy Coffee
We can think of no better way to start to the day than with a Cowboy Coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. While The Merc may be best known for its food, don’t overlook the coffee. Inside you’ll find two world-class coffee bars with beans sourced and roasted exclusively for the store through a partnership with Topeca Roastery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ann loves starting the day with the Cowboy Coffee, served “shot in the dark” style, infused with Sarsaparilla and topped with frothed milk. The Spicy Cowgirl, with a hint of cayenne, is also a treat. The best part is The Mercantile sells both the coffee beans and the flavorings so you can try your barista skills at home.
21. Salute the start of the Boy Scouts
Outside the Osage County Historical Society Museum sits a bronze statue of a few boy scouts with their scout master. Pawhuska claims it was the place where the first Boy Scout troop in the United States organized in 1909. The museum also has displays and information on the history of Osage County.
22. Scale the stairs to the Osage County Courthouse
Need to burn off a few extra calories from that indulgence in queso dip at The Mercantile? Run some steps. Two long sets of stairs grace downtown Pawhuska. If you start near the China Cafe, 129 steps will take you to the top of the hill where the courthouse sits. While you’re up there, take in the commanding view of downtown Pawhuska and surrounding area, catch your breath, and remember the 129 steps are much easier heading down. You’ll burn about a calorie and a half for every 10 steps you climb.
23. Compliment your cottage
The Prairie Cottage is a fun decor boutique located on Main St. just a block or so from the Merc. The folks there have traveled far and wide to bring unique items back to town, but they also have a selection of Pawhuska items in case you’re hunting for a souvenir to take home with you.
24. Appreciate the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
At 39,650 acres, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of native tallgrass prairie on earth. With about 2,500 free-ranging bison, any visitor to the preserve has a good chance of spotting one or more of these majestic creatures. If you do, please remember the three rules for bison viewing the prairie’s conservancy has: 1. Stay in your car. 2. Stay in your car. 3. Stay in your car. In addition to being incredibly beautiful animals, bison are speedy, large, powerful and a little unpredictable. No human on earth can outrun them. Follow the rules.
25. Relax at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House
There’s no doubt in our minds The Pioneer Woman Boarding House is a destination in and of itself for people visiting Pawhuska. Not only are the rooms and amenities some of the best we’ve seen in all our travels, the people who work there are committed to one thing – making people happy. Read about our tour of the Boarding House HERE. If you can’t get a room here, fear not. Pawhuska plays home to many wonderful Airbnb rentals.
26. Pamper yourself at a local salon
Take time out to get pampered at a local salon/spa. Pawhuska has a number of places to go including Head to Toe, Hair Razors, and Thairapy. Whether you just need your hair styled or want to go home with a brand new cut and color, these salons offer it all. Some even offer mani/pedi services that can make your day of pampering complete.
27. Notice the architecture
Pawhuska’s unique history and its ties to oil and the money it brings mean that there are many beautiful, stately homes in town. Take a drive and admire the historic mansions that line the streets. Then, head downtown to see the triangle building and other historic structures, noting the decorative brickwork near the tops of the buildings. Built in 1914, the courthouse at the top of the hill is also worth a visit.
28. Sidle up to the Pig Stand
T-Bone’s Pig Stand is really just a food trailer on the west side of town with an awning over it. Apparently, the original building burned down years ago and they brought the trailer in as a temporary fix. After working in it, the owner liked it so decided to make it permanent and put the awning up.
Don’t let the facade fool you, the food is great. Steve had the chopped pork sandwich with fresh cut fries and Ann loved her burger that was greasy in all the right ways. Locals also tell us you need to get there early if you want to enjoy the fish fry on Fridays.
29. Get your dawgs up
Pawhuska has quite a lively sports scene for a town its size and there is a great deal of local pride in their teams. While in town you should check out the school’s activities calendar and head to an event. With football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and more, there has to be something to pique your interest. While there cheering for the Huskies, don’t forget to get your dawgs up! A local will be glad to explain how.
30. Book a room at The Grandview Bed & Breakfast
Back in 1923, The Grandview Inn Bed & Breakfast was a private residence owned by Drummond family. We learned that Ladd and Ree Drummond also lived here when their girls were young and in 2004, the home was purchased by historical home preserver, Charlotte Rhineheart. She replaced windows, updated central heating and air, refinished the beautiful wood floors and gave the interior a new design.
In 2012, the property was purchased by Steven and Tiffany Poe, who have made their home in Pawhuska and become innkeepers of this gorgeous and stately bed and breakfast. Wholesome breakfasts are served daily in the dining room and are complimentary with each night’s stay.
31.Indulge in Indian Tacos
Every year on the first Saturday in October, dozens of home and professional cooks compete for fry bread bragging rights at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska.
Throughout the day, downtown is chock-full of Indian Taco stands, craft and retail vendors, as well as games for kids, and entertainment. They also have Powwow dance competitions for all ages. If you go, be sure to pace yourself and wear stretchy pants. You can read about our experience judging the competition in 2017 HERE.
32. Visit the lodge on Drummond Ranch
As you may or may not be aware, the Drummonds have opened up for tours the Lodge where The Pioneer Woman shows are often filmed. Check the Pioneer Woman Mercantile website for open dates and details. Visitors can explore the Lodge on self-guided tours where you’ll get an inside look at the pantry, cozy guest rooms, and the two-sided fireplace with a boot-lined mantle.
Be sure to take your camera or camera phone, as pictures are not only allowed, but encouraged. You’ll want to be sure to snap a shot of the women and girls (and a few brave men) playing kitchen in Ree’s beautifully designed space. You can read all about our first visit to the Lodge HERE, and our tips for visiting the lodge HERE.
33. Check out a book at the Pawhuska City Library
Pawhuska has a wonderful public library that is open every day but Sunday. Check out their website for their exact hours. Anyone is welcome to come in out of the heat (or cold), use the restroom, and settle down in a comfy chair with a book, magazine, or newspaper. Several copies of the New York Times Bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann are available there if you’re interested in this true crime novel about the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.
34. Visit the Blessed Kateri Shrine of the West
A shrine in the honor of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized as a saint, sits outside the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 1314 Lynn Ave. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized her. She is the patroness of ecology and environment, people in exile, and Native Americans.
35. See where movies were made
Believe it or not, Pawhuska has played host to Hollywood more than once. August: Osage County was filmed there as was To the Wonder. Because of this, you should know that George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams have all been in and around the town during filming. Even more special, if you stop by the State Farm Insurance office as you head west from downtown, you can sit on the wicker couch used as a prop in the filming of August: Osage County.