by Natalie Leonard
I graduated high school in 2001 and moved that fall to Arkansas to attend John Brown University. While I did come home in the summer and holidays, I would consider moving away to Arkansas the time I left. Shortly after I graduated college, I moved from Arkansas to Tennessee. Over the past 16 years Tulsa has completely changed! There are so many fun new districts, shops, hangouts and great new restaurants. But there are many things that make me so happy about coming back that are still the same. I am in town for a couple of weeks, and I was inspired to share my favorites. Here are my 9-18 favorite things about Tulsa that haven’t changed since I moved in 2001.
1. Bagel shops. I’ll always miss the before and after school trips to Golden Bagel and New York Bagel, but I’m very thankful for the new and improved Old-School Bagel. On a weekly visit to town, you can find me there 5 of the 7 mornings.
2. The Memorial Chargers being awesome at basketball! Way to bring home the State Championship, Coach Bobby Allison! Go Chargers!
3. Utica Square. Whether it’s a summer stroll to shop, lunch at Queenies or going to watch the Christmas lights turn on, it is a must on each trip back to town.
4. Chimi’s restaurant. Even though they did change their menu, I still love it. So many birthdays, graduation parties, and gatherings for our family happened here. They have my favorite cheese enchilada!
5. The Tulsa Zoo. When we were little, my grandma bought a brick in their walkway with all the grandkids names on it. It’s so fun to go back and look for it! The zoo was the perfect play day as a kid, turned date spot as I got older, and now one of my favorite places to take my daughter when we come to town.
6. QuikTrip. If anyone has ever left the QuikTrip area, you know. There’s nothing like it. Since I left, I have had my fingers crossed they would expand to Tennessee. Nothing yet. But I’m not giving up hope.
7. Cheap gas. This has to come right after QuikTrip. My husband and I always look forward to coming to town for the cheaper gas! It’s guaranteed to be at least 50-75 cents cheaper here than back home. My husband just said, “We should bottle it and take it home.” I won’t let him, but I bet he seriously contemplated it.
8. First United Methodist Church. So much of my life growing up is tied to this place. Faith, friends, family, a summer internship, Camp Friendship, my wedding. My family always sat on the second row on the right side of the church balcony. When we are in town for Christmas Eve, we join our large extended family for communion each year. I’m thankful for my time there and also thankful each time we return.
9. Taco Bueno. Mmmm, Taco Bueno. I miss you when I am away! The chicken potato burrito is unmatched. When I meet people in Nashville from Tulsa, Taco Bueno is usually our first connection point. Before we moved away from the Fayetteville area after college, a Taco Bueno opened, and I almost used it as an excuse not to move! Thankfully there is one next to my parents’ house so I can go when we come back to town!
10. LaFortune Park. My high school was located at LaFortune, so my most recent memories of living in Tulsa were having to run 3 miles a couple times a week for soccer or cross country. But also growing up going to the park, the pool, the golf course. Last summer, I was able to take my daughter to play at the park, and it was just as awesome as I remember. I love driving past it each time we are home. It’s beautiful.
11. The traffic lights downtown. If you drive exactly 20 MPH you will hit a green light every time. Slow down and you won’t have to stop every block. I just retested this one, and it still works.
12. Family Time. This should have been first, the most important for sure. Whether it’s get togethers at my grandparents’ house at Christmas, my aunt’s pool in the summer, Mexicali downtown for dinner, or simply hanging in my parents’ living room—family time is the best time. We have a large family that is very close. For every birthday, celebration, heartbreak or just a Sunday afternoon, you can find us together and it’s my absolute favorite part of T-Town.
Natalie Leonard is a Tulsa native and graduate of John Brown University. She now lives south of Nashville, Tennessee with her husband David and daughter Ella Kate (5). While keeping her sanity as a mother to an almost kindergartener and as an 11th grade history teacher, she daydreams about sitting on either coast (she doesn’t discriminate) and watching the waves roll and putting her toes in the sand.