15 Famous Things Tulsa is Known For

Tulsa is a city with amazing history and culture ranging right back to the Native American history. From the oil to Native American and African American history, there are so many things that Tulsa can claim as its own.

But on top of that, it’s known for its interesting climate – including, of course, its tornadoes!

Below are the top things that make Tulsa a famous city.

What is Tulsa Known For?

1. The First Oil Capital of the World

Tulsa has a reputation for being the world’s first oil capital because it once sat at the biggest oil reserve on the planet.

The first oil was found in Tulsa 100 years ago in 1901. This led to an unexpected rise in population, in the housing industry in the city, along with a boom in businesses.

It was during this time that Tulsa became the Oil Capital of the World.

Today, Venezuela holds the top rank as the country with the most oil reserves in the world. The country has a 17.8% share of oil reserves globally.

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2. Love for the Arts and Deco

Tulsa is famous for its rich heritage of art and deco. The city embraces the arts, and it is highly visible as one visits the city.

Tulsa owes this to the Jazz Age in the 1920s. As Tulsa grew as a city, architects used the au courant art deco style in the building of business and government establishments.

Through the years, the city also made it a point to restore historic buildings and preserve them. Today, there are 63 art deco buildings in the city, not including the 24 that were demolished through the years.

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3. Center of the Universe

There is a spot in Tulsa that people call the center of the universe. It is a circle that has a scientific anomaly.

While the concrete circle may not look much, it does offer an acoustic phenomenon.

 If you stand in it and makes a sound, the sound echoes back several times and is also louder than the actual sound. Those who are outside the circle would hear a distorted sound or not hear the sound at all.

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4. Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Tulsa is popular because it is a high-risk area for tornadoes.

The largest tornado that ever hit the city was an F5, and this happened in 1960. This tornado killed hurt 81 people and killed five.

Tulsa, on average, receives three tornadoes per year. In the last 70 years, the city had to deal with more than 200 tornadoes. 

It is because of this weather condition that an athletic team at the University of Tulsa called themselves the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

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5. The Best Park in America

The Gathering Place, located in Tulsa, is touted as the best park in America. It is a fairly new place, as it was only built in 2018. People call it the park for everyone.

Covering 66 acres, the park runs along the Arkansas River. The George Kaiser Family Foundation built it, and the aim is to have a place for people from all walks of life to enjoy.  

The Gathering Place cost $465 million to build, and it is the largest private gift ever bestowed to the people.

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6. A Rich Native American History

Tulsa is famous for the rich history of Native Americans in the area. The earliest settlers in Tulsa were the Cree and Cherokee Tribes, and they lived in the city in 1836.

It was not only them that occupied Tulsa. The Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles also co-existed with them. Collectively, they were known as the Five Civilized Tribes.

Many of the first families in Tulsa were mixed-blood Creek Indians, and most of the land were owned by these families. Particularly, the most prominent family here was the Perrymans. Today, one can see the details of these ancestries in Tulsa museums.

7. The 1921 Race Riots

One important event that happened in Tulsa was the 1921 Race Riots, also called the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

It was a two-day-long massacre where mobs of white residents killed and attacked black residents. Some of these white folks were even government officers. This event was considered the single worst event related to racial violence in the entire country and its history.

The people who perpetrated the crime burned more than 35 square blocks of properties—businesses of black people, in what is known as the Black Wall Street. 

The massacre happened because a white lady, the elevator operator, screamed in an elevator just because a young black man, Dick Rowland, was also inside it.

No one knows why the lady screamed. Rumors had it that Dick assaulted the woman.Dick was arrested the next day, and this arrest led to an armed confrontation outside the courthouse.

8. Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street was an area in Tulsa that is famous because it was the Black Mecca for economy and culture. Black Wall Street was a rich neighborhood, not only in money but also in culture.

Black Wall Street was located in Greenwood. At that time, before the 1921 massacre, it was considered the wealthiest black neighborhood in the country. Many of its residents were stylishly dressed, and some even had luxury cars. 

9. Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks is a popular country singer who hails from Tulsa. His musical career began in 1985, at a time when he already knew how to play the banjo. He is popular for integrating rock into country songs.

The best songs by Garth Brooks are:

  • Ain’t Going Down
  • Much Too Young
  • If Tomorrow Never Comes
  • Friends in Low Places
  • The Dance

Garth Brooks is also a recipient of many awards such as the Kennedy Center Honors, Billboard Icon Award, Academy of Country Music Awards, and many more.

10. Bill Hader

Bill Hader is a comedian who Tulsa is proud of. He is also a filmmaker and impressionist, most notably Al Pacino.

Bill Hader hit success after joining Saturday Night Live, where he performed from 2005 to 2013. It was in this show that he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

By 2014, Bill began exploring dramatic roles, and he starred in the 2014 film The Skeleton Twins. The year after, he got a voice acting role in the animated film Inside Out.

11. Route 66

Tulsa is popular because Route 66 crosses the city. Although the highway is actually east of Tulsa, one can easily spot the sign—a half arch that says, “Tulsa Route 66.”

What makes Tulsa different is that the residents embraced this highway and made the best out of it. Today, there are around 30 historical markers of the highway in the city that one cannot possibly miss.

More than a dozen attractions are found on the highway—truck stops, shops, restaurants and diners, and so much more. There are also motels where weary travelers can stay.

12. The Love for Aviation

Tulsa is famous for having a prominent museum for aviation and space. This place is called the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.

Here, one can see exhibits of old planes and also fighter jets. People can hop onto the planes and see the actual controls. Those who want tour can get book a ticket for scheduled tours, and this is the best choice for kids who want to know more about aviation.

Then, there is the Ray Booker Flight Lab, where people can play in a simulator plane and complete missions. What makes the place popular is that the price of admission does cost an arm and leg. 

13. John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

This park is famous because it is a national landmark. It was built to commemorate the horrors that happened in the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

The park provides people with information about that dark history and the role of African Americans in the history of building the state to what it is now. In the park, one would find Hope Plaza—there are sculptures here that depict symbolisms for the 1921 riots.

There is also the Tower of Reconciliation—a 26-foot memorial for the struggle of enslaved African Americans.

14. Gilcrease Museum

The Gilcrease Museum is popular because it attempts to preserve the history and art of the city.

It has the world’s largest collection of art for the American West. Today, it is also home to artifacts that come from South and Central America.

The museum is named after its founder, Thomas Gilcrease, who was an avid art collector. He transferred the deed of collection to the city government in 1958.

15. The Tulsa Cave House

One popular attraction in Tulsa is the cave house, which attempts to mimic the Flintstones’ iconic dwelling.

Admission is around $10, and tours are only available by appointment. It is a real house, and people live here.

The cave house in Tulsa is a small structure and complete human-made. It sits just below a hill, and it is easy to find as it is west of downtown Tulsa.


Tulsa has seen its share of negativity, but it is not the end of the city. The residents corrected what happened in the past, made amends, and is moving forward socially and economically.

Although Tulsa no longer has the largest oil reserve in the world, it will forever be known as the Oil Capital of the World, and this is represented by the Golden Driller statue.