Good weather and a bad economy are combining into a financial bonanza for area attractions, some of whom are reporting record or near-record business this week. At the Oklahoma City Zoo, extra sheriff’s deputies were called in to help navigate long lines of cars. With parking scarce at the zoo and adjoining Science Museum Oklahoma, spaces were filling up fast across the street at Remington Park. In Bricktown, water taxis were carrying passenger counts more typical of a mild-weather Saturday in June. The Oklahoma City National Memorial, meanwhile, is seeing a much needed rebound after being shut down by flooding in January and stagnant attendance last summer. Tara Henson, zoo spokeswoman, said the visitor count Monday hit 10,100, and then jumped to 16,000 Tuesday. With turnstile numbers hitting 15,600 by mid-afternoon Wednesday, Henson said she was expecting another day topping 16,000 visitors. "If the weather holds out, we’re looking at a record breaker for spring break,” Henson said. "This year people are looking for things to do that are cost effective and are a reasonable drive from their home.” Henson said one visitor from Shawnee organized a group of 16 friends to travel to destinations in and around their town and Oklahoma City. The zoo was one of their first stops. Zoo visitors were coming from across the region, she said, including Wichita Falls, Texas, Tulsa, Elk City and Wichita, Kan. "I think we’re really showing some strength as a regional attraction,” Henson said.
Staying close to homeSpring break week, meanwhile, is typically the start of the season for water taxi rides along the Bricktown Canal. "This may be the best spring break we’ve ever had,” general manager Chad Huntington said of the water taxis. "Weather always plays a big role, but this is really nothing short of spectacular.” Huntington said his March numbers through Tuesday hit 4,441 compared with 1,939 for the same time last year. For Saint Patrick’s Day (Tuesday), passenger counts hit 1,268 compared with 232 for the holiday in 2008. Huntington said he too is seeing a lot of out-of-town business for the water taxis and his gift shop, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium. About 50 percent of passengers were from outside Oklahoma, Huntington said, and primarily from Texas and Kansas. He said informal surveys indicate a high number of passengers also are visiting the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Science Museum Oklahoma, the Myriad Gardens and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. "Most of these people seem to be on a formal trip with Oklahoma City being the destination,” Huntington said. "They’re taking time off from work, but a lot are staying home and doing what is called a ‘staycation.’ People are opting not to fly and taking day trips. And destinations that have great vehicular access like Oklahoma City can do great in a down economy,” he said. Nancy Coggins, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City National Memorial, reported attendance is up 10 percent over the same period last year. "Even with the economy, people still want to find a way to take a break, spend time with family and do things important for their mental and physical health,” Coggins said. "They’re taking trips closer to home than maybe to Disney World. They’re going to places that provide opportunities for the whole family.”
Oklahoma City National Memorial spokeswoman