Gathering Place is a massive new outdoor playground and park just south of Downtown Tulsa. It is adjacent to the Arkansas River, across Riverside Drive.
Facts about Gathering Place
- It opened on September 8, 2018. It has already won numerous award’s including USA Today’s Best New Attraction of 2019.
- The cost to build Gathering Place was approximately $465 Million. Numerous donors and business contributed to the effort.
- The playground and park sit on roughly 100 acres.
- The park received 155,000 visitors in its first ten days of operation.
- It is situated roughly half way between Downtown Tulsa and the Oklahoma Aquarium.
A little history
The park was the idea of George Kaiser, a wealthy Oklahoma businessman who became a billionaire through the oil and banking industries. He is a well known philanthropist who has made numerous donations in Oklahoma and other areas of the U.S. over the past few decades. Around 2005, he began to imagine a place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where people of all social statuses and ages could meet together.
Mr. Kaiser hired Michael Van Valkenburgh, who has worked on landscape projects around the world, to design the project. Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Van Valkenburgh and a team of designers and architects began reaching out to the local community for both input and feedback. Together, the community came up with the idea for Gathering Place.
In 2014, ground was broken on the project, and it was completed in about four years. The park officially opened on September 8, 2018.
Visiting the Park
The entrance to the park is on Riverside Drive, a street that runs next to the Arkansas River from Downtown Tulsa to the Oklahoma Aquarium. Upon entering, there are numerous parking spaces along a long looped road within the park.
You will quickly notice the near abstract design of the features in the park as you enter. There is a large heron with slides as its wings. There is also a giant, dream-like castle structure where children can climb up and down the towers, and run across suspended bridges. Several other great pieces of the park include a child-sized zip line, and a large sandbox with a ship.
The ONEOK Boathouse is located at the southern end of the main park area. It has a nature center and activity areas for children, and a restaurant is located on the top floor. At the Boathouse, you can rent paddle boats to take out onto a pond. The Boathouse area is also one location for events and performances at Gathering Place.
It is highly advisable to bring something to drink, and suntan lotion if it is hot outside. If you need water, there are several places you can get it at the Boathouse including the restaurant, but you may have to do some walking to see which location is open.
Near the Boathouse, you can cross over Riverside Drive via a landscaped bridge. From here, you can access a skate park, walking paths and several gardens. Swing Hill is located behind the Boathouse, and can easily be missed after a long day of play.
The park hours may fluctuate depending on events, but generally it is open from 9 A.M. – 8 P.M. Sunday – Thursday, and 9 A.M. – 10 P.M. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Attractions near Gathering Place
Tulsa has a number of fun things to do for children and adults. If you continue south on Riverside Drive from the park for about 10 miles, you will reach the Oklahoma Aquarium – a must see if you haven’t been. The Oklahoma State Fair is a huge state fair held in Tulsa each September. It has many rides and performances, and even includes events such as Disney on Ice. The Tulsa Zoo is also a worthwhile visit, and is located on the north side of the city.