As a waitress and bartender in Altus, I promise you I get asked nine times a day what in the world there is to do in Altus, Oklahoma. Don't worry, I'm not offended. As a born-and-raised local I've heard all of the complaints before. I know this isn't a metropolitan area, and you're right our mountains are small and the only beaches we possess are around man-made lakes. But you know what? My mother always told me you're only bored if you chose to be bored, so why not get out there and explore the culture you're assigned to for the next few days, weeks, months or years.
There's a lot more to the Southwest Oklahoma culture than meets the eye. In fact, the majority of my regulars downtown are old men who were stationed here back in the 70's. They fell in love with the area, the slow pace of life and the genuinity of the people and against all odds--decided to stay.
We're glad you're here, if only for a little while, so give us a chance...we might just surprise you.
So let's start out with the basics. SWOK is about two things: food and family. People don't live here for the cityscape. They live here because it's slow and old-fashioned and the commute to the office doesn't take all day. All of these things give us more time to focus on the truly important things in life--the ones we love. And how do we bond with the ones we love? By eating, of course.
ON BASE: There are two weekend hangouts where you can enjoy good grub and good drinks. While originally May's used to be for Club members only, it is now open to anyone and everyone with base access. Charlie's used to be an officer's club, but it too is now open to anyone with base access.
- May's Lounge- Wings, burgers, friends and beer is our specialty. Chat up your bartender and get to know your piers while you unwind. We have pool tables, board games and an entertaining bartender.
- Charlie's- Charlie's is an institution at Altus AFB. She, (yes, she) has been around this base longer than most of you have been alive, but don't let that fool you. She's a ball of energy and her bar comes with a great atmosphere and cook your own steak or burger options!
OFF BASE: The cuisine off base is as exciting as you let it be. Here in Oklahoma we have some of the best Mexican food and hamburgers this side of the Mississippi. Our state meal is Chicken Fried Steak though, so be sure and try one of those at Fred's Steakhouse for a very small fee.
- Meer's- Enjoy a WORLD FAMOUS Burger at the popular hole-in-the-wall, or side of the mountain, if you will, and don't forget to order a Sweet Tea served in a mason jar! If you're really hungry go for the Seismic Burger and Texas Toothpicks!
- La Taqueria- Enjoy some AUTHENTIC Tex-Mex food at La Taqueria on the square in Altus, near the courthouse. Get there early during the lunch rush, though--the place fills up fast!
- Val's- Another age-old tradition of the local scene, you have to check out Val's restaurant on a Wednesday night. Normally you'll find live music and a great spot on the patio. The wing flavors are as interesting as they come and definitely affordable!
Again, we like to spend our downtime socializing around here. While Altus doesn't have a plethora of nightclubs, we do have some of the more interesting bars in the area.
- Trader Tom's- Check out Trader Tom's Tavern and learn all the history on Classic Rock, Altus and the good old days! Go before seven and introduce yourself to Tom himself--you'll learn a ton.
- Scooters-I'm sure you've heard of the “Walmart on Alcohol” people-watching entertainment we have right up the road. You don't have to like it, but you have to go once just to say you've seen it.
There's more diversity in exploration around Southwest Oklahoma than meets the eye. Mountain trails, lakes, fishing, hunting and music are all just around the bend.
- Quartz Mountain- If you have some free time, head north to Quartz Mountain for a mini-getaway. Tons of hiking trails, a golf course and Lake Lugert are all waiting for you to explore!
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge- The Wichita Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the US. Full of Native American history and secrets, you can visit this beautiful site just by driving through the Wildlife Refuge. Buffalo, longhorn and prairie dogs are definitely included in the view.
- Medicine Park- Want a fun Saturday excursion? Check out our hidden hippie town of Medicien Park. Go on a festival weekend and enjoy tons of free live music, beer and vendors.
- Fishing- Lake Lugert is an excellent place to catch some Walleye, Crappie and occasionally a catfish. If you really want to fish like a local, ask about noodling.
- Lakes- Oklahoma has more dam-created lakes than any other state in the country. Rent a boat and see why Okies love their lake time! Nearby lakes include Lake Lugert (Altus), Tom Steed and Latonka.
Why travel if you aren't willing to expand your mind? We may not be one of the original cities on your list of places to see, but we still have plenty of history and fun facts for you to open up to.
- Religion-Attend one of the many church services around town. This is the buckle of the Bible Belt you're in, you know! Weekly church services are a big part of the culture and community down here. Step inside and see why this is the cornerstone of our society in SWOK.
- Agriculture- Agriculture is the main economic endeavour in SWOK (as if the miles of cotton fields weren't a dead give-away.) While you are here I suggest you tour a cotton gin, learn about the huge impact of Wheat Harvest (May-June) and talk to a local farmer (you can catch them at Friendship Inn early in the morning.) Do a little background study on sustainable agriculture and the future of farming in the United States. These are the issues our rural area will face in the next generations.
- Western Prairie Museum- Altus is home to a museum that tells the story of Southwest Oklahoma and the settling of the region. Learn about the landrun, the airbase and everything that has happened to make Altus what it is today.
- Country Music- Oklahoma has deep roots in Country music. Drive one of the Rhythym & Routes road trips and be amazed at what you'll learn about Oklahoma and the music industry.
- WWII Airborne Demonstration Team- Believe it or not, the small town of Frederick, Oklahoma is home to this interesting organization. Twice a year people from all over the world come to Frederick to learn how to jump out of a C-47 WWII style as they commemorate the generations before them. Click here for more information. But while you are in Frederick, I suggest checking out their other many museums. The Chamber there has sample itineraries available for seeing the many museums and tours there.
While I hate sending people out of town on the weekends, I understand every now and then you need to get away. Here's my list of personally approved ideas that are outside of the usual Dallas nightclub hype...
- Palo Duro Canyon-The second largest canyon in the united states, located just outside of Amarillo. I recommend taking your camping and hiking gear. It's beautiful! Canyon is also a neat town with B&B options for the less adventurous. The one I stayed at was previously lived in by famous artist, Georgia O'Keefe.
- Bricktown/OKC- While there's plenty to do in Oklahoma City, I recommend taking a boat tour on the river, participating in the watersports on the lake and rock climbing inside an old grain elevator! Also, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial is a must.
- Lubbock Art Trail- The First Friday Art Trail is an amazing shock of arts and culture in this nearby Texas city. Take a picture in front of the Beatles mural, check out the student exhibits and see the work of former Texas Tech football star, Baron Batch.
- Cadillac Ranch- Just outside of Amarillo you'll find the most bizarre public art exhibit you've ever seen. I visited this place back in 2014 and it left me reeling with ideas. You can read my blog post on the visit here.
- Turner Falls- Just a couple hours from Altus, this park is nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains -- a totally different scene from the Wichitas! Here you can find Oklahoma's tallest waterfall, as well as swimming and hiking!
>>Read: Day trips from Altus: Turner Falls
As former Chamber Director, I must never forget to inform you of the most amazing annual events in the area! This is the real fun of the community.
- Mangum Rattlesnake Derby- On the last full weekend in April the tiny town of Mangum comes alive with, yes, RATTLESNAKES! Try this rare cuisine, hold one and even purchase some rattlesnake skin get-ups!
- Altus Car Show- This takes place on the first weekend in May. Grab your lawn chairs and find a place to sit on Main Street as you watch all kinds of rods and rides cruise Main.
- Frederick Oyster Fry- A tradition that's gone on for over 27 years, this is another small town miracle. Every February the folks of Frederick drive down to the south coast of Texas and pick up hundreds of gallons of raw oysters. The community breads them and serves them up fresh the very next day.
- Great Plains Stampede Rodeo- The fourth weekend of August is when things really get rowdy in Altus. This three-day rodeo will have you singing Garth Brooks quicker than you can realize you understand the lyrics.
There are plenty of other fun things to do while you stay with us in Southwest Oklahoma, but no one likes an unending blog post.
I will recommend checking out this post by a young man formerly stationed at Altus AFB (read it here.)
And please feel free to email me if you have any other questions bout how to enjoy SWOK like a local! firstname.lastname@example.org
Written and personally endorsed by Haley Hoover.
do not reflect the views or opinions of Altus Air Force Base or Club Altus.