Penguin Palace in OKC

A gift from guest services

Our sweet gift from Haley & Allie. And they spelled ‘Henri’ right!

I’m generally not a huge fan of art museums. Not because I don’t like art but because the places are always so stuffy. No food, no drinks, no gum, no touching, and although I’ve never seen a sign that says “Quiet Please,” I always feel like the loud kid at the library waiting for someone to shush me.

21c Museum Hotels aren’t like that at all and what hotel priding themselves on Southern hospitality wouldn’t be dog-friendly?!

If you haven’t stayed at one of the six museum hotels, you’re missing out. From the location and building design to the food served, each location boasts a local flare. Part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum, 21c is making art accessible and fun. Henri and I are regulars at the Bentonville, AR location but living a mere twenty minutes away, we’ve never needed to stay the night. So when the newest hotel opened just three hours from us, it was time for another adventure.

Located on the West end of downtown Oklahoma City, OK and occupying the historic Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, this 135 room space was designed with great attention to the kind of details that would accentuate the history of the building as well as preserve its architectural character. Giant columns and original floors are left exposed in the lobby and the door of the elevator shaft that moved cars from floor to floor is painted bright red. In the rooms, carpeting resembles tire tread and faucet knobs look like the steering wheels of old Fords. From the public spaces that include the galleries, bar and restaurant to the guest rooms, art is staged in every nook and cranny. Only over-night guests with key cards are allowed past the first floor, so I suggest you book a room for the full experience. There’s plenty of other things to do in OKC and you won’t regret choosing 21c as your weekend base camp.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

A quick drink at the OKC Memorial

Getting a drink at the OKC National Memorial.

21c check-in isn’t until 4:00 p.m. That gave us just the right amount of time to make OKC before rush hour and spend some time at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Technically, the memorial space ISN’T dog-friendly, but we wandered into the green space from the side and didn’t see the signs until we were leaving. Several park rangers saw us, but no one asked us to leave. Maybe they thought Henri was a service dog…? In any case, the only comment made to me was that I shouldn’t let him drink the water in the fountain because it was chemically treated on a regular basis.

If you’re in, near or around OKC and you haven’t been to this site, it’s worth a detour. If you don’t do the museum, it won’t take much of your time and on a Thursday afternoon in October it wasn’t crowded and parking was a breeze. Placards and video boards throughout the space allow for a self-guided tour and park rangers are available for questions if you have them. It is a beautiful, peaceful space, and a powerful reminder of what happened there.

Bleu Garten Food Truck Park

After checking in at 21c and being out of the car for a bit, we were in need of food. Unfortunately, there is no portion of the bar, restaurant or patio at this 21c that is dog friendly. In search of options, we discovered Bleu Garten Food Truck Park in Midtown. It’s conveniently located across the street from Midtown Mutts Dog Park, which was a perfect place for Henri to stretch his legs and handle potty duties.

Bleu Garten. What can I say? Except what I said in my tweet.

Bleu Garten, Oklahoma City

Bleu Garten provides an amazing space that includes open air seating, fire pit, covered areas with TVs and two bars: one with beer taps and wine, the other with liquor, BOTH with bowls of dog treats. In addition, each night they’re open they welcome a rotating list of food trucks to provide a variety of dinning options.

The night we were there, I had a Pimento BLT from Pitchfork. It was as good as it sounds, and while I ate my sandwich, I chatted with some local girls who were there with a 9 week old Doodle named Millie. They suggested I skip the touristy Bricktown in favor of the Paseo Arts District or The Plaza. When the guy we met at the botanical gardens dog park the next day made the same suggestion, it was a done deal.

On Friday morning when I began to stir I realized Henri had to potty. By the elaborate dance he was doing, he meant that we should go quickly.

In a state of haste, I threw on my 21c robe, slipped on my cowboy boots, and headed downstairs with my dog.

A sight I’m sure, and why this would be so much more entertaining for y’all (and embarrassing for my Mom) if a camera followed us. Fortunately, the staff was highly amused and the private party taking place was Grease themed. The women at the check-in table were in robes and curlers a la Beauty School Drop Out and I was one teen angle short of fitting right in!

After returning to our room I ordered a breakfast of yogurt with honey, granola and dried fruit. It was way more than I could eat, so Henri got to share.

Myriad Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens are within easy walking distance of 21c but there’s a lot of urban renewal going on in the area and sidewalks are hit or miss. Also, when I got hustled in broad daylight at the national memorial, “No, I do not want to give you a blessing from Jesus,” I decided walking anywhere might not be in my best interest. Driving in downtown OKC is thankfully easy and the gardens are only about a 5 minute car ride from the hotel.

Five minutes. As in right in the middle of downtown OKC.

Myriad Botanical Gardens boasts 15 acres of natural beauty that includes splash fountains (now closed for the season), an off-leash dog park, and on the day of our visit, the children’s garden, a bustling scene of happy laughter, was staged as ‘Pumpkinville.’ Since dogs aren’t allowed into the children’s area, ‘PupVille’ had a place outside the entrance that was perfect for photos.

Taking photos at Pupville

A Pupville photo opportunity.

Now that Halloween is over, they are setting the scene for Christmas. So even though you missed Pumpkinville, you haven’t missed the holiday fun. The Devon Ice Rink opens November 11th, Winter Shoppes and the Merry Carousel return weekends starting November 25th, and I was assured that if your pup had a Christmas wish list to share with the jolly ol’ elf, he’d be glad to listen during Saturday’s with Santa.

We spent over an hour strolling the grounds and eventually made our way to the off-leash area for some sniffing and peeing. That’s where we met the cutest little puppy and his Dad. We tried to get the scoop on dog-friendly places to eat, but having lived in both Austin and New Orleans, he assured me I wouldn’t find anything interesting in OKC.

He doesn’t know me very well!

Paseo Arts District

Established in 1929 as Oklahoma City’s first commercial shopping district north of downtown, the faux Spanish village with its stucco buildings and clay tile roofs is now home to many of OKC’s local artists. We weren’t sure how dog-friendly Paseo Arts District would be but we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

Our first stop was Betsy King Shoe Boutique. Betsy was happy to welcome Henri into her shop and she was VERY displeased to discover we’d been told there was no good food in OKC. While I tried on a cute pair of animal print sneakers, she made us a list of some of her favorite patios including suggestions for what to try. Several spots at the Plaza made her list, as did Cheever’s in Uptown, and Picasso, right next door. Needless to say, you can always trust a woman with fabulous shoes to know exactly where to go!

In our meanderings through the Paseo, we discovered several dog-friendly shops and galleries. In fact, only one didn’t welcome Henri and that was because he was too big; carried dogs were welcome. Our favorite stops included The Purple Loft Art Gallery, where you will sometimes find the owner’s dogs at work with her; Craig’s Emporium, an eclectic mix of things you didn’t know you wanted; and Bone Dust Cowgirl, a vintage clothing and custom jewelry store where I almost lost my mind and my savings. One pair of Cayman Tail and one pair of Ostrich boots later, I left my business card and a request for a call if they come across black Ostrich quill with a walking heel. 8 ½ women’s, please.

After that unexpected score, I decided it was time to test Betsy’s recommendations. She’d told me that Picasso not only had a fabulous Basil Mojito but a ‘Dog Dish’ just for pups on the menu.

I have to be honest here. I had kinda discounted Picasso. A quick internet search of Paseo restaurants revealed a “local health-conscious café” with a “farm-to-table menu with vegan options.” Oh, look. All the food trend buzz words. Eye roll. I was hungry and hoped to find something not too weird, but having not actually looked at the menu, I was relying on Betsy. Trust the woman with the shoes, I tell ya.

First, let me start by telling you that Picasso has six menus including a drink menu that’s longer than the other five put together. Second, there are plenty of delicious sounding non-vegan options. Our waiter told me that the goal of Picasso was to create a place with something for everyone at the table. So guess what I had?

Fried Green Tomato Po Boy

Vegan? Me? Noooo!

Fried Green Tomato Po’ Boy with Picasso greens, cucumber chow chow, and garlic aioli on a fresh hoagie bun from local bakery, Prairie Thunder. With a side of Parmesan Risotto, it was FAN-Freaking-Tastic!

The Basil Mojito? Perfect.

Henri’s Dog Dish consisted of chicken and rice with fresh spinach and fancy carrot curls. For those of you wondering if humans and dogs share the same plates, they don’t. The Dog Dish is served in a disposable paper bowl.

Good job, Picasso, for exceeding expectations on every level, and thanks, Betsy, for the recommendation. Next time we’re in OKC, we’re hanging out with you!

Once Henri finished picking the chicken and rice out of his bowl and scattering the carrots for the birds hopping around on the patio, we paid our tab and made our way back to 21c. It was my plan for us to rest a bit, then head back out and get into something else. I had a great recommendation from the 21c staff, but even the promise of a newly opened wine bar with a dog-friendly patio, didn’t rally us. OKC Abstract was having a huge party in the gallery space and that was as far as we got. An hour of that had Henri ready for some quiet time. While one of the abstract relators held Henri for me, I grabbed a glass of wine from the bar and took it to our suite.

Although I wish dogs were at least allowed in the lounge portion of the bar and/or on the patio at 21c OKC, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt more welcome in a hotel. Not once did we enter or exit the lobby without someone greeting us, usually calling Henri by name and sometimes stopping to pet him. On Thursday evening, an employee offered to hold Henri’s leash outside the bar while I grabbed a drink and on several occasions someone offered to take a photo for us. I’m pretty sure all of the employees we encountered have dogs of their own and that lent itself to the genuineness of the hospitality. We shared stories and photos of our dogs, they made recommendations about places to go, and they seemed truly interested in our adventures and experience.

Each 21c is different, but I’m guessing you can expect the same great attention, if not access, at every location. Their Furry Friends Policy states that pets must be kept on a leash or in a carrier in public areas, and while pets may be left unattended in guest rooms, the front desk should be notified with information regarding how long you’ll be gone and a phone number where you can be reached. A fee of $150 per stay will be charged for any pet, and though not a hard limit, the preference is for pets to be under 60 lbs. Both the weight restriction and fee are waived for service animals.

“In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse lock yourself in your room and defend yourself against the inevitable horde of zombies. Feel free to use any guest room items and/or equipment to protect yourself.” -From the 21c Safety Guidelines.

I’m guessing if this occurs, payment for additional cleaning bills or repairs will also be waived.

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2 Responses to Penguin Palace in OKC

  1. gina says:

    Wow! What an awesome place for dog owners/lovers. Loved your post, thanks for sharing-will be taking a peek back soon for more adventures.

    • Denise says:

      Thanks, Gina! We’ll be doing a Christmas trip the first weekend of December and announcing the location on social media soon.

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