36. Get a refill on your pop at Handy’s
If you’re working your way down this list, by now your cup is dry and you still have many more stops to go. Remember that at Handy’s, refills are discounted, so take your cup in, get more of that wonderfully crunchy ice, and head on back out into Pawhuska.
37. Pitch a tent
Located about 15 miles from Pawhuska, the 1,100 acre Osage Hills State Park offers many outdoor recreation opportunities like camping, hiking, fall foliage viewing, and fishing for bass, crappie, catfish, and perch. In the park, there are sites for tent camping, and RV parking. There are also eight cabins available for rent. With a pool, ballfield, and tennis court, this park has something for everyone. Head on out, you never know, you just might spot a whitetail deer or a wild turkey!
38. Read the papers
The Osage News is a monthly publication that is sent across the country that, along with a website, keep people up-to-date on what’s happening with the Osage Nation. If you’re in Pawhuska, reading the paper is a great way to catch up on all the important news and events that are affecting the Osage. There is also the Pawhuska Journal-Capital, which includes local and area news, sports, and a “Happening Now” section on its website with a weekly calendar of events.
39. Celebrate America
On July 4th, Pawhuska residents line the streets for a non-motorized parade to celebrate America. Participants march down the street while spectators enjoy free hot dogs, apple cobbler and water. Prizes for funniest entry, best wheels, best pet, best family, most original, most patriotic, and most outrageous entry are awarded.
40. Have breakfast burrito
Or a hot hamburger platter. Locals told us that the breakfast burrito at Buffalo Joe’s Restaurant is to die for. They tell us that if you go, you need to make sure you add lots of fresh salsa. We took our moms there for lunch and all of us had great meals. Ann had the street taco daily special with spicy jalapeño salsa. Steve loved the Hot Hamburger served open face with fries on top then covered in brown gravy. You can also get sandwiches and salads, so there’s typically something for everyone.
41. Visit a church
Pawhuska has more than a dozen churches that love to welcome visitors and several are listed on this Chamber of Commerce directory.
42. Stop and smell the roses
It’s always good to slow down a bit and appreciate pretty things in life. One great place to do that in Pawhuska is Tallgrass Prairie Flowers and More. A unique store just down the block from The Mercantile Main Street, it is not only a florist, but also a boutique that has candles, reed diffusers, snack baskets, fruit baskets and even barbecue buckets.
43. Find the foundry
Home to the late, famed bronze artist John D. Free Sr., Pawhuska also plays home to his Bronze Horse Foundry. Located in Pawhuska at what used to the Armory, the foundary completes work for bronze projects all over the country. While not open to visitors on a regular basis, limited tours are available by appointment during which you can learn the fascinating process of creating bronze statues. For more information or to schedule a tour, call Cindy Free at (918) 287-4433.
44. Light up the night
Each year, town residents and visitors line up alongside the street to watch the Christmas Parade of Lights. The parade features floats covered in Christmas lights and always includes a very special guest: Santa Claus. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and head on down to this unique local celebration that brings on the holiday cheer! The parade takes place annually on the first Saturday in December.
45. Jump off a cliff
Bluestem Lake near Pawhuska is a beautiful reservoir just a few miles out of town. The lake offers swimming and boating as well as cliffs with waterfalls to jump from during the hot Oklahoma summer months. We’re told that the cliffs are quite popular with teenagers in the summer.
46. Get some groceries
CV’s Family foods may also be known as Pawhuska Hometown Foods and/or Pawhuska Cash Saver. We like to call it the store where Ree might get a loaf of bread, or a gallon of milk. Located at 236 E. Main, and featured on The Pioneer Woman cooking show, it is your one-stop shop for all things grocery in Pawhuska. They also sell Pawhuska Huskies ballcaps and t-shirts have a full service flower shop.
47. Mail a postcard
Yes, we put this on all the lists we write about what to do when you’ve traveled somewhere. Send a postcard to your friends or family or mail one home for your own Postcard Jar like we do. Of course, we’d love for you to send us a postcard, as well. Send it to Postcard Jar, PO Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.
48. Pay your respects
The cemeteries in and around Pawhuska are quite historic and worth a visit. The Pawhuska City Cemetery in town is where Oscar-winning actor Ben Johnson Jr. is buried. The local cemetery also has unique grave markers and mausoleums.
The cemetery in Gray Horse is actually located about 25 miles from Pawhuska but is key to understanding the history of the area. In his book, Killers of the Flower Moon, author David Grann tells the story of the Osage murders. After oil was discovered, U.S. law said that only Osages or their legal heirs could receive payments for the oil leases on Osage land. Some white men then took advantage of that law, marrying into Osage families before murdering family members so they could inherit. The Gray Horse cemetery is where many of these murder victims were laid to rest. Read the book to learn more about this case and the FBI investigation into these events.
49. Browse the shelves
At Weigant’s Pharmacy, in addition to being a place to fill prescriptions, they have a large selection of medallions and other religious items pertaining to the Catholic faith. We found a charming Saint Kateri figurine on the shelves there. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is the patroness of Ecology and the Environment and was the first Native American Saint.
50. Get Uncorked
Every year, the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association combines with the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce to host an evening of fun, wine tasting, and good food to support the arts in Oklahoma. This event is the kick-off to the annual Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping competition, also held in Pawhuska.
51. Learn to dance
Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy offers opportunities for arts education through ballet, tap, and jazz classes to students of all ages and levels of expertise. They have an annual recital each May and also offer some other special performances throughout the year. Check the Dance Maker website for more information.
52. Step in Mudpies
Mudpies is a unique home decor and gift boutique with two locations. Each store offers a unique inventory of humorous signs, kitchen towels, home decor items, jewelry, gifts, soaps and deliciously scented candles. And, it seems some of the nicest people in town work there.
When you’re shopping at the store on West Main, you can also sit a spell on the shaded porch, and relax on the wicker couch used in the filming of August: Osage County.
53. Remember those who served
Visit the Pawhuska, Oklahoma Veterans Memorial at the southeast corner of Main Street and Lynn Avenue which pays tribute to local veterans who served. Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have given so much for our nation and freedom.
54. Search for a Geocache
There are more than 80 Geocaches placed within a 10-mile radius of Pawhuska. Use the Geocaching app on your phone to search for hidden treasures like one called “Just a Swingin’” with the following clues:
- Stay on the trail. No need to bushwack for this one.
- The cache is now a magnetic key holder. Bring your own pencil! You can approach from the North or the South, but I recommend the North. Parking is within feet of the cache from this direction.
- If you get seasick, definitely approach from the North!
55. See the significance of the Million Dollar Elm
The “Million Dollar Elm” was the place the Osages auctioned off leases for companies to drill for oil in the 1920’s. Millions of dollars changed hands under this tree, and there was even an occasional fistfight. While the tree is no longer there, a monument that marks the spot that played such an important role in America’s and the Osages’ history.
56. Savor a sweet treat
Head west on Main Street to a small drive-up building near the car wash where you’ll find Okie’s Burgers. Sure, they have fantastic burgers, but it is also home to real homemade ice cream. With flavors like Birthday Cake and Brown Butter Walnut, there is something for everyone. Hours vary depending on which day of the week it is so you’ll want to check the Okie’s Burgers Facebook page or drive by to see if it’s open.
57. Use the public potty
We wouldn’t normally include a public loo on our list of things to do, except it’s the best small town public restroom we’ve ever seen. This new facility has been shiny clean on each of our visits, and it features beautiful wooden stall walls and doors. Every town should have public restrooms this nice!
58. Show your team spirit
If you’re visiting Pawhuska and want to fit in, stop by Spurs & Arrows or other local stores and pick up an orange Pawhuska Huskies t-shirt or hat. You may even get looks from locals wondering why they can’t figure out who you are.
59. Ride ’em and rope ’em at Cavalcade
Each summer for more than 70 years, residents of Pawhuska have come together for Cavalcade, the world’s largest amateur rodeo. For a solid week, the town welcomes bull riders and calf ropers, barrel racers and pole benders, each trying to outdo the others. With food vendors and street dances, Pawhuska has a great time. Cavalcade is typically the third week in July.
60. Admire Gina Gray’s art
Pawhuska native Gina Gray was one of the most well-known Native American artists of the past 30 years. Her work, incorporating bright, bold colors featuring stylized figures and abstract landscapes can be seen throughout the community. This is just one more reason that the the art scene in Pawhuska is so wonderful. Her exhibition, Tradition and Harmony, will be on display at the Osage Nation Museum through March 31, 2018.
61. Join a service club
Pawhuska has a Rotary Club, Kiwanis, American Legion, and Lions Club along with other service organizations, and they do many great things in and for the community.
62. Take in the view
Named after the Million Dollar Elm where Osage Indians and businessmen gathered to make million-dollar deals for oil rights, The Million Dollar Inn bed and bath overlooks downtown Pawhuska and is just across the street from the former auction site on the Osage Nation campus.
The house that is now the bed and bath was originally built in 1912. It was recently saved from certain ruin and was renovated by current owner and Osage Tribal member Cheryl Potts. Each of the four guest suites is equipped with a kitchenette and private bath. Cheryl has decorated with family heirlooms that showcase her unique style and personal flair. We spent a complimentary night at the Million Dollar Inn and loved the comfortable pillow-top bed as well as Cheryl and her husband’s warm hospitality.
63. Chalk it up
The French Nest boutique has a wide variety of home decor and gift items, including Annie Sloan chalk paint and Miss Mustard Seed milk paint workshops and classes. The Pawhuska location is one of two stores (the other is in Bartlesville) that includes unique seasonal decorations and lots ideas to make your house feel more like home.
64. Warm up in a Pendleton blanket
Clifton’s Gift Shop on Main Street offers a large selection of Pendleton blankets, as well as other gift items and Indian art. Be sure to stop in an say hello to the owners/managers and longtime Pawhuska residents Joe and Arlena Trumbly. They’re always happy to meet new people and hear all about what brought you to Pawhuska.
Another place to get blankets is at the Osage Trading Company. At this old-style trading post, you’ll find everything from silver jewelry and Pendleton blankets to beads, feathers and fringe for traditional Native American dance garments.
65. Chow down on chow mein
Like just about every other town, Pawhuska has a Chinese restaurant. Located right in downtown, China Cafe is the place to go if you feel a hankering for some General Tsao’s chicken or some savory broccoli with beef.
66. Remember Sally
Sally Carroll was a local fixture in Pawhuska and the sign on her cafe is something of a local landmark. She began working in food service when she was just 12 years old and then changed jobs at 14, going to work at a cafe called Lazaro’s. When she was 21, she bought Lazaro’s, and renamed it Sally’s. For the next 77 years, the folks in Pawhuska indulged in her burgers, chili, and pie. She retired at 98 and passed away in early 2017 at age 100, but the sign for her cafe and her memory remain.
67. Drop off your cleaning and find a new outfit
Out on Highway 60 near the Tag Office, you’ll find a little store called The Grape Dumplin’. Inside they offer women’s clothing along with home decor and get this … you can also drop off your dry cleaning there.
68. Visit the Chamber of Commerce
There are a couple reasons to visit the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce. The first is that Reba Bueno and Joni Nash work there and they are super friendly people who are a wealth of knowledge on the entire area. The second is that the building itself was the first house built in Pawhuska and has quite an interesting history. Reba will tell you all about it if you ask.
69. Rope a goat
So, the Buckin’ Flamingo that we mentioned earlier is a pretty cool place. In addition to everything they offer in their store, they can also bring goat roping to your next get-together. Contact them for details and to book this unique entertainment experience.
70. Watch a sunset
You are on the plains of Oklahoma. This is one of the locations that God set aside for having beautiful sunsets just about every single night. Head out west on Highway 60, find a safe spot to park along a side road, kick back, and take it in.
71. Purchase a purse
Want to carry a graf lantz bag like the ones Ree Drummond and JoAnna Gaines have? You can get one here! Just a block from The Mercantile, Salt Creek Gallery and Marketplace is a great place to shop for fine jewelry, apparel, home decor & gifts.
72. Place a bid
The first Tuesday of every month is a big day at the Osage County Fairgrounds Ag building. Cody Garnett from the Buckin’ Flamingo puts on an auction that draws a crowd from far and wide. Starting at 6:01 p.m., he auctions off tons of items including jewelry, coins, treasures, trailers, guns, equipment, furniture, and home decor. Make plans to attend if you’re in town for the first Tuesday auction. You may just stumble into the deal of a lifetime.
73. Find a bargain
Sister’s Attic is a consignment store located just east of the Merc on Main Street. It is a shop of many mini-shops, each booth with its own flavor and flair. Stop in and find amazing things from new clothing and art to used toasters and books. The owner, Randi, is so friendly that a stop in this store will never be a waste of time.
74. Feast on a Frito pie
Bad Brad’s BBQ is an amazing little place on the north side of Highway 60. The Frito Pie features a bed of Fritos corn chips topped with cowboy beans and your choice of meat and cheese. Also available is a dish called cowboy fries which is the same thing but with fresh cooked french fries. Both are amazingly delicious.
Locals tell us that the fried bologna is the best meat choice and it must be, as they were completely sold out of it by the time we arrived. Instead, we ordered the pulled pork and the smoked brisket and it was some of the best BBQ we’ve had anywhere. Go hungry, as the portions are hefty.
75. Stay downtown
There are a few places to stay right in the heart of downtown Pawhuska. The Little Rainsong Loft is a recently renovated space that is 1,100 square feet with two bedrooms that will sleep six people comfortably. It also features a private entrance, kitchen, living room, full bath, dining room, screened-in back porch, and backyard with firepit.
Historic Whiting Bed & Bath is another great place to stay. Each of the 12 uniquely themed rooms has a private bathroom, as well as a kitchenette with microwave, coffee pot, toaster, and refrigerator.
Note that there are two boutique hotels being built as we write this, so even more downtown rooms will be available soon.
76. Meet an Aussie
Operated by a delightful woman from Australia, the Gypsy Cowgirl and Gypsy Boutique Mall offer unique collections of women’s clothing, infant and toddler clothing, accessories, home decor, furniture, antiques, and gifts for a variety of styles. They have an adorable line of mommy and me and clothing items for moms who want to match their little ones.
77. Drive out to Woolaroc
About 20 miles from Pawhuska, you’ll find oilman Frank Phillips’ ranch retreat he called Woolaroc, which is now a museum and wildlife preserve. Pay admission at the gate then drive onto the property where you’ll see bison, as well as some other unique animals like water buffalo, zebras, giraffes, and ostriches.
The property also includes a museum with extensive collections of western art and artifacts, Native American material, and according to its website, one of the finest collections of Colt firearms in the world. Woolaroc (derived from the words woods, lake and rocks) is open year-round to visitors and a trip to the area would not be complete without a stop at this unique attraction.
78. Get a selfie with Mr. Reber
John G. Reber is one of Pawhuska’s most beloved residents. A former band teacher, Mr. Reber is now retired and often has a pancake and coffee in the morning at The Mercantile before going next door to LOREC or across the street to Osage Outfitters to visit with employees and customers there. Several people mentioned Mr. Reber’s name to us when we were in Pawhuska, but sadly, our paths haven’t crossed yet. You know what that means — we’ll have to go back! We hear he loves to meet new people and take selfies. We’ll update this when we get our own selfie with this local legend.
79. Be happy at Handy’s
Because you probably want another one, and the ice is sooo good that you can’t stop crunching, make one last stop at Handy’s during happy hour (10-11 a.m. or 4-5 p.m.) for a half-priced fountain pop. The best part is that by your third stop at the store in the same day, people might begin to mistake you for a local.
Have you been to Pawhuska? If so, what did you enjoy most and what have we missed? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Also, we’d like to thank Reba Bueno, Joni Nash, and all of Pawhuska’s residents and business owners we’ve met for your incredible hospitality and assistance. Until next time …