Ponca City, Oklahoma: Prairie Road Trip Day Three

Pioneer Woman statue Ponca City
Once you leave the Flint Hills and head south, the land flattens out again and there's scarcely a town of any size between Cottonwood Falls and Ponca City -- except, of course, Wichita, Kansas. Stop in Old Town for a lunch break and take a few minutes to visit one of the nation's largest hat stores, Hatman Jack's.

It's just about a straight shot south from Wichita to Ponca City. Named for the Ponca tribe, the town was founded in 1893. It's a town built on oil, with a well-tended downtown, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Oil money also established in Ponca City a place to appreciate the contributions women made settling the prairie.

Road Trip Starting Point:
Driving the Prairie

The city's Pioneer Woman Museum, which is undergoing extensive renovations (it will reopen this summer), honors not only the pragmatic, determined and hardy women who settled Oklahoma but women who pioneered in other ways, too, from politics to pop music. You can learn the stories there of women like Kate Barnard, the first woman to be elected to state office in the United States, or Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Outside museum a statue (above), entitled Confident, depicts a pioneer woman in long skirts and sunbonnet, a basket on one arm, a chattering child holding her other hand. To select a design, E.W. Marland, founder of the Marland Oil Co., in 1926 commissioned models from 12 well-known sculptors and sent those on a tour of art galleries to gather input from the general public and art critics. The models visited all the nation's major cities, and more than 750,000 votes selected the statue that stands in Ponca City today.

Other Ponca City attractions worth a look include the Conoco Museum for a taste of oilfield history and the restored 1927 Poncan Theatre for a collection of 1930s theater lobby art.

Prairie Road Trip Day Four: Bartlesville, Oklahoma >>
<< Previous Stop: Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

Looking for more road trip ideas? Visit our Great American Road Trips home page.

The beautiful great plains have a dark side -- this part of the country is also known as Tornado Alley. Storm chasing, to witness the grandeur of nature's power, is actually a tourist activity 'round these parts, but the massive twister that recently ravaged Moore, Oklahoma -- about 100 miles south of Ponca City -- was a disaster of unimaginable scale. Take tornado watches and warnings seriously, and follow National Weather Service safety tips. And if you would like to help Moore rebuild, here are some ways to help.

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