Aptly known as the ‘City of Seven Wonders’, Flagstaff has been a popular tourist destination ever since the early 1900s when people first flocked to Northern Arizona to see its many tourist attractions. As well as including Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites, these also encompass everything from craggy canyons and crumbling craters to vast forests and majestic mountain peaks.
As great riches also poured into the city around this time along both Route 66 and its railroad, the charming city now has lots of attractive architecture and interesting historic sites for you to check out. While history and culture are never far away, it also has a lively yet laidback feel thanks to its large university population. With lots of things to do in Flagstaff as well as plenty of outdoor activities in its surroundings there is something for everyone.
12. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
Set just to the southwest of the city center is the remarkable Riordan Mansion which exhibits lots of exquisite American arts and crafts. Protected as part of a State Historic Park since 1978, it can be found right next to the expansive campus of Northern Arizona University.
Built all the way back in 1904, the massive mansion is actually made up of two almost identical wings that are joined together by a large common room. It was in this huge historic house that the lumber baron brothers Timothy and Michael Riordan lived with their wives, who were also sisters.
While taking a tour around the property you can learn all about the prominent family and the unique and unusual architecture on display. In addition, its forty or so rooms have lots of impressive period pieces and fabulous furnishings for you to peruse.
11. Museum of Northern Arizona
Located in a lava stone building is the magnificent Museum of Northern Arizona which lies just under a ten minute drive to the northwest of Flagstaff. An interesting and educational place to visit, its collection offers up an invaluable insight into the history, nature, and culture of the Colorado Plateau.
Since being founded way back in 1928, the museum’s captivating collection has continued to grow, now housing a scarcely believable five million items. Its engaging and extensive exhibits encompass everything from displays on dinosaurs and galleries on geology to astonishing artworks and artifacts from Northern Arizona’s Native American peoples.
On top of all this, it also has a gorgeous garden which is home to plants and flowers from the region with dancing, music, and storytelling events held in the summer months.
10. Flagstaff Extreme
If you’re looking for an exhilarating outdoor adventure activity than look no further than Flagstaff Extreme. Situated just south of the city center, it has five exciting elevated obstacle courses for you to navigate as well as over thirty zip lines to shoot along.
The largest suspended challenge course in the state, it has over eighty swaying bridges, swings and nets for you to navigate; all strung up between towering Ponderosa Pines. Besides climbing, swinging and zipping your way through the canopy, you also have to outwit all of the obstacles that you come across on the way.
If you have a head for heights and want to set your heart racing, then Flagstaff Extreme’s aerial challenges make for a fun and family-friendly day out.
9. Grand Falls
Lying in a rugged and remote part of the picturesque Painted Desert is the awe-inspiring sight that is Grand Falls. Nestled away around an hour’s drive to the northeast of Flagstaff, it is set in a scenic spot along the Little Colorado River on Navajo Nation land.
While it only spans 21 meters, the waterfall towers to an impressive 56 meters in height, making it taller than Niagara Falls. Due to the water’s muddy color, it is often called ‘Chocolate Falls’ with its size, scale and shade making for some fantastic photos.
Although it is renowned for the remarkable rainbows created by its sparkling spray, the falls only flow during certain times of the year. As such, the best times to visit are between March and April when the falls are fed by the snowmelt of the far-off White Mountains.
8. Arizona Snowbowl
One of the best places to go skiing and snowboarding in the state is at the Arizona Snowbowl which lies just half-an-hour to the north of Flagstaff. Its snow-coated slopes can be found on the western flank of the mighty Mount Humphreys, hidden away among the San Francisco Peaks.
First founded in 1938, the alpine resort now has 55 runs for visitors to shoot down which are serviced by eight chairlifts. From atop of the 3,852 meter high Mount Humphreys, the most prominent peak in the state, there is a total vertical drop of over 700 meters to ski down with three terrific terrain parks to try out.
In addition it also has lots of cosy cabins and spacious suites for you to stay in with some excellent hiking and mountain biking to be had in the sunny summer months.
7. Coconino National Forest
Sprawling over a humongous area that almost completely surrounds the city is the Coconino National Forest which boasts lots of stupendous scenery and nature. As well as the San Francisco Peaks, it is home to diverse landscapes that are sure to delight nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Established all the way back in 1898, the picturesque park protects everything from desert and ponderosa pines to massive mesas, verdant forests and volcanic fields. As such, it really is a treat to explore with craggy canyons and ruddy red rock formations to be found alongside twinkling lakes and shimmering streams.
Due to its scenic splendor, Coconino National Forest is a very popular place to visit, with lots of people enjoying hiking, mountain biking and camping there.
6. Lava River Cave
Another incredible natural wonder close to Flagstaff is the Lava River Cave which is also located within Coconino National Forest. Situated just half an hour’s drive to the northwest of the city, it is well worth visiting for its rock formations that look much like flowing water.
Remarkably enough, the cavern was formed roughly 700,000 years when a volcanic vent erupted nearby. As well as leaving behind wave and ripple-like remains in the rock, the molten lava also created stone icicles that hang suspended in time from the cave roof.
As the site is undeveloped, exploring the cold cave is an unforgettable experience as you venture into its confines which stretch for more than a kilometer underground.
5. Historic Downtown
Located right in the center of the city is its handsome Historic Downtown which is home to lots of attractive architecture and interesting attractions. Centered around both the historic Route 66 and the old railway tracks that used to run through town, the vibrant area sprawls across several blocks and has lots for you to see and do.
Most of its beautiful brick buildings date back to the early 1900s when both the railroad and Route 66 brought great riches to the town. Wonderfully well-preserved, these exhibit everything from Art Deco and Italianate style architecture to Neoclassical and Romanesque Revival features. Highlights include the Weatherford Hotel and the Babbitt Brothers Building with its train station now serving at the city’s visitor center.
Flagstaff’s historic buildings now house lots of great restaurants and shops with the city also being known for its thriving cafe culture. On top of all this, Downtown hosts a regular farmers’ market, while its large student population means there is a lively and youthful atmosphere about the area.
4. Wupatki National Monument
One of Arizona’s most astonishing archaeological sites, the Wupatki National Monument can be found around an hour’s drive to the northeast of the city. Set in a scenic and secluded part of the Colorado Plateau are lots of remarkable ruins and centuries-old settlements for you to explore that were left behind by the Ancient Pueblo People.
Meaning ‘Tall House’ in the Hopi Language, Wupatki is named after the site’s largest settlement which is undoubtedly its standout sight. Within the remains of the red rock building are over a hundred rooms to wander around while a court for ball games can be found outside near to two crumbling kiva-like structures.
While it was abandoned in 1225, Ancestral Puebloans had already been living in the wild and remote region since the fifth century AD. In total the sun-scorched site has over 2,700 structures with visitors also being able to visit other smaller pueblos such as Citadel, Lomaki and Nalakihu.
3. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Situated just a stone’s throw away from the Wupatki National Monument is the spectacular Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Named after the crumbling cinder cone that lies at its center, it has lots of dramatic and desolate landscapes for you to explore with fantastic photos to be snapped of all its features.
Protected as part of a park since 1930, the crater is the youngest of the San Francisco Peaks, having only been formed around a thousand years ago in a volcanic eruption. Its bleak slopes lie amidst rolling foothills, forests and lava fields; all of which now make for great hiking.
At the site’s visitor center guests can learn all about the history, geology and nature of the rugged region as well as seeing some astounding aerial photos of Sunset Crater. While hiking to its summit is no longer permitted, visitors can explore the beautiful Bonito Lava Flow that lies nearby.
2. Lowell Observatory
Perched atop a hill just west of the city center is the Lowell Observatory which is famed for being where the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in 1930. As well as exciting artifacts and exhibits on astronomy, its on-site telescopes allow visitors to gaze up in awe at the star-studded night sky.
One of the oldest observatories in the States, it was established way back in 1894 and is named after the astronomer Percival Lowell who set up the site. Over the years, the research center has made a number of important discoveries with numerous astronauts having visited the facility in preparation for the Apollo Program.
As well as perusing models and interactive displays on the solar system, visitors can also attend talks on everything from black holes and Pluto to the history of the observatory and its scientific discoveries. The undoubted highlight however is looking through a telescope yourself and seeing all the planets and stars before you.
1. Walnut Canyon National Monument
Located just fifteen minutes to the east of Flagstaff is one of the area and Arizona’s most interesting and impressive ancient archaeological sites: the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Within the narrow, craggy canyon of the same name visitors can find twenty-five captivating cliff dwellings to explore as well as some lovely scenery and nature.
Built between 1100 and 1250 AD by the Sinagua people, these ruins lie beneath rugged ridges and limestone ledges, protected from the elements by the steep cliff sides. To visit these incredible cliff dwellings visitors can wander along a path that meanders its way down the side of the canyon.
In addition to basking in the beauty of the site and seeing the settlement up close and personal, you can also learn more about the Sinagua at the national monument’s marvelous museum.