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How to Have Fun in Flagstaff

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Posted on March 04, 2023

From deserts to Ponderosa pine forests, Flagstaff is a study in contrasts. Most people picture Arizona as a vast desert landscape, and while cities like Tucson and Phoenix do see soaring temperatures in most seasons, things are different in this city that's known as the gateway to the San Francisco Peaks.

The list of things to do in Flagstaff is practically endless. Whether you want to learn more about Native American history or get your pulse pounding on the slopes, this is the destination for you. A stay in a Flagstaff timeshare helps to ensure that your vacation is as luxurious and relaxing as possible.

Getting Oriented to Have Fun in Flagstaff

The home of the Arizona Snowbowl is located in the northern portion of the state. With an approximate elevation of 6,900 feet, Flagstaff generally doesn't boast the soaring temperatures that are so common in other parts of Arizona. That's good news for active travelers who want to hike, explore the outdoors and perhaps even hit the slopes during their stay.

Most travelers arrive in Flagstaff by flying into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, otherwise known as Grand Canyon Village. Less than six miles from downtown, the airport boasts daily flights from Phoenix, Dallas Fort Worth and other major hubs.

Flagstaff has a population of just under 77,000 people, making it a relatively small city. That's good news for visitors who want to really get to know the area.

Visiting Downtown Flagstaff

historic railroad depot in Flagstaff

One of the must-see things to do in Flagstaff is to visit the historic downtown. This is where the remnants of Route 66 are most visibly on display. Downtown is just a 12-block area, so it's easy to explore it entirely on foot.

The entire quarter has a charming, old-fashioned hometown feel to it as it is mainly populated by small, local businesses. Restaurants, tourist shops and boutiques line the streets in abundance, and it is recommended to come back at night when the neon signs light up the sky. In an old, refurbished train station is the Visitor Center, which is extremely helpful for people who are looking for attractions and activities.

Events are regularly held in Heritage Square, so it's smart to check the event calendar before you arrive. This also is the scene of the Flagstaff Community Market throughout the summer.

Close to The Grand Canyon

One of the most popular things to do in Flagstaff is to get out of the city to see the Grand Canyon. If you hop on the most direct route from the city to the canyon, it's only an 80-mile drive. A longer option is a loop route that provides an in-depth look at the Painted Desert, the Little Colorado Canyon and the East Rim in addition to the Grand Canyon itself.

If you want to leave the driving to someone else, you'll discover several tour operators in Flagstaff that will take you sightseeing in style. Whether you take your car or hire a service, the most direct route to the canyon is on Highway 180. You can return along the same route or leave Grand Canyon Village traveling east to meet up with Highway 64. This takes you along the East Rim where you'll see the Desert View Watchtower and other stunning vistas.

Traveling by the historic Grand Canyon Railway is a favorite with many visitors and locals. Drive 30 miles to the west of Flagstaff to reach the town of Williams, which is where the train departs. People love riding the fully restored 1901 train. It departs from Williams at 9:30 in the morning and returns at 6:45 in the evening. Altogether, passengers have three hours to explore the South Rim.

Explore Native American History and Culture

ancient dwellings at Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff

Immediately to the east of Flagstaff, you'll discover the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Impressive thanks to its gorgeous scenery as well as its cultural impact, the monument is one of the most memorable things to do in Flagstaff.

The top attraction in the monument is the ancient cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. The steep canyon walls are lined with these awe-inspiring structures. Island Trail, a one-mile-long pathway, provides the best views. You'll find it at the monument's Visitor Center. There's even a series of reconstructed dwellings that you can walk through.

An impressive collection of ancient pueblos awaits visitors at the Wupatki National Monument to the north of Flagstaff. The ruins here are remarkably well-preserved and are thought by archaeologists to date to between 1100 and 1200 years ago. The site that's not to be missed in this park is the Citadel Pueblo. Walk up to it to get an outstanding 360-degree view.

native american dwelling at Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

As you're heading back to your Flagstaff timeshare from Wupatki, schedule a stop at the Sunset Crater Volcano. In fact, when you purchase admission to the volcano, you also get admission to Wupatki. Visiting both makes for a fascinating day trip.

Between Flagstaff and Williams lie more than 600 volcanoes, of which Sunset Crater Volcano is just the best known. The enormous black cinder cone has trails running along its base. As you explore, you'll encounter collapsed lava tubes, huge fields of lava and even the outer rim of the cinder cone along the Lava Flow Trail, which is easy but still considered one of the best trails in the state.

The Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory museum

On a hill above the city's main streets sits the renowned Lowell Observatory. Scientists and others at the observatory host a variety of short programs throughout the day that are open to the public. Accompanying the observatory is the Steele Visitor Center that features a multitude of interactive displays. Be sure to stop at the Putnam Collection Center as well to see artifacts from Percival Lowell's life.

Tour a Flagstaff Museum

Flagstaff boasts several worthwhile museums. One of these is The Museum of Northern Arizona. All of its five million artifacts are related to the Colorado Plateau and the northern portion of the state. Another option is the Pioneer Museum. It sits along Highway 180 and boasts boxcars and a steam engine from the first half of the twentieth century. If you want to learn about Flagstaff's early days, this is the place to do it.

The Riordan Mansion State Historic Park lets visitors step back in time on the campus of the Northern Arizona University. An extraordinary example of the Arts and Crafts style, the home can be visited via guided tours.

Arizona Snowbowl