Elevate your Experience
Downtown Durant

Elevate your Experience

By Christian Toews
From the Aug. 2021 Biskinik

Durant, Oklahoma, “The Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma,” has much more to offer than magnolia trees. Durant boasts a unique combination of small-town charm and luxurious amenities. Holding the title of the largest city in Choctaw Country, it is the home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Headquarters of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. From outdoor activities, excellent food and shopping, the Choctaw Casino Resort, and the Choctaw Cultural Center, you are sure to find something great to eat, somewhere amazing to stay, and something fun to do.

Just 90 minutes north of Dallas, Texas, on highway 75, Durant sits close to the Red River, which feeds Lake Texoma. The lake is one of the largest in the state of Oklahoma and offers numerous recreational activities. From fishing, boat rentals, horse trails, kayaking, swimming, and restaurants on the water’s edge, Lake Texoma has something to offer for everyone. You can find out more information about what Lake Texoma State Park holds at www.laketexoma.com.

Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant has plenty of ways to relax and recharge if you are craving a luxurious getaway. This world-class resort has a relaxing spa, Jacuzzis, pools with cabanas and swim-up bars, excellent restaurants and a concert venue that brings some of the biggest names in entertainment to Durant. Now is the perfect time to visit the newly expanded property, which features a new 21-story luxury Sky Tower Hotel, an expanded gaming experience, elevated amenities, restaurants, lounges, and entertainment options. If you want more information on what Choctaw Casino Resort has to offer, you can visit choctawcasinos.com.

Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant expansion
The new 21-story Sky Tower features 1,000 luxury rooms (traditional king and double beds) and suites, plus hospitality suites. Guestrooms feature modern decor, lavish bedding and spa-like amenities.

There are many new and exciting things in Durant, and the Choctaw Cultural Center is no exception. With over 100,000 square feet of immersive exhibitions, a vast Living Village, classrooms, a theater, a café and retail, the Cultural Center is a fascinating experience. According to its website, the Choctaw Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring, preserving, and showcasing the culture and history of the Choctaw people. The exhibits are immersive and told from the Choctaw perspective – honoring the physical and spiritual journey of the Choctaw people. This makes it an excellent place for kids and adults to explore and learn about the Choctaw people. For more information about The Choctaw Cultural Center, you can visit choctawculturalcenter.com.

Durant has a robust and growing downtown with shopping, unique art, museums and more. Kara Byrd is the Executive Director of Imagine Durant. Byrd says that Durant has a lot to offer.

“There’s truly something for everyone. From the fascinating history to uncover at Fort Washita and Three Valley Museum to the great theatre to be discovered at the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival and Durant’s emerging South Ninth Avenue Arts District,” said Byrd.

According to Byrd, local artists have painted several of the murals around downtown. These photo-worthy locations are a unique addition to your time spent in Downtown Durant.

In addition to art and culture, downtown has unique restaurants and treats. Pick up some pastries and ice-cream at Caked Up, build-your-own pizza at Craft Pies or grab a drink at the Old Icehouse. All of these downtown destinations are conveniently located for visitors.

If it’s shopping you want, Durant has you covered with several boutique options to find that perfect outfit. Pink Door Boutique, Bliss Boutique, Cactus Gypsies and the Trippie Hippie Co. all have a unique and ever-changing selection of fashion.

Byrd invites everyone to come to visit the area.

“Durant is the best of both worlds! We offer the charm of small-town life, with the bright lights and amenities of a bigger city. There’s something for everyone in Durant,” explained Byrd.

With all that Durant offers, now is the time to plan your next trip to this unique Choctaw Country destination. If you would like more information on Durant and the surrounding area, visit www.discoverdurant.com.

With all the excitement from the new Sky Tower at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant and the Choctaw Cultural Center, take a break and stop in one of several breweries and wineries Bryan County has to offer! Below is a list of some of our favorite local spots for you to check out!

Lost Street Brewing Company

See What’s Brewing

Harbinger’s Craft Beer
Harbinger Beer Company brings the finest handcrafted beers to Southeast Oklahoma and North Texas! Stop in to try Opera House Coffee inspired Stout; a stout brew with unmodified cold brew coffee from Opera House Coffee in Durant, Okla., or Cat City Kolsch, a German Kolsch style ale brewed in Caddo, Okla.

Lost Street Brewing Company
Durant’s newest brewery, offers a rotating selection of small-batch brews, with a variety of flavors and styles that are sure to suit any palate. Try the Three Valley’s Pale Ale, inspired by the Red River Valley, Blue River Valley and Washita River Valley; all of which run through Bryan County.

Where to Wine Down

Blue River Valley Winery
Have a seat in their exclusive tasting room and receive a cheese plate to pair with your wine selection. Try locally made favorites – from chardonnay and white zinfandel to Rio Rosa sweet blackberry lemon, Bissa Sipokni elderberry and more!

Crystal Creek Winery
Did you know some wines are made from fruits other than grapes! Head to Crystal Creek Winery in Mead, Okla. for samples of locally made wines crafted from apricot, blackberry, elderberry and many more!

In Durant, Okla., there’s no shortage of things to do! Whether you’re looking for the hustle and bustle of the casino floor, the history and culture at the Cultural Center or just want to relax and enjoy a fantastic atmosphere while at a local brewery or winery, we’ve got you covered. Hurry up and Slow Down – there’s so much to do here, a weekend almost isn’t enough time to do it all!

Choctaw Country holds the perfect spot for your next kayak or canoe adventure

Water Sport Adventures

By Christian Toews
From the July 2021 Biskinik

It’s an iconic image of the outdoor experience: a kayak glides across a glassy stretch of water, its bow knifing through the water and its wake stretching out behind. Imagine a canoe cutting through the river rapids on a warm summer morning.

Choctaw Country holds the perfect spot for your next kayak or canoe adventure.

According to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board‘s website, Oklahoma has approximately 1,401 square miles of water area in its lakes and ponds and about 167,600 miles of rivers/streams.

Much of this water is located within or bordering the Choctaw Nation. Oklahoma’s largest lake in surface area is Eufaula, at 105,000 acres. This lake sits within the borders of the Choctaw Nation and offers a huge expanse of water to explore by kayak or canoe. Lake Texoma is the second largest, with an impressive 88,000 acres. Lake Texoma sits on the border of Choctaw Country but close enough to visit if you are in Durant. Maybe you want to stay at the third-largest gaming resort in the world and pop down to Lake Texoma to enjoy a sunset by kayak. You can do both by visiting the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma.

Kayaking or canoeing on a lake or pond can be a great way to explore without hiking around the shoreline. Having a small boat is also a unique way to go fishing. Many people enjoy taking their kayak or canoe and fishing otherwise inaccessible parts of a lake, river or pond.

Trey Hedrick is an avid fisherman and kayaker. He enjoys fishing from a kayak. “The kayak is a great fishing experience. It gives you access to different areas than fishing from the bank and is a relaxing way to spend time on the water,” said Hedrick. He also commented on a recent river kayaking trip he enjoyed. “We had such a good time floating on the river and being able to have good conversation and enjoy the river and the water. If you have never taken a river trip, I highly recommend it,” he said.

One of the best and most popular places to canoe and kayak in the Choctaw Nation is the Broken Bow, Oklahoma area. It doesn’t matter what type of water you want to be on; this area has it all, from the fast-flowing rapids of the upper and lower Mountain Fork River to the tranquil waters inside Beavers Bend State Park. Many kayak and canoe rental locations in and around Broken Bow offer float trips in the area, and people travel from all over the area to escape the ordinary and enjoy one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful areas.

Broken Bow Lake is another fantastic location to take a canoe out on the water or kayak to a new location. This lake covers 14,000 acres and has 180 miles of shoreline, so there is plenty of room to explore. Whether you bring your own canoe or kayak or you rent one when you are there, don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy this lake.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner to paddling or an experienced kayaker. Choctaw Country has something to offer anyone who wants to escape the summer heat and get on the water. For more information on area lakes and rivers, browse our website and explore the many options inside the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


Durant Pro Rodeo

Two thrilling days of heart-pounding rodeo adventure! A UPRA-sanctioned rodeo for over 75 years, the Durant Pro Rodeo is renowned for offering amazing shows, incredible talents and family fun year after year. Grab the family and head to the Durant Riding Club Arena for this fantastic weekend of rodeo fun.

Food Vendors

Magnolia Festival

This incredible annual jubilee is a past winner of the State Tourism’s RedBud Award for “Most Outstanding Event”! Outside, you’re in a large carnival with rides and games. Inside, you’ll find lots of great retail and food booths! Spanning an entire weekend, the Magnolia Festival offers a Bike Tour, a 5K and Fun Run, an Art Show and sale, the annual Choctaw Princess Pageant, traditional Choctaw dancing, a Children’s Theater, and even an incredible fireworks display. There’s so much to do here, a weekend almost isn’t enough time to do it all!

Grab a cup of coffee

Grab a Cup of Coffee

By Christian Toews
From the March 2021 Biskinik

Nothing says good morning like a cup of coffee. Everyone has a favorite way to enjoy this delicious beverage. A hot cup before work or a warm latte on a snowy day, there is no doubt that Americans love coffee – or at least its caffeine. With the popularity of gourmet coffee, we have come a long way from the cans of Folgers in our grandparent’s cabinets. We now have coffee shops that provide espresso and specialty brews. Some of the country’s best coffee shops are right here in Choctaw Country.

Coffee is popular among Americans. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), Americans are drinking more coffee than ever. The NCA website states that seven in ten Americans drink coffee every week, and 62% of Americans drink coffee every day. That means that if you are reading this right now, the odds are that you have had a cup of coffee today.

According to the NCA website, the majority of the coffee sold in America are premium beans and espresso-based beverages rather than traditional coffee. Nearly 60% of coffee served in the United States is gourmet (brewed from premium beans). It’s clear that we love specialty coffee.

Good coffee starts with good coffee beans, according to Tammie Johnson, who owns The Coffee Cup in Poteau, Oklahoma. “We source our beans from great local roasters. My main source that I’ve been using for years is Onyx out of northwest Arkansas. They are one of the top coffee roasters in the United States, but they are also known all over the world,” she said.

She said that the difference between using premium coffee beans and a typical cup of coffee is noticeable. “I would compare to a garden-fresh tomato vs. a store-bought tomato,” she said.

Opera House Coffee
Ana Rivera serves a muffin at Opera House Coffee in Durant, Oklahoma.

Shaun and Ami Rawlings, who own Opera House Coffee in Durant, Oklahoma, said that many variables create a good coffee cup. “It’s the details that make it,” said Ami.

“Coffee is mostly water, so you have to have great water. You can make bad coffee with good water, but you’ll never make good coffee with bad water,” Shaun added. “All of our water is ran through a carbon filter, then water softener, and then we have a reverse osmosis system. There should be nothing in the water. The water should just be a blank slate and then let the coffee do its work,” he continued.

If you love coffee, there is good news for you. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that among older adults, those who drank coffee (caffeinated or decaf) had a lower risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other medical complications than non-coffee drinkers. In the study, scientists concluded that two or more cups of coffee per day equated to a 10% reduction in overall death for men and a 15% reduction in overall death for women when compared with non-coffee drinkers. Researchers say there is a strong association between drinking coffee and living longer.

While the intricacies of making coffee and the health benefits are interesting, most of us love sitting in a coffee shop and enjoying our coffee because of the environment. Tammie Johnson said that her favorite aspect of owning a coffee shop is the atmosphere and the platform for bringing people together. “Having people connect, using this place for work, reading or studying, or just meeting up with people. That’s the best part,” she said.

Shaun and Ami said one of the benefits of going to a locally owned coffee shop is the community and relationships you build. “Here (at Opera House Coffee) being a small town and a big space, you’re building a relationship with the people your meeting, the employees, and you’re always seeing friends that come by,” said Shaun. “I think it’s kind of a neutral zone too. Here people feel comfortable to have meetings and just feel at ease,” said Ami.

One customer at Opera house said that he uses this space to be creative. Jimmy Tran is a freelance videographer and goes to Opera House Coffee to work. “It’s like a little escape for me, creatively. I feel like, especially in mainstream media, coffee shops have become synonymous with creativity. Whether that’s real or not, there’s something about writing, editing, hanging out at a coffee shop that feels vintage yet new, and it just gets the creative flow going,” said Tran.

It doesn’t matter if you are a lifelong native to the area or just passing through. If you are looking for a good cup of coffee and a warm, friendly environment, look no further than right here in Oklahoma. The ten and a half counties of the Choctaw Nation has some great coffee stops featuring specialty coffee. No matter what part of Choctaw Country you are in, coffee is never far away.

Latte Lingo

Latte Lingo

Do you speak coffee? If not, you’re in luck, because we do! Right here in Southeastern Oklahoma, are 10 of the best coffee hot spots to enjoy, and we’re here to help you decipher just what to order. Below is our glossary of common coffee terms and the places to get them!

  1. Red Eye at Sacred Grounds in Antlers, OK
    Red eye coffee is a regular cup of drip coffee with an added shot of espresso in it. Some coffee enthusiasts refer to it as the best of both worlds: coffee and espresso!
  2. Americano at Adam and Eve Coffee in Broken Bow, OK
    Add hot water to your espresso and you have an Americano. Need a drink to wake you up in the morning or an afternoon pick me up? For a special treat, order an Americano with three pumps vanilla and your favorite milk of choice.
  3. Dirty Chai at Okie Girls Coffee & Ice Cream in Broken Bow, OK
    A chai latte is black tea infused with cinnamon, clove and other warming spices. Combine this with steamed milk and top with foam and you’ve got the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. What makes this drink dirty? Adding a shot of espresso.
  4. Nitro Coffee at Blakes Coffee Shop in Durant, OK
    When nitrogen, a colorless, odorless gas, is added to coffee, you get nitro coffee. Like a typical cold brew, nitrogen infused coffee is very smooth and low in acidity. For a nutty taste, try a pump of toffee nut syrup!
  5. Iced Breve at Hot Shots in Durant, OK
    Breve is an espresso-based drink made with steamed half-and-half instead of milk. This produces a very creamy foam. Amplify your order by getting a white chocolate mocha breve or a caramel macchiato breve!
  6. Cortado at Opera House in Durant, OK
    A cortado is an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk. The steamed milk is just enough to mellow out bitterness of the espresso. Think of it as an espresso ice cream without all the sugar.
  7. Affogato at Hochatown Coffee Central in Hochatown, OK
    An affogato is your perfect go-to summer drink. A scoop of ice-cream with a single or double shot of espresso. Nothing says sweet like a creamy vanilla taste to a bold and dark flavored drink.
  8. London Fog at Punkins Coffee in Idabel, OK
    A London fog is a grey tea latte infused with hints of sweetness and steamed milk. Add some vanilla extract and elevate the drink one step further.
  9. Frappe at Harbor Mountain Coffee House in McAlester, OK
    A frappe is an iced beverage that has been blended and makes a tasty, foamy and refreshing drink. Often served with whipped cream and toppings. Sweeten up your frappe by adding Oreos, caramel, mocha and more!
  10. Hand Pour at The Coffee Cup in Poteau, OK
    A hand pour or hand-drip coffee is a technique that uses a standard coffee drip where water is “poured over” ground coffee. The advantage to hand pour coffee is that the water slowly passes through the grounds, extracting a more rich flavor.

Here in Choctaw County, we’ll keep you caffeinated whether you’re a cold-brew connoisseur or latte lover. Hurry up and slow down, because we have the brew for you!

The Spa at Choctaw Casino and Resort

Girl’s Day in Durant

Hey guys, there’s LOTS of stuff for you to do in Durant! And while you’re busy doing that, here’s what the ladies will be up to:

First, get your strength up for a fun day with a hearty breakfast at Butterfields Buffet or the Grand Café, located in the Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant! There are so many options, you may spend more time deciding than eating!

Once you’re full and ready, head out for some incredible shopping in Downtown Durant. When you bring this stuff home, everyone will want to know where you got it – but it’s your little secret!

Let’s face it – shopping is a lot of work! So make sure to refuel your stomach by having an amazing lunch at one of the Local bites, like Main Street BBQ, Roadhouse, or Roma’s.

Full of energy again? Good! ‘Cause it’s time for more shopping at The Shops at Choctaw Casino and Resort! Find clothing, shoes, accessories, gifts – pretty much whatever you’re looking for!

Tired yet? Then head over to The Spa at Choctaw Casino and Resort for a relaxing massage, makeover, and Mani/Pedi!

Concert at The Grand Theater

Now that you look incredible, it’s time for a night nut with the girls! Head to dinner at 1832 Steakhouse for some of the best food in the area, followed by a great concert at The Grand Theater!

And then, of course – there’s always the casino! Hit, stay, play all day!