15 Free Things to Do in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is teeming with year-round activities and attractions, and there are plenty that won’t break the bank.

Entrance to Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, AZ

In fact, some don’t require a bank at all. You just need to show up with a sense of adventure to check out these Free Flagstaff finds.

1. Buffalo Park

I’ve run countless laps on this two-mile loop trail in the heart of Flagstaff, taking in the views of the San Francisco Peaks and getting lapped by elite athletes visiting for altitude training. Thankfully, Buffalo Park can also be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, on foot or on bike.

two people hiking through a field toward a mountain at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, AZ
Hiking at Buffalo Park

2. Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff is a college town, home to more than 20,000 students at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Wandering campus is completely free and visitors can channel their inner Lumberjack spirit at events like Homecoming (October).

the Northern Arizona University Lumberjack mascot parades down a street in Flagstaff during the NAU homecoming event
NAU Homecoming Parade

3. Willow Bend Environmental Education Center

We take the environment very seriously in Flagstaff, and Willow Bend is leading the way in educating future generations about protecting our resources. Do a self-guided tour of the surrounding gardens to see wildlife and wildflowers or check out the Science Saturday events.

4. The Great Pinecone Drop

You’ve probably watched the ball drop at midnight in Times Square dozens of times, but you haven’t really experienced New Year’s Eve until you’ve watched the Pinecone Drop in Downtown Flagstaff. Revelers pack the streets around the historic Weatherford Hotel to ring in the new year, and if you’re not ambitious enough for midnight, there’s also a 10 p.m. drop.

5. Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS)

You know you’re in an outdoor town when the trail system rivals the road network. FUTS features nearly 60 miles of inter-connected trails in and around Flagstaff used for both commuting and recreation. Ditch the car and explore Flagstaff on foot or bike. Sign up for the Flagstaff Trails Passport for more hiking recommendations.

6. Flagstaff Community Market

We don’t have many weekly rituals in our house, but from May-October we rarely miss a Sunday at the Flagstaff Community Market. Farmers, artists, food vendors, and many others come together to sell their wares, but if you’re not in the mood to buy, the market is perfect for strolling with a cup of coffee to check out the local flair.

7. Disc Golf

If traditional golf is considered an elite sport, then disc golf is a sport of the people. Low on equipment, but high on fun, disc golf is the perfect excuse to get outside and walk through the woods. Become a pro (or have fun trying) at one of Flagstaff’s six courses.

8. Snowshoeing

I’ve come to embrace the roughly 100 inches of snow Flagstaff receives each year, mostly because every snowstorm eventually gives way to stunning views of snow-covered mountains. I don’t give up my trail time just because it’s winter. All those trails are equally amazing to explore with snowshoes strapped to my feet.

a person lifts their snowshoe over the camera while snowshoeing in Flagstaff
Snowshoeing in the mountains around Flagstaff

9. Snowplay

Keep enjoying the snow by rounding up the kids, throwing on some warm clothes, and heading over to a Flagstaff park for some snowy fun. They'll have a blast playing in the snow and crafting cool snowmen – all while you soak in the magical winter scenery.

10. Movies on the Square

Nothing beats a Flagstaff summer night. Add in an outdoor movie under the stars in historic downtown, sleeping bags, popcorn, and pizza and you’ve got the recipe for the ultimate summer night.

11. Hart Prairie Preserve

The San Francisco Peaks loom large over Flagstaff, and a guided summer hike in the stunning Hart Prairie Preserve is the ideal introduction to the ecology of this area. Learn about the birds and wildflowers and take Instagram-worthy photos to share with friends.

12. 4th of July Parade

If you want to measure the character of a town, a 4th of July parade is the perfect yardstick. On one of my favorite days of the year, Flagstaff’s character is bursting at the seams as visitors and residents pour into downtown to watch dozens of festive floats.

13. Haunted Walking Tours

If the historic brick buildings in downtown Flagstaff could talk, oh the stories they would tell. The Flagstaff Visitor Center has compiled some of the most haunted tales into a self-guided walking tour of the ghostly legends and haunted history that shaped the town.

14. First Friday ArtWalk

I’m rarely one to show up in “the place to be,” but First Friday ArtWalk is an exception. It’s a celebration of all things Flagstaff, and the special exhibits and performances at the downtown galleries, shops, and restaurants are not to be missed.

aerial view of people gathering for the Downtown Flagstaff First Friday Art Walk
First Friday Artwalk

15. Scenic Drives

Take a nature-filled adventure right from the driver's seat with a scenic drive through Flagstaff. Nestled in the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in the world, picturesque landscapes are all around you as you make your way to the many national parks and monuments nearby.

About the Author

jacki lenners portrait

Jacki Lenners

Jacki Lenners is 11 short years away from being an Arizona native, but considers the Grand Canyon State her home turf. She has slowly made her way north, starting out in Tucson, moving to Phoenix, and after living in Flagstaff for the past seven years, she's finally found her perfect Arizona home. When she's not at her day job marketing Flagstaff's fabulous public transit system, Jacki can be found skiing or hiking in the San Francisco Peaks, trying to keep up with Flagstaff's very speedy runners, or completely counteracting all of that exercise by checking out the newest restaurants in town.

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