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Crossing the River

Sand Springs features treasured old haunts, niche shops, specialty doughnuts, and wine — all worth checking out when you look just a bit further west of Tulsa across the Arkansas River.

Michele Chiappetta
Rob Harmon
February 28, 2020

At the end of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, after a whirlwind of adventures and life lessons, Midwestern paragon Dorothy Gale observes, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my backyard.” There’s a lot of truth in that idea, one that is easy to forget as we go about our regular routines. Sometimes, what we need is a chance to explore what’s right around the corner and see it with new eyes.

A trip around Sand Springs is a lot like that. For those who live in Tulsa, spots along the west side of the Arkansas River can seem so far away that we don’t think about venturing there. And if you’re elsewhere, you probably think of a trip to Tulsa as a chance to visit its downtown. Yet Sand Springs offers some unique places to visit, well worth a few hours’ exploration.

Incorporated in 1912, Sand Springs was first envisioned as a haven for widows and orphans, a city with social welfare on its mind. Today, it’s home to places like the Keystone Ancient Forest, a 1,360-acre nature preserve featuring 500-year-old cedars, 300-year-old post oak trees, deer, mountain lion, bobcat, American eagles, migratory birds, and over 80 varied species of butterflies. (It’s open on select Saturdays for hiking.) Sand Springs also features some treasured old haunts and new niche shops, all worth checking out when you look just a bit further than your backyard. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Old Town Cafe
207 N. Lincoln Ave. | Sand Springs

Small-town charm and delicious food will be waiting at the door of this old-school diner. Upon entering, take a look to the right, and you’ll see an entire wall of booths dedicated to Marilyn Monroe. There’s plenty of other vintage memorabilia — Elvis, James Dean, and more —to make you smile. Have a seat and chat with the friendly wait staff and food. The boneless fried chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables are a delight — juicy inside, crispy outside, the way they should be. Or opt for their perfectly cooked bacon cheeseburger with fries. But don’t quit there—ask about their pies. Choose any one of them and prepare to be rolled out of the place.

Quilt Nuts
216 N. Main St. | Sand Springs

The friendly owners of this fabric and sewing specialty shop know how to keep their customers coming back. If you’re into sewing and other fabric arts, this is the real deal. Every Tuesday, they host an all-day sew-in. Use their machines and work on your latest project while sharing ideas and tips with other quilters and sewing enthusiasts. Around the shop, you’ll discover patterns, cool fabrics, samples of quilted pillows and toys, new machines, and anything else quilt-related you can think of. Occasional classes are offered to help quilters learn new skills and let the creative juices flow. Located right across the street from a cute little park called Charles Page Triangle Park, you can’t miss it.

Rod's Books & Relics and The Yesterday Shop
10 E. 2nd St. | Sand Springs

This bookstore and vintage collectibles combination shop on the corner of Main Street and Second Street is an excellent venue for anyone who loves finding that one-of-a-kind item that they don’t make anymore. In the front of the store, small and large knick-knacks and rarities line the store’s shelves. Helpful staff will answer any questions you have, maybe even give additional trivia information associated with your newfound collectors’ item. In the backroom is where Rod’s books are kept. Old and new books are carefully categorized and are offered at reasonable prices, too. From a decent amount of children’s books to an extensive sci-fi section, there will undoubtedly be a book or two you’ll take home.

Whispering Vines Vineyard
7374 W. 51st St. | Tulsa

Minutes away from the Sand Springs downtown area, via Highway 97, you’ll find Whispering Vines Vineyards. It’s a great way to top off a few hours of exploring Sand Springs. Hiding just minutes from I-44, the vineyard produces wine varieties sure to please anyone. There is a tasting bar manned by cheerful staff who are a delight to chat with, and all the sampling wines are also available for purchase. Through their adopt-a-plant program, anyone can adopt a grapevine for four years at the cost of $100. You’ll receive four bottles of wine and one free admission to the annual harvest party for four years. Pick any grape plant variety you like, prune it in March, and harvest it in late July to early August.

Livi Lee's Donuts
4106 S. 113th W. Ave #100 | Sand Springs
411 E. Broadway St. | Sand Springs

There are doughnut shops, and then there are specialty doughnut shops. Tulsa has both, but Sand Springs’ original Livi Lee’s started the whole “specialty” thing, around here at least. Just one visit, and you’ll be driving there every chance you get for a handcrafted doughnut, a delicious sausage roll, and a hot coffee, no matter what side of Tulsa you live on. Regulars rave about the s’mores and fruity pebbles flavored doughnuts, but who doesn’t love the classic chocolate with sprinkles or the lemon-filled Bismarck? Whatever you get, know it’ll be warm, delicious and baked fresh every morning.

Sand Springs Cultural and Historical Museum
9 E. Broadway St. | Sand Springs

Inside of the historic Page Memorial Library, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum contains artifacts from the area’s past and present. The stucco and concrete building is a bit of art itself, being designed in the art deco style, like many of the structures throughout the Tulsa area. The gorgeous design of the building inside takes you on tours about the museum itself, the town’s triangle park, the “Sand Springs Home” for widows and orphans founded by Charles Page, the Sand Springs’ historic powerhouse, and a whole lot more. Other rotating exhibitions are available too. An entire afternoon can be spent learning about the extraordinary people who have lived in the area of Sand Springs.