Located in the heart of Pottawatomie County, Shawnee offers a delightful blend of small-town charm, cultural diversity, and the natural beauty of the Great Plains. It’s situated about 35 miles east of Oklahoma City and has a rich history and diverse community.
With a population of approximately 31,000 residents, Shawnee embodies the spirit of a close-knit community that takes pride in its heritage. The city traces its roots back to the mid-19th century when it served as a trading post and later became an important railroad hub.
Shawnee has a deep connection to Native American culture. The city is located within the traditional lands of the Shawnee Tribe, and their influence can be seen throughout the community.
Today, Shawnee embraces its rich history while embracing modern amenities and a vibrant cultural scene.
If you are a history buff visit this city to explore the city’s historic sites, museums, and cultural attractions, gaining a deeper understanding of the region’s past. Let’s explore together the best 10 things to do in Shawnee, OK if you plan a visit here.
Things to Do in Shawnee, OK
1. Step Back in Time at the Santa Fe Depot
Begin your Shawnee journey by visiting the beautifully restored Santa Fe Depot. This historic train station offers a fascinating glimpse into Shawnee’s past and showcases local artifacts and exhibits.
The Santa Fe Depot, officially known as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Passenger and Freight Depot, was constructed in 1903. It served as a transportation hub for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, connecting Shawnee to various destinations.
The depot features an architectural style known as Spanish Mission Revival, characterized by its stucco façade, red-tiled roof, and arched doorways and windows. This style is reminiscent of early 20th-century Southwestern architecture.
The Santa Fe Depot stands as a reminder of Shawnee’s connection to the railway era and the role that transportation played in shaping the city’s identity.
2. Explore the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art
The museum was founded in 1919 by Father Gregory Gerrer, a Benedictine monk and artist. It was established as a way to provide art education and cultural enrichment to the community.
The museum’s collection is truly remarkable, boasting over 4,000 objects from various regions and time periods.
It features a wide range of art forms, including ancient Egyptian artifacts, Renaissance paintings, Native American pottery, Asian ceramics, and European sculptures. Each piece tells a unique story and offers a glimpse into different cultures and artistic movements.
The museum’s building itself is a piece of history, designed in the Classical Revival architectural style. The architecture complements the museum’s mission to showcase art across various historical periods.
3. Discover Outdoor Beauty at Shawnee Twin Lakes
Nature lovers will adore Shawnee Twin Lakes. Shawnee Twin Lakes consists of two lakes, North Twin and South Twin.
These lakes are nestled within a serene natural setting, surrounded by rolling hills and lush vegetation. The scenic beauty of the lakes and their surroundings provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
There are hiking and nature trails around the lakes, allowing visitors to explore the surrounding woodlands and observe local wildlife. These trails provide opportunities for both leisurely strolls and more adventurous hikes.
4. Enjoy a Thrilling Gaming Experience at FireLake Casino
Feeling lucky? Head over to FireLake Casino for an exciting gaming experience.
FireLake Casino features a wide range of gaming options, including slot machines, video poker, electronic table games, and more. From slot machines to card tables, this lively casino offers plenty of chances to test your luck.
Beyond gaming, FireLake Casino often hosts live entertainment events, including concerts, comedy shows, and special performances. These events enhance the overall casino experience and provide additional entertainment options, so make sure you get informed in advance.
5. Immerse Yourself in Native American Heritage at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center
Learn about the rich Native American heritage of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation at their Cultural Heritage Center. The highlight is its extensive collection of artifacts that reflect the daily life, spirituality, and customs of the Potawatomi people.
From intricately crafted pottery and beadwork to traditional clothing and tools, these artifacts provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage that has been passed down through generations.
6. Indulge in Local Flavors at Shawnee’s Farmers Market
Support local farmers and artisans while treating your taste buds at Shawnee’s Farmers Market. This market takes place every Saturday from May through October.
You can shop in the City Hall parking lot at 11110 Johnson Drive from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The farmers market is a prime destination to purchase fresh and locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other seasonal produce. It’s an opportunity to support local farmers and enjoy products at their peak freshness.
7. Catch a Live Performance at the Ritz Theater
The Ritz Theater is a historic theater that dates back to the early 20th century. It played a vital role in providing entertainment and a social gathering space for the community during its heyday.
The Ritz Theater features distinct architectural characteristics that were common to theaters of its time. The exterior may exhibit elements of Art Deco or other styles that were popular during the era of its construction.
Throughout its history, the Ritz Theater primarily functioned as a movie theater, showcasing films that were popular during different decades. For many, it was a place to enjoy cinematic experiences on the big screen.
For some visitors, the Ritz Theater might evoke feelings of nostalgia and memories of past visits to movie theaters in their youth.
8. Unleash Your Inner Athlete at the Shawnee Family YMCA
Stay active and have a blast at the Shawnee Family YMCA. With a wide range of sports facilities, swimming pools, and fitness classes, there’s no shortage of ways to get moving and have fun.
If you are visiting with your kids, then the good news is that Inner Athlete at the Shawnee Family YMCA is a kid-friendly destination. They encourage children to lead active, healthy lives.
9. Embark on a Scenic Hiking Adventure at Shawnee Twin Lakes Nature Trail
This trail is a hidden gem that showcases the region’s diverse landscapes and provides a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
It’s important to note that the Shawnee Twin Lakes Nature Trail offers a range of hiking options suitable for all fitness levels and preferences.
Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll, an invigorating hike, or a challenging trek, there are trails available to accommodate your needs.
10. Experience the Excitement of the International Finals Youth Rodeo
If you’re visiting Shawnee in July, don’t miss the International Finals Youth Rodeo. It attracts participants and spectators from various countries, creating a vibrant and diverse atmosphere.
Beyond the rodeo action, the IFYR often includes additional entertainment and activities for attendees of all ages. It’s an experience that showcases the true spirit of the West. The price is $110 for an adult and $55 for children, but make sure you check their website for updated information.
Best Things to Do in Shawnee, OK with Kids
Shawnee, Oklahoma, offers a variety of family-friendly activities and attractions so if you are planning a family trip here’s a list of the top 5 things to do with kids in Shawnee:
- Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center: Explore exhibits and interactive displays to learn about Native American history and culture.
- Shawnee Splash Water Park: Enjoy water slides, pools, and splash zones for a fun-filled day of aquatic adventures.
- Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art: Discover a diverse collection of art and artifacts, sparking creativity and learning for kids.
- FireLake Ball Fields: Attend sports events or family-friendly tournaments at the ball fields.
- Local Parks and Playgrounds: Visit parks like Woodland Veterans Park or Optimist Park for playgrounds, open spaces, and picnicking.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Shawnee, OK famous for?
Shawnee, OK, is known for its Native American heritage, vibrant arts scene, annual International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) event, and the presence of Oklahoma Baptist University.
Is Shawnee, Oklahoma a town or a city?
Shawnee, Oklahoma, is a city located in Pottawatomie County.
What is it like to live in Shawnee, Oklahoma?
Living in Shawnee offers a blend of community spirit, educational opportunities, and outdoor recreation. It’s a city with a mix of history, modern amenities, and events that contribute to a balanced lifestyle.
What is the history of Shawnee, Oklahoma?
Shawnee’s history is rooted in its Indigenous heritage, originally settled by the Shawnee Tribe. Over time, it became a hub for trade and culture. The city played a role in the Land Run of 1891 and has since developed into a diverse community with a mix of industries and cultural attractions.