Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Norman, OK

  • Published 2023/01/30

Norman is one of Oklahoma’s most forward-thinking cities.

Norman is the seat of Cleveland County, situated 17 miles south of Oklahoma City, the state capital.

Incorporated in 1891, the city was named in honor of the area’s first land surveyor, Abner Norman.

It was mainly developed on the Santa Fe Railroad, which now serves as a historic landmark and the perfect location for special events.

Norman boasts the University of Oklahoma, one of the best higher learning institutions in the country.

Norman offers a wide range of recreational and cultural activities year-round, with over 50 parks, museums, festivals, and more!

Here are some free things to do in Norman, Oklahoma, that will be worth your time.

Admire the Artwork at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Exterior of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Ken Wolter /

The Fred Jones Jr., Museum of Art, located inside the University of Oklahoma campus, is one of the best university art museums in the nation.

Originally called the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art, the museum was founded in 1936 by Oscar B. Jacobson.

He intended the museum to house an extensive collection of East Asian art acquired that same year.

In 1971, Oklahoma residents Fred Jones and his wife donated a fine arts facility to the University of Oklahoma in honor of their son, who passed away from a plane crash during his senior year.

Sculpture beside the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Ken Wolter /

The result was the Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center, renamed the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, in 1992.

To accommodate its numerous expanding collections, the museum extended with the Lester Wing in 2005 and the Stuart Wing in 2011.

Currently, the exhibit space measures about 40,000 square feet.

Some highlights of over 20,000 objects in its permanent collection are American paintings and sculptures of the 20th Century, the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism, and traditional and modern Native American art.

It also hosts Southwest art, Asian art, and graphic elements of the 16th Century up to the present.

Facade of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Hike at the George M. Sutton Wilderness Park

The George M. Sutton Wilderness Park is a 160-acre public park that offers running and walking trails, a lake, and a gazebo.

See if you can spot any animals while hiking the park’s wilderness trail, such as white-tailed deer, foxes, and Texas horned lizards.

Bring a pair of binoculars to see more than 200 bird species, or go fishing at the pond!

The George M. Sutton Wilderness Park also has a lot of flowering plants, which draw lovely butterflies.

This scenic park is a great location to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of local plants and wildlife.

Step Back in Time at the Moore-Lindsay Historical House Museum

Discover life in early Norman as you visit the Moore-Lindsay Historic House Museum, the only local history museum in the city.

The Moore–Lindsay House is a lovely Queen Anne-style Victorian house built in 1899 by the couple William and Agnes Moore.

The Moores moved to Oklahoma City in 1907 when the Oklahoma Territory became a state.

As they moved, they sold the house to another couple, Harry and Daisy Lindsay.

The Lindsays stayed in Norman until Daisy’s passing in 1951.

In 1973, the City of Norman bought the home and restored it as a museum.

Now owned by the City of Norman, the non-profit group Cleveland County Historical Society manages the museum.

The society maintains a collection of over 5,000 rare artifacts, books, and photographs inside the museum.

The Moore-Lindsay Historic House Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visit the Jacobson House Native Art Center

History marker of Jacobson House Native Art Center

David Dobbs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Jacobson House Native Art Center is the historic home of Swedish-born artist and professor Oscar B. Jacobson, who founded the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

The house is home to a collection of native art with various year-round cultural displays and events.

Following Jacobson’s death in 1966, the house was rented out before being donated to the OU Foundation and sold to the University of Oklahoma.

Exterior of Jacobson House Native Art Center

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Jacobson House was supposed to be demolished to make room for more parking at the University.

Thanks to a group of Norman locals who saw more to it than just a parking lot, the University decided to preserve the house.

In 1986, the non-profit Jacobson Foundation was established.

In that same year, the Jacobson House Native Art Center was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its distinct architecture and contribution to the development and prominence of art in the state.

Watch a Light and Water Show at Legacy Park

Located close to Interstate 35 at the heart of University North Park, Legacy Park features a one-acre artificial pond with fountains, a promenade, an amphitheater, and running or walking trails.

Lush grassy areas and several benches around the pond are fantastic for picnics and relaxation.

A stage and an amphitheater with a capacity of approximately a thousand people can host events and concerts.

The trail links to Duffy Street on the University of Oklahoma campus, making an ideal path for good cardio exercise.

Then, wait until dusk to see the lake and fountains of Legacy Park’s captivating light and water show.

Enjoy Music at the Norman Music Festival

The Norman Music Festival (NMF) is a public, independent music festival held each year in the heart of Norman.

Founded in 2008, the Norman Music Festival was initially a one-day spring event but has since grown to three days of music and arts!

Every year, NMF presents performers from a variety of genres in both indoor and outdoor settings, along with food and artwork from local vendors.

An estimated 60,000 people came to the festival in 2013!

If you can visit Norman in springtime, the Norman Music Festival usually starts on the third Thursday of April.

If the festival weekend falls on Easter, it is moved to the fourth week of the month.

Book a Tour of the National Weather Center

Exterior of the National Weather Center

RaksyBH /

Look behind the scenes, witness the newest technology at work, and observe the forces of nature at the National Weather Center (NWC) inside the University of Oklahoma campus.

The National Weather Center comprises numerous federal and local organizations, as well as academic institutions and partners in research and development.

Facade of the National Weather Center

RaksyBH /

The National Weather Center houses about 550 individuals, including climatologists, meteorologists, research scientists, engineers, technicians, staff support, and graduate and undergraduate students.

These people work together to understand better the activities in the Earth’s atmosphere on a range of time and spatial scales.

Reservations are required for all tours due to timing and security requirements.

Play Disc Golf at Northeast Lions Park

Northeast Lions Park is not to be confused with Lions Park.

As the name suggests, it’s located on the northeastern side of Norman.

Northeast Lions Park features a disc golf course, picnic tables, shelters, playgrounds, and a lake.

The Lions East Disc Golf is an advanced 18-hole disc golf course for everyone.

The park’s rolling terrains, narrow fairways, and wooded areas make this a challenging course, but people of any skill level can still enjoy it.

If you’re not into disc golf, there are many things to enjoy at Northeast Lions Park, such as having picnics, taking a good stroll, playing with the kids, fishing at the lake, or relaxing by the lake!

See College Football History at the Switzer Center

The Switzer Center is home to the Oklahoma Sooner football team’s accomplishments.

These include seven national championships, ten Big 12 Conference championships, trophies from the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose, and Sugar Bowls, Joe Dan Washington’s famous silver shoes, and other memorabilia.

Behind these walls, guests can learn about the Oklahoma Sooners’ impressive accomplishments and illustrious history.

Included in this 132,000-square-foot facility are a training room, state-of-the-art locker room, nutrition area, team meeting rooms, and coaches’ offices.

The Center was officially dedicated in 2018 after the famous Barry Switzer led the team to 12 Big Eight Conference titles, three national championships, and eight bowl victories in 13 appearances.

Also commemorated in this facility are the individuals, teams, and events that molded the football program, along with the names of players and coaches who brought honor to the University and the state.

Whether you’re a longtime supporter, a new fan of the University of Oklahoma, or just a casual visitor, you’ll find this exhibit fascinating.

The entrance to the Switzer Center is located on the south side of the Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium.

Explore the University of Oklahoma

Evans Hall at the University of Oklahoma

Kit Leong /

Visit the stunning campus of The University of Oklahoma (OU) for the ultimate experience.

Learn about the outstanding academic programs and involvement opportunities at OU by joining one of their renowned OU student tour guides on a two-hour walking tour.

Visitors will see modern amenities, historic structures, two residence halls, and a few student centers highlighting the OU community and culture.

Memorial stadium at the University of Oklahoma

Kit Leong /

Feel free to tour the campus alone if you can’t make it to one of the regular tours!

A self-guided tour booklet is available in the Visitor Center, or you can download a self-guided tour map on your phone.

With a basic overview and historical points of interest, you can take your time and explore the lovely campus day or night at your convenience and time.

McCasland Field house at the University of Oklahoma

Ken Wolter /

Drop by the Firehouse Art Center

The Firehouse Art Center is the biggest regional art center in the state that focuses on visual arts via studio classes (available to students five years of age and up), workshops, exhibits, and special programs.

The Art Center, founded in 1970, is housed in an old fire station and has arts, clay, drawing, painting, glass, fiber, and jewelry studios.

A gift gallery is available with unique objects like turned wood, fine jewelry, pottery, stained and blown glass, and more.

Voted as Norman’s “Best Art Gallery” several times, the Firehouse Art Center’s year-round exhibits feature works by both regionally and nationally renowned artists.

Even without registering for a class, anybody can visit the gallery and gift shop at the Firehouse Art Center for no charge.

Discover Norman’s Historical Neighborhoods

Enjoy architecture and history by visiting one or two of Norman’s charming Historical Neighborhoods.

Take a stroll through the Miller Historic District to see Craftsman-style homes, most of which date from the 1920s and were initially built for notable residents and University of Oklahoma faculty.

The Silk Stocking District was the city’s most affluent district in the early 20th century.

The Chautauqua District comprises homes dating from 1915 to 1935 ranging from Craftsman, Tudor, and Italian Renaissance, to Dutch Colonial Revival styles.

Most Southridge Historic District homes were constructed between 1922 and 1950, and they include a diverse mixture of small and big houses, with styles including Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival architecture.

Despite new things happening here and there in Norman, there’s a lot of history to discover in the city, especially its historic neighborhoods.

Take a Stroll through Downtown Norman

Buildings along Downtown Norman

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Downtown Norman is one of the top places to visit in Norman for a lot of reasons: fine restaurants, unique shops, a buzzing nightlife, a vibrant arts scene, and more.

Downtown’s Main Street offers the diversity you’ve been looking for, so check everything from boutiques to furniture to jewelry.

Brew houses and bars call for a fantastic time, so find your new favorite place for live music and a few drinks.

If you’re interested in the arts, the 2nd Friday Norman ArtWalk is a free event held every month, including visual and performing arts, located at Downtown Norman’s Walker Arts District.

There are also more free art activities each month, so there’s always an opportunity to unleash your creative side.

With various live entertainment venues and lots of places to explore, Downtown Norman is a must-visit destination from sunrise to past sunset.

Attend a Free Class at the Well

The Well is an all-inclusive health, wellness, and information center for all Cleveland County residents and visitors, regardless of background, income, or location.

Established in 2021, the Well is situated along James Garner Avenue, close to the Walker Arts District.

It has a two-story facility with 14,000-square foot space for classes and meetings and green walking space for outdoor activities.

It’s also the location of the Norman Farm Market.

Join a free class, including cooking, mindfulness, meditation, and fitness classes like Zumba, yoga, tai chi, and more.

Check out their online activities and class schedule to see what’s in store for the week or month!

Check Out the Depot

Exterior of the Depot

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Norman’s iconic Santa Fe Depot has become the home of a performing arts studio, now known as The Depot, which opened in 2003.

The Depot hosts rotating gallery exhibits and live music series.

The Depot is situated in the center of Downtown Norman, along James Garner Avenue and the Legacy Trail.

If you’re in the vicinity, take the time to stop by.

Perhaps you can snap a photo of the railroad track that was once a part of Norman’s history.

Final Thoughts

Norman is unique in its own right, defined by its profound cultural heritage, love of music and the arts, architecture, sports, education, wellness, and community.

Learning about Norman’s past and present will help you understand how this incredible city became what it is today.

Explore the free things to do in Norman, Oklahoma!

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