Founded in 1901 and built on several Indian tribes’ reservation lands, Lawton is an essential historic city for Native American history. It’s home to Geronimo’s grave, Fort Sill military base, and has a museum that holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Comanche fine art.
Lawton is also rich with picturesque sceneries and is surrounded by the magnificent Wichita Mountains, with Mt. Scott being the closest. The city’s area has many recreational lakes like Elmer Thomas Lake and Quanah Parker Lake, state parks with camping sites, and lots of family-friendly activities.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Lawton (OK)
1. Apache Casino Hotel
Apache Casino opened in 1999 and introduced gaming to the area. Later the owners added a spacious hotel, which now is the only casino hotel in the area. It also functions as an event center, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a concert or a special event like Disco Night Fever.
Apache Casino is a perfect upper-class casino to gamble and enjoy the night. Divided into two areas, this casino will suit everyone, including non-smokers. Visitors can play over 900 newest slot machines, Blackjack, Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, Vegas-style Roulette, and Craps. If you get hungry after all the fun, stop by for dinner at the onsite 360 Restaurant to try their famous grilled chili hot dog.
2. Holy City Of The Wichitas
Located 20 minutes from Lawton in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, there’s a 66-acre Holy City replica. It resembles Israel during the Biblical time and has been home to the longest-running Easter passion play called The Prince of Peace, which tells the story of Jesus. The admission is free, but many guests leave some donations. When you’re on top of the hill, look out for buffalos running wild in the fields.
The site looks more like ancient ruins, but its construction took place in the 1930s. Today it includes Pilate’s Judgment Hall, Herod’s Court, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord’s Supper building, which the visitors can check out year-round. On the spot, you’ll also see the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, a Veterans Walkway, and the World Chapel.
3. Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center
Located in Medicine Park, 20 minutes from Lawton, this Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center is an entertaining and learning experience for everyone. With the mission to conserve the species through education, the aquarium has over 90 native and exotic fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals on display. There’s also a 7-acre botanical garden and a few picnic tables outside.
Many exhibits are very interactive, like feeding the turtles and bobwhite quail, touching marine creatures in tide pools, or the hands-on horseshoe crab station. The other exciting inhabitants include two otters Sam and Dean, electric eels, an alligator, and Moby, the largest blue catfish in captivity.
4. U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum
To learn about America’s national and military history, head out to The U.S. Army Field Artillery & Fort Sill Museum. Established in 1934 and opened a year later, the museum’s dedicated to preserving the history of Fort Sill, a local war base, and the Field Artillery. Initially, the museum stood in the old guardhouse, but in 1958 it expanded as the collection grew more extensive and more visitors were coming.
The museum’s divided into two areas: inside and outside exhibits. Inside, visitors can enjoy a short historical film and more than 70 artillery guns, swords, military uniforms, and event technology items like the largest surviving part of the ENIAC computer. The outdoor exhibit is just as exciting, as it includes big machinery like tanks, cannons, and the Atomic Annie – an automated nuclear rocket launcher.
5. Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation
Located at Mt. Scott’s base not far from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area is a perfect place for a one-day getaway or camping. There are spots for the R.V.s, camping with tents, modern cabins, or primitive camping spots. If you need anything, check out the local store that sells camping gear, fishing permits and equipment, snacks and drinks.
The main feature of the area is the Elmer Thomas Lake, named after an Oklahoma lawyer and politician. There are so many activities for visitors. There’s fishing, kayaking (including kayak lessons and tours), beach volleyball, or even scuba diving. You can swim in the lake, go canoeing, and the kids will enjoy playgrounds and water slides.
6. Museum of the Great Plains
The Museum of the Great Plains opened in 1961 and is a 25,000-square-foot museum of Oklahoma history focused on the Great Plains region’s cultural and natural history. Through interactive activities and informational displays, visitors can learn about different cultures living in the area and their way of life.
The museum is the highlight of Lawton. Although it’s often advocated as a children’s museum, everyone will find the exhibits exciting. One of the most intense and favorite experiences is the Tornado Simulator. Other cool displays include the Trading Post, The Domebo Dig Site, a recreation of the 1960’s archeological excavation, and the Council Saddle Shop, inspired by the work and life of Howard Council.
7. Geronimo’s Grave
When traveling to Lawton, it’s worth stopping by Geronimo’s Grave, located in the Fort Sill Cemetery. Finding the Grave can be a bit tricky, but the cemetery’s visitor center’s staff can give directions and a map. Geronimo’s Grave represents a pyramid out of cobblestones, where the great Apache warrior and a prominent Native American leader rests in peace.
The memorial offers a unique historical feeling and a bit of an insight into Geronimo’s life, who spent his final years in Fort Sill until he died of pneumonia in 1909. Those who are into Native American history can also search for a nearby grave of Geronimo’s rival, the Apache Chief Loco.
8. Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center
The Comanche National Museum opened its doors to the public in 2007 and has been proudly representing the history, culture, and art of the Comanche Tribe. It’s a smaller museum located right next to the Museum of the Great Plains, but it’s much worth the visit. The museum has both fascinating permanent and national traveling exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, Michigan State University, and Chicago’s Field Museums.
The museum is home to the world’s greatest collection of Comanche fine art. Displays tell the visitors about the tribe’s way of life, customs, and traditions through live performances, narrated exhibits, and the outdoor village. There’s also an exhibit on WWII code talkers, about which the museum’s Native American staff will gladly tell. Make sure to stop by at the gift shop, which has an impressive selection of books, pressed coins, and the famous Dream Catchers.
9. Historic Mattie Beal Home
Mattie Beal Home is a historic house built in the early 1900s by Mattie Beal and her husband, Charles Warren Payne. After a renovation in the 1930s, this 3,580-square-foot mansion has many original elements and furniture. The visitors can choose between a self-guided tour or a narrated tour with the museum’s staff.
The collections, displayed in this 14-room mansion, tell the history of Mattie Beal, a woman who won a 160-acre land through the lottery and made a massive difference for the local settlement. Visitors can immerse themselves in the town’s history, and the history of Native Americans, and the Western Expansion. Some of the house’s original architectural features, like massive Corinthian columns, a grand staircase, or the colorful stained glass window, are impressive.
10. Fort Still National Historic Landmark and Museum
Fort Sill is the 19th-century army post that still operates as an army military base. Forty-six out of fifty buildings located in the base are still functional. The museum tells a lot about the local history and the history of those cadets who spent their time here during the last 100 years. It is the place where Geronimo and others spent time as war prisoners.
You’ll find three cavalry barracks in the museum, a mess hall, a storehouse, and a kitchen that look the same as in 1875. Some of the memorabilia are unique, from the 1860s kitchen pantry to the collection of ceremonial Indian headdresses. If you’re lucky, you can even catch one of Fort Sill Gun Detachment’s regular loading and firing demonstrations.
11. Comanche Nation Casino
Spend or win a few dollars while sipping a delicious drink at the Comanche Nation Casino. It’s a smaller-sized casino that offers premier entertainment with over 700 slot machines. The casino has complimentary coffees and sodas available to all guests. If you’re looking for more fun, stop by the casino’s other venue called The Club. You can catch a live show or a concert to spice up your night.
After a bit of gambling, visitors can enjoy a nice drink at the Mustang Sports Grill, a sports bar, or a full-on dinner meal at the Comanche Nation Casino Grill. Make sure to try the grilled catfish and burgers. On your way out, stop by at the Smoke Shop to browse and purchase a few gifts.
12. Leslie Powell Gallery
Leslie Powell Gallery is one of the most prominent cultural places in Lawton. It opened in 1986 in the building of the Little Chapel of Lawton. In 2000, the space became too small, and the gallery moved. The gallery got its name after a successful artist, who used his trust fund to pay for the gallery.
Visit the gallery to feel the local community and discover artworks by artists from the Southwestern Oklahoma region. You’ll see 3D art, paintings, drawings, and more. The exhibits are constantly changing, but one of the most famous is the Indian Arts display.
13. Bath Lake Medicine Park
If you’re visiting Lawton in the summertime, grab your swimming suit and head northwest to the Medicine Park, founded in 1908. The famous swimming and recreation spot, Bath Lake, was formed in the 1920s when two dams created the swimming hole and Lake Gondola for boating. It’s a perfect swimming spot with both deep and shallow areas, great for kids and adults. There’s a symbolic admission required to access the lake.
If you’re looking for more activities in the area, enjoy the view of the beautiful waterfalls while you take a stroll around the lake or have a picnic at one of the picnic tables available on every corner. There you’ll find a stand with snacks and cabins for rent. In winter, Bath Lake is a popular trout fishing spot.
14. Quanah Parker Star House
The house of the famous Quanah Parker, Comanche chief and a founding supporter of the Native American Church, still stands in Cache, half an hour from Lawton. This two-story house has ten rooms and was built in the 1890s to fit Quanah Parker’s social status. Today the building is an important Native American historical site.
Visitors can find a total of 14 stars painted on the roof of the house, a smokehouse, and a summer house. There are a few legends about them, but the most common story says that the stars represented the Chief’s rank and importance, equal to a military general. Visit the Star House, where Chief amused his white business partners, celebrities, and members of the tribe. The legend also says that he kept true to his roots and slept outside on the second story’s porch.
15. Elmer Thomas Park
Elmer Thomas Park is a 176-acre natural wonder where you can escape from the city. Get some exercise on one of its grassy areas, take a stroll on its 2-mile walking path, or go biking on its 1-mile biking path. You can enjoy the sunset while having a delicious picnic at one of the park’s tables. If you visit the park, you’re sure to spot the cute prairie dogs and ducks and geese on the lake.
The park changes entirely and offers a wonderful atmosphere for the holidays. Watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, go trick-or-treating with friends and family on Halloween, or immerse yourself in the Holiday in the Park Christmas Lights display. Starting in November and through the winter holidays, visitors can ride in a horse-drawn carriage and try out delicious treats from the local vendors. Kids of all ages will enjoy the park because of its covered playground with slides, climbing walls, and swings.
16. Central Mall Lawton
For a bit of shopping and entertainment in Lawton, visit the Central Mall, an indoor shopping mall that opened in 1979. In this more than 500,000-square-foot mall, you can choose from about 70 shops. It’s an ideal location to take a short break from sightseeing.
There’s also The New Vision 12 movie theater, the arcade, lunar gold, and a play area for kids. It’s even possible to rent a mobile animal ride to entertain the kids while you’re shopping. The mall also has a good food court with plenty of options for a quick but delicious meal.
17. Mount Scott
One of the most renowned granite rock peaks and mountains in the state, Mount Scott, lies within the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It takes about 30 minutes to get there from Lawton, and it’s a stop you should include in your travel itinerary. At 2,464 feet above sea level, the mountain’s top offers incredible vistas of the Wichita Mountains, lakes, and nearby cities.
A 3-mile paved road leads to the mountain summit. You can drive there as there’s a spacious parking lot available, go on a bike or hike. Make sure to check the rules before arrival, as hiking can be limited on some days. Get your camera ready as there are lots of wildlife representatives roaming around. The most common are American buffalo, elk, white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, and even coyotes.
18. Lawton Speedway
Seeing a racing show at Lawton Speedway is one of the most unusual and fun things to do in Lawton. Located on Sheridan Road outside of town, this track will provide fun and excitement to any visitor.
The track, built in 1963, is almost 4 miles long. It’s home to many thrilling local races. You can catch a great show every Saturday during the season, from April to August. Bring your friends or family to get an unforgettable experience of cheering on the race.
19. Lake Lawtonka
The alluring Lake Lawtonka lies north of Lawton and offers beautiful natural surroundings with the Wichita Mountain vistas. You can take a day trip or stay overnight camping. The lake is formed by a dam across Medicine Bluff Creek with streams from the mountains running into this 2-square-mile lake.
There’s an attractive shoreline, which offers many recreational opportunities – swimming, boating, watersports, and hiking. The hiking trail around the lake called Lake Lawtonka Green Trail is about 4 miles. Lake Lawtonka is a popular camping area that includes East Campground and Robinson’s Landing. All campsites offer picnic tables with grills and a fish cleaning table. There are bathrooms and hot showers, a grocery store, a gas station, and a playground on site.
20. Lawton Rangers Rodeo
Lawton Rangers Rodeo is a provocative but fun experience of life in Lawton. The non-profit organization that stands behind the competitions is the Historical Association of the Lawton Rangers. Its mission is to promote agricultural education and support western heritage. The first rodeo took place in 1938. Today Lawton Rangers Rodeo is one of the top 25 in the country.
Seeing a live rodeo show is a compelling experience. Over 400 inspiring and skilled cowboys and cowgirls compete in various activities, including tie-down and team roping, steer wrestling, bronc and bull riding. Get a real feel of American spirit during the rodeo’s ceremonial part, when the National Flag is carried into the arena, and everybody’s singing the National Anthem.
21. Quanah Parker Lake
Located 14 miles from Lawton in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, this 89-acre lake is the state’s not-so-hidden gem. The lake creates fantastic photography opportunities all day, but especially during sunrise and sunset. The lake, formed by a spectacular dam, was built on Quanah Creed in the 1930s and named after Comanche tribe chief Quanah Parker.
While driving up to the lake, watch out for wildlife. The most famous inhabitants are undoubtedly buffalos. The lake area is known for rock climbing and has many natural trails, great for hiking. There’s a campsite for tents and RVs, a picnic area with BBQ grills, and a playground for kids. Fishing is another enjoyable activity here. Fishing enthusiasts can look forward to catching channel catfish, largemouth bass, and sunfish.
22. Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park
Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park is the most family-friendly place in Lawton and the area. If you want to burn off some energy or get a fun workout, this indoor adventure palace is the go-to place. Come in, grab your wristband and a pair of special socks, and enjoy yourself to the maximum.
The activities include trampolines, ball pits, an obstacle course with zip lines, stunt bags and slam dunk tracks, and an indoor playground. The youngest visitors have a whole jumping zone dedicated just for them. If you get hungry, the snack bar with pizza and sodas is there for your convenience.
23. Fort Still Post Cemetery
The Fort Sill Post Cemetery is one of the most prominent historical cemeteries in the United States. Established in 1869, this 9-acre cemetery used to be the only cemetery in southwestern Oklahoma until the 1880’s. Many soldiers, civilians, and Native Americans rest in peace here. The site got on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
From the tourists’ point of view, the cemetery is most famous for the Chiefs Knoll. It’s the highest point in the burial grounds and is where many prominent Indian chiefs, including Geronimo, are buried. Many visitors compare it with the military cemetery in Washington D.C. and call it the Indian Arlington.
24. Forty Foot Hole
The Forty Foot Hole is a small natural area that can easily be one of the most stunning spots within the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Located near Cache, a 30-minute drive from Lawton, this site offers spectacular views into the valley. The best way to reach this natural wonder is by hiking. Bring your most comfortable shoes and head out on a short 1,5-mile trail that leads up to the Forty Foot Hole, located in the northwest part of the canyon.
Spot a few buffalos on your way up the trail, or take a break for a picnic lunch – there are tables and BBQ grills available to the public. The views are scenic thanks to the several charming waterfalls formed by the water from the Cache Creek flowing peacefully over the rocks.
25. Los Tres Amigos
Los Tres Amigos has been serving mouth-watering meals to Lawton locals and visitors for over 20 years. It’s a traditional Mexican restaurant offering traditional Mexican dishes like fajitas, burritos, and enchiladas. There is a wide selection of American cuisine dishes, too.
Have chips with a salsa dip for an appetizer, have a delicious entree, and top it off with free after-dinner sopapillas, which are pieces of fried dough. Make sure to try some of their best items, like the shrimp bruschetta and Mexican draft beer on tap. You can also stay with the classics and order a margarita or a daiquiri with your meal.