A new school year is starting, bringing with it dozens of homework assignments, study hours and projects. There may also be socializing among peers, but in the middle of a pandemic, that requires wearing masks and social distancing. Where is the best place to social distance? Why, outside, of course.
There is so much potential in the great outdoors, especially when it’s safer to be outside than inside. Both on and off campus, there are some popular outdoor spaces as well as niche spaces that are perfect for picnicking, hammocking or lounging. Especially as the breezy, autumn weather comes in, these are some interesting spots you will want to check out for sure.
The most famous outdoor spaces on campus, the Old U in front of McFarlin Library and the New U in front of Collins Hall, are very popular places for picnicking, playing games and hosting Hurricane Thursdays. With many trees lining the edges for shade and even fountains that are on once in a while, both these spaces have much to offer.
Around each of the dorms on campus are spaces that are great for residents to spend time, such as the Lottie Courtyard with a picnic table or the Hardesty Courtyard with a pergola in Hurricane Plaza.
McFarlin Library Steps and Patio
Many say that the highlight of their campus tour is walking out of McFarlin Library onto the steps and having the entire downtown Tulsa skyline laid out before them. The patio is lined with plenty of tables, but the steps are certainly wide enough to spread out a workspace on. The best time to be in this spot is in the early hours of night to see iconic Tulsa sunsets. Beside McFarlin Library is the grove — dozens of trees lined up together — which is the optimal spot on campus for hammocking or seeking shade from August heat.
Trees by Kendall Hall
Another nice green space are the trees near the entrance to Kendall Hall. What makes this spot recognizable is the enormous music box that students can walk under on their way to classes. Built by a group of engineering majors, it was created to unify students, symbolizing the many that walk under it. If the handle is attached, it can be turned to play the alma mater.
All around campus there are benches placed that are almost always free. Some line the Old U, there are two off of the sidewalk in front of McClure Hall, Bayless Plaza has many sitting areas around the iconic bell and many are scattered between the Allen Chapman Student Union and Keplinger Hall as well as in Sharpe Plaza.
Since dining will mainly be out of the Student Union, the tables outside are a wonderful place to eat. If you notice the fire pits out there, you should be excited because those are open for anyone to use.
The field in front of the Collins Fitness Center is dedicated to many uses, from soccer to frisbee. If you feel like playing a game (safely, don’t forget to sanitize), this is the optimal space to do so.
Reynolds Center Hill
If Oklahoma ever snows again like it did in January, the hill next to the Reynolds Center by the staircase is a perfect place to sled. Not only that, but it would be nice to picnic there, up on the hill above the sidewalk.
One of the most popular outdoor spaces in the city of Tulsa, the brand new Gathering Place has everything to offer from trails and rivers to playgrounds, various seating areas and tons of greenery. It can be pretty difficult to find a parking spot, but given how big the park is, you will always find somewhere that you can settle down.
First Friday Art Crawls are exciting events held the first friday of every month where you can walk around the arts district and even see a show at the Guthrie Green, an outdoor performing theater. Just a walk down the road is the Center of the Universe, which you should definitely visit (and maybe scream at) to experience an odd phenomenon. Visiting First Fridays are a wonderful way to spend many hours of your evening walking around outside, taking in the art and architecture of the city.
While the Gathering Place is the most famous outdoor space, Woodward Park is just as beautiful and is an ideal place for photoshoots. Featuring many gardens, fountains, plants and even a greenhouse, this park will make you feel close to nature in the most beautiful way.
Oxley Nature Center
If you feel the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are many hiking trails within a half an hour radius. Many trails, like those at Redbud Valley, feature caves and ravines.
The Tulsa Performing Arts Center puts on incredible shows every year, even sponsoring Broadway casts that tour through the city, and students can get discounted tickets to select shows. If you show up early to get your tickets, walk down the sidewalk prior to the show and visit Williams Green, a little area with beautiful statues and fountains. Deep in the downtown, you will also get a perfect view of the surrounding cityscape.
One perk of your student ID is that you get free admission to many of the museums in Tulsa, including the Philbrook Museum. Besides the art inside, the grounds of the museum are impressive enough, and are certainly worth a visit.
Tulsa is a fast-paced city with even more to do than what is on this list. On the homepage of the TU website, you can find an even more detailed list of locations to explore in Tulsa. There are many things to do for free, many performances to see and so many restaurants within twenty minutes of campus. If you ever need a quiet space on or off campus, there is always one available. Just remember to always be safe if you leave your dorm room. Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands, even after spending time outside!