Top Things to Do in Flagstaff
Attractions, sightseeing, culture, and history. At your doorstep. No need to drive very far. Sure, Flagstaff is the perfect home base to the myriad of Northern Arizona attractions, but there is so much to do, see and experience right here in Flagstaff AZ, or within very close driving distance. Whether you’re just driving through, visiting Flagstaff for the day, or staying at a Flagstaff hotel, take some relaxing time to explore and discover museums, ancient Indian ruins, and historical architecture or take a rewarding scenic drive and find out why Flagstaff is such an appealing getaway destination. All of these Flagstaff area attractions and points of interest are either inside the city limits of Flagstaff or within a close 30-mile drive.
Historic Downtown Flagstaff & Route 66
Flagstaff has a rich history, and there’s no better way to experience it than through a stroll downtown. The historic downtown area is dotted with charming boutiques, local shops, and restaurants that are sure to delight any visitor.
As you walk down the vibrant streets, you’ll come across numerous art galleries, museums, and theaters that showcase the city’s culture and history. Don’t miss the chance to wander through Heritage Square, where you can catch live music, food festivals, and cultural events throughout the year.
If you’re a fan of Route 66, then you’re in for a real treat. The iconic road runs right through the heart of Flagstaff’s downtown area. As you walk along the route, you’ll pass by historic landmarks like the Weatherford Hotel and the Orpheum Theater, both of which have been standing since the early 1900s.
The best time to take a stroll downtown is in the evening when the city truly comes alive. The streets are beautifully lit up, and there’s a buzz in the air that’s hard to miss. Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening out or a fun-filled night with friends, downtown Flagstaff has something for everyone.
San Francisco Peaks
Flagstaff is a hiker’s paradise, and one of the must-do activities for an unforgettable trip is hiking the San Francisco Peaks. The San Francisco Peaks are the highest mountain range in Arizona, with Humphreys Peak standing at 12,633 feet. The peaks offer a variety of hiking trails suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced hikers.
One of the most popular hiking trails is the Humphreys Peak Trail, which is a strenuous 10-mile round-trip hike that takes you to the summit of Humphreys Peak. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but the views from the summit are breathtaking.
For those looking for an easier hike, the Kachina Trail is a moderate 5-mile round-trip hike that offers stunning views of the peaks and the surrounding forests.
Before embarking on a hike, it’s important to be prepared. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and a map, and wear sturdy shoes. It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out.
4001 S Woody Mountain Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86005-8775
The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a botanical garden, research station, and environmental education center. The Arboretum’s goal is to help you better understand the plants and plant communities of the Colorado Plateau, home to such natural wonders as Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. The Flagstaff Arboretum is known for its beautiful collection of over 2,500 species of plants and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges, meadows, and forests. It features daily guided tours and a Wild Birds of Prey education program. Enjoy strolling its miles of trails, shopping at the gift shop, classes, and workshops.
Directions To The Arboretum
Located 3.8 miles south of Route 66 on Woody Mountain Road, on the west side of Flagstaff. The last portion of Woody Mountain Road is unpaved but suitable for all vehicles.
Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N Fort Valley Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-8348
If you’re looking for a unique and enriching experience in Flagstaff, then you must take a tour of the Museum of Northern Arizona. This museum was founded in 1928 and is dedicated to showcasing the cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau region.
The museum houses an extensive collection of exhibits that cover a wide range of topics, from geology and paleontology to ethnology and anthropology. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also features rotating exhibits and special events throughout the year.
One of the highlights of the museum is the collection of Native American artifacts and art, which includes pottery, jewelry, and textiles. There are also exhibits that showcase the history of the region’s pioneers and early settlers, as well as the unique flora and fauna that call the Colorado Plateau home.
Taking a tour of the Museum of Northern Arizona is a great way to learn about the rich history and culture of the region, and gain a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds Flagstaff. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, anthropology, or natural science, and is sure to be an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
1400 West Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, Az 86001; (928) 774.3358
What a great place to learn about astronomy and experience telescopic views into the depth of the universe. Named after its founder Percival Lowell, the Lowell Observatory was incepted in 1894. Lowell chose Flagstaff, Arizona as the best location for astronomy research because of its combination of the clear dark sky and high elevation.
Lowell created the observatory to explore the possibility of life on the planet Mars using a specially designed 24-inch Alvan Clark refracting telescope. That telescope was sent to Mexico with the expectation the area would provide better views of Mars. The telescope was returned to Flagstaff in 1897 and remains on active display for visitor use today.
The Lowell Observatory is best known for its discovery of the planet Pluto. Ongoing noteworthy discoveries include the co-discovery of the Uranus rings and the discovery of asteroids, comets, and extrasolar planets.
The observatory is open year-round with varying seasonal schedules. Visit the Lowell Observatory website for visitation times and program events.
Experience telescope viewing and discussions of the night sky during evening programs when telescopes including the original Clark Telescope from 1894 can be used by the public. During certain times of the year expect viewing of the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, star clusters, double stars, nebulae, and other celestial bodies. During and after the scheduled evening programs, visitors can explore the interactive exhibit hall. Private viewing sessions and school programs are available by reservation.
This is the ideal attraction for a family learning experience.
Arizona Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift
If you’re planning a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, then taking a ride on the Arizona Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift is a must-do activity for anyone who loves scenic views. The chairlift takes you on a breathtaking ride to the top of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, where you’ll get panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
The chairlift ride is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Flagstaff and experience the thrill of being up close to the mountain peaks. On the way up, you’ll pass through the Ponderosa pine forest and see wildlife like mule deer and elk. Once you reach the top, you’ll be amazed by the stunning views of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in Arizona.
The scenic chairlift ride is a year-round activity, and each season offers a unique perspective of the natural beauty of Flagstaff. In the summer, you’ll see wildflowers blooming and feel the cool breeze as you soar above the mountain. In the fall, you’ll witness the changing colors of the leaves and enjoy the crisp mountain air. In the winter, you’ll marvel at the snow-covered mountain landscape and the winter wonderland of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort.
Lockett Meadow, a beautiful gem in the Coconino National Forest, is an ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate amidst nature. This picturesque meadow is a popular destination among tourists and locals alike, especially during the fall season when the aspen leaves turn golden and the meadow transforms into a stunning canvas of colors.
The serene atmosphere, cool breeze, and breathtaking views of the San Francisco Peaks make it a perfect spot for a picnic or a leisurely stroll. You can also enjoy camping, hiking, or fishing in nearby lakes, or simply sit back and listen to the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves.
Apart from being a nature lover’s paradise, Lockett Meadow is also an excellent spot for astrophotography. The clear skies and minimal light pollution make it an ideal place to stargaze and witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the Milky Way and shooting stars.
Meteor impact 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater is a meteoric crash site about 40 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona. The ancient blast displaced 175,000,000 tons of rock and earth creating a crater about 3/4 of a mile in diameter and 550 feet deep. Much of the meteor vaporized during its journey to Earth, but scientists still estimate the size of the meteorite at impact weighed about 300,000 tons.
NASA astronauts used the crater for training sessions during the 1960s. Today the site is a popular tourist attraction that features a movie theater, restaurant, gift shop, and RV park. Scientists still continue to study the crater which was named a National Monument in 1967.
Directions To Meteor Crater
Take Interstate 40 East from Flagstaff for about 40 miles. Take Exit 233 (Meteor Crater Road) South about 6 miles. Fees apply. Check their official website for schedules and fees.
Upper Lake Mary
5075 North Highway 89, Flagstaff AZ 86004; (928) 526-0866
There are two Lake Marys. “Upper Lake Mary” is the most picturesque and fun. When full, Upper Lake Mary covers about 450 acres at a maximum depth of about 38 feet. Located about 12 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Upper Lake Mary is in the Mormon Lake District of the Coconino National Forest and is surrounded by pine forests with views of the majestic San Francisco Peaks. “Lower Lake Mary” is much smaller than its Upper Twin Lake and is often close to being empty.
Upper Lake Mary has no limit on boat motor size. It is the only lake close to Flagstaff that features unlimited boating recreation. It is popular with power boaters and water-skiers and is often seen full of sailboats, kayaks, rubber rafts, and canoes. There are 3 boat ramp launches. Boat camping is available on the lake’s southern shore.
Picnicking & Camping Facilities
There are two developed campgrounds near the lake, Lake View and Pine Grove which feature a combined 76 single unit campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, cooking grills, drinking water, and toilets. There are lakeside picnic areas for day use. Camping season typically runs from May 1 to the end of September with weather permitting.
Fishing at Upper Lake Mary
Fishing here can be a blast with northern pike, channel catfish, crappie, and some trout. There are excellent facilities for disabled fishermen. Mormon Lake and Ashhurst Lake are located nearby Upper Lake Mary.
Directions, fees, & information
Take Lake Mary Road (FH 3) southeast from Flagstaff AZ for about 12 miles. It is all paved road. Nominal fees do apply and some services are not available during the winter months.
4373 South Lake Mary Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86004; (928) 526-0866
Sometimes it’s a big natural lake. Sometimes it isn’t very large. It fluctuates seasonally with rainfall and snowmelt. When full, the lake covers about 12 square miles with an average depth of only about 10 feet. So in dry seasons, it can become “marshy”. Located only 29 miles south of Flagstaff, it is convenient to those that enjoy wind sailing, camping, boating, fishing, or day picnicking. At an elevation of about 7,000 feet, the Mormon Lake area boasts four seasons of enjoyment including cross-country skiing during the winter snowfall periods. Surrounded by pine trees, views of the San Francisco Peaks, and bounding wildlife, the Mormon Lake Recreation area within the Coconino National Forest is an ideal spot for camping and hiking.
Mormon Lake Lodge resides on the western shore where you can rent snowmobiles, mountain bikes, and cross-country skis. They also feature horseback riding. The Lodge also features a famous cowboy steak house where the brands of local ranches are burned into the log walls.
Dairy Springs and Double Springs National Forest campgrounds are located nearby. and offer great hiking trails of varying difficulty. Combined, the campgrounds have 43 single campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and cooking grills. Toilets are available. The camping season runs from May 1 to the end of September, weather permitting.
Directions to Mormon Lake
Take Lake Mary Road (FH 3) south from Flagstaff AZ for about 25 miles. You will pass Upper Lake Mary. Turn west on Forest Highway 90 for about 4 miles to Mormon Lake.
Pioneer Museum of Flagstaff
2340 North Fort Valley Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001; 928-774-6272
Housed in what originally was the historic Coconino Hospital for the indigent. The Pioneer Museum features exhibits that reflect Northern Arizona history, ranching, and transportation. The Flagstaff Pioneer Museum focuses on the history of Flagstaff featuring over 10,000 related artifacts including vehicles and pioneer memorabilia. The largest exhibit is a 1929 Baldwin locomotive and a Santa Fe Railroad caboose. Other historical items include medical equipment, costumes, household items, toys, textiles, and other pioneer-era artifacts.
Riordan Mansion State Park
409 West Riordan Rd. Flagstaff, AZ 86001; (928) 779.4395
If you’re a history buff, then a visit to Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is a must-do activity to add to your Flagstaff itinerary. This park is located in the heart of Flagstaff and it’s a great place to learn about the history of the town and the people who shaped it.
Built in 1904 by two brothers that married two sisters. Prominent pioneers, Timothy and Michael Riordan married sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth Metz. In 1904 the two families built this large mansion created of two homes each separated by a common billiard room.
The Riordan Mansion was designed by Charles Whittlesey the same person that designed the El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon. Over a hundred years later, the mansion still exists today for all to enjoy as a treasure from the pioneer days of Flagstaff. The expansive home of a rustic exterior, log siding, and stone arches has over 40 rooms expanded over 13,000 square feet of mansion living area and is still decorated with its original furnishings.
One side of the mansion is reserved exclusively for guided tours while a visitor’s center permits a self-guided tour. Visitors can arrange for meetings and private events. The picnic area combined with the Mansion backdrop is an ideal setting for weddings and features views of the San Francisco Peaks.
The park also offers guided tours, which are led by knowledgeable guides who will share the stories and history of the Riordan family and their impact on Flagstaff. You’ll learn about the different architectural styles used in the construction of the cabins, the life of the family, and the history of the lumber industry in the area.
The park is open year-round, and visitors can take self-guided tours or book a guided tour in advance. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon learning about the history of Flagstaff and the people who helped shape it into the town it is today.
Flagstaff Food Tours
Going on a Flagstaff food tour is a must-do activity for any foodie visiting this charming city. Flagstaff boasts a diverse food scene, with numerous restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and local breweries serving up a wide range of delicious dishes and drinks.
A food tour will take you on a culinary journey through Flagstaff, introducing you to the city’s best culinary hotspots and must-try dishes. You’ll get to taste a variety of cuisines, ranging from traditional American fare to international dishes inspired by Asian, Mexican, and European cultures.
What’s great about a food tour is that you’ll also get to learn about the history and culture of Flagstaff, as well as the stories behind each food stop. You’ll be guided by a local expert who is passionate about food and eager to share their knowledge with you.
Some of the popular food tours in Flagstaff include the Downtown Flagstaff Food Tour, the Historic Brewery Tour, and the Flagstaff Brunch Tour. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple, or a group of friends, going on a food tour is a fun and interactive way to discover Flagstaff’s food scene and create unforgettable memories.
Wupatki National Monument
Watching the stars at the Wupatki National Monument is an experience that you won’t forget easily. This monument is located 45 minutes north of Flagstaff and is a designated “dark sky” area, meaning it has low light pollution and provides exceptional views of the stars.
The Wupatki National Monument is a great place to witness the beauty and wonder of the night sky. Visitors can bring their own telescopes or rent one from the monument’s bookstore. In addition, the monument hosts regular stargazing events that are led by park rangers or local astronomy groups.
During these events, visitors can learn about the constellations, galaxies, and other celestial bodies that are visible in the night sky. They can also use telescopes to get a closer look at these objects and learn about their history and significance.
The stars at the Wupatki National Monument are particularly beautiful because of the monument’s location at a high elevation and away from the city lights. This creates a clear view of the stars and the Milky Way, which is an unforgettable sight.
Sunset Crater National Monument
Just Northeast of Flagstaff Arizona
The Sunset Crater was at one time an active volcano that erupted in 1064AD delivering thick layers of lava, volcanic cinders, and ash across the area. The Sinagua Indians had settled in this area in about 675AD with groups of low-density communities. The Sinaguans were peaceful agricultural people that not only networked within their own villages but also with other native tribes throughout what is known today as Arizona.
There was a period of intense seismic activity within the volcano before its 1064 eruption that gave the Sinagua people ample time to collect possessions and flee the area. They established new villages in the Walnut Canyon and Pueblo villages at Wupatki and others within the Wupatki National Monument about 15 miles north of Sunset Crater.
The Sinaguans mysteriously disappeared from their new pueblo village sites about 1250, but it’s coincidental that the Sunset Crater Volcano remained intermittently active until it delivered its final spew at about the same time as the Sinagua People disappeared from the area.
The name “Sinagua” is of Spanish derivation meaning “without water“. They are believed to be the ancient ancestors of today’s Hopi and Navajo Indian Tribes.
The Sunset Crater has cooled and been inactive since that last explosion in 1250. Today Sunset Crater is a popular Flagstaff attraction where thousands and thousands of annual visitors are intrigued by the opportunity to see nature’s recovery after a volcanic eruption.
There are four primary trails within Sunset Crater National Monument that will give you great views and experience of walking where the Sinagua Indians once lived. Pets are not permitted on the trails, in the backcountry, or in any visitor center buildings.
O’Leary Peak Trail
O’Leary Peak is a lava dome volcano whereas Sunset Crater is a cinder cone volcano. Looking down from O’Leary is the only way to look down into Sunset Crater since traffic on the crater is not allowed.
Cinder Hills Overlook
Drive-up to the overlook of great views of Sunset Crater.
Lenox Crater Trail
From the top of Lenox Crater Trail, you can see the San Francisco Peaks, the Sunset Crater and its lava flow.
Lava Flow Trail
Lava Flow Trail is a self-guided loop trail with a furnished trail guide.
If you plan on spending the night in Flagstaff, you’ll find a wide choice of Flagstaff Hotels, Flagstaff Bed, and Breakfast Inns, and other Flagstaff Lodging options. There are many great Flagstaff Restaurants that will entice those hunger pangs after a fun day of sightseeing.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the 10 must-do activities for an unforgettable trip to Flagstaff. There is so much to see and do in this beautiful city, and we have included a wide variety of activities that are sure to appeal to everyone. From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, Flagstaff has something for everyone. We hope this guide has inspired you to plan a trip to Flagstaff and explore all that this amazing destination has to offer. Happy travels!
- Top Things to Do in Flagstaff
- Historic Downtown Flagstaff & Route 66
- San Francisco Peaks
- Flagstaff Arboretum
- Museum of Northern Arizona
- Lowell Observatory
- Arizona Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift
- Lockett Meadow
- Meteor Crater
- Upper Lake Mary
- Mormon Lake
- Pioneer Museum of Flagstaff
- Riordan Mansion State Park
- Flagstaff Food Tours
- Wupatki National Monument
- Sunset Crater National Monument
- Final Word