*This post was originally written in 2017 and has been updated for 2023.
Did you know that in addition to our own fabulous OKC cultural institutions and arts organizations, we are just a short drive away from dozens more world-class museums? This makes for a perfect museum destination trip! People are often pleasantly surprised to discover the numerous art and museum-filled destinations within driving distance of the metro. As a museum educator of 10 years, mother of a three year old, and spouse to a fellow museum lover, here are just a few of my family’s favorite destinations for a weekend of museum filled fun.
Pro-Tip: When visiting out-of-town cultural institutions, always ask if they have a reciprocal membership discount. Almost all the museums we visit in other cities give us free admission because we are members of museums here in OKC. Here are the lists of reciprocal membership programs: art museums, zoo and aquariums, children’s museums, botanical gardens, and science museums.
4 Family-Friendly Museum Destinations within a 3.5 Hour Drive from OKC
Bentonville, AR | 220 miles from OKC
Bentonville is a great recommendation for OKC, and non-OKC, traveling friends. The low cost of lodging, charming downtown square, stunning museums and peaceful landscape make this one of my family’s favorite weekend road trip destinations.
On our most recent family getaway to Bentonville, Arkansas we took our son to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We recommend renting within walking distance of the Art Trail which takes you through the forest, past fun and fantastical sculpture, directly to the entrance of this impressive (and always free) American Art Museum.
On day two of our trip we visited the Scott Family Amazuem for exploitative play and learning. In the evening, we jumped back on the forest trail and strolled to the 21c Art Hotel to see even more art, then took the family to the Hive for a fancy end of weekend dinner celebration.
DFW Metroplex, TX | 210 miles from OKC
There are far too many extraordinary museums in the DFW metroplex to list here. I’ll share about trips we took to Dallas and Fort Worth, but encourage you to search “Dallas Museums” and “Fort Worth Museums” to find those that interest your family most before planning your own trip south to Texas.
When my son was less than a year old, we took a trip to Dallas to visit the Dallas Museum of Art and its neighbor, the Nasher Sculpture Center. Much like Crystal Bridges, the DMA is a impressive collection in a beautiful building and is free to the public. We love browsing the galleries as well as visiting their Center for Creative Connections where there is a space designed specifically for children, as well as opportunities to create your own art.
A super short walk across the street takes you to the Nasher, a quiet sculpture garden oasis in the center of downtown Dallas. The beautiful outdoor space, with shady trees and flowing fountains, is a gorgeous place to see 3D works of art surrounded by nature.
Fort Worth, TX
*If you decide to make it to Fort Worth, check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Fort Worth, TX with Kids!
Not only did we visit Bentonville this summer, we also had the opportunity to take a weekend trip to Fort Worth to stay with friends and squeeze in a few more museum visits. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are neighbors. All three boast beautiful buildings and fantastic collections, and general admission to the Amon Carter and the Kimbell is free. We like to find parking nearby then walk between them.
On our last visit, we enjoyed lunch at the Kimbell Buffet Restaurant and stumbled upon a string quartet rehearsing in their auditorium then walked up to the Amon Carter for a photography exhibition and gallery exploration.
Norman, OK | 20 miles from OKC
About a year ago we had a completely open Saturday (how often does that happen?) and decided to take a quick trip down to Norman to visit the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Sam Noble Museum on the University of Oklahoma campus.
The Fred Jones is free, highlights include the world-renowned collections of French Impressionism, Art of the American Southwest and Native American art. Our son, who was two at the time, really enjoyed the interactive displays and the dinosaurs at the Sam Noble.