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Teetotaler’s town

A guide to hanging out while sober in Tulsa

An herb spritzer at Chimera is a refreshing and non-alcoholic way to beat the late-summer heat.

Greg Bollinger

If you need proof of alcohol’s abundance in our culture, look no further than the ubiquity of booze-related hashtags on social media. As I write this, there are 1.1 million public Instagram posts featuring the hashtag #winewednesday; 1.3 million with #daydrinking; 3.2 million tagged #thirstythursday (though this category flaunts a few photos depicting a different kind of “thirsty”). More striking: there are 18.5 million tagged #drunk and only 2.4 million tagged #sober.

There’s reason to believe social media tends toward drinkiness or general intoxication. Craft cocktails have caught the attention of hordes of foodies, party people, classy folk and wealthy “influencers.” But alcohol is everywhere. Intoxicants abound. And this isn’t at all a new issue, but it does necessitate the creation of and access to more and more recovery programs and sober-friendly alternatives for those who can’t drink in moderation, are just tired of the hangovers, or simply can’t afford to spend another whole damn paycheck “going out.” 

Cathy Hodges, reentry director for Resonance Center for Women, works with non-violent offenders recovering from substance abuse as they reenter society following incarceration. “It’s a focus on socialization without substances,” she says, that benefits people in recovery. “We try to help them build organic networks through different opportunities here.” She recommends events and spaces that are both community-centric and free for Tulsans who’ve recently battled addiction or substance abuse. 

So here I’ll recommend a variety of things to do and see in Tulsa while sober, though it’s important to note, as Hodges points out, that “you never know what might trigger someone.” Triggers don’t simply just go away, so it’s important to pay attention to yours if you’re struggling to recover. In the list you’ll see options that should be totally substance-free, as well as some places where alcohol is served but not the central focus. 

No-Cost/Cheap Options
• Tulsa City-County Library (particularly the newly renovated and spacious Central Library downtown) for programming of all kinds for people of all ages
• Magic City Books for events celebrating books and literature
• Whitty Books for literary events, live music, book clubs
• Coffee House on Cherry Street for open mic on Wednesdays
• Tulsa Artist Fellowship’s Lewis Project Space for arts events in a funky, cozy atmosphere
• Ahha’s open studio full of art supplies to create beyond your wildest dreams
• Gathering Place for family-fun play, sports courts, live shows and 
• Guthrie Green for all kinds of entertainment, including movie screenings, live music and cultural festivals
• Redbud Valley Nature Preserve for rugged hiking
• Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area for mountain biking and hiking
• Woodward Park for the Tulsa Rose Garden and other flora
• River Parks Trail for urban cycling, skating and running
• Local farmers’ markets: Cherry Street; Greenwood; The Farm Shopping Center; Broken Arrow’s Rose District; Brookside

Spaces and Happenings Worth Paying for If You Can
• Circle Cinema for indie/art house films and special screenings/events
• Admiral Twin Drive-In for weekend double-features
• SKATES: Roller Skating Entertainment Center (Sand Springs) for Adult Night on Thursdays
• Gilcrease Museum for the North American art (and the gardens and park on the grounds are beautiful)
• Philbrook Museum of Art (free admission every second Saturday of the month!) 
• Tulsa Botanic Garden for special events and family programming
• Woody Guthrie Center for the Guthrie archives, traveling exhibits and world-class shows in an intimate listening room
• Shuffles: Board Game Cafe for trivia (Tuesdays), karaoke (Thursdays), and a seemingly-endless board game library (note: there is a full bar here)
• MOjō Movement Studio for yoga and dance classes
• Climb Tulsa for classes in bouldering, top rope climbing and yoga

If you’re avoiding alcohol but craving the nuance and artistry of a craft cocktail, both Chimera Café and Oren Restaurant offer tempting artisan mocktails. Try one of Chimera’s herb spritzers for a bright and refreshing concoction, or Oren’s Here Today Tarragon Tomorrow for a complex and aromatic “soft cocktail” with notes of cinnamon, honey, grapefruit and lime.

The above list is, of course, no where near exhaustive. Tulsa is full of inviting green spaces, perfect patios, distinct yoga studios, trendy coffee shops, and locally-owned shops and restaurants. You can find arts and music festivals year-round, and there’s always something new to explore.

The bar and brewery scenes are exploding here, and I do partake and am grateful for the plethora of options. But I know we could be doing more for our sober community—so what’s next, Tulsa? Recent national trends include bars with alcohol-free nights, substance-free dance clubs and sober-friendly spaces at music venues. A night at St. Vitus with no alcohol might sound scary to some, but maybe it’s options like this that we—and our livers—need most right now. 

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