Hit the Open Road
Hit the open road and plan your next road trip in Choctaw Country: Part 2

Hit the Open Road

By Christian Toews
From the May 2022 Biskinik

In the first article of this series, we began our road trip around Choctaw Country. We visited Hugo, Idabel and Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Since the last article, the trees have started to bloom, and everything has become greener with life.

The classic Oklahoma storms have also begun to arrive. But as the old saying goes, April’s showers bring May’s flowers. So, pack up the car and take a road trip through Choctaw Country to watch spring bloom across the southeastern part of Oklahoma.

We will begin the second part of our road trip in Honobia, Oklahoma.

From Broken Bow, where we stopped in the last article, head north to find the small community of Honobia.

While it might be a small town, it has a considerable reputation.

It is one of the hottest spots in the United States for Bigfoot sightings and tales.

Every year, Honobia hosts an annual Bigfoot festival.

Vendors, believers and even television shows gather at the festival to share new information, swap stories and celebrate this legendary creature.

According to honobiabigfoot.com, the 2022 bigfoot festival will take place on September 30 and October 1, 2022.

Shawna Cline owns the Honobia Creek Store & RV Park. She said over 5,000 people make their way to the area for the annual festival.

Cline has owned and operated the Honobia Creek Store with her husband, Chris, for 15 years. “I didn’t realize how many bigfoot believers there were. People come from all over the country and all around the world,” she said.

While the festival in the fall draws large crowds to Honobia, there are plenty of other reasons to visit. Oklahoma’s Little River runs through this area and is excellent for kayaking.

There are many trails to ride side-by-sides and ATVs. Rent a cabin, tent camp or bring your RV and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the great outdoors.

Stargazing
Photo by Christian Toews
Honobia, Oklahoma, is home to the Bigfoot Festival and crystal clear skies perfect for stargazing.

Another popular activity in this area is stargazing.

According to Cline, many people visit and stay to look at the stars. “There have been several people who have camped or brought their RV and took photos of the stars because you can see them so well,” she said. “We stop and look at the stars all the time. I didn’t realize how many people don’t get to do that.”

The Honobia Creek Store also offers a restaurant and a wide selection of merchandise.
One person left a review on Google saying:
“After three years, I had this burger again and it was as amazing as I remember. We stopped there yesterday and the staff is so friendly. The food is amazing.”

If you are looking for a unique outdoor experience, look no further than Honobia on your road trip.
For more information on Honobia Creek Store, check out the Store’s Facebook page.

Our next destination is beautiful Poteau, Oklahoma.

The drive from Honobia to Poteau is breathtaking. You will travel past some of the best scenic views in Oklahoma on your way.

Once you arrive, the options for activities and things to see are almost endless.

Grab a cuppa Joe at the Coffee Cup downtown, then head to Runestone Park in nearby Heavener, which has an artifact from some of the area’s earliest settlers. You can also check out Cavanal Hill, which is known as the “world’s highest hill” because it is barely shy of being classified as a mountain.

If you want to learn even more about the area’s history, you can visit the LeFlore County Museum at Hotel Lowry.

One of the most popular attractions in this area is the Poteau Balloon Fest.

You will be dazzled as the sky is filled with hot air balloons. Stay until the sun goes down, and you will see a truly unique hot air balloon experience where the balloon glows light up the sky. Poteau is a genuinely unique stop along our road trip through Choctaw Country.

To find out more about activities and attractions, you can visit poteau-ok.com.

The final stop on this leg of our road trip is a short drive from Poteau to the town of Pocola, Oklahoma.

This is the perfect location to stop for the night or enjoy some world-class cuisine. Pocola is home to one of the three Choctaw Casino & Resort locations.

This resort is for those searching for a unique experience, where you can enjoy tacos and burgers or steak and shrimp. Enjoy entertainers and try your luck at the tables, this resort offers everything you need to make a road trip stop or a weekend getaway an unforgettable experience.

If you feel adventurous during your stay, you can step right outside Choctaw Country and visit Fort Smith, Arkansas, where there are even more entertainment and attraction options.

Pocola is the perfect place to stop along our road trip if you are looking for a luxury experience for any budget or interest.

To find out more about the Choctaw Casino & Resort in Pocola, you can visit choctawcasinos.com/pocola.

Be sure to join us again next month for the final portion of our road trip through Choctaw Country.

Holiday Activities in Choctaw Country

Holiday Activities

Southeast Oklahoma might not be known for winter sporting events but don’t worry, there is still fun to be had in Choctaw Country when the cold season arrives. From dazzling light displays to holiday strolls, here are three of our favorite winter activities to do this December throughout Choctaw Country!

Christmas in the Park | Tushkahoma, Ok
The historic grounds of the Choctaw Nation Capitol will be transformed again into a winter wonderland that sparkles in the night. Christmas in the Park is a drive through a holiday light display like no other in southeast Oklahoma. The tour is free and open to the public from dusk to 9 p.m. nightly through New Year’s Eve.

Holly Jolly Stroll | Talihina, Ok
Enjoy an evening of celebration in historic downtown Talihina, Okla., as they host the second annual Holly Jolly Stroll on Thursday, December 9. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. celebrate the holiday season as downtown businesses stay open late and serve hot cocoa, apple cider, cookies and other treats you can enjoy while shopping and listening to music! A tree lighting ceremony will follow, along with a surprise visit from Santa.

Lights on the Island | Poteau, Ok
With over 300 light displays that cover the entire island at Lake Wister State Park, Lights on the Island in Poteau, Okla., is a special treat with some unique lighted decorations! From dinosaurs to a 30-foot-tall Statue of Liberty and more, the annual drive thru display will be held each night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. until Saturday, December 25.

Make your winter vacation memorable in Choctaw Country with seasonal lights, shopping and more! Whether you’re spending time with friends or family, there’s always something to do in Choctaw Country. For more activities visit, choctawcountry.com/events/. Remember to use #ChoctawCountry to share your photos of your winter activities.

Christmas in the Park

Dazzling Lights and Coffee Shop Delights

By Christian Toews
From the Dec. 2021 Biskinik

The holiday season always brings some much-needed downtime. Many people use this time to relax and spend time with family and friends. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has many unique and beautiful places to spend some time this Christmas season.

Choctaw Country is a diverse landscape with friendly and welcoming people living in all parts of the Choctaw Nation. People travel from all over the United States to take in the wonder that the area offers.

Choctaw Country has several perfect destinations for you to celebrate the holiday season. So, grab your friends and family, see the dazzling light displays, grab a cup of excellent coffee or both.

One of the main attractions during Christmas time is Christmas in the Park hosted by the Choctaw Nation. Christmas in the Park takes place at the Choctaw capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma.

The capitol grounds sit in a valley surrounded by the area’s stunning tree-covered hills. Each year, these hills transform into a vibrant display of fall colors. If you’re lucky, you might even see these colors in December.

Christmas in the Park will be open from December 3 to December 31 this year. Hot chocolate will be available on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the weekends of December 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18. This drive-thru light display is a perfect way to spend an evening with your family or friends this holiday season.

Coffee

While you’re in the area, stop by My Crystal Chandelier Coffee House & Gift Shop in Talihina. This coffee shop is a great place to stop on your way or after viewing Christmas lights. Letha Tipps owns and operates the coffee shop, and she said that she wanted to bring premium coffee to the southeast Oklahoma area.

She opened the doors in October of 2020 and said the tourists who come to see the Talimena Drive or other attractions in the area helped her get the business off the ground.

Now that she has been in business for a year, Tipps says she has a large group of regulars from the local community.

My Crystal Chandelier Coffee House & Gift Shop serves Topeca Coffee. Tipps says she chose to serve Topeca, in part because it’s a local brand to Oklahoma.

“Not only is it a premium product, but it’s also out of Oklahoma, and we believe in supporting as local as we can,” she explained.

Tipps invites everyone to stop by and give the coffee a try.

“Stop in and experience the difference. In our geographical area, we are providing something that hasn’t existed by providing premium coffee and excellent service,” said Tipps.

If you travel northeast of Talihina this holiday season, you’ll find another popular holiday attraction – Lights on the Island at Wister Lake State Park in Wister, Oklahoma.

Located on Quarry Island within the park, this light display attracts people from across the country.

Lights on the Island is surrounded by water which provides a unique Christmas light display experience. This drive-through light display has something for everyone and is open nightly from November 12 through December 25, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

If you are looking for delicious coffee near Lights on the Island, look no further than The Coffee Cup in Poteau. This unique coffee shop serves various specialty coffee drinks and uses premium beans from Onyx Coffee roasters out of Bentonville, Arkansas. The Coffee Cup is the perfect place to visit before or after your trip to see the Christmas lights in Wister.

We wish you a safe and happy holiday from all of us in Choctaw Country.

Poteau Christmas Parade

Poteau Christmas Parade

Bundle up the family and head out to an old-fashioned, lighted evening Christmas parade! The annual Poteau Christmas Parade features floats, cars, bands and Santa Claus himself – along with 50+ entries from the community, as well as entertainment including talented local singers, musicians, high school cheerleaders, a dance team and more. This year’s parade theme is “T’was The Night Before Christmas.”

Holiday Lights and Sights

Holiday Lights and Sights

By Christian Toews
From the Dec. 2020 Biskinik

The holiday season is in full swing, and now is the perfect time to explore some of the most beautiful places and activities in Oklahoma. Spending time with family and friends is what the holidays are all about. While this year might be a little different because of COVID 19, don’t let a virus stop you from safely enjoying the holiday sights that southeastern Oklahoma has to offer.

When was the last time you made some hot chocolate, grabbed a thermos, and went somewhere spectacular to drink it? Maybe you and that special someone want to spend some quality time. Perhaps you and your spouse need to go on a date night. Or maybe you want to pack up the whole family and enjoy an evening out of the house. Southeastern Oklahoma is the perfect place to enjoy the holidays.

Let’s begin in the beautiful city of Poteau, Oklahoma. Nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, Poteau is a unique destination. One of the most popular attractions in the area is Cavanal Hill. Here, you can catch a great view of the Ouachita Mountains and the Poteau Valley from the top. Dubbed “the world’s highest hill,” Cavanal Hill sits at just one foot shy of being designated as a mountain. While it may technically be a hill, the view is well worth the climb or drive. Once you reach the top, you can see for miles on a clear day. This fantastic view attracts visitors from all over the country.

Talimena Scenic Drive
Photo by Christian Toews
The striking beauty of the Talimena Scenic drive can be seen year-round, but the fall is a favorite.

Because you can drive or hike to the top, Cavanal Hill is the perfect place to spend some quality time with your loved ones, hot cocoa in hand, enjoying the scenery. No matter what time of year you visit, this view is sure to stun, but the holiday season offers some exceptional views as the leaves change.

Just a few short miles from Poteau, you will find Lake Wister State Park. Lake Wister is known for its beautiful scenery and unique island. This island allows you to experience the beauty of the area surrounded by water on three sides. Every year, the Poteau Chamber of Commerce and volunteers host a Christmas light display called Lights on the Island.

This impressive light display features over 300 displays in the ¾-mile drive. The displays are surrounded by Lake Wister’s water on three sides, providing a darker area for displays.

“One of our most popular displays is the three giant dinosaurs towering over 15ft high setting on the water’s edge of the lower Northside. The display takes visitors through a huge lighted tunnel, a candle lite forest with many animated displays throughout. One of the most unique displays is the 30ft Statue of Liberty with the American Flag setting just below the hill,” said Karen Wages, CEO of the Poteau Chamber of Commerce.

Lights on the Island

Lights on the Island

Lights on the Island
Submitted Photos
Some of the light displays that can be seen at the Lights on the Island show. The show has over 300 displays.

Christmas light displays are fun for the whole family and a great way to enjoy the holiday season. Lights on the Island will be open Nov. 17 through Dec. 25 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., according to the Poteau Chamber of Commerce. You can find more information about Lights on the Island at poteauchamber.com/lightdisplay. So, put on that Christmas playlist and treat your loved ones to a dazzling display on the lake. Oklahoma has so many amazing views to offer. Let’s head over to Talihina. If you have never visited this quaint town, you’re missing out on some of Oklahoma’s most spectacular landscapes. The city of Talihina sits in the Kiamichi Valley between the Kiamichi and Winding Stair Mountains. Surrounded by mountains, historic Talihina is a unique contrast from other parts of Oklahoma.

One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This 54-mile highway winds through the Ouachita National Forest from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas. The highway is popular with motorists, bikers, and even cyclists. The drive offers spectacular views and incredible vistas to sit and take in the majestic Oklahoma scenery. The holiday season is a great time to enjoy these views with your loved ones. If you can get out before the trees lose their leaves, you will see a fantastic display of colors from the Ouachita National Forest.

Our last stop on our list is Tvshka Homma, Oklahoma. Located only 20 miles southwest of Talihina, Tvshka Homma offers a great way to enjoy the holiday season. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma provides a Christmas light display that everyone can enjoy. This year’s Christmas in the Park will feature Christmas displays ranging from Native American to traditional. Hot chocolate and Christmas ornaments will be given on Fridays and Saturdays when you visit the display to top it all off. Find out more information about the Choctaw Nation’s Christmas in the Park.

While southeastern Oklahoma has countless amazing views and things to do during the holidays, this list will get you started on some great ideas for spending quality time with your family during this season. Whether you enjoy a spectacular view or an impressive light display, the holiday season is a magical time in southeastern Oklahoma.

Lights on the Island

Lights on the Island

Over a decade ago, with the donation of just a few Christmas lights, Lights On The Island was born. Since then, the annual event has grown into a spectacular light show for hundreds of visitors. Over 300 light displays in several animated displays cover the entire island. Each year, children anxiously await the huge dinosaurs, the tumbling bears and even Santa Claus! Visitors to Lights on the Island wrap up in blankets, climb aboard a lighted carriage and enjoy the short ride through the lights guided by volunteers. A joint effort of the staff at Lake Wister State Park, LeFlore County Development Coalition and Poteau Chamber of Commerce, each new season is bigger and brighter than the year before. Donations accepted.

LeFlore County

LeFlore County

We recommend starting your adventure at Spiro Mounds, where our friend, Dennis the Archaeologist, will breathe life into the mysterious people of Spiro Mounds. It’s wise to plan a couple of hours to take-in all the indoor exhibits, see all the amazing sites, and walk the interpretive trails along the mounds.

Spiro Mounds

Next, make the short drive to Southern Belle, in Heavener. It’s a lunch you’ll never forget. You’ll enjoy some mouth-watering food and soak-in the fantastic view, all from the comfort of Southern Belle’s retired, refurbished train car. The amount of sheer joy the car now brings to diners handily explains why Southern Belle was lovingly dubbed, “America’s Sweetheart.”

Southern Belle

Then, venture out to Heavener Runestone State Park. (What better way to burn-off some of that delicious lunch you just ate?!) Enjoy the incredible views the nature trails have to offer on your way to the Heavener Runestone — said to have been carved by ancient Vikings. Hear the history, see the artifacts, and enjoy your visit!

Heavener Runestone

Finally, head over to Poteau and start your drive up Cavanal Hill. Measuring 1,999 feet – a mere foot shy of being a “mountain” – Cavanal has earned the title of the “World’s Highest Hill.” The view from the top is always breathtaking, but fall colors and sunsets are the icing on the cake.