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‘Pride Of The Plains’: National Geographic Calls Oklahoma City ‘Best Trip’ Of 2015

Oklahoma City skyline at night
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Last month National Geographic Traveler unveiled its annual Best Trips list online – 20 places editors say travelers have to see next year.

Oklahoma City and three other American locales appear in the December/January issue on newsstands Tuesday – alongside destinations as diverse as Choquequirao, Peru, Esteros del Iberá, Argentina, and the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.

“What stood out for us about Oklahoma City was that the person who nominated it said it was the most improved city in the country. That’s because of how much authentic, home-grown development is happening there right now,” says Amy Alipio, the magazine's features editor. “These are people who are locals who maybe left to work as a chef in Paris or London, or as a musician in New York, and they're coming back to open their own restaurants and venues.”

National Geographic Traveler says things have changed in what was once the “beer-gut metropolis spilling across the Great Plains.”

The central Oklahoma River has a community boathouse and a new West River Trail. An 11-acre white-water rafting center is due in 2015. Local architect firms and coffee roasters that wouldn't be out of place in Portlandia now line once dormant Automobile Alley. And then there’s MidTown. Not long ago a den of crackhouses and abandoned lots just north of downtown’s 1995 bombing site, MidTown has sprouted condos, a boutique hotel, and Dust Bowl Lanes, a Tulsan import, with its 1970s-style bowling alley. The city even plans to add a streetcar loop downtown in 2017.

Alipio says the editors selected nominated sites based on whether or not they were sustainable-minded, and culturally or naturally rich. Joining Oklahoma City on the list were Medellin, Colombia – the home of the late Pablo Escobar and a city National Geographic refers to as the world’s “former cocaine capital,” and Tunis, Tunisa, where the Arab Spring revolutions ignited in December 2010. But she says the theme of resurgence and revitalization wasn’t a conscious decision.

“We want to introduce people to great places that they might not have heard of, or put a spotlight on places that you have heard of, but wouldn't necessarily think of as being part of the best of anything list,” Alipio says. “We have enough lists with Tuscany and Paris and Tokyo on it. Our list has classics like Mont St. Michel and The Presidio in San Francisco, but we want to open up the world a bit more.”

Alipio called Oklahoma City a dynamic place people are passionate about discussing.

“The range of reaction when Oklahoma City appeared on the list has ranged from ‘WTF?’ to ‘It's about time!’,” Alipio says. “And I think that range only reinforces the rightness or the timeliness of the choice.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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