Disclosure: All accommodations, meals and activities were provided by VisitNorman. However, I love sharing travel tips and reviews with you and all opinions are my own.
A few months ago, my daughter asked if we could go on a road trip. Just the two of us. Mom and daughter – no boys allowed!
If you remember, last summer I had to bribe and threaten her to go on a girls-only beach trip with my mom, sister and niece. Now she is ASKING for a weekend alone with her mom. I’ve stopped trying to understand why my kids act the way they do. Especially my pre-teen girl. Instead I enjoy the moments they want to spend with mom before they become to cool to acknowledge that I exist.
So I started thinking about road trips options with my 10 year old, who will be turning 11 in August. I’ve lived in Dallas for more than 14 years, so I’ve taken road trips from Dallas to Austin, Fredericksburg, Tyler, Granbury and San Antonio. Since I’ve hit most of the destinations south of Dallas I thought, why not head north to Oklahoma? Immediately I went into my usual vacation planning mode; planning our routes, researching activities, scouting out the best restaurants and looking for reviews on hotels.
Before I could make official plans for our road trip to Oklahoma, I received an email. It was an invitation to apply for a blogger trip… which was a long weekend in Norman and Oklahoma City with several girls from Dallas Fitness Ambassadors! Not only would my entire vacation be planned for me, a huge deal since I am the dedicated vacation planner in our family, I was going to have a chance to scope out all the fun that Oklahoma has to offer.
Our road trip kicked off on a Thursday afternoon, after the six of us packed our bags into two Mazda CX-9s from Drive Shop USA. We hit the road around 3 PM for the three-hour drive to Norman, which was the first stop on our road trip.
Norman is located about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City and is home to the University of Oklahoma. During our trip, I learned the history behind the phrase Boomer Sooner, which is the name of the OU fight song. Back in 1889, the land around the university was settled by a Land Run. At noon on April 22, 1889, a shot was fired and people rushed to claim unassigned land in the area to settle. Boomers are the people who campaigned for the opening of the lands, while Sooners were those who tried to enter the land early to claim the best property. So there is your history lesson for the day!
Where We Stayed
VisitNorman arranged for us to stay at the NCED Conference Center and Hotel, probably because of the large fitness center and workout options (we are FITNESS ambassadors). Formerly a private training center for the United States Postal Service, NCED is now open to the public for conferences and the hotel is run by the Marriott. The USPS theme is still evident throughout the facility, in the decor, artwork and small details through the hotel.
NCED is a resort style property with over 900 rooms, ballrooms and conference areas, a large fitness center (open 24/7), aerobics room, full size basketball court, indoor and outdoor walking tracks, a massage room, outdoor pool, tennis courts, and sand volleyball. A large cafeteria style dining area serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also a separate bar area, pool tables and outdoor fire pit. A Starbucks is located in the 24/7 gift and snack shop. ducks that greet you when you arrive, along with friendly staff.
The hotel rooms cozy and a little dated but clean. Each room had a queen size bed, small bathroom, closet, television, desk and comfortable chair. Ginger and I had adjoining rooms, so we left the door between us open the entire time so we could visit. However, we did close it at night (because Ginger snores).
Where We Played
After we checked in our hotel room around 6 PM, we changed clothes and met downstairs in the lobby. Then we headed to HeyDey for dinner, adult beverages and bowling. It was recently renovated and expanded to include an upstairs 21+ bar and lounge with trivia plus 8 bowling lanes. Downstairs is a 16 lane bowling alley, the arcade, a ropes course, miniature golf (outside) and a huge, two-story laser tag room.
First, we headed upstairs and ordered drinks and dinner. Everyone was starving from our road trip. Next time I will remember to pack snacks for the three hour drive. We ordered a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches that we could eat while we bowled. It was a fun way to kick off the beginning of our trip.
Our FAVORITE part of the night, and maybe even the entire trip was laser tag. Before this trip, I only thought of laser tag as something fun for kids. I had no idea how fun it could be for adults! With six girls, we split into two groups which meant the red team against green team. First we had to watch a short intro/instructional video (via a soldier hologram), then we suited up with a backpack attached to a laser gun. Then we entered the huge battle zone, went to our home bases and waited on the countdown for the game to begin.
The goal is to shoot your laser at your opponent’s chest plate. If you are hit, your gun is disabled for 3 seconds then you can resume shooting. Although our game only lasted 10 minutes , we were sweaty and out-of-breath from chasing each other around the room, hiding behind barriers and walking up the ramps for a better sight advantage. Once the lights came back on, we looked at the score board and saw the green team (MY TEAM) won!!
Next up was the arcade, were we all headed to our favorite games. At the end of the night, several girls gave me their tickets and I traded them in for gifts for my kids. I got Tallen the sticky eyeballs (one has been stuck to my living room ceiling for two weeks now) and Sophia the silly putty. They were so excited I brought them something home from my trip!
The next morning I was awake waaayyy to early or vacation. But the sun was streaming in my window and I heard Ginger up and moving around. We got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast, sitting on the patio to enjoy the weather. After grabbing a Starbucks from the gift shop, we walked over to the fitness center. Ginger’s original plan was to play volleyball in the gym, but Jess was in the fitness center no one else was up yet. I was not going to hit a volleyball with a girl twice my height (sorry Ginger). So we explored the grounds outside, checked out the pool, then ended up back in the gym.
Let me be honest, I am not an “athletic” person. I can dance, cheer and tumble – but I don’t play sports. When we picked teams for gym class, I was picked close to last. In fact, I almost failed gym because of my lack of free throw skills in basketball. But Ginger picked up a ball and we started shooting around and taking videos. The first three shots I tried went it!!! Of course as soon as Ginger tried to video, I missed every single shot. I finally got one of me making a basket, mainly so I could show off to my husband!
Next we goofed off with the punching bag and speed bags, then played OUR version of ping-pong. Which basically means there were no rules and you could hit the ball no matter how many times it bounced, even it didn’t bounce off the table. After working out a sweat, mainly from laughing at how bad we were at ping-pong, we went back to our rooms to shower and check out.
Where We Ate
Next we drove to Campus Corner just north of OU campus for lunch at Volare. Since it is summer, we quickly got a table for lunch. However during school and especially during football season, Campus Corner is packed. It is THE destination for food, shopping and fun in Norman.
OMG. Everything I ate in Oklahoma was delicious, but one of my favorite things I ate all weekend was at Volare. First we started with the jalapeno & artichoke dip, fried mozzarella, and several salads. Then we ordered several pizzas to share, including the King Parma, Big Stick, and Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me. But my favorite was the Bee Sting pizza with fresh mozzarella, soppressata, Serrano peppers and house-made honey. It was the perfect mixture of spicy and sweet.
After pizza, we
needed wanted dessert. So we walked across the street to The Baked Bear for ice cream cookie sandwiches. Except I got a brownie bowl because I didn’t want ice cream dripping all over my hands. Must be the mom in me, but when I see ice cream sandwiches, I see the potential for a mess. If you order the ice cream sandwich, be sure to get it hot pressed. It warms the cookie but does not melt the ice cream!
Where We Toured
After lunch and dessert, it was time for a tour! Well, actually two tours. On our way to tour the National Weather Center, we took a short driving tour of the beautiful, historic OU campus and the football stadium. The campus definitely deserves a longer tour next time.
The National Weather Center is unique because it combines federal, state and local agencies in one building. But what impressed me was learning about the building itself… the walls are reinforced with Kevlar (yes, the stuff in bullet proof vests), to protect it from flying debris during tornadoes. Because it is Oklahoma!
On the 2nd floor, we gawked at the employees who work in the National Weather Service Forecast Office and the Storm Prediction Center. Seriously, there are windows that overlook the rooms where these people work and the tour brings people by to stare at them! I would hate for people to watch me work at my desk every day, but then again my work is not that exciting to watch.
After we finished our tour of the National Weather Center, it was time to drive to Oklahoma City for the rest of the weekend. I have so much more to share about our road trip, so check back later this week!
to be Continued…
Various Photo Credit to my fellow Dallas Fitness Ambassadors on the trip:
- Mai Lyn of Deep Fried Fit
- Ginger of The Ginger Marie Blog
- Jess of The Sports Brat
- Brit of Fit x Brit
- Jerica of Jerica Says