Known as “The City of Seven Wonders,” there truly is no other city in Arizona quite like Flagstaff. Nestled in the middle of Coconino National Forest and just a stone’s throw from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, it’s no wonder why this place is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts!
In the summer months, you can hike the Humphreys Summit Trail to the highest point in Arizona, check out ancient Native American cliff dwellings at the Walnut Canyon National Monument, or learn about Flagstaff’s storied history on a walking tour of the old Route 66.
If you’re visiting in the winter months, you’ll love gliding down the powdery slopes at the Arizona Snowbowl. Or, time your visit for spring when the spectacular Grand Falls (aka “Chocolate Falls”) is at its most impressive!
While you can easily spend your whole vacation adventuring around Flagstaff’s nearby national parks, massive craters, and otherworldly lava fields, it’s well worth taking some time to explore the bustling downtown. You’ll love sipping local craft brews along the buzzing Flagstaff Brewery Trail, dining in the globally-inspired eateries, and shopping in all of the boutiques.
With so many things to see, do, and eat, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Flagstaff for you. Stick to these fun and unique Flagstaff bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this naturally beautiful corner of Arizona!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Flagstaff
1. Take a Hike to Arizona’s Highest Point
It’s no secret that Flagstaff is brimming with a range of opportunities for outdoor adventure, but the nearby San Francisco Peaks offers some of the best in town!
The San Francisco Peaks boast plenty of scenic trails for all levels. But if you really want to challenge yourself, you’ll definitely want to tackle Humphreys Summit Trail. This 10-mile out-and-back trail begins in the Arizona Snowbowl parking lot and takes you all the way up to the top of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona.
Along the way, you’ll ascend 3,343 to an elevation of 12,635 feet. The challenging trail takes about 5 to 8 hours to complete, but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, beautiful mesas, towering peaks, and so much more!
Humphreys Summit Trail is open year-round, but you will need to obtain a permit in the winter months. Plus, it’s always advised to check the weather conditions before your hike. Given the high elevation, snow, monsoon storms, and lightning may cause dangerous conditions that can impact your ability to reach the summit.
2. Go Stargazing at the Lowell Observatory
One of the coolest things about Flagstaff is that it was named as the world’s first-ever International Dark-Sky City in 2001! The mountain city’s lack of light pollution makes it the prime place to stargaze. If you’re an astronomy buff, paying a visit to the world-famous Lowell Observatory should be at the top of your Flagstaff bucket list.
Be sure to check the website to see what’s going on at the observatory during your visit. There are always fascinating film screenings, lectures, classes, and workshops happening.
No matter when you visit, you’ll have the chance to gaze at the star-speckled sky through a variety of telescopes while professionals pepper you with interesting factoids about stars, planets, galaxies, and so much more.
No visit to the Lowell Observatory is complete without heading out to the Giovale Open Deck Observatory, where you can stargaze from the six advanced telescopes, which are all open to the public.
3. Follow the Boozy Flagstaff Brewery Trail
You may not know it, but Flagstaff is home to an impressive number of craft breweries. If you’re a craft beer connoisseur, hitting the Brewery Trail is one of the most fun things to do in Flagstaff!
Before you head out, be sure to print the free “passport” out and bring it with you to each brewery you visit. Once you collect five or more stamps, you can turn your passport into one of the Flagstaff visitor centers in exchange for an official Brewery Trail pint glass.
The Brewery Trail will lead you to nine of the city’s most popular breweries. If you don’t want to drive and prefer to walk between breweries, you can start with a Rye’d Open Spaces IPA at Dark Sky Brewing Company before strolling over to the bustling Beaver Street Brewery, Mother Road Brewing Company, and Lumberyard Brewing Company.
If you need something to soak up all of that booze, walk over to the downtown Flagstaff Grand Canyon Brewing Company taproom. This innovative brewery has 16 beers on tap and an impressive menu of charcuterie boards, burgers, pizzas, and much more!
While you’ll have enough stickers to cash in your passport, the Flagstaff Brewery Trail features four additional breweries if you want to keep going!
4. Visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
If you find yourself in Flagstaff and you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon before, now’s the perfect time! Flagstaff is an easy 90-minute drive from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim entrance, making Flagstaff a popular jumping-off point for exploring the best attractions near the Grand Canyon’s South Rim!
You’ll definitely want to take a scenic drive along Desert View Drive, bike to the spectacular viewpoints along Hermit Road, and check out the vistas from Ooh Aah Point. You can also learn about the Grand Canyon’s geologic history from the Yavapai Museum of Geology and the Trail of Time.
If you’ve got more than a day, avid hikers will want to tackle the 15-mile Bright Angel Trail or follow the popular South Kaibab Trail to check out the canyon views from Skeleton Point. The Grand Canyon’s South Rim attractions are just the tip of the iceberg, though, so if you’ve got more time, it’s well worth taking the time to delve deeper into this iconic national park!
5. Hit the Slopes at the Arizona Snowbowl
The Arizona Snowbowl is one of the top Flagstaff attractions if you’re planning a winter trip. This world-class ski resort is perched on the San Francisco Peaks, just 15 miles from the heart of downtown Flagstaff.
Thanks to its 11,500-foot altitude, the Arizona Snowbowl gets an average of 260 inches of snow each year. If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, you’ll love gliding down the resort’s 55 runs, which range from beginner to expert. You can also fine-tune your skills in one of the resort’s three terrain parks.
Don’t worry if you’re not a pro. It’s possible to rent gear and take lessons, too. Or, if skiing or snowboarding just doesn’t appeal to you, you can always go tubing, ski bike riding, or just sit back and relax with a Bloody Mary or hot chocolate in one of the mountain’s slopeside eateries.
Plus, no matter what time of year you visit, you can always take a scenic ride on the Arizona Gondola. The ride takes you to an elevation of 11,500 feet. From the top, you’ll get stunning panoramic views of the cinder cone volcanic field, the red rocks of Sedona, and so much more!
6. Learn Something New at the Museum of Northern Arizona
The Museum of Northern Arizona is one of the many must-do things in Flagstaff if you want to tap into the state’s Native American culture and natural history. The museum boasts a whopping 800,000 works and artifacts from the Colorado Plateau as well as the Grand Canyon.
Explore the museum, and you’ll find collections relating to anthropology, the fine arts, biology, geology, paleontology, and much more. Depending on when you visit, the museum houses a range of interesting temporary exhibitions and hosts the Heritage Festival and educational Rock Art and Prehistoric Food workshops.
Some past exhibitions include Liberating Landscape: Women Artists in Norther Arizona 1900-1940, Journey to Balance: Migration and Healing in Three Hopi Murals, and Native Peoples of the Colorado Plateau, to name a few.
You’ll also be able to peruse 170 pieces of Southwestern Native American jewelry, examine the fossil footprints of creatures that roamed around Northern Arizona 240 million years ago, or check out displays of ancient and modern pottery in the Babbitt Gallery.
7. Explore Flagstaff’s Historic Downtown
Flagstaff may not get as much love as Arizona’s better-known cities but take some time to explore the historic downtown area, and it’s pretty much impossible not to be charmed by this one-of-a-kind city. Plus, with all the year-round pop-up events, there’s always something fun going on in downtown Flagstaff!
If you happen to be in town on a Friday, you’ll definitely want to attend the First Friday ArtWalks event. On the first Friday of each month, local businesses and art galleries host special art exhibitions, live music events, family-friendly performances, and more from 6-9 pm.
In the summer, you can catch an alfresco flick in Heritage Square during the Movies on the Square event, do downward dog at Yoga on the Lawn, or shop for farm-fresh goods at the Downtown Community Market. Plus, you can escape the hustle and bustle of downtown at one of downtown’s many green spaces, including Wheeler Park and Thorpe Park.
If that’s not enough, downtown Flagstaff is home to the city’s best restaurants, breweries, and shops. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s something to suit all tastes!
8. Go Underground in the Lava River Cave
Exploring the Lava River Cave is one of the coolest things to do in Flagstaff for adventure-seekers. Tucked away in the Coconino National Forest, this natural wonder was formed between 650,000 and 700,000 years ago from the lava flow from a nearby volcanic vent.
The molten lava hardened around the edges and the 0.75-mile-long cave was formed from the hot lava that continued to flow through the middle of the unique formation. Fast-forward to today, and it’s now possible to visit the Lava River Cave on your own, 24/7!
The trail is rocky and uneven. Plus, you’ll find yourself clambering over rocks at times, so it’s not ideal for little kids or inexperienced hikers.
It’s also important to note that the cave is pitch black with no light sources, so it’s recommended that you bring at least two light sources per person. You’ll also want to dress warmly because this place gets chilly – even in the scorching summer months!
9. Take a Drive to Grand Falls
Located 30 miles from the city center, the spectacular Grand Falls is hands down one of the best sights in Flagstaff. Set right in the heart of the Painted Desert and Navajo Nation land, Grand Falls dumps massive amounts of water 185 feet into the Little Colorado River below. Its height means it’s 18 feet taller than Niagara Falls!
One of the quirkiest things about Grand Falls is that it’s known for its muddy waters, which is why this natural wonder is often called “Chocolate Falls.” But don’t let the lack of crystal clear waters deter you – these spectacular falls are as photogenic as it gets!
Grand Falls isn’t super easy to access. The drive there is bumpy, and it’s recommended that you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach the falls overlook – though it’s not necessary. It’s also important to note that Grand Falls is reduced to a trickle for much of the year. So the best time to see it in all its glory is during March and April.
10. Marvel at Meteor Crater
Roughly 50,000 years ago, a 150-foot-wide meteorite slammed into earth, creating what is now known as Meteor Crater. One of the few meteor craters in the US and the only one in Arizona, the massive crater is a whopping 570 feet deep and 4,100 feet wide. Located 45 minutes from downtown, this rare natural attraction is easily one of the most unique things to see in Flagstaff.
You’ll want to start your visit at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center, which is located on the crater’s north rim. Here you’ll find all sorts of educational exhibits, an astronaut hall of fame, special activities, and so much more. Space geeks will love it here!
After that, you can check out the crater from a variety of scenic viewpoints. You can also embark on a self-guided hike along one of the marked trails or join one of the informative guided rim tours. Either way, it’s not possible to walk down inside the crater for preservation purposes. If you want to pick up a memento, the on-site gift shop sells everything from “Mind if I Crash Here?” alien T-shirts to kitschy mugs and posters!
11. Eat Your Way through Foodie-Centric Flagstaff
Flagstaff may be an underrated city but rest assured, this is a prime place for foodies!
No trip to the city is complete without paying a visit to the original Diablo Burger location. This iconic burger joint slings out massive locally sourced burgers. Whichever creative concoction you choose, be sure to order a side of their famous Belgian-style frites in DB Special Sauce and wash it all down with a local craft brew.
Vegetarians and vegans will love dining at the popular Red Curry Vegan Kitchen. From samosa wontons and veggie sushi rolls to lemongrass green curry and pad thai, this place dishes out a wide range of delicious vegan Thai and Japanese dishes.
For something fancy, try the seasonal 4-course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($70) at Shift, or for casual Southwest-style all-day breakfasts, you can’t beat the iconic MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace.
From blackened catfish po’boys at Satchmo’s to cashew ricotta topped vegan pizzas at Pizzicletta and addictive French crullers and hangover-curing breakfast burritos at Tourist Home All Day Cafe, you won’t go hungry during your trip to Flagstaff!
12. Embark on the Volcanoes & Ruins Loop Scenic Drive
If you’re interested in the geological and cultural history of the area, taking a drive on the Volcanoes and Ruins Loop Scenic Drive is one of the top things to do in Flagstaff. Nestled in the sprawling Coconino National Forest, the loop begins just 14 miles north of downtown Flagstaff and stretches for 36 scenic miles.
Along the way, you’ll want to stop off at the 55-square-mile Wupatki National Monument, a Native American archaeological site that was inhabited from 1100 and 1250 AD. The area is now comprised of 800 pre-Columbian red sandstone pueblos, an amphitheater, and a ball court. After that, you can stretch your legs with a hike in the Strawberry Crater Wilderness and check out the area’s fascinating volcanic features and ancient ruins.
The loop also takes you to the Painted Desert Vista for a picnic lunch with incredible views, as well as the famous Sunset Crater National Monument, where you can hike along the volcano and walk through a lava field.
13. Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Original Route 66
Located in downtown Flagstaff, the original stretch of Route 66 is one of the coolest things to do in Flagstaff and one of the best ways to discover the seedy and storied history of Flagstaff’s Southside Historic District. Plus, you can access the “Walk this Talk” audio tour with your phone and learn all sorts of cool facts and tidbits about the original Route 66.
The tour starts at the Flagstaff Visitor Center. From there, the route will lead you to historic landmarks, and signs will prompt you to call a toll-free number to listen to prerecorded messages about each site. Some of the recordings are narrated by actor and Flagstaff native Ted Danson and local author Rose Houk, among others!
During your walk, you can learn all about Flagstaff’s railway history at the historic Flagstaff Depot and Santa Fe Plaza, marvel at the Mother Myth mural, and learn about the murder and mayhem at the historic Downtowner Motel in the early 1900s. Plus, don’t forget to snap a selfie at the massive Phoenix Avenue Route 66 mural before relaxing over a pint at Mother Road Brewing Company.
14. Check Out the Ancient Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument
If you’re looking for unique Flagstaff activities, look no further than Walnut Canyon National Monument. Whether you’re looking for a scenic hiking trail or a way to delve into the area’s Native American roots, you’ll find it at this incredible national monument. Plus, Walnut Canyon National Monument is located 10 miles from the heart of Flagstaff, so it’s super easy to reach.
The sheer cliff formations and limestone walls were formed by Walnut Creek roughly 60 million years ago. About 700 years ago, this area was inhabited by the Sinagua people – a group of Ancestral Puebloans – who created homes in the canyon’s sheer cliffs. Fast-forward to today, and you can still get up close and personal with these well-preserved cliff dwellings!
Just follow the 0.9-mile out-and-back Island Trail, and you’ll have the chance to check out 25 cliff dwellings that date back between 1100 and 1250 AD. If you’re interested in learning more about the unique cliff dwellings and the Sinagua people, be sure to stop off at the Walnut Canyon Visitor Center to check out the informative exhibitions and fascinating artifacts.
15. Seek Out Flagstaff’s Impressive Street Art Murals
We’ve said this time and again, but Flagstaff is a seriously underrated city. From buzzing breweries to forward-thinking restaurants to an amazing Public Art Program, this city deserves all the love. Plus, if street art is your thing, you’ll love exploring Flagstaff!
Meander around town, and you’ll come across over 40 murals and public installations and sculptures. You can even download the free Public Art Map, which will guide you to the top works and give you information about each piece.
If you’re short on time, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mother Myth mural – which is located near the railroad tracks and Route 66 and details the evolution of Flagstaff – as well as the massive Sound of Flight mural on the side of the historic Orpheum Theater and The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux in Heritage Square.
If you’ve got the time, we highly recommend walking or biking the area on a self-guided tour to find the rest of Flagstaff’s hidden murals!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Flagstaff. What’s your favorite thing to do in the City of Seven Wonders?
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