Many Texans are no stranger to the idyllic cabins of Broken Bow or the sparkling streams of Beavers Bend State Park. But winter time in McCurtain County, Oklahoma is anything but sleepy.
Campfires are crackling, ziplines are zooming, and the hot tubs are always bubbling. Not to mention the luxury cabins studding the picturesque Kiamichi Mountains. No wonder families are flocking to southeast Oklahoma — yes — for a change of scenery.
Chilly temperatures are no match for the abundance of family-friendly fun in the area. Outdoors, Beavers Bend State Park’s natural beauty gives Thomas Kinkade paintings a run for their money. Stocked with rainbow trout year-round, the vibrant Lower Mountain Fork River runs through the park, offering guided fly fishing excursions for all ages. Scenic hikes, horseback rides, and mountain biking are other family favorites this time of year.
Winter is the prime time to visit McCurtain County for sportsmen. The Lower Mountain Fork River’s four-mile “trophy section,” where boats and barbed hooks are not allowed, attracts fly fishermen from around the country. Over in the Honobia Creek and Three Rivers Wildlife Management Areas, white-tailed deer, rabbit, quail, turkey, and even black bear, are plentiful for hunting depending on the month.
Birdwatchers and waterfowl hunters flock to the 6,000 acre Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. The unique wetlands, often compared to coastal regions of Florida and Louisiana, are home to over 324 bird species — and even alligators. Winter time is nesting season for the bald eagle, which can often be seen soaring over the area from November through February.
Families that would rather explore the great indoors are in the right place. Escape rooms, axe throwing, and old-timey photo booths don’t require a coat. Neither does Gutter Chaos, equal parts bowling alley, arcade, and sports bar. Hochatown is also brimming with local shops and antique stores offering one-of-a-kind souvenirs. If the tank is empty, check out Gasquatch in Idabel for a fill up you can only get in McCurtain County (spoiler, you might find a classic car museum, fried “Squatch Fingers,” and a 30-foot-tall Bigfoot — all under one roof).
When bellies start rumbling, a wide array of local bites are sure to please even the pickiest member of the party. Dig into a wood-fired pizza at Mountain Fork Brewery, family-style fried chicken at The Blue Rooster, or a homestyle breakfast at Steven’s Gap Restaurant. Hearty pastas, spicy Tex-Mex, award-winning BBQ, and gourmet coffee also keep visitors warm on those brisk winter days.
Museums are another great way to keep the family out of the elements and under one roof. McCurtain County features several hidden gems, including Idabel’s Museum of the Red River. The free museum houses one of the most impressive collections of Native American art in the country, as well as the most complete Acrocanthosaurus skeleton ever discovered. For fans of the National Parks Service, the Forest Heritage Museum inside Beavers Bend State Park features 14 dioramas painted by the creator of Smokey Bear, Harry Rossoll.
When the sun sets, thousands of Texas-sized cabins keep things cozy. Ranging from comfy cottages to rustic mega-mansions, McCurtain County’s luxury cabins include amenities of every shape and size. Steaming hot tubs come standard with most cabins. So do cushy king-sized suites and big screen TVs for movie nights with a bowl of homemade chili. For travelers who want the full luxury experience, several spas offer in-cabin massages and facials. And no trip to McCurtain County is complete without toasted marshmallows around the campfire.
World-class beauty, luxury digs, and one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences are just a few ways to shake up family time this winter in McCurtain County, Oklahoma. So don’t get caught in the cold. Fire up the car heater and get here already.