Arizona’s city known for its higher elevations, cooler weather, and pine-forested scenery is Flagstaff. Although there are other places that are similar to the atmosphere of Flagstaff, Flagstaff is definitely a city you must stop by if you’re coming from the Grand Canyon and cities up north in Arizona. There are so many amazing outdoorsy escapes to get to in Flagstaff and also interactive experiences that you won’t regret doing in your visit to Flagstaff.
Although all of these places I listed are suitable to go to for all seasons, I decided to categorize the best places to adventure through each different season due to the climate and conditions during that time. I also provide food recommendations at the end so you can get an idea of where you should eat when visiting the city!
The Best Things to Do in Flagstaff During the Fall Time
1. Walnut Canyon National Monument
This national monument is a remarkable place to step into the history of the people who were earlier settlers of Arizona, specifically the Sinagua Indians during the 12th and 13th centuries. Over here, you can step down steep staircases 600-feet deep that lead you to cave-dwellings that are enclosed by these gorge canyon walls.
There are 2 easy recommendable trails you can do here to explore this place:
- Island Trail – In this 1-mile trail, you can visit and walk into the 25 cliff dwellings. It becomes challenging only if you’re not used to the elevation at 7k+ feet with a drop of 185 feet.
- Rim Trail – This 0.7 mile long trail is self-guided and takes you along the canyon rim. First part of this route is accessible and paved.
2. Arizona Snowbowl Fall Scenic Chairlift
This is definitely one of the most thrilling things to do if you want to oversee the most beautiful views of Flagstaff at a high elevation, without the need to hike or backpack Flagstaff. This is basically going on a ski lift, but without the powder present, instead you’ll get to see the fall-colored leaves on the trees. I have a whole blog post on what it’s like to experience this during fall time!
If you have time after the fall scenic chairlift, you may also want to check out the forests on Snowbowl. They are perfect too for your fall photos. There are also a lot of aspen trees to see there.
3. Aspen Corner
If you’re looking for some easy trails to do during the fall time, you need to check out Aspen Corner in Flagstaff. There are so many aspen trees in Flagstaff and they are a rarity to see among the rest of the state. This is probably one of the best spots to explore the aspen trees, aside from the also very popular Lockett Meadow. I have a whole guide on how to explore Aspen Corner.
4. Go camping
Flagstaff is a good choice to go camping in. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees and the scent of woodsy nature and fresh air? Although it can get pretty cold during the early fall to winter months to go camping around here especially as night time comes, it’s still one of the best times because it isn’t too warm or too cold. Here is a site where you can find free campsites in Flagstaff.
The Best Things to Do in Flagstaff During the Winter Time
5. Museum of Northern Arizona
Located on the base of the San Francisco Peaks, where you can find the most volcanoes in Flagstaff which was considered sacred homeland to many Native Americans, the Museum of Northern Arizona is a nice museum you need to stop by. Founded in 1928, this museum is a family-friendly one that educates on the people who have settled and lived in Northern Arizona and the Native American culture along with findings from these earlier settlers. It’s divided by archaeology and geology, where you can learn about the many different studies on the rocks, the geological processes that took place such as within the Grand Canyon and significant volcanoes around, and the history of where dinosaurs used to roam around.
6. Kendrick Park & Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Life
Hiking in the snow can be quite the challenge, but if you’re visiting Flagstaff during a snowy time, then you may enjoy playing outdoors and hiking in less-rough terrain of the snow at Kendrick Park. This park is right by wonderful views of the San Francisco Peaks, including the 10,425 feet high Kendrick Peak, one of the highest peaks in the San Francisco volcanic field.
You can choose to go sledding down some of the hills here or you can walk around in the short trails of the forested Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trails. There’s the short trail version – it’s 0.5 miles long and a loop route and there’s the long trail version – 1.3 miles long and also a loop route. You may or may not see some wildlife, hence the name, like deers and birds. What’s also lovely about this park is its free admission.
7. Pine Cone Drop
The Pine Cone Drop only occurs during New Years. If you’re visiting Flagstaff during the holidays, then consider spending your New Years celebration with the Pine Cone Drop. I went to experience the Pine Cone Drop in 2018 (for the 2019 celebration) and basically it is an aluminum 6-foot pine cone that gets dropped from the corner of the Weatherford Hotel. The Pine Cone Drop is a unique experience and they do the drop twice too, for East Coast Time and Mountain Standard Time.
8. Arizona Snowbowl
Arizona Snowbowl is considered one of the best places to go skiing and snowboarding in Arizona. You can also find some casual rooms and cabins here too if you’re planning on spending a longer time doing these winter sports. Arizona Snowbowl has beginner lessons to black diamond runs.
The Best Things to Do in Flagstaff During the Spring Time
9. Lowell Observatory
Did you know that the planet of Pluto was discovered right here in Flagstaff? Specifically at the Lowell Observatory. Designed as a National Historic Landmark in 1965, Lowell Observatory is a non-profit research institution that you can take tours at to see their advanced telescopes. The general admission is $25 per adult and $16 per child daily.
The best time to observe the sky, the planets, gas clouds, and galaxies is at night time and I personally have to say this is also very good to see during the spring time because that’s when International Dark Sky Week is. International Dark Sky Week is usually held during the week of the New Moon in April and it’s a week for when people turn off their lights to observe the beauty of the night sky without light pollution.
10. Buffalo Park
Buffalo Park is a 215-acre park that offers beautiful scenic views of San Francisco Peaks. Although you won’t see buffalos here (there’s a historic bronze sculpture of a buffalo here – that’s why this is the name), you will feel immersed in a park with fresh crisp mountainous air, and this place is perfect for running in or to have a picnic at.
The Best Things to Do in Flagstaff During the Summer Time
11. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
This is one of my favorite spots I’ve seen in Flagstaff because it is a cool way to see a volcano up close and personal. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument has Sunset Crater, a 1,000-feet high cinder cone volcano that erupted 950-1,000 years ago. To explore Sunset Crater, I recommend doing the short but scenic Lava Flow Trail. I wrote a whole guide on the trail to see Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
12. Wupatki National Monument
Another national monument in Flagstaff to see is Wupatki National Monument. Just 19 minutes away from Sunset Crater, this national monument consists of well-preserved archaeological sites of where the Ancient Pueblo people used to live. First inhabited 500 AD, there are 3 buildings and 29 structures here.
Where to eat in every season
No trip is complete without going outside of these attractions to find some good eats. Most of these will be found in downtown Flagstaff. (I also recommend you explore the downtown of the city in any season!) I’ve provided a few options based on different kinds of food.
Eat British food at Cornish Pasty Co.
Ever wanted to try pasties, baked pastries with cooked fillings, that are known in England? You definitely can at Cornish Pasty Co. with a wide variety of pasties ranging from their signature to premium ones, from lamb to roast beef to chicken and so much more. Their menu also has soups, salads, and desserts. For desserts, you definitely have to try the Banoffee Pie, a pie made with graham cracker crust, homemade caramel, fresh whipped cream and sliced bananas.
Eat Asian food at Asia Station and China Garden
There’s a lot of Asian food to try in Flagstaff. The ones I listed here are the ones my family and I have tried together! Located on San Francisco Street, you can try delicious Thai food at Asia Station. If you’re looking for more Chinese-American food, go to South Milton Road and try out China Garden. For such reasonable prices, you can get a good variety of dishes there.
Eat Hawaiian food at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ Restaurant
The Hawaiian BBQ foods here are so worth it. Located on Historic Route 66, you can find a lot of BBQ options from chicken katsu to kalua pork to grilled fish to BBQ ribs and more. There’s also a mix of Asian food here too and if you’re looking for a satisfying dessert, try their numerous Boba tea flavors too.
Eat BBQ at Agee’s Barbecue Market in Munds Park, AZ
Although not exactly in Flagstaff, Munds Park is almost half an hour away from Flagstaff. If you’re on the way or going out of Flagstaff, you may want to stop by for some food and I recommend Agee’s Barbecue Market! My family and I stumbled upon this restaurant when we were coming back from visiting Arizona Snowbowl during the fall time. Agee’s Barbecue Market is mouthwatering and is so fulfilling. They have a BBQ menu, a pizza menu, and a bar menu. Along with their BBQ, I really loved the Mac and Cheese and Cheesy Potatoes. Their menus will vary from time to time too.
Do you plan to visit any of these places or are you planning to travel to Flagstaff during a season? If so, which one?