Are you headed to charming Pawhuska? While there are tons of great things to do here and lots of charming Pawhuska photo spots, a visit to the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile shop and restaurant is an absolute must!
Here’s what you need to know before you visit the Mercantile, from what to expect while dining to tips for shopping and a few insider tips you won’t want to skip! Whether you’re a Ree Drummond fan or just a foodie passing through town, don’t miss your chance to enjoy one of the best spots in Osage County!
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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.
Tips for Visiting The Mercantile
Make sure you follow these ten tips to have the best visit you can!
Go as soon as you get into town…if you want to tour the Drummond Lodge
It’s okay if you’re not ready to eat or shop yet but go to the Mercantile as soon as you get into town IF you want to go on a tour of Drummond Lodge where the Pioneer Woman show is filmed.
Tours can only be arranged at the Mercantile, so don’t dawdle if you want to make sure that you get on a tour and that it fits your trip itinerary.
Prepare for long lines
Obviously, there are times when restaurants hurt and there aren’t as many people clamoring to get in as usual. However, if you’re coming during normal times, expect long lines that can wrap around the building.
The service is fast and the wait time is worth it, just factor it in so you don’t get hangry!
The dining room is cute but not too-cute
I hope you know what I mean. I love that it’s rustic without being so over-the-top that it feels inauthentic or too gimmicky. Instead, it’s just the right amount of decor without being pushy. I love that it’s simple yet country chic.
Kids are welcome!
While the restaurant might be the highlight of your Pawhuska trip, it’s still a pretty casual place. You can dress up as much as you want, but you’ll still find the table over is the local high school volleyball team sharing fries after practice in their athletic gear.
So if you have kids (even loud toddlers like ours) they’re completely welcome. It’s a famous place, but it’s not stuffy.
The plates are huge
We ate one meal there and left with enough in a doggie bag to eat another whole meal when we got home. Every plate was double what it needed to be. So while it has a reputation for being a bit pricey, the portions are not stingy at all.
But is it pricey?
Considering what Oklahoma prices are like, the $49 price tag for our meal did seem steep.
But compared to what I would pay for this in a nice restaurant in New York, Philly, DC, etc? It was pretty close to what you’d expect.
So I’d say it’s pricey for Oklahoma and maybe, especially for rural Oklahoma, but it’s not pricey when compared to similar restaurants in popular tourist destinations – which Pawhuska is becoming.
What did we get for $49? Two drinks, Parmesan fries, shrimp and grits, and the accompanying sides. And we ate both lunch and dinner from that, so it averaged $12.25 per person per meal. I would happily pay it again, but I see why some locals complain that it’s not priced for the community.
The food is delicious
Everything was good. Even the Parmesan fries, which confused me why my husband ordered them. But they were delicious at the restaurant and held up pretty well as leftovers.
The shrimp and grits were the highlights for me, but the biscuit did positively melt in my mouth.
Make sure you leave room in your budget (and backpack) for shopping
There’s a reason I put souvenirs from the Mercantile on my official Oklahoma souvenirs and gifts list because it’s so quintessentially Oklahoman.
You can find Ree Drummond gifts and cookbooks, beautiful pottery, and made-in-Oklahoma products. Leave enough time to really browse, because the selection is overwhelming!
Don’t skip the bathroom
Seriously, it’s beautiful. My mother and I have visited the Mercantile separately, never together, yet that was one of the first things we ended up talking about.
There is a dedicated parking lot across the street
I parked in the municipal parking lot, so I didn’t use it. Double-check with The Mercantile when you get there to see if you need to have your parking validated or if you need a ticket to display in your car window.
Bonus! Don’t skip the rest of Pawhuska
The rest of the town is charming and full of incredibly important history and culture, so don’t only come into town to eat at the Mercantile if you can avoid it.
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 the 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.
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.
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Stephanie Craig is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After traveling all over the world, Stephanie moved back to Oklahoma to explore more of her own backyard. Her favorite things to do in Oklahoma include visiting the Blue Whale of Catoosa, the Arcadia Round Barn, and the Talimena Scenic Byway.