- Things to Do
- Where to Stay
- Dining & Nightlife
- Plan Your Trip
Guest blog by Whitney James
Flagstaff, Arizona is a popular destination for world travelers and tourists, and for good reason! A short drive from the southern entrance of Grand Canyon National Park and neighboring Sedona, this historic city also sits squarely on iconic Route 66.
With three national monuments within an hour’s drive, a ski area with year-round activities, and a thriving downtown, Flagstaff is a destination in its own right.
This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.
There’s a beautiful regional airport five miles from downtown with daily flights coming and going from Phoenix, Denver and Dallas Fort-Worth in addition to weekly seasonal flights to and from LAX. There is simply no better time to put Flagstaff, Arizona at the top of your bucket list!
Flagstaff sits at 7,000 feet elevation, right at the base of the San Francisco Peaks on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. This unique destination provides Flagstaff with fantastic year-round weather—266 days of sun and 100 inches of snow, on average.
In the summer, hikers and mountain bikers will find nearly unlimited trails in the nearby mountains. The local resort, Arizona Snowbowl, offers activities for kids like a ropes course, bungee trampoline, and more. There's also a chairlift that takes you up to 11,500 feet—with a local beer in hand and a view of the Grand Canyon! In the winter, the resort converts into a veritable downhill mecca with runs for beginners, experts, and everything in between. Last year, it received 330 inches of snow! Plus, Arizona Nordic Village offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Fall and spring are great times to enjoy Flagstaff’s other attractions, including beautiful fall colors and self-guided walking tours on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System and the Arboretum.
From the depths of the Grand Canyon to Arizona's highest point at the summit of Humphreys Peak, Flagstaff is a mecca for natural wonders. You won’t want to miss the seven highlights in the area: the aforementioned Grand Canyon National Park, Wupatki National Monument, Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, San Francisco Peaks, Coconino National Forest, and Walnut Canyon National Monument. Each of these areas conserves a significant cultural and/or natural treasure. Our favorites? Hiking the .7-mile Island Trail Loop at Walnut Canyon National Monument offers a fascinating look into how ancient people lived, along with stunning views. The 1-mile Lava Trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is perfect for an afternoon stroll, and exploring the intricate Wupatki Pueblo is an absolute must.
Earlier this year, Flagstaff celebrated the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon. What does this have to do with Flagstaff? Astronomy runs deep in the city’s roots. All Apollo astronauts who have walked on the moon trained here at some point in their careers, and it was designated the world’s first “International Dark Sky City” in 2001. It was actually here at Lowell Observatory that Pluto was discovered!
All the magic happens at Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894. Today Lowell is an active research facility offering daily tours. Their brand new Giovale Open Deck Observatory (pictured above) is an incredible place to get acquainted with the night sky. Peer through six powerful telescopes aimed at celestial treasures like star clusters, Saturn, and more for a truly mind-bending experience.
You could easily spend your entire time in Flagstaff enjoying its many restaurants and breweries. To start, tuck into a hearty meal a few yards away from your hotel room. Try Northern Pines, located within the Days Hotel. Find mouth-watering fish tacos and burgers at Tourist Home Cafe, a location steeped in local history. As for the beer, Mother Road Brewing is a must during your time in Flagstaff. The Daily Driver Low Octane IPA is one of their defining brews, and seasonal gems like Pink Guava Gose are a special treat. Check out the Flagstaff Brewery Trail in Arizona's leading craft beer city for even more recommendations.
For dinner, we can’t narrow it down to just one! The Silver Pine Restaurant and Bar at the Little America serves an exceptional cedar plank salmon (this writer’s favorite) and other seasonal specialties. For those looking for a true “out West” experience, try the Horsemen Lodge. Decorated in authentic cowboy memorabilia and artwork, their Horsemen Punch goes great with the ribeye. We're sure you’ll find a way to “cheers” to your time in Flagstaff!
With a passion for telling stories about travel and the great outdoors, Whitney is all about creating adventure in our own backyards. Previously the managing editor of Outside Magazine’s Summer Buyer’s Guide, Whitney has also written for publications like REI, Adventure Journal, Huckberry, and beyond. She enjoys inspiring others to travel and shares her outdoor experiences from a relatable, everyday perspective. Based in Colorado and a self-described endorphin junkie, she enjoys pedaling her mountain bike both up and down local trails as well as getting even farther off the beaten path on horseback. Her favorite adventure to date was the time she visited seven national parks in seven days on an epic road trip from Colorado to Nevada, camping at each along the way.