Flagstaff Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in Arizona
Credit

Courtesy of Steve Smith/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Flagstaff

Many of the best things to do in Flagstaff occur outdoors. From exploring the dwellings of ancient peoples at several state parks and national monuments to hiking and skiing the nearby mountains – or simply relaxing alfresco with a craft beer at the Historic Downtown and Railroad District, Flagstaff is full of activities. Visitors looking to stretch their brains, as well as their legs, can also head to the Lowell Observatory for astronomy lectures or to the Museum of Northern Arizona for some lessons in regional culture and geology. There are also ample opportunities throughout the city for shopping and noshing.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Things to do in Flagstaff
    View all Photos
    #1 in Flagstaff
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built along the railroad track – and what would become Route 66 – the Historic Downtown and Railroad District is a pedestrian-friendly area filled with historic 1900s-era buildings that have been converted to shops, restaurants, galleries, breweries and other watering holes. The district also plays hosts to regular events like a farmers market, a monthly art walk, movie nights and more.

    Recent visitors heartily recommended sauntering around Flagstaff's Historic Downtown and Railroad District, citing friendly locals, open-air music and countless places to eat, drink and shop. Others also enjoyed the historical signposts, buildings and railroad station. Still, some complained that the college students made the area a bit too lively at night. 

  • #2
    Walnut Canyon National Monument
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    #2 in Flagstaff
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The 3,600-acre Walnut Canyon National Monument was established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson to protect the ancient dwellings carved into the area's cliffs. Archaeologists believe that ancient people lived in the cliffs thousands of years ago and today, visitors can see these primitive homes while hiking the monument's Island Trail. Other options for experiencing the park include the 30-minute round-trip Rim Trail, which offers visitors stunning canyon overlooks.

    Many recent travelers were surprised at how much the relatively small park offers. For instance, recent visitors couldn't say enough about the Island Trail, which winds past the canyon homes where ancient people lived for hundreds of years. However, some also commented that the hike up and down the trail's more than 200 steps was pretty strenuous.

  • #3
    Lowell Observatory
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    #3 in Flagstaff
    Museums, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    At the Lowell Observatory, visitors can conjure their inner-astronomer by peering through world-class telescopes and sitting in on lectures on topics like black holes and the history of Pluto. This observatory was founded in 1894 by the Harvard-graduated mathematician Percival Lowell. Throughout the years, the observatory has been credited with making a handful of important findings. In fact, researchers at the observatory were the first to discover Pluto.

    Many travelers recommend visiting Lowell Observatory at night to get the most out of the experience, since that's when the stars are at their highest relief. Visitors also say the presentations put on by the observatory's knowledgeable staff are not to be missed.

  • #4
    Flagstaff Extreme
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    #4 in Flagstaff
    Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Flagstaff Extreme is an adventurous obstacle course in which participants ages 7 and older can test their limits on challenges like rope swings, scrambling walls and wobbly bridges, among dozens of other features, many of which are located at tree level. Each course starts out with a 30-minute safety and training session.  

    Travelers highly recommend spending a few hours on the challenging courses at Flagstaff Extreme, noting that they were especially impressed by the staff's attention to safety. Recent visitors also suggested bringing water bottles that can clip to a harness, as well as sturdy shoes and workout gloves to protect your hands.

  • #5
    Wupatki National Monument
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    #5 in Flagstaff
    Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Established in 1924, the Wupatki National Monument – part of a collective of Flagstaff Area National Monuments, including Sunset Crater Volcano and Walnut Canyon – is a nature and culture preserve. Ancient peoples once inhabited the area, leaving behind their pueblos, or villages, when they moved on. Today, travelers can hike through the park's red rocks, pausing at the village ruins along the way and learning about the day-to-day lives of the people who once called Wupatki home.

    Visitors recommend stopping by the visitor center to pick up information on the park and the ancient peoples before heading out on your walking tour. Travelers also recommend bringing plenty of water no matter what time of year you're visiting. 

  • #6
    Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
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    #6 in Flagstaff
    Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Around 900 years ago, a volcano – which has come to be called Sunset Crater – erupted and transformed the encircling area. Geologic features like cinders, lava rock and lava flow compose this almost otherworldly topography, which is punctuated by ponderosa pines. Some of the more popular ways to experience the park include hiking the 1-mile Lava Flow Trail or climbing up to the Cinder Hills Overlook. Keep in mind that backcountry hiking is forbidden for preservation purposes.

    Visitors use words like "dramatic" and "incredible" to describe the experience of walking around on lava rocks and cinders. To save some money, other travelers suggest driving around the national monument for free rather than getting out on foot and paying the entrance fee.

  • #7
    Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
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    #7 in Flagstaff
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In 1904, brothers Michael and Timothy Riordan, members of a prominent Arizona family, commissioned two nearly identical mansions at the summit of Flagstaff's Kinlichi Knoll. Architect Charles Frederick Whittlesey, who is also credited with designing the Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel, designed the two homes, which are actually connected by a rendezvous room. Today, visitors can take guided tours of the 13,000-square-foot space to learn about the Riordan (pronounced Rear-don) family and the history of the property.

    Recent travelers enjoyed learning about the architecture of the 100-year-old mansions and the history of the Riordan family, who is credited with developing Flagstaff at the turn of the century. Along with the guided tour of the mansions, recent visitors also recommend taking advantage of a self-guided tour of the grounds.

  • #8
    Museum of Northern Arizona
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    #8 in Flagstaff
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Museum of Northern Arizona is an homage to the culture and nature of Northern Arizona's Colorado Plateau. Founded in 1928, the museum has permanent exhibits that range from the contemporary art of the Hopi Tribe to a gallery that delves into the geologic features of the 130,000 square miles that form the Colorado Plateau. A handful of temporary exhibits also pass through the museum.

    Travelers say that the museum packs in a lot of exhibits and rich information for such a small space. Some visitors suggest visiting this museum before heading to the cache of national monuments, such as the Wupatki National Monument or even the Grand Canyon, since it gives such an expansive history of the area's ancient people and geology.

  • #9
    Arizona Snowbowl
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    #9 in Flagstaff
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Nestled in the San Francisco Peaks at 9,500 feet, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the state's best spots for skiing and snowboarding. The Snowbowl offers three different areas for a variety of skill levels: the Prairie Dawg Start Park, the Southern Belle intermediate parks and the Sunset Terrain Park, which is best suited for advance skiers. The Snowbowl also welcomes visitors to its slopes in the summer for hiking and a scenic chairlift ride. 

    Travelers who visited in the fall highly recommended adding the Snowbowl to your itinerary, describing the fall colors as spectacular and the hot chocolate as delicious. Winter downhill skiers said the slopes were nicely manicured and provided diverse options for both novice and experienced powder hounds.

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