Oklahoma is a diverse state, with attractions that range from its cowboy heritage to the bustling life of Tulsa, from older-than-time rock formations to an ever-growing food scene.
There’s a little something for everybody here.
While Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the recognized names, it’s the small towns in Oklahoma that capture the true essence of the state, each offering up something unique, and charming, but always wrapped up in that warm Oklahoma welcome.
Here, we’ll run through some of the best, exploring the lesser-known nooks and crannies of this great state.
Before we jump in, here’s some more fabulous Oklahoma travel guides!
It’s slightly strange when a town is best known for a road leading out of it, but that is the case in Talihina.
The town is the perfect jumping-off point for the Talimena Scenic Byway, a genuinely beautiful 54-mile route that takes you through the Ouachita National Forest.
If you can time it right, take the trip during fall as the winding road meanders through the rolling landscape, flanked on both sides by trees turning every shade of vivid orange and brown.
It’s really something.
Of course, the town is charming as well, a real slice of rural Oklahoma life, but it’s the places it can take you that make the place sing.
Many of the small towns in Oklahoma can lay claim to a long history, pockets of landscape that were settled when the state was first established, but none can compare with the deep past of Spiro.
Spiro is most famous for the Spiro Mounds that were discovered nearby.
The Mounds are built around a burial chamber from an ancient native American civilization and are widely considered one of the most important archaeological finds ever discovered in the US.
Today, visitors can explore the well-maintained site, complete with a modern interpretive center that lets you have a glimpse of what life was like here over a thousand years ago.
And once you’ve learned, wondered, there is still more to explore here, whether it’s boating or fishing on the nearby Arkansas River or following some of the area’s trails out into the beautiful landscape that sprawls out around the town.
Fewer than 900 people live in the charming little town of Ringling, and this historic place is the perfect example of quiet, rural Oklahoma living.
Ringingling is truly one of the most community driven small towns in Oklahoma.
When visiting, you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and a feeling of neighborly togetherness, which flourishs here in the Arbuckle Mountains.
You can hike, camp, visit historical sites to learn about the town’s history, but for a true feel of the place it’s best first to settle down, get something to eat and just breathe, soak it all in.
Poteau is a perfect mixture town and nature, as the old-school charm of the downtown buildings blends into the thick green canopy of the trees that coat the area, and streams and rivers wind their casual way along the outskirts of town.
The best way to see all of this – come along in June for the Poteau Balloon Fest, a feast of food, live music, and hot air balloon launches that rise up above the landscape.
But if you can’t make it, don’t worry, the town’s a perfect place to come for a trip all year round, big enough to have a range of accommodation and hospitality to suit everybody, small enough that you can walk a short walk and suddenly be immersed in thick, lush wilderness.
If you’re looking for a taste of the Wild West, Marlow is where you want to be.
The crime and danger faded a long time ago, but Marlow has made a real effort to remember the early outlaws that settled this part of the world, whether that’s in the charming Malow Area Museum or the numerous boards and signs that commemorate the past throughout the town or the classic Marlow Rodeo that takes place every May.
Today, you’re more likely to find great food and pristine nature than outlaws and high crime, but that’s probably for the best.
6. Madill: Oklahoma small towns
Nestled down near the Texas border is the lovely town of Madill.
The town is known for the prime hunting and fishing that you can find down here, whether that’s out on the wide open plains of the area surrounding or a day spent out on the nearby Lake Texoma.
After you’ve spent the day meandering, shooting, or fishing, head not town for some authentic home-cooked food at some of the town’s classic restaurants our recommendation – stop in to the local’s favorite spot, Oilspill Restaurant, for the best food in town cooked up with locally sourced and caught ingredients (you must get the catfish dinner!).
Of course, even with the smallest, cutest towns, people have been here before.
But the previous visitors aren’t normally 11th century Vikings, but that’s who’s been visiting Heavener (maybe).
The town is famous for the Heavener Runestone that was discovered nearby (it now has a state park designated around it in the same name), a 7-foot-tall sandstone slab that has mysterious Norse runes carved into it.
Some claim that it’s evidence that the Vikings made it all this far into the heartland of America, nearly 1,000 years ago, and the town has become a destination site for Viking enthusiasts.
Whether they are real or a later inscription is the subject of some debate, but they’re most commonly translated as meaning ‘This Place is Good’ and, with its gorgeous landscape and charming downtown, we can all agree on that.
Tucked into a bend of the wide Neosho River, Grove is a waterfront town through and through.
This is one of our favorite small towns in Oklahoma because nearly the whole town looks out over the ‘Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.’
It’s the perfect place to be if you’re looking to fish, boat, or try your hand at any sort of water sport.
The restaurants here serve up some of the best seafood in the state and, if you’re feeling lucky, you can always head up to the Grand Lake Casino, found just outside of town.
If you want to try out the cowboy life for a little bit, this is where you want to be.
It’s known as the ‘rodeo capital of the world’ for the regular events that are hosted here and the amount of World Champion Rodeo performers that either come from the area or have settled here.
When it’s not all bucking animals and cheering, it’s a quiet, steady town, and if you like your rural life to be laced through with a Western edge, you’ll love it here.
10. Sulphur: small towns or cities in Oklahoma
Sulphur was originally known as The Land of Rippling Water’, and is as delightful as that sounds.
The town’s grown around the natural springs of the area, mineral rich waterways that flow through rich green woodland.
The springs have made the town something of a tourist hotspot, but its leafy openness means that it never feels too busy, as people drift off from town into the beautiful Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
This is where you want to be if you’re looking to swim, soak, camp, or hike.
It’s a lush, fertile place to come and immerse yourself in nature.
Once you’re back in town, suitably rejuvenated, drop in to the charmingly named Rusty Nail Winery for some of the best vintages you’ll find in the state!
Checotah is a town with a rich, deep history and a real sense of neighborly community just South of Tulsa (and the hometown of country superstar, Carrie Underwood, who’s featured on our songs about Oklahoma playlist!).
You can learn all about how this town has developed over the years at the Checotah Heritage Museum, learning about the area’s rich mix of Native American and settler culture.
If the outside is more your pace, the area is a real treat.
There’s plenty of hiking, but the main draw is the nearby Lake Eufaula which offers some great boating opportunities as well as some of the state’s best fishing.
12. Comanche: best small towns in Oklahoma to visit
Comanche is a one of the small towns in Oklahoma that wears its heritage proudly.
The Wild West doesn’t feel too far away here, with the wide open, dusty landscape spanning out around you until it builds up into hills at the horizon and low, multi-colored buildings line the historic streets.
It’s best known as the location of Star House, the final home of the Comanche chief Quanah parker who oversaw the movement from the Indian Wars to the life we know now.
It’s just down the street from the historic Trading Post restaurant, the place to stop off for some homemade Oklahoma classics.
Back in the 1920s, Bristow was in the full flower of the oil rush and grew to be a bustling place of business and economic activity.
Today, things are a little calmer.
Life feels steady here, as people enjoy the plentiful green space, quality independent restaurants, occasional round of golf, and if you’re looking to get the pulse going, a spin at the roulette table in the town’s casino.
It’s worth timing your trip for the annual and delightfully named Redbud Festival that is hosted to celebrate the coming of Spring.
The town’s streets are filled with food stalls, arts and crafts, and a parade with live music during this time, and it’s truly a sight to see!
14. Antlers: charming towns in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is known for its wild and wide open spaces as well as the rich recreational pursuits that can be had among them.
Fishing, hiking, kayaking, and most importantly for Antlers, hunting.
The name might have given it away, but this town is known as ‘The Deer Capital of the World’ due to the huge population of White Tail that is found around the area.
If you’re looking for a base to use to get out hunting, it’s one of the best little towns in Oklahoma.
Found amid the beautiful rolling hills of the northwest of the state, the quiet Alva is loved for its proximity to multiple impressive parks.
It makes the perfect base to explore the Great Salt Plains State Park, Little Sahara State Park, and, maybe the pick of the thee, the Alabaster Caverns State park.
If you’re into any form of outdoors living but want a relaxing home base to come back to after your day’s exploration, Alva is the town for you!
16. Broken Bow
Of course, there are a lot of cute towns in Oklahoma, but very few mix the feeling of small-town charm and pristine wilderness like Broken Bow.
It’s in the stunning Ouachita mountain range and is popular with visitors all year round due to the sheer variety of activities on offer.
There’s everything from a few rounds of golf to canopy-splitting zip-lining, summer swimming to horseback riding that follows trails deep into the woodland.
The town itself is charming – a green, leafy place with a big enough population to ensure you have all the amenities you need, but small enough that it never feels too crowded.
For us, this dreamy mix of wilderness and rural calm makes it one of the best small towns in Oklahoma to live in!
17. Medicine Park: quaint towns in Oklahoma
First founded in 1908, Medicine Park has been a destination resort town for a long time, and it is so good at it.
Its cobblestone streets meander down to the water of Lake Lawtonka, while the surrounding area is a feast of nature and wildlife.
There are tonnes of activities here, whether it’s a visit to the aquarium kayaking on the lake or the creeks, or relaxing by the waterfalls. It’s a great place for all the family.
Hinton is a quieter, easy-living part of the state that is known for the bright red rock formations that populate the area.
It’s the place to be when the weather starts picking up and adventure sports lovers flock to the area to take advantage of Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park, a destination for anybody who likes to combine some natural beauty with a good dose of adrenaline.
19. Guthrie : cute towns in Oklahoma
This is one of the most historic small towns in Oklahoma, that started out as a humble railway station but flourished over the years to become the very first state capitol, but it is a calmer, smaller pace now
But this long history is everywhere!
The entire downtown area is recognized as a National Historic Landmark due to the extremely well-preserved historic building.
From the Pollard Theater to the charming shop fronts that populate every street, it’s easily one of the most quaint towns in Oklahoma
It’s the perfect place to go to enjoy some small town living that feels like it’s a living legacy of a different time, combining rich history with a still-flourishing range of independent stores, restaurants, and attractions.
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