30 Things to Do in Flagstaff (Arizona) – Northern AZ Fun

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“30 Things to Do in Flagstaff (Arizona) – Northern AZ Fun”

Exciting things to do in Flagstaff abound all year long. Nature lovers flock here for outdoor play like hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding. This Northern Arizona mountain town is a gateway to the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Flagstaff is also a college town with a youthful vibe and plentiful brewpubs. Cultural attractions celebrate the area’s Native American history. And, the renowned Lowell Observatory lures stargazers to explore dark night skies. Did I mention the lava fields? (Yes, lava fields in Arizona!)

My family of Phoenicians has had the pleasure of visiting this friendly Northern AZ city during every season. With higher altitudes (nearly 7,000 feet!), expect cooler temperatures in Flagstaff than elsewhere in the state. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find tons of fun with this list of 30 amazing things to do in Flagstaff!

Entering Flagstaff, Arizona Entering Flagstaff, Arizona (Photo credit: photoweges, Depositphotos.com)

This story is brought to you in partnership with IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Table of Contents

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1. Historic Downtown Flagstaff

Although it’s the largest city in Northern Arizona, Flagstaff exudes an eclectic mix of small town charm. Every time my family visits, we remark how happy and welcoming the residents seem.

It’s a young city, with university students making up over 25 percent of its 77,000+ inhabitants. Hearty, outdoorsy folks tend to make Flagstaff their home. In fact, the Lumberjack is the mascot of Flagstaff’s Northern Arizona University (NAU).

Historic Downtown Flagstaff Historic Downtown Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

It’s a pleasure to simply stroll past the historic buildings in Downtown Flagstaff. Keep your eyes open for murals, statues, and other public art displays.

The sound of train whistles adds a folksy feel to the downtown area. Over 100 trains chug through Flagstaff on an average day.

NAU Mural in Downtown Flagstaff NAU Mural in Downtown Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Weather permitting, you’ll probably come across live music performances by buskers in Heritage Square. That’s the city’s central gathering place. It’s surrounded by coffee shops, brewpubs, restaurants, and retail stores. Be sure to pop into Babbit Brothers, an outdoor gear shop that originally opened in 1889 as the town’s first department store.

Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon National Park (Photo credit: alexeys, Depositphotos.com)

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2. Grand Canyon National Park

Of course, you must include the Grand Canyon in your Flagstaff vacation itinerary. This is especially true if you’ve never been before.

Expect about a 90-minute drive from the university town to the South Rim of the canyon, depending on traffic and weather conditions. Or, skip the drive and take in the scenery aboard a train ride on the Grand Canyon Railroad.

While at the Grand Canyon, you can hike or ride a mule down the canyon, go white water rafting, or embark on a helicopter tour of the national park. Plan ahead, though, because all of these adventures require advanced preparation.

On the other hand, you can head up for a simple day trip. Then you can take in the gorgeous view of this natural wonder, do a short hike, and eat some lunch before returning to Flagstaff.

Pluto Discovery Telescope Dome, which holds the Lawrence Lowell Telescope The Clark Dome, which houses the Clark Refractor telescope (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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3. Lowell Observatory

Flagstaff was designated the first-ever Dark Sky City, which means stargazing is particularly appealing here. Space exploration buffs will definitely want to visit Lowell Observatory.

Established in 1894, Lowell Observatory is one of the oldest observatories in the United States. It is most famous for the discovery of the dwarf planet, Pluto.

Additionally, every astronaut who has walked on the moon spent time training at Lowell Observatory, the Grand Canyon, and the nearby Meteor Crater National Landmark.

Included with your admission fee, guided tours add to the wonder of a visit. To get the most out of your experience, plan to come shortly before sunset. (As early as 4:30 pm in winter and as late as 8 pm in summer months.) That’s when you can gaze at stars, planets, and distant gas clouds through six state-of-the-art telescopes.

Another telescope, the Clark Refractor, is over 125 years old and is regularly open to guests for viewing at night. It can be viewed during the 90-minute guided Mars Hill Tour.

Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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4. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort

When you think of Arizona, snowy mountain slopes probably don’t spring to mind. Arizonans, however, know that boarding and skiing are plentiful at Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff. Experts appreciate 77 skiable acres, with 32 runs, and a lift-served elevation of 11,500 feet.

Snowbowl makes a fabulous option for beginners, too. The Hart Prairie Beginner Area includes wide, gentle slopes and two easy-to-use surface conveyors. Plus, the ski resort offers free lessons for those aged 13+ from 10 am to 2 pm every day.

Snowbowl is a super affordable option, too. This is especially true for families. In fact, kids 12 and younger ski for free all season long! Whereas lift tickets can cost as much as $200 at other resorts, you can score a Snowbowl day pass for a fraction of that.

There’s no better way to warm up after a day on the slopes than by soaking in a toasty hot tub so be sure to book a hotel with this amenity, like Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff! You can learn more about this hotel below.

Snowbowl Scenic Gondola Ride Snowbowl Scenic Gondola Ride (Photo credit: supitchamcadam, Depositphotos.com)

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5. Scenic Gondola Ride

Even if you’re not a skier or boarder, you can still take in Snowbowl’s beauty with a scenic gondola ride. Not visiting in winter? No worries! You can ride the Arizona Gondola all year long.

Roundtrip, the ride takes about 20 to 30 minutes. In winter, riders are not allowed to disembark at the top. Book in advance because they do sell out, especially on busy weekends. (My family learned this the hard way!)

Lava Fields at Sunset Crater National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona Hiking the lava fields on the Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater National Monument (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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6. Lava Fields at Sunset Crater National Monument

Would you be surprised to learn that Arizona is home to lava fields? I know I was! The black cinder landscape feels otherworldly, especially in usually clay- and sand-covered Arizona.

The Sunset Volcanic Field was formed 550,000 years ago when the San Francisco Mountain lost its peak due to a volcanic eruption. Even after this event, the San Francisco Peaks remain the highest point in the state.

In 1085 AD, the Sunset Crater Volcano erupted. This coated almost 900 square miles with lava and ash. As the molten lava cooled, it fell to the earth as tiny rocks called cinders.

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Sunset Crater is the youngest cinder cone in the San Francisco Lava Field in Arizona. Choose from five hiking trails at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Options range from the easy .2-mile A’a Trail to the moderate 3.4-mile Lava’s Edge Trail.

Arizona’s volcanic fields are considered dormant, which according to National Geographic Society means they, “have not erupted for a very long time but may erupt at a future time.”

Wupatki National Monument Wupatki National Monument (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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7. Wupatki National Monument

The expansive and well-preserved Native American ruins at Wupatki National Monument will impress visitors of all ages. This multistory Sinagua pueblo includes 100+ rooms and a ball court.

It was inhabited by ancestral Puebloans around 500 AD. But its heyday was in the 1000s and 1100s before it was abandoned around 1225.

Buy the informative $1 paper booklet from the visitor center to gain a better understanding of the structure and its former inhabitants.

Picnic lunch on Doney Mountain Picnic lunch on Doney Mountain (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I recommend combining Wupatki and Sunset Crater into a one-day adventure. Take the 34-mile scenic drive on the Sunset Crater Loop along Highway 89. There are stops at the lava fields and the national monument. The scenery changes drastically from Flagstaff’s ponderosa pines to the stark desert landscape that surrounds the ruins.

Pack a lunch and plan to stop at the Doney Picnic Area, where you can take a short hike to view striking (if windy) views of the Wupatki Basin.

Entrance to Bearizona Entrance to Bearizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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8. Bearizona Wildlife Park

About a half-hour drive from Flagstaff is the delightful Bearizona Wildlife Park. Admission includes drive-through exhibits, a walk-through zoo, and staff-led animal encounters. Food trucks inside the park make dining here a pleasure. Plan to spend about three hours at this park.

Big Dan the black bear at Bearizona Wildlife Park Big Dan the black bear at Bearizona (Photo credit: Brit Powers for Bearizona.com)

Animals you’ll see in Bearizona’s walk-through area include bears (of course!), playful river otters, a variety of reptiles, and a honey badger named Frenchie Toast.

You just may stumble upon an unscheduled Surprise & Delight animal encounter as you roam, too. Our family got a chance to pet a rather large snake during one visit.

Buffalo roaming in a vast habitat in the drive-through portion of Bearizona Wildlife Park near Flagstaff Buffalo roaming in a vast habitat in the drive-through portion of Bearizona Wildlife Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Embark on a self-guided animal safari in your own vehicle in the drive-through portion of this wildlife park. You’ll get to see animals in expansive habitats. Look for Arctic wolves, American bison, and more bears. If you don’t enjoy seeing wild creatures cooped up at zoos, then this portion of Bearizona will particularly appeal to you. It really feels as if the animals are living their best lives in a natural environment.

Riordan Mansion State Park in Flagstaff Riordan Mansion State Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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9. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

Get a glimpse at what Flagstaff looked like in the early 1900s (for the extremely wealthy, anyway) at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. This state park includes two American Arts and Crafts-style homes joined by a central billiard room.

The mansions were owned by two successful pioneer Flagstaff businessmen brothers (Timothy and Michael Riordan) who married two sisters (Caroline and Elizabeth Metz).

The homes were occupied by descendants of the original owners through the 1980s when the state bought them and began refurbishment. Much of the original furnishings are displayed throughout the property.

Dining room at Riordan Mansion Dining room at Riordan Mansion (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If visiting with kids, then keep young ones interested with this Old and New Mix and Match Activity Sheet. Ask for a Junior Park Ranger booklet at the visitor center, too.

While exploring the joint mansions, children will likely be most impressed by the living room with a wicker swing in its center. What fun that must have been for the kids who grew up there!

Living room with wicker swing at Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff Living room with wicker swing (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

You can explore on your own. But to get a better understanding of the history of the homes and Flagstaff, pay extra and reserve a spot on a guided tour. Reservations are recommended. Tours last about an hour.

The Arboretum at Flagstaff The Arboretum at Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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10. The Arboretum at Flagstaff

As a desert dweller, one thing I love most about Flagstaff is its plentiful TREES! There’s no better place to get your fill of pine trees than at the Arboretum at Flagstaff. Pick a hiking path and set out to explore in the shade of majestic Ponderosa pines.

This botanical garden occupies 200 acres of land within the Coconino National Forest. It is home to 750 native and drought-adapted plants. These fare well in the Colorado Plateau’s high desert landscape.

Spring flowers at the Arboretum at Flagstaff Spring flowers at the Arboretum at Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The arboretum is open seasonally, typically May 1 through October 31. Check their calendar for special events, such as a summer concert series. You can also sign up for tours and activities like yoga, painting classes, and bird walks.

Buffalo Park Trail in Flagstaff, AZ Buffalo Park Trail (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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11. Flagstaff Hiking Trails

Outdoor lovers appreciate Flagstaff’s plethora of hiking trails. As a matter of fact, there are nearly 130 trails in Flagstaff. Below are a couple of popular options my family has enjoyed.

Buffalo Park in Flagstaff Buffalo Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Buffalo Park Trail

Families traveling with young children, runners, and anyone looking for a flat, easy hike will want to hit up Buffalo Park. This 215-acre park offers a 2.2-mile mellow loop trail with mountain views. You’ll also find bathrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables.

Fatman's Loop Trail in Flagstaff Fatmans Loop Trail (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Fatmans Loop Trail

For a bigger challenge, try the moderate Fatmans Loop Trail. Roundtrip, the whole hike should take about 1.5 hours, or longer if hiking with young kids. Expect to see yucca, juniper, white fir, and, of course, Ponderosa pine. Our family loved the scenery but found the trails were not well marked.

Juniper berries spotted on Fatmans Loop Trail Juniper berries spotted on Fatmans Loop Trail (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Other Hiking Trails

Whether you’re looking for a quick walk or a challenging multi-mile experience, you’re sure to find a trail that suits your needs. Take a look at this list of the best trails in Flagstaff from AllTrails.com.

Fort Tuthill Bike Park Fort Tuthill Bike Park (Photo from the Fort Tuthill Bike Park Facebook page)

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12. Fort Tuthill County Park

Ready for outdoor adventure? Open year-round, Fort Tuthill County Park pleases nature lovers. It’s just a short drive (3 miles) from Flagstaff. The 633-acre regional park offers multi-use trails plus archery. Plus, the Fort Tuthill Bike Park gets high praise on TripAdvisor.

During summer months, head to Fort Tuthill for outdoor music festivals, equestrian shows, and the Coconino County Fair. Onsite camping is available May through early October, too.

In winter, the park transforms into a snowy wonderland. Go here for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for all ages.

Flagstaff Extreme Zip-Lining and Adventure Course My husband on the Adventure Zip Lines Course (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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13. Flagstaff Extreme Zip-Lining and Adventure Course

Appreciate Flagstaff’s tall Ponderosa pine trees from a thrilling vantage point at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Choose the 3.5-hour Tree Top Adventure Course or the 2.5-hour Adventure Zip Lines Course. There is also a more mellow 1.5-hour Kid’s Adventure Course for ages 7 to 11.

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Adventure Zip Lines Course

I have zipped numerous times in various locations around the world including Costa Rica, where zip-lining began. Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course didn’t have the longest zip-line, nor the fastest that I’ve experienced, but it was the most heart-pumping of them all. I mean, the word “extreme” is right in the name!

That’s because the course is extremely hands-off. Typically, guides stay in the trees with participants to clip and check equipment throughout a zip-line course, ensuring safety and providing encouragement. But here, our guides left our family of four all alone on the course and were nowhere to be found about 30 minutes into our adventure. Thankfully, three of us were experienced zip-liners.

Flagstaff Extreme Zip-Lining and Adventure Course My daughter at Flagstaff Extreme Zip-Lining and Adventure Course (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The course is also extremely long. In fact, it includes 30 lines and takes hours to complete! You must also be comfortable climbing up ladders and across rope bridges to reach the next zip.

For thrill-seekers and experienced zip-liners, I totally recommend this course. For beginners, however, I suggest starting somewhere with more hands-on help.

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Tree Top Adventure Course

My family did not brave the Tree Top Adventure Course (yet). Their website says, “The obstacles you will find in our park include suspended bridges, scramble nets, swinging logs, a skateboard, and much more! If you complete all five adult courses and 70 obstacles, you will also have been on 8 zip lines plus the short one on the Demonstration Course.” A safety cable keeps climbers secure throughout the course. 

Flagstaff Segway Tour Flagstaff Segway Tour (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

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14. Flagstaff Segway Tour

Have you ever ridden a Segway? They provide such a whimsical way to get around! For a super fun way to learn about Flagstaff and explore Northern Arizona University campus, sign up for a Flagstaff Segway Tour.

After a brief training and safety lesson, you’ll practice piloting your Segway. Then you’ll zoom around Historic Downtown Flagstaff, NAU campus, and the Francis Short Pond. The tour takes about two hours total.

Walnut Canyon National Monument in Northern Arizona Walnut Canyon National Monument (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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15. Walnut Canyon National Monument

Just 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff, visit Walnut Canyon National Monument to view Native American ruins up-close. The Island Trail affords visitors the chance to actually enter the cliff dwellings. Depending on how much hiking you’d like to do, plan to spend 30 minutes to two hours at Walnut Canyon.

In total, there are 300 rooms built into rock walls, but only 25 are visible. These were inhabited by ancestors of the modern-day Hopi tribe from approximately 600 to 1400 AD.

High Mountain Trails horseback trail ride near Mormon Lake in Arizona High Mountain Trails horseback trail ride near Mormon Lake (Photo credit: High Mountain Trails Facebook page)

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16. Horseback Riding Near Flagstaff

Saddle up for a one- or two-hour trail ride through the Coconino Forest with Historic Hitchin’ Post Stables. (Ages 5+). For a truly memorable experience, opt for a 3-hour horseback ride through Walnut Canyon.

In winter, all ages can embark on a dinner sleigh ride. The experience includes a campfire and complimentary hot chocolate or apple cider. Pay extra for a cowboy dinner served back at the ranch.

Historic Hitchin' Post Stables horsedrawn sleigh ride near Flagstaff, Arizona Historic Hitchin’ Post Stables horse-drawn sleigh ride (Photo credit: Historic Hitchin’ Posts’ Facebook page)

At High Mountain Trail Rides, excursions vary from a 30-minute jaunt to a 2-hour trail ride. Their stable is located 30 miles from Flagstaff near Mormon Lake, one of the only natural lakes in the state. (Ages 6+.)

Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff Museum of Northern Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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17. Museum of Northern Arizona

The Museum of Northern Arizona celebrates the art, history, and native culture of Northern Arizona. Via their own words, artifacts, videos, and interactive displays — learn about the 10 native tribes of the Colorado Plateau. This small museum will take most families an hour or two to experience.

In the geology gallery, view a mural that walks visitors from Precambrian to the Cenozoic eras. Kids will be interested in the Dilophosaurus cast skeleton, based on dinosaur bones found in this region of Arizona.

There is also a worthwhile gift shop onsite, filled with affordable souvenirs plus more expensive fine art and jewelry.

Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff Orpheum Theater Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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18. Orpheum Theater

Originally opened as a cinema named the Majestic Opera House, today the Orpheum Theater is a popular concert venue. Take a look at their upcoming events to see if any live music or comedy shows appeal to your crew.

Even if you don’t buy tickets for any of their concerts, stop by to take a look at the colorful mural adorning the theater’s exterior. Can you find me in the photo of the Orpheum Theater above?

Pioneer Museum Flagstaff Pioneer Museum Flagstaff (Photo credit: VisitArizona.com)

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19. Pioneer Museum

The Pioneer Museum shares Flagstaff’s pioneer, logging, ranching, and transportation past. Tour the one-room Doney Cabin, built in 1908 by former Flagstaff Mayor Ben Doney. The Hospital exhibition includes an operating room to show what medicine was like back in 1938 when the museum’s building was used as a hospital. The Decade Rooms teach visitors about the city’s past from 1880 to 1960. For kids, there is an old-time locomotive and caboose to explore.

Train in Flagstaff One of many trains that chug through Flagstaff every day (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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20. Haunted Flagstaff History Tour

See a spooky side of Flagstaff with Freaky Flagstaff Foottours. Visit haunted hangouts like the Murderous Maintenance Man at the library and the Restless Brakeman who was crushed between two trains. A guide will lead your group to seven or eight stops along a 1-mile route through downtown Flagstaff.

Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends during Halloween season. Brave children are allowed to attend if accompanied by an adult.

Giraffe on SuperMog Tour at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Arizona Giraffe on SuperMog Tour at Out of Africa Wildlife Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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21. Out of Africa Wildlife Park

The Out of Africa Wildlife Park is as close to an African safari as this Travel Mama has ever experienced.

Many of the animals at Out of Africa have been rescued, either due to injury or because they were illegally kept as pets. The park also participates in breeding programs to help improve endangered species populations. Every employee we encountered seemed informed, happy to answer questions, and passionate about the animals for which they provide care.

Our guide feeding lions on our SuperMog Tour at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Arizona Our guide feeding lions on our SuperMog Tour (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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SuperMog Tour

You can view animals by walking past their roomy enclosures, but the SuperMog Tour is really where the excitement’s at. Sign up in advance for this add-on experience. It takes place daily at 11 am and 2 pm.

Then climb aboard an all-terrain, open-air vehicle for the ride of a lifetime past lions, zebras, wolves, and more. Your driver/tour guide will get out to feed meat treats to predators along the way (safely from behind a fence). Passengers get an opportunity to feed leaves or nutritious crackers to friendly giraffes right from their seats, too!

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Tiger Splash Show

You also don’t want to miss the daily Tiger Splash show. That’s when brave (crazy?!) trainers get into a ring with Bengal and Siberian tigers. Then the tigers are encouraged to chase various toys and jump into a pool for a swim.

Petting Bart the sloth during the Sloth Encounter at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Arizona Petting Bart the sloth during the Sloth Encounter (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

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Out of Africa Suggested Itinerary

This wildlife park in Camp Verde, Arizona makes a good stop on your way to or from Flagstaff. It’s situated about midway from the Phoenix area — a 1-hour drive from Flagstaff and a 1.5-hour drive from Phoenix.

I suggest going on your last day in Flagstaff. Start by eating a hearty brunch in Flagstaff before heading out. Food is available at Out of Africa, but you’re probably better off sticking to snacks than counting on eating a meal here.

Plan to arrive at the park around noon to explore the walk-through exhibits. After that, attend the 1:15 pm Tiger Splash Show before boarding the 2 pm SuperMog tour. When the ride is over, you could do as we did and enjoy the sweet Sloth Encounter for an extra fee.

Or, if you’re there on a Predator Feed Day (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays), watch animals like lions, tigers, and hyenas devour their meaty meals at 3 pm. It’s included in your entrance fee.

Montezuma National Monument in Arizona Montezuma National Monument (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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22. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Named one of America’s first national monuments in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, today over 350,000 people visit Montezuma Castle every year. This 20-room cliff-dwelling was once occupied by the Sinagua peoples.

The small on-site museum includes exhibits and artifacts depicting the lifestyle, history, and culture of former residents. The Sinagua settled here approximately 1,000 years ago and left 400 years later. 

Follow a self-guided 1/3-mile loop trail past the incredible 5-story Montezuma Castle. Most fun for kids, though, is a detailed Montezuma Castle diorama that shows the lives of the Sinagua people performing tasks like cooking, climbing a ladder to the cliff dwelling, and playing.

Tuzigoot National Monument Tuzigoot National Monument (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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23. Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot was built and occupied by the Sinagua people during the same timeframe as Montezuma’s Castle. All 110 rooms at this national monument were once used as residences and gathering spaces. You won’t find many doors, however, because residents accessed rooms via ladders and entrances on the rooftops.

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Visitors should follow a 1/3-mile trail around the national monument. Along the way, read informational signposts to learn more about the structure and Sinagua tribe.

Look for the “J” on the mountain in the distance in Jerome, a former mining town that now stakes its claim as America’s largest ghost town.

Then, view artifacts like arrowheads and pottery in the visitor center. Hikers can take advantage of a 1/2-mile hiking trail here as well.

A little over 30 minutes apart, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot (both in Camp Verde) make perfect road trip pitstops on your Flagstaff departure or arrival day. Start at Montezuma Castle if driving from Flagstaff or Tuzigoot if driving from Phoenix.

Meteor Crater National Landmark Meteor Crater National Landmark (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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24. Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

Meteor Crater is one of the best day trips from Flagstaff. View the spot where an asteroid hit the Earth and created this crater about 50,000 years ago.

If you think this is a wee hole in the ground, think again. This incredible landmark is nearly 1-mile-wide and 600-feet-deep. In fact, 20 football fields could fit in Arizona’s Meteor Crater!

Drive about 45 minutes from Flagstaff to reach Meteor Crater Natural Landmark near Winslow, Arizona. Fans of the band, The Eagles, may want to slow down in Winslow to get their photo taken standing on a corner by the town’s sign!

Petrified Forest National Park Petrified Forest National Park (Photo credit: MNStudio, Depositphotos.com)

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25. Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert

Heading about an hour further east from Meteor Crater, adventurers will be pleased to find themselves at the Petrified Forest National Park. This drive-through park features otherworldly pastel-colored hills, buttes, and plateaus within the vast Painted Desert. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes driving the 28-mile road through the pale orange, pink, and purple landscape.

For a more in-depth experience, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to view petrified wood exhibits and learn about the park. Then embark on a hike. For detailed advice on exploring the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert, take a look at these tips from Backroad Planet.

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

26. Horseshoe Bend

For those venturing to the most northern part of the state, you can snap a selfie at Horseshoe Bend of Instagram fame. You’ll find the u-shaped Horseshoe Bend in Paige, Arizona near the Utah border.

Although Horseshoe Bend is officially part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it’s about a 2-hour drive from the South Rim (or 2.25 hours from Flagstaff). This attraction is sometimes referred to as the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. This stunning scenic overlook is perched 1,000 feet above the Colorado River.

Surprisingly, it’s just a 20-minute short walk from the parking lot to reach this gorgeous view. This really is just a pretty photo-op stop and should only take about an hour total to enjoy (not including the drive).

Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

27. Antelope Canyon

Those willing to journey to Horseshoe Bend should definitely plan to make a day (or two) of it by adding the nearby Antelope Canyon to your itinerary. This is a breathtaking slot canyon located in Navajo territory.

Because Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, you are not allowed to explore here without a Navajo guide. Choose from a variety of guided tours of Lower and/or Upper Antelope Canyon. Your guide will show you the way through the winding sandstone canyon walls. Note that although Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings, the Navajo Nation does, which can make timing tours tricky.

1/4 BBQ chicken with loaded baked potato at Black Bart's Steakhouse 1/4 BBQ chicken with a loaded baked potato at Black Bart’s Steakhouse (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

28. Black Bart’s Steakhouse and Musical Review

For a hearty meal fit for a hungry cowboy, make dinner reservations at Black Bart’s Steakhouse. The portions are big and the food is delicious, especially the sourdough biscuits with honey cinnamon butter.

But your servers are the real stars. That’s because in between slinging chow, they take to the stage to belt out songs. You can even make requests. Our family felt oddly proud of our waiter whenever it was his time to sing. This is truly a unique dining experience and one of the most fun things to do in Flagstaff.

Beers on tap at Lumberyard Brewing Company Beers on tap at Lumberyard Brewing Company (Photo credit: Lumberyard Brewing Company Facebook page)

29. Flagstaff Brewpubs

Since it’s a college town, it may not come as a surprise that Flagstaff is bursting with brewpubs. Kids are welcomed at most restaurant breweries.

Lumberyard Tap Room & Grille

For a fun outdoor dining experience, head to Lumberyard Tap Room & Grille. It boasts an expansive patio and fire pit. In addition to an extensive beer menu and full bar, they specialize in buffalo wings, burgers, and flavored macaroni & cheese creations.

Dark Sky Brewing

Dark Sky Brewing is beloved for its array of 17 house-made beers on tap. Many of these are gluten-reduced.

The atmosphere is fun with big windows that look out onto downtown Flagstaff. Plus, the brewpub’s fun, twinkling counters represent the stars in Flagstaff’s dark skies.

This brewpub has partnered with Pizzicletta to satiate beer drinkers’ appetites. Their fermented crust pizzas are made in-house in a traditional pizza oven. To order, push the button at your table to alert your food server.

Beaver Street Brewery

Another popular choice with locals and travelers is Beaver Street Brewery, Flagstaff’s first brewpub. In addition to their own traditional and seasonal craft beers, they have a full bar.

Order food from a fairly large menu featuring salads, soups, sandwiches, and pizzas (including gluten-free crust options). They offer a few specialties, too, like the Brewer’s Platter with sausages, cabbage, and potatoes.

Flagstaff Brewery Trail

True craft beer fans will want to trek the Flagstaff Brewery Trail. It’s the best way to taste a bunch of brews in Flag.

Print out your passport and brewery map here. Then collect stamps from at least five of the breweries. Trade in your completed passport for a souvenir pint glass from the Flagstaff Visitor Center or Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Coffee and pastry at Tourist Home All Day Café Coffee and pastry at Tourist Home All Day Café (Photo credit: Tourist Home All Day Café Facebook page)

30. Coffee Shops in Flagstaff

If coffee is more your jam, then you’re in luck. Flagstaff stays caffeinated at all sorts of one-of-a-kind coffee shops. Below are a couple of my family’s favorites.

Tourist Home All Day Café

When the weather is nice, pull up a chair on the patio at Tourist Home All Day Café to sip locally roasted coffee drinks. Dining is available indoors, too. With a full bar, you can get your coffee spiked if you like.

They serve goodies like huevos rancheros for breakfast as well as hearty sandwiches and salads for lunch. Be sure to get a side of their golden fried, perfectly crispy French fries!

Macy’s Coffee House & Bakery

You can feel good about getting a cuppa joe at Macy’s Coffee House & Bakery. That’s because this vegetarian coffee house serves fair-trade coffee in compostable cups.

They make all sorts of coffee drinks. Order a Cappuccino Royal topped with chocolate and whipped cream. Or opt for a Café Viennese with cinnamon, clove, allspice, and whip.

Go here for a quick breakfast or lunch sandwich and other simple, healthy fare.

Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Stay During Your Flagstaff Vacation

After a day of exploring Northern Arizona, it’s so important to have a comfy place to relax and recharge. That’s just what you’ll find at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff. Located near plenty of restaurants and just minutes from downtown, this IHG hotel is convenient, too.

A double room at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff A double room at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff Hotel Rooms

Choose from rooms with two queen beds or one king. Or do as we did and book two connecting rooms for more space to spread out.

You’ll feel right at home with a flat-screen TV, Keurig coffee maker and pods, microwave, work desk, and mini-fridge in every room. Parents will appreciate bathtubs for bathing young children.

Meanwhile, late risers will enjoy blackout curtains for good vacation sleep. I like that they offer complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel in a wall dispenser rather than landfill-clogging tiny bottles.

Need extra pillows? Just ask! In fact, they’ll offer you soft or firm options.

Included breakfast at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff Included breakfast at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Complimentary Full Breakfast

Save money and time in the mornings with included breakfast at Holiday Inn Express. Expect eggs, breakfast meats, fresh fruits, cereals, yogurts, pastries, juices, coffees, teas, and a cook-your-own pancake maker.

Best of all? Their warm iced cinnamon rolls are made by none other than Cinnabon!

Pool at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff Pool at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff (Photo credit: Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff)

Pool, Hot Tub and Fitness Center

Ask most kids what the best part of a hotel stay is and they’ll tell you THE POOL! Thankfully, the Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff features a heated outdoor pool for your family’s swimming pleasure. (Open late-May through mid-October.)

In winter, you’ll definitely want to make use of the hotel’s bubbly hot tub. A hot soak is such a cozy way to unwind after a day of play.

If you’re not getting enough exercise while touring the town (or you ate one too many cinnamon rolls at breakfast!), then take advantage of Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff’s on-site fitness center. It comes equipped with a treadmill, elliptical machines, stationary bike, and free weights.

Book your Holiday Inn Express stay now!

IHG Hotels & Resorts Logo

IHG Hotels & Resorts

One of the world’s leading hotel brands, IHG Hotels & Resorts offers nearly 6,000 properties globally. Holiday Inn Express is just one of IHG’s 16 trusted hotel brands. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, couple’s getaway, or girls’ trip — IHG has a property to meet your needs!

Hot air balloon flying over Scottsdale, AZ Hot air balloon flying over Scottsdale, AZ (Photo credit: Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Co.)

Explore More of Arizona and Beyond

If you enjoyed this list of the best things to do in Flagstaff, then I bet you’ll get a kick out of this array of outdoor activities in Scottsdale.

Take a look at my tips for visiting Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments during your Arizona vacation.

To experience more of the American Southwest, read about the best road trip from Phoenix. Journey to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon in Arizona, plus Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah, and Las Vegas in Nevada.

Nature-loving families should definitely check out this round-up of the best national parks for kids.

Things to Do in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Which of these Flagstaff attractions would you like to experience? Do you have any questions about these things to do in Flagstaff, AZ? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I was reimbursed for my family’s hotel stay at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff. I also received monetary compensation for this blog post from IHG Hotels & Resorts. My family was hosted by Lowell Observatory, the Museum of Northern Arizona, and Bearizona. We paid for all other attractions and meals ourselves. All opinions are mine, as always.



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