Pawhuska may be a small town in northeast Oklahoma, but it’s played an important role in Oklahoma (and American history). It’s also become a tiny capital of foodie culture on the prairie and it is home to an important conversancy effort to protect native Bison and other endemic animals.
In short, Pawhuska might be the size of a postage stamp, but skip a visit at your peril! Here is my personal take on the best things to do in Pawhuska, including where to eat and where to stay, plus how to visit Pawhuska from Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
You will also find a complete Pawhuska travel guide at the bottom, with tips for what to bring, wear, and other Pawhuska tips that are important for your trip!
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Where to Stay in Pawhuska
While you can visit Pawhuska as a day trip from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or Wichita, there’s enough to do here that you can stay overnight or on a long weekend and really dig into all that Pawhuska and Osage County have to offer.
Here are my suggestions for where to stay in each budget category, plus an Airbnb recommendation. Recs are based on listed prices at the time, but keep in mind they can fluctuate based on availability, so always double-check the linked-to website for pricing for your exact dates.
Best Budget Option (Under $100 a night)
Best Mid-Range Option ($100-200 per night)
For a stay with a cozy appeal, check into the Historic Whiting Hotel Suites, located a tenth of a mile from The Mercantile and the rest of downtown. Rooms feature private balconies, kitchenettes, and kitschy decor. See pictures and availability here.
Best Luxury Option ($200 or more per night)
For a relaxing stay, check into the Frontier Hotel Pawhuska, which offers a sophisticated take on Wild West decor without scrimping on comfort. The rooms are stunning, with a mix of modern and farmhouse style and layers of country fabrics. See pictures and availability here.
Best Airbnb Option
If you’ve always been curious about tiny house living, check into the Prairie Cottage Queen, a tiny house located steps from The Mercantile. This tiny cottage sleeps up to four and features a modern cottage-chic decor. Perfect for anyone looking to avoid a hotel or traveling in a small group. See pictures and availability here.
The Best Things to Do in Pawhuska
Check out these amazing Pawhuska activities, including where to shop, great educational opportunities, and where to explore the great outdoors.
Shop at The Mercantile
If you want to tour The Lodge (more on that later), then your first stop in town should be The Mercantile. You can explore the beautiful shop as well as sign up for your Lodge tour.
The store is beautiful, and the items are meticulously curated. Honestly, every item for sale is one I’d be happy to bring home with me (or even better, receive as a gift).
If you plan on eating but you aren’t quite ready yet, you can also get your reservation time set. Depending on when you plan your visit, the restaurant can get quite full and reservations really come in handy!
For more, check out my list of what you should know before you visit the Mercantile.
Walk Around Downtown
Many of the best stops in town are on this list, but give yourself an hour to just explore the town without having to be anywhere or do anything. The town is so charming, full of beautiful and unexpected photo spots.
I enjoyed our time walking up and down Main Street nearly as much as when we were actually “doing things.” Remember, you come to a small town to relax, so leave time for it in your itinerary!
Visit the Osage Nation Museum
Sadly we weren’t able to visit because it is currently closed, however in the future this important museum will be open to the public again once its safe for the public to visit enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time.
This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the Osage Nation and educating visitors on the tribe’s culture as well as their singular place in Oklahoma (and American) history.
Go on a Private Tour
Big tour companies like Viator and GetYourGuide might now know about Pawhuska yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t arrange for a tour if that’s your favorite way to explore new places!
Contact the Pawhuska Guide to book a private tour of historic Pawhuska, including seeing filming locations for the movie Flowers of the Killer Moon.
Check Out the Osage Language Mural
After living in Eastern Europe for four years, I’m accustomed to seeing signs in alphabets other than the Latin alphabet, but I realized when I saw this mural that I had never seen the Osage alphabet before! What an oversight on my part!
This mural, which has been up since 2011, was designed by Ryan Red Corn. I went to school with the younger Red Corn brothers and am big fans of all of their work, but seeing this huge mural was something special!
The mural shows an Osage dancer and says “Wah.Zha.Zhi,” which is fitting since it is displayed on the side of the Osage Language Center.
This is hands-down one of my favorite Pawhuska photo spots.
Marvel at the Historic Stain Glass Windows of Immaculate Conception Church
Built in 1910, this Catholic church, nicknamed the “Cathedral of the Osage” is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the Tulsa World:
The church, built in the 1910s and 1920s when the Osage Nation was the richest group of people on Earth, has stained-glass windows made in Germany. It has statues and altars made by the craftsmen who supplied the same to the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The result is a stunning display of spectacular art.
“That adds an extra pride for us in the congregation. … So many families have been here for decades,” said Carrie Ann Watters, a parishioner who grew up in Pawhuska. “This is a different type of parish.
Go on a tour of the Lodge at Drummond Ranch
If you are in town because you are a Ree Drummond fan, then make sure to set aside time to go on a tour of The Lodge, where the show is filmed! You can make arrangements for tickets at the Mercantile.
See the Bison at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
A major highlight for me and a real Oklahoma hidden gem, you can see bison (sometimes called American Buffalo) living in their natural environment.
While here, you can drive the Bison loop or explore the area’s hiking trails. They also have a visitor’s center and picnic tables for added convenience during your visit.
Here’s my guide to visiting the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
Stop By Fire Station #1
This charming early nineteenth century firehouse has been turned into an art gallery, but whether you have time to go to a show or not, make sure to walk by and see this historic building in its tranquil setting next to City Hall.
Check Out a Show at the Constantine Theater (Or Just Marvel at Its Architecture)
The Constantine Theater was once an Opera House, but today it’s a lively event center with concerts and performances. If your Pawhuska visit coincides with their calendar, make sure to check out the happenings.
Otherwise, you can request a private tour to learn about the architecture and the history of the theater during your trip.
Admire City Hall from Louise Snyder Park
While you probably won’t have business at City Hall yourself, don’t skip taking a few photographs of this beautiful building on Main Street down the street from the Mercantile.
Experience the West at Woolarock
Dubbed by Will Rogers to be “the most unique place in this country,” Woolaroc is a 3700-acre wildlife preserve and houses a world-class museum. A popular destination year-round, it’s especially fun to visit during Christmas when you can see the area’s one-of-a-kind light display.
Go Antiquing at Sister’s Attic
If you love antiquing and thrifting, Pawhuska is a great place for you to shop! Sister’s Attic isn’t the only place to go, but it’s a great place to start. Including made in Oklahoma products alongside antiques and beautiful second-hand goods, come prepared to whip out some cash.
Find the Perfect Kitschy Souvenir at the Buckin’ Flamingo
My favorite stop in Pawhuska that I didn’t know anything about beforehand, the Buckin’ Flamingo is a hoot of a store. Featuring metal artwork, jewelry, locally made sauces, and tons of gags, it’s the perfect place to pick up a kitschy Oklahoma souvenir or two or five.
Where to Eat in Pawhuska
My guess is you aren’t going to Pawhuska to stay on a diet. The town is synonymous with food, some come hungry! Here are a few great option for where to eat in Pawhuska. You really can’t go wrong!
The Deli at the Mercantile
Okay, your trip to Pawhuska might be partially (or completely) organized around how to optimize your meal at the Deli at the Mercantile. I mean, it’s the kind of food worth driving a few hours for, I can assure you!
From giant plates of shrimp and grits to biscuits that make me weak in the knees, I can see it when I close my eyes.
Don’t worry if you plan on eating here more than once during your trip. They have a huge menu and you might just want to taste a little bit of everything!
A few blocks down from The Mercantile, Grill 125 is another popular spot in Pawhuska. Home to giant hamburgers and delicious ‘dawgs, this is the perfect spot if you want to see a little more of the authentic Pawhuska without the Pioneer Woman glam.
Housed in a former Tastee Freeze, Roadhouse Coneys is the perfect mix of updated food philosophy and classic road trip eats. Specifically created for locals, they’re only open from 11 am – 3 pm, Monday through Friday.
I.E. they care more about feeding the local students during the school week than the fancy tourists in town to see Food Network sets. If you are lucky enough to fit in a stop during your trip, act accordingly and make sure you represent us tourists well by being on your best behavior.
How to Get to Pawhuska
Pro Tip: The best way to get to Pawhuska is to drive. If you’re coming from far away, you can fly into Tulsa and rent a car since Tulsa has the nearest airport.
You can also check the price for flights into Oklahoma City since these tend to be cheaper than flights into Tulsa and might save you money in the long run.
There is no public transportation that goes to Pawhuska, so I’ve listed the driving directions here. If you don’t have access to your own car or a car rental, you have the option to take a taxi from Tulsa.
However, this will be almost $200 each way and require you to book your taxi directly through a Tulsa taxi company.
You could also use Uber to get from Tulsa. I’m seeing an estimate of about $70 for using Uber from Tulsa to Pawhuska, but I cannot verify if your actual price would be close to this.
The town of Pawhuska is fairly walkable, but many of the things listed here are outside of town. If you don’t have a car with you, you will be restricted to doing activities that are in Pawhuska proper.
Oklahoma City to Pawhuska
It takes a little over two hours to drive from Oklahoma City to Pawhuska, so this means you’ll spend four-and-a-half hours in the car or more if you tackle it as a day trip from Oklahoma City.
I personally don’t mind that amount of driving in a day, but it is a great excuse to stay for a long weekend if you need a break!
The drive is really easy. Make your way over to I-35 North, and head north for over an hour. You’ll use exit 214 to take US-60 towards Tonkawa/Ponca City. US-60 will take you right into town.
Here’s my more in-depth guide on how to get from OKC to Pawhuska.
Tulsa to Pawhuska
Pawhuska is an easy day trip from Tulsa since the drive is only about an hour each way.
You’ll start out on US-75 N, but you will definitely want to navigate using your phone or a GPS. There are more turns than the [nearly] strait shot you take from Oklahoma City.
As mentioned above, you can try to arrange for a private taxi or use Uber, but make sure you have an idea of what the price will be ahead of time. I would also make sure you will be able to use Uber to go back before proceeding this way.
Wichita to Pawhuska
Since Pawhuska is so close to the Kansas / Oklahoma border, plenty of folks will come down to visit Pawhuska from Kansas. You can also fly into Wichita if you find better flights than those going into OKC or Tulsa.
The drive from Wichita to Pawhuska is about two hours, and is nearly identical to route from OKC. Instead of heading north on I-35, just head south! You’ll take the same exit 214 towards Tonkawa/Ponca City. US-60 will take you right into town.
Just remember I-35 in Kansas is a turnpike, so be prepared to pay the toll.
Route 66 to Pawhuska
If you are planning a Route 66 road trip, you can fit in a day in Pawhuska quite easily! Just plan to spend the night in Tulsa and take a side trip to Pawhuska for the day.
Tulsa is the closest major point to Pawhuska that’s along Route 66. I would not try to visit Pawhuska and skip visiting the important Tulsa Route 66 sites.
Pawhuska Driving Tips
Many visitors to Pawhuska will be familiar with driving in Oklahoma. The town is off a small, two-lane highway, and the area is very drivable. There are just a few things you’ll want to note.
Watch for Deer!
As someone who has been in not one, but two!, car wrecks involving deer, let me tell you…northern Oklahoma has a lot of deer. As does central Kansas, but that’s a story for a different article.
Watch out for deer by keeping your eyes peeled. Stay alert even on I-35.
Plan Ahead for Parking in Pawhuska
Once you’re in Pawhuska, you’ll need to find a place to park for the day or overnight. Some of the hotels listed here include free parking, but day trippers should make sure that any space you park in is not reserved.
The Mercantile has parking for its customers. Make sure you get your ticket validated if need be. During peak times, the parking lot can easily be full.
We parked in the Municipal lot behind City Hall, making sure to avoid the spots reserved for hotel guests.
Brings Snacks for the Road
There aren’t as many fast food options in this part of the state, so I like to make sure I have some snacks in the car before we leave. In a pinch, I’ll pick up some beef jerky from Love’s because #roadtrip.
Snacks are also a good idea if you’re main reason for going to Pawhuska is to see the Mercantile where you’ll want to arrive extra hungry.
Watch the Speed Limit!
On US-60 there are a few places where the speed limit drops as you drive through towns. Make sure you don’t get caught in a speed trap and keep to the posted speed limits.
Tips for Renting a Car in Oklahoma
It’s awfully hard to get around Oklahoma without a car. Trust me, I’ve tried! While we went ahead and bought a car when we moved back, if you’ll only be here for a short while (or if you’re coming in from out of town), then you will want to rent a car.
I use Discover Cars when I rent cars on my travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
What to Wear in Pawhuska
While you can buy as much Cowboy, Cowgirl, and Cowperson gear as you want once you get here, you might want to know how to dress before you arrive.
If you’re planning on having a girls’ trip, wear cute brunch clothes with a casual flair. Similarly, if you’re away for a couple’s trip, wear clothes that are comfortable yet stylish enough that you will enjoy looking at the photos for years to come.
If your plans include hiking at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve or exploring Osage County’s many natural wonders, wear clothes appropriate to your activity.
The town itself is pretty casual, and you won’t feel underdressed if you show up in hiking clothes for a nice dinner at The Mercantile. It’s a friendly town that’s pretty welcoming and non-judgmental.
Pro Tip: No matter what, wear comfortable shoes! The best parts of the town and the surrounding area are reached on foot!
5 Things to Bring to Pawhuska
First, bring a camera! Whether you use your phone (a lot of these pics were taken with my iPhone 12 Pro), or you can a point and shoot like my Sony ZV-1, or even if you have a DSLR or Mirrorless (I have an old Nikon D810), it doesn’t matter.
Just make sure you bring a camera (or two). The town and the area are so photogenic, you won’t want to leave without having some of your memories captured!
Second, bring a phone charger! Whether you need an iPhone lightning cable or a Samsung USB-C charger, don’t leave yourself without internet access or the ability to make an emergency call from the road or if you’re out exploring on foot.
Third, bring a charging bank! Since you’ll be out of your car for long parts of the day, bring a portable charging bank so you can charge your phone on the go.
Fourth, bring a pair of sunglasses! This part of the state is windy and sunny, so you’ll be happy to have some eye protection from the glare and grime. I need prescription sunglasses (my latest pair I ordered online on Zenni), but I also love my Maui Jim’s aviators.
Finally, bring your sunscreen! You will spend a lot of your time outdoors, so prepare by having your sunscreen on before you leave and bring it with you so you can reapply as needed.
Bonus! Bring a great day bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc).
My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for traveling because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets if you take it to bigger cities.
It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
Oklahoma Travel Resources
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Heading out on the road?
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
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Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After living in Eastern Europe for four years, she has moved with her family back to Oklahoma to write about her favorite places growing up: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, & Route 66!