The Sooner State touts loads of nationally recognized museums that offer families so much more than meets the eye. These treasured spaces display one-of-a-kind artifacts and collections that you won’t find anywhere else. Stay with us as we reveal our picks for the top six museums you need to visit near Oklahoma City.

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

A statue of a cowboy located at a museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Cowboy461” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by dave_stone

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum tops our list of must-see galleries in Oklahoma City. Located on Northeast 63rd Street, staff filled its halls with many striking examples of Western art and history. What little boy and girl didn’t want to grow up to rope and ride? This wild legacy heavily shaped our city and still permeates our local culture today. This premier institution’s mission is to:

  • Collect, preserve, and display historical artifacts.
  • Sponsor dynamic educational programs for learners of all ages.
  • Stimulate generation-wide interest in the legendary American West.

Since 1955, curators have delved deep into the Old West culture with its internationally renowned collections. You’ll see exhibitions like “Tattooing: Religion, Reality, and Regret” or “¡Viva México!” and sign up for events like summer camp programs and the annual Cowboy Christmas Ball. This incredible facility is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art

While the thought of taking a toddler to an art museum may sound daunting, don’t knock it till you try it. Oklahoma’s version of this classic institution is exceptional, with exhibits that stimulate even the grumpiest kiddos. Located inside Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center on Couch Drive, Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OCMA) is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

OCMA provides guests with a dynamic range of permanent displays and rotating exhibitions from around the world, such as “The Painters of Pompeii” and collections like the legendary artist Dale Chihuly’s glassworks. In addition, OCMA’s theater plays movies, like “The Spirit of the Beehive,” and even hosts the occasional film festival. Kids get in free thanks to a generous donation by The Chickasaw Nation and other organizations.

The American Banjo Museum

The banjo may seem like a long-lost instrument when you turn on the radio. But, it’s not forgotten here in Oklahoma City. The American Banjo Museum (ABM) dedicated its entire 21,000 square foot space to preserving and honoring the rich history of the banjo.

Situated on East Sheridan Avenue, this world-class destination is just the place to go to celebrate the unique music and heritage of America’s favorite instrument. Get in on the spirit of the banjo Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The ABM’s halls feature the world’s most extensive collection of banjos, including examples of primitive instruments developed by African slaves, classic banjos from the late 1800s, and ornately decorated pieces from the 1920s and 30s. The galleries under this roof contain quality examples of:

  • Instruments.
  • Recordings.
  • Film and videos.
  • Printed music.
  • Instructional materials.
  • Memorabilia.

21C Museum Hotel

What’s better than a visit to an art museum? How about a complimentary visit to one of the city’s best? 21C is an exclusively contemporary art exhibition space and cultural civic center. It’s also open free to Oklahoma City locals. So head over to West Main Street and get a glimpse into the global nature of today’s modern art scene under this charming hotel’s roof.

The 75,000 square foot, eight-location gallery is open 24 hours a day, or you can grab the kiddos and join in on a guided tour on Wednesday or Friday at 5 p.m. Museum Director, Alice Gray Stites, curates a range of arts programming at the 21C Museum Hotel including:

  • Solo and group exhibitions.
  • Commissioned installations.
  • Frequent public and member-only events.
  • Collaborative initiatives with local artists and worldwide organizations.

Science Museum Oklahoma

Whether you’ve got a curious preschooler or a budding scientist, the Science Museum Oklahoma (SMO) is the place to go. It’s an excellent choice for families with over 390,000 square feet of room to roam. It’s one of the largest science museums in the country, featuring the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, and the Kirkpatrick Planetarium. There’s even a tranquil outdoor garden the whole family can investigate.

SMO opens weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday until 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The directors at this outstanding interactive museum help kids of all ages take a hands-on approach to learning by exploring riveting exhibits like:

  • CurioCity.
  • smART SpaceArt.
  • Elemental Worlds.
  • Follow the Monarchs.
  • Tinkering Garage.
  • Destination Space.
  • GadgetTrees.
  • Tiny Tracks.
  • Oceanarium.

Museum of Osteology

What’s more delightfully creepy and weird than a collection of old bones? Grab your most curious — and bravest — children and drive straight to The Museum of Osteology. Get ready for tons of oohs and ahs when you wander through this unique gallery. It’s the first American bone museum of its kind. It opens its doors Monday through Friday at 9 a.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., and Sunday at noon and closes daily at 5 p.m.

You’ll browse incredible displays featuring the skeletal replicas of dozens of species. There are more than 800 specimens spread out across 40 different exhibits. The kids will have a blast comparing different bones structures and will explore both anatomy and the science of motion within this museum’s packed exhibit halls. Stop by for chilling events like forensic nights or a hands-on family program, like owl pellet dissection.That wraps up Crème de la Crème of Oklahoma City’s picks for museums you need to visit this year. Whether you’re looking for history, art, or science, you’ll find it all in our area. Does your family have a favorite museum we missed? Let us know and drop us a line! We’d love to check out your go-to museum and share it with other Oklahoma City families.