4 Recipes for a Cozy, Nostalgic Christmas
Christmas Feature

4 Recipes for a Cozy, Nostalgic Christmas

By Amanda McCarty

If there were ever a case to be made for the existence of time travel, I believe the most convincing evidence could be found in the nostalgia of the holiday season. I don’t think anything holds the power to transport us to the past quite like the spirit of December coming on.

For me, it’s the soft, comforting lullaby of Christmas music mingled with the fragrant notes of cinnamon dancing through the air. The ache in my crimson-stained fingertips from threading delicate strands of cranberries and popcorn. The candy glow of multicolored lights.

These mundane-yet-poignant experiences take us back to a time when we held sanguine beliefs in Santa Claus, flying reindeer and the goodness in all people. And while these moments look different for everyone, they all share a common thread: the tradition of gathering with those we cherish most to share these experiences.

As you sink into the comforting embrace of a new Christmas season, it’s important to connect with your own family traditions and rituals — even if that means creating new ones of your own. Because we all need to share the joy of reigniting the childish sense of wonder within us all.

If you’re searching for ways to unlock those cozy feelings of nostalgia and belonging, Choctaw Country offers many opportunities to create new, lasting memories. I pray they continue to fuel the magic of the season for you and your family for many years to come.

1. Book a Cozy Getaway
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all to really connect with the people who matter. Kiamichi Cabins offers a variety of luxury hideaways nestled in the pines of Broken Bow and Hochatown. It’s the perfect place to gather with the family by the warm glow of a fire and watch the rest of the world — and if you’re lucky, the snow — drift quietly by.

2. Create a New Tradition

Kick off the holiday season with a truly unique experience at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma — a sanctuary for the endangered Asian elephant species. Holiday in the Ark begins Friday, November 25 and includes holiday craft centers, elephant feeding and interactions, holiday-themed lands and plenty of photo ops with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the elves, the Grinch and, of course, the elephants! This special event runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 18, and tickets are on sale now.

3. Catch a Christmas Parade

Round up the kiddos for a Cowboy Christmas like no other at Atoka’s Wild West Christmas Parade. Scoot your boots to live music, chow down on delicious food and tip your hat to Santa at this beloved family event. The festivities begin at 6pm on Saturday, December 3.

Just a few minutes north of the Oklahoma/Texas border, Durant lies close enough for a quick but meaningful trip into Oklahoma with the family to experience the Durant Christmas Parade. Join us downtown in the beautiful “City of Magnolias” on Tuesday, December 6 for “A Very Nutty Christmas” — this year’s theme for the annual holiday celebration. The fun begins at 7pm with a festive procession of floats, candy stations along the parade route and a special appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

4. Take in the Lights

There’s nothing quite like taking in the magical glow of Christmas lights on a chilly, December night. And the display of lights at Christmas in the Park on the beautiful Choctaw Capitol Grounds in Tuskahoma is one of the best in the area. Join us on Fridays and Saturdays in December from 6pm-9pm for free hot chocolate while you enjoy this enchanting drive-through exhibit.

Choctaw Cultural Center

5 Ways to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

By Amanda McCarty

Some of the earliest Native American advocates for celebrating this country’s indigenous people were Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, Reverend Red Fox James and Reverend Sherman Coolidge. They fought for a single day of recognition in a time when our country had yet to acknowledge indigenous people as citizens.

Today, we recognize the month of November as Native American Heritage Month, but what does that mean?

For those of us who live on Tribal ground, we’re fortunate enough to be constantly surrounded with Native culture. But if Native culture isn’t an aspect of your daily life, it can sometimes be easy to forget where we came from. And while the stories of our Native ancestors deserve to be celebrated the whole year ‘round, I believe it’s especially important to do so in November, at a time when the whole country, regardless of race or heritage, is focused on honoring the historical legacy of our “First Americans.”

So, how can we celebrate if we live in, say, Dallas? Lucky for you, Durant is less than two hours north of the Metroplex — a straight shot up Highway 75 — and has everything you need to immerse yourself in a thoroughly Native November experience.

Here are five things you can do during your stay:

1. Attend the Choctaw Powwow
The rhythmic pull of the drums. The blur of color as ribbon-dressed dancers circle the floor. The interlacing of voices in harmony and song. The fragrant aroma of homemade food. The thrill of competition in a heated game of stickball.

If you’ve never been to a powwow, this is the one to attend. The Choctaw Powwow is one of the nation’s largest, with more than 50 tribes from across the country participating. This annual, three-day event kicks off Friday, November 4th at the Choctaw Cultural Center and continues from the 5th through the 6th at the Choctaw Event Center.

2. Take a Class
There’s something about creating things with our hands that allows us to really connect to the past. Maybe it’s because our movements so closely mimic those of the people who came before us. There’s no technology that’s changed there — it’s the simple repetition of muscle and bone that’s been passed down through the generations.

The Choctaw Cultural Center is the perfect place to experience this kind of tactile learning, offering classes on fiber spinning, diamond stitching, basketry and beadwork — just to name a few. While you’re there, be sure to explore the vividly engaging exhibits, living village and the stickball arena.

3. Indulge in Native Cuisine
Speaking of the Choctaw Cultural Center, it’s also a great place to enjoy Native cuisine. Champuli Café offers a variety of traditional favorites, like tanchi labona (simmered pearl hominy corn and braised pork), banaha (cornmeal-based bread) and pinto beans and everyone’s favorite, the Indian taco.

If you’ve never experienced the deliciousness of a fresh, Indian taco, you’ve been missing out. It starts with a generous portion of frybread and is topped with beans, ground beef and the usual taco fixings. Fortunately, while you’re in Durant, there’s more than one place to indulge in this unique dish. The Frybread Express food truck is a local favorite and can usually be found along the highway near the casino.

4. Explore Indigenous Art
Nothing is as capable of putting our lives into perspective in quite the same way as visual art. Each canvas is a story of where that artist has come from — an amalgamation of their experiences and the legacy they wish to leave behind.

The Art Walk at Choctaw Casino & Resort–Durant features over 6,000 pieces of Native artwork and offers a unique journey through a self-guided tour of this artistic landscape. A smaller, but no less beautiful collection is housed at the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art, open to the public from 1pm-4pm Tuesday – Thursday.

5. Support a Native-Owned Business
Celebrating Native American Heritage Month doesn’t have to look overtly tribal. Giving back to the community by visiting local, Native-owned businesses is one of the best and easiest ways to show your support.

While in Durant, you could enjoy a hearty meal at Main Street Barbecue, unwind with your bestie at Blue River Valley Winery, treat yourself to some retail therapy at Five Eighty Vogue or relax with a facial at The Glam Factor.

If you’re curious about more Choctaw-owned businesses, you can view the directory here.

Take in the Views

Take in the Views

By Christian Toews
From the June 2022 Biskinik

As spring is ending and we start to see the first glimpse of summer in Choctaw Country, we are making the final leg of our three-part road trip through Southeastern Oklahoma. We visited large cities and small towns in the first part of our trip. We have already seen some of the best and most beautiful areas in Oklahoma – but we aren’t done yet. We will explore even more destinations worth adding to your list in this portion of our road trip. It doesn’t matter if you want to take a day trip or spend a few days in each location. There is plenty to see and experience at all of our stops.

We ended the last section of our road trip in Pocola, Oklahoma. We will travel southwest from Pocola and take a scenic drive to Talihina, Oklahoma. The drive from Pocola to Talihina is beautiful no matter what road you take, but the most scenic route would be along Highway 1. This highway is part of the Talimena National Scenic Byway and is one of the most spectacular places in Oklahoma. The U.S. Department of Transportation has designated this section of road as an official National Scenic Byway. Driving the entire scenic byway takes you across one of the highest mountain ranges between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The whole drive is 54 miles long one-way, so you will need most of the day to explore the byway if you plan to drive its entirety. Stopping at any sweeping vistas along the way is well worth your time. There are no services along the drive, so make sure you stop in Talihina and get some snacks and drinks before you head out.

Chamber of Commerce director, Vera Nelson, said that people come from all over the country and worldwide to visit the Talimena drive. “The most popular time to visit is in the fall, and we get people from all around the world who visit our area.” Nelson encouraged visitors to stop by the visitor center in Talihina and pick up a Talimena Scenic Byway guidebook. You can also visit the Talihina Chamber of commerce website to plan your trip.

Talihina is well known for the Talimena drive, but there are many other reasons to stop in this city from great coffee at My Crystal Chandelier Coffee House & Gift Shop or a historic place to spend the night at Hootie Creek Guest House. If you need to stop for gas and a snack, stop at the Choctaw Travel Plaza. Anything you need for your journey is right here.

From Talihina, we are going to travel west to McAlester, Oklahoma. This large city is well known for the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, where the majority of the bombs used by the United States military are manufactured. With many wineries, breweries, and restaurants, this is an entertaining stop on any road trip through the area. One of the most popular restaurants is Pete’s Place in Krebs, Oklahoma. Krebs borders McAlester and is worth the stop if you love good food. If you are looking for something quick, there have been many developments near the highway through McAlester, and there is a variety of fast food, coffee, and gas options.

Leaving McAlester, we are headed south to our final destination on our road trip. Our last stop has everything you need to stay for a few hours to a few days. Durant, Oklahoma, has become one of Oklahoma’s most popular tourist areas, and with good reason. Durant has something to offer everyone with multiple outdoor recreation options, a world-class resort hotel, and a vibrant downtown.

A few minutes drive from Durant will bring you to Lake Texoma. With approximately 1200 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of swim beaches, recreation areas, and things to do on and off the water. Many marinas in the area offer boat rentals, so you can get out and enjoy being on the water even if you are visiting. If you want to camp, there are plenty of options near Durant to camp close to the water.

After you play on the lake, head to Durant’s downtown. This is a wonderful place to visit a local coffee shop, brewery, restaurant, or shop for some unique treasures. Durant offers a farmers’ market and various other community events during the warmer months of the year. You can visit durant.org and see a calendar of community events to help you plan your stop in Durant.

Stargazing
Choctaw Nation Photo
Nothing says tropical escape quite like three beautiful acres and two pools: one family-friendly and fully equipped with two waterslides, and the other an exclusive, adult-only pool.

If you want a world-class, luxurious experience in the heart of southeastern Oklahoma, visit Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant. With 1,700 hotel rooms available at the AAA Four Diamond hotel, 16 restaurant options, and a variety of bars and lounges, it’s easy to enjoy yourself. Are you traveling with kids? Visit The District, where there is an arcade, six movie theaters, bowling and more. The food and entertainment options are almost limitless.

Visiting Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant in the warm months of the year is particularly appealing because of the newly opened resort pools. Aqua is a three-acre area of pools, cabanas, outdoor bars, and more. One family-friendly pool is fully equipped with two waterslides, and the other is an exclusive, adult-only pool. If you want a place of your own for the day, Aqua offers 50 luxurious poolside cabanas. For more information on Aqua or anything Choctaw Casino Resort offers, you can visit choctawcasinos.com.

Our road trip through southeastern Oklahoma has ended, but now is the time to let your adventure begin. Whether you follow the road trip exactly or create your own from our three-part series, you are sure to enjoy Choctaw Country.

Previous Road Trip Series Articles

Couples Getaway

Couples Getaway

By Christian Toews
From the Jan. 2022 Biskinik

With the holiday season behind us, it’s the perfect time to slow down and relax with your partner or a friend. A weekend away from the hustle and bustle might be what you need to start this new year right.

Choctaw Country has exactly what you need for a relaxing weekend, no matter what that looks like to you. If you want entertainment, escape from the world, or a unique getaway, southeast Oklahoma has you covered.

Durant is home to a newly opened 21-story luxury Sky Tower Hotel. This tower is part of Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant and is the perfect place to unwind with your partner if you want to live in the lap of luxury. Not only are the rooms immaculate, but excellent restaurants are just a short walk away. If you want to get even deeper into relaxation, book a couples massage and spa day at the world-class spa, see the latest releases at The District Cinema, go bowling, or sit down and have a few cocktails in one of the luxury lounge areas. With this many options for entertainment and relaxation in the same place, you don’t need to bring anything other than your favorite person. For more information on amenities and booking, visit choctawcasinos.com.

Perhaps you are looking for a more outdoorsy adventure where you break away from flashy entertainment and enjoy some peace and quiet in nature. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, look no further than Hochatown, Oklahoma, and the surrounding area. Hochatown sits just a few miles from Broken Bow and borders Beavers Bend State Park. The area has a seemingly endless number of cabins available for rent and more are being built every year. Some of these cabins are extremely well furnished with a hot tub, fire pit and other amenities. This area is the perfect location for cozying up with your partner to read books, see wildlife, get away from your routines, and enjoy nature.

Jim and Valerie Tarpley have visited this area many times. They said they often use this area as a retreat. “We love going to Beaver’s Bend and that area. It has become a yearly tradition for our family towards the late summer and early fall. The destination often is where we aim for an anniversary trip. The pines, hills, trails, rivers and lakes offer plenty of seclusion and escape to nature. There is a wide array of outdoor recreation as well,” said Jim.

This area is unique to Oklahoma. With towering pine trees and large rolling hills with vista views, it’s a far cry from the waving wheat plains covering other parts of the state. The Tarpley’s said they appreciate that aspect of the area. “Being from North Texas, we recommend it as a quick getaway destination. After a picturesque, under two-hour drive, you don’t have to spend all day traveling. Once there, the change in the terrain and landscape fosters a sense of traveling much further,” said Jim.

Maybe it’s time for you and your significant other to break away from the routine and sample what this part of Oklahoma has to offer. Many of these cabins are listed on Airbnb or VRBO, and a quick google search will point you to cabin rentals or more information on the area.

If you are looking for something in between both options, you should consider Carlton Landing on Lake Eufaula in Pittsburg County. This destination is on the other side of Southeast Oklahoma but has its own unique beauty. Carlton Landing is an idyllic lakeside community that boasts many rentals available for visitors looking to get away. This is the perfect combination of luxury and amenities within walking distance. With a pizza parlor and a pub-like restaurant called The Meeting House built right into the community, you don’t have to look far for amenities. Why not watch the sunset on the lake and then head to get a drink, spend some time in the hot tub, or take a walk along the lakeshore? Carlton Landing is a great option if you are looking to get away from the norm and start your new year right. If you want to find out more information or book a rental, visit carltonlanding.com.

Choctaw Cultural Center

Immerse Yourself in Choctaw Culture

By Kendra Germany-Wall
From the Nov. 2021 Biskinik

Fall is the perfect time for a road trip, and Choctaw Country is the perfect backdrop for a fun-filled weekend getaway. There are so many fun things to do in the area this fall, truly something for everyone. If you consider yourself a foodie, Choctaw Country is home to some of the state’s best culinary hotspots, breweries, and wineries.

If learning more about Choctaw culture and history piques your interest, consider adding the Choctaw Cultural Center to your list of road trip destinations. This breathing, living experience is a must see, especially during Native American Heritage Month. The award-winning Choctaw Cultural Center, located in Calera, invites you to immerse yourself in the story of the Choctaw people through 14,000 years of history.

The building spans over 100,000 square feet and houses two exhibit halls, an auditorium, a children’s play area, as well as a café and gift store. On a daily basis, guests can immerse themselves in Choctaw history and culture through tours, classes, and workshops, participate in a game of stickball or try out social dancing.

From the moment you walk through the door, you are sure to be amazed by the beauty and ambiance of this remarkable place. Everything down to the tiniest details has been crafted with the Choctaw people in mind. The diamond and basketweave textures throughout the main lobby reflect essential elements of Choctaw tradition. Even the stone used for the floor around the Central Fire was quarried locally in Stigler.

As you make your way through the immersive permanent exhibit, you may even recognize some familiar faces. Living Choctaw tribal members are reflected in the life casts throughout the landscapes. These life casts, created from 3-D scans and plaster casts of tribal members, lend an even higher level of authenticity to the exhibits. These exhibitions bring technology and tradition together to tell the story of the Choctaw people.

The Luksi Activity Center was created with the young (and young at heart) in mind. Featuring two different styles of Choctaw dwellings, a log slide and a giant Luksi (turtle) where children can sit and hear traditional stories, this area is sure to become a favorite spot to learn about the Choctaw culture through play.

Just outside of the main building, step back in time to the Choctaw Living Village. In this spacious outdoor section of the Center, you will see demonstrations of traditional Choctaw crafts, dances, stickball and gardening techniques. You can also take a stroll around the magnificent ceremonial mound, modeled after Nanih Waiya, the Mother Mound, located in the Choctaw homelands of modern-day Mississippi.

The Choctaw Cultural Center also offers a variety of learning experiences for guests of all ages. Immersive experiences and cultural interactions are sure to become special memories. There is something for everyone from cultural art forms, social dancing, and learning how to make your own traditional meal. Guests can participate in various lessons, workshops, programs and demonstrations throughout the Choctaw Cultural Center. The facility also houses multiple classrooms, including a teaching kitchen and a pottery room.

Classes offered include Chahta 101, which highlights the history, government, culture and language of the Choctaw people. Another class offered is Chahta Anumpa, which seeks to promote the pronunciation of the Choctaw language and general understanding of words within the Choctaw Cultural Center. Each class runs for approximately 20 minutes.

More in-depth workshops, approximately an hour-long, are also offered at the Choctaw Cultural Center. Workshops recommended for those 12 and under are offered on Thursdays and Saturdays. Workshops for those 12 and over are offered on Fridays and Saturdays. New classes and workshops are added every month. School/group visits are also available upon request. For more information or to reserve a school/group visit, call 833-708-9582 or visit choctawculturalcenter.com.

The Choctaw Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring, preserving, and showcasing the culture and history of the Choctaw people, bringing the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture to life. Today is the day to start planning your visit. The Choctaw Cultural Center is located at 1919 Hina Hanta Way Calera, OK 74730. The entrance is located off Choctaw Road, west of the intersection of Choctaw Road and Highway 69/75 in Durant. Guests of all ages are welcome.

Admission is complimentary for Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal members. General admission for adults is $12. Discounts are available for children, veterans, senior citizens and college students. Hours: Wednesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Closed: Monday and Tuesday. For more information, visit choctawculturalcenter.com.

Fall Food Favorites

Fall Food Favorites

As the leaves start to change and the heat begins to cool the types of food that you indulge in change as well. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few of our favorite dishes from culinary hotspots in Choctaw Country.

Fruit Pies/Cobblers
Maamaw B’s Kitchen is a one-of-a-kind bakery in Heavener, Okla. specializing in cakes and desserts, and nothing says autumn is here like a fruit pie or cobbler! Whether it’s filled with apples, cranberries or any other kind of fruit, Maamaw B’s Kitchen offers an extra touch of sweetness to any dessert. Open Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. offers a wide variety of baked goods from baked breads, cakes, cookies, pies and more!

Apple Cobbler

Try this recipe at home!

Apple Cobbler

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups floor
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup apples
  • 2 cups boiling water

Directions

  • Cream 1 cup sugar and butter.
  • Add flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Mix well and pour into baking pan.
  • Pour the apple over batter and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  • Pour the boiling water over the top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until golden brown.
  • Can be served hot or cold.

At Sacred Grounds in Antlers, Okla. they use only fresh ground beans to make a wide array of delicious fall beverages from their smooth Morning Blend drip coffee to gourmet espresso drinks. You have the option of ordering a hot Latte or Cappuccino made with steamed milk and espresso. Fall flavor favorites include Mocha, Caramel, and Pumpkin Spice. Open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. specializes in coffee, sandwiches, soups, and burgers.

Chili/Soup/Stew
Our favorite part of fall is warm, hearty and comforting chili, stew or soup. At CJ’s Café in Valliant, Okla. they have soup, chili and stew ranging from smooth and creamy to hearty and meaty, chicken noodle and more! Open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. offers a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner for locals and travelers alike!

Jams
Kayterra Farms in Durant, Okla. has wonderful jams and delicious seasonal butters that are hand crafted in their kitchen. Kayterra Farms jams offers seasonal flavors from warm pecan pie, sassy strawberry jalapeño and more so there’s something for everyone! They are the perfect for spicing up a cheeseboard or a loaf of bread.

Try this recipe at home!

Blackberry Brie with Caramelized Pecans

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 round of brie
  • 1/3 cup Kayterra Farms Blackberry Jam
  • 1 tsp finely chopped jalapeño pepper

Directions

  • Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in pecans and sugar. Continue cooking until sugar is melted and nuts are caramelized.
  • Immediately spread nuts onto aluminum foil and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Slice top off brie with knife and discard top.
  • Place brie onto serving plate and microwave 30-45 seconds or until brie is slightly melted.
  • Combine jam and jalapeño in bowl. Top warm brie with mixture. Sprinkle with nuts and
    serve.

With Autumn fast approaching, now is the perfect time to indulge in delicious fall favorites. Here in Choctaw Country, we’ve got you covered from pies, soups, coffee and more! Hurry up and slow down, because as the leaves begin to change, so will your appetite!

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.

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!