Flagstaff Travel Guide

Surrounded by the tall Ponderosa Pines of the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff merges the Old and New West to near-perfection, preserving its history as a major railroad town while emerging as a growing and vibrant college town with an impressive roster of hip bars, cafes, breweries, art galleries and cultural events. With its proximity to Sedona, Grand Canyon National Park, and a number of Native American archeological sites, Flagstaff makes a perfect base for exploring some of the most spectacular scenery in the American West.

Located in the high mountain air of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff has earned the reputation as a cool-weather sanctuary for Phoenix desert-dwellers sweating through another triple-digit summer. In the winter, Arizona Snow Bowl, one of the oldest ski areas in the United States, located north of town on the majestic San Francisco Peaks (the highest point in Arizona), becomes a playground for skiers and snowboarders from across the state. No matter what time of year you visit Flagstaff, chances are the weather will be a perfect fit for the season, the bars will stay open late, and the crisp air and scent of pine trees will remind you why you came in the first place.

Historic Downtown/Railroad District

This is the heart of Flagstaff, where funky new boutiques and bars compete with Old West landmarks for your time. The Flagstaff Visitor Center is located inside the 1926 train depot, where you can pick up a map for a walking tour of downtown. Route 66 enthusiasts will have a ball spotting the historic motels and autoshops that once catered to a steady stream of jalopies making their way west on America's Mother Road. Historic Downtown Flagstaff experienced a decline in the 1970s and 1980s when major department stores like JC Penney's and Sears fled for the suburbs, but Downtown is back with a vengeance, with turn-of-the-century structures getting face-lifts, nightlife going strong at bars and venues like the Orpheum Theater, and plenty of regional and ethnic eateries to keep you happily fed. Stay in the thick of it at the historic Hotel Monte Vista, just a block north of Route 66, and head to Heritage Square for free live music or to just soak up the friendly Western vibe of downtown Flagstaff.

University Area

Chances are that Flagstaff would have remained just another scenic railroad town if not for the presence of Northern Arizona University, which added an intellectual dimension to the region and has attracted world-renowned thinkers, artists, and scientists to the city over the years. The University district begins south of the downtown railroad crossing, where locals and visitors can hang out at dozens of cafes, bars, shops, and hostels. The University supports a year-round calendar of performing arts events, including theater, symphony, and plays host to full schedule of college athletics where the locals show up to support their beloved Lumberjacks.

History buffs will love appreciate the well-preserved Riordan Mansion State Historic Park adjacent to campus, which preserves two magnificent 19th Century homes that once belonged to lumber tycoons Michael and Timothy Riordan. Also on campus is the Northern Arizona University Art Museum, which houses an impressive collection of ceramics and presents several exhibits throughout the year.

Westside

The major attraction west of downtown is Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894 by wealthy Bostonian and amateur astronomer Percival Lowell, and one of the oldest observatories in the United States. It was here that the dwarf planet Pluto was detected in 1930. The Visitor Center is a great place for stargazers of all ages to hang out, featuring interactive astronomy exhibits and a gift shop. In the evening, visitors are invited to take a peek at the Milky Way through one of the observatory's telescopes.

Fort Valley/North

Just north of town in Fort Valley is the Coconino Center for the Arts, a popular local concert venue and the largest art gallery in Northern Arizona. The Center plays host to a  popular series of seasonal exhibitions, including the Annual Recycled Art Show in April and the Elemental Fine Crafts exhibition in December. Just down the road, the Museum of Northern Arizona celebrates the living cultures of the Colorado Plateau and the Four Corners region with presentations, performances, and popular festivals like the Annual Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture held every July and the Annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture in August.

About twelve miles north of town, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument offers visitors a glimpse into the region's geological past. The giant crater, streaked sunset-orange by iron oxide, was formed about 900 years ago after a volcanic explosion. Walk the one-mile Lava Flow Trail for an up-close look at the lava fields. Just a short and scenic drive north of Sunset Crater,Wupatki National Monument, one of the Southwest's largest Indian ruin, looms like a magnificent red-clay fortress in the distance. The four-story sandstone village, which includes multiroom dwellings, an amphitheater, and ball court, gives visitors a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of its inhabitants, who lived here over 800 years ago.

Eastside

Even if you only have a passing interest in history, you'll want to spend some time exploring the Colorado Plateau and regional Native American archeological and heritage sites east of town. Located approximately seven miles east of Flagstaff on I-40, the limestone caves of Walnut Canyon, home to a band of Sinagua Indians 800 years ago, offers challenging hiking trails that will reward you with spectacular, photo-worthy canyon views.

Where to Go in Flagstaff

TOP PICKS BY OUR LOCAL EXPERTS

Inn At 410 Bed & Breakfast

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expert pick

410 N Leroux Street

Pamper yourself in the pines

Brandy's Restaurant

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1500 E Cedar Ave
(In the Cedar Hills Shopping Center)

A Guy Fieri favorite, interesting southwest flavors, hometown cooking, coffee bar, morning sweets offered all day, features local art monthly

Macy's European Coffee House & Bakery

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14 South Beaver St

Macy makes a great cup of coffee

The Wine Loft

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17 N San Francisco St
Suite 2A

An Oasis for oenophiles

Flagstaff Blog Posts

UPDATES FROM OUR TRAVEL TEAM

A Wine for All Seasons
Step into The Wine Loft, and you'll swear you've entered another world.  For those looking for a more elegant night on the town, The Wine Loft is one of the best spots Flagstaff has to offer.  Located on the second floor of a beautiful old building, you’ll find an amazing selection of wines by the... Read more

Breakfast at Bellavia
If you're planning on spending a long day hiking around Flagstaff, you'll want to start the day out with a solid breakfast.  At La Bellavia Restaurant, you'll find one of the best breakfasts in town, hands down.  Decorated like a true country café, this is one of the top spots to eat breakfast according... Read more

A Boat Ride Through a Lava Cave
  For a truly interesting excursion in Flagstaff, the Lava River Cave is by far one of the more intriguing activities in the area.  The attraction is only 10 miles outside of the city, making it convenient and easy for a quick daytrip.  It’s here you’ll find a relaxing cruise that will... Read more


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