Flagstaff Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Flagstaff

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    Wupatki National Monument

    by VeronicaG Updated May 1, 2007

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    Wupatki Pueblo
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    Traveling to ancient Indian ruins was a highlight of our trip to Arizona. We were able to visit several, one of which was the Wupatki ruins.

    "Wupatki' is derived from Hopi language meaning "it was cut long". It's said that the people prospered here in one of the driest and warmest places on the Colorado Plateau.

    There were many people living at this particular site, which included a 100 room structure with a tower, community room and ballcourt.

    The community room (picture #2) was a circular structure used for special events. It was open-air and seems to be a central gathering place.

    This pueblo is thought to have been at the crossroads of several travel routes, where the people were able to engage in trade, farming and craft making. Several clans met here for ceremonial rites and important events. There is no other pueblo this size for fifty miles.

    The descendants of these people, the Hopi, feel the village of Wupatki is among the most important site of their ancestral clans.

    Wupatki was inhabited after the volcanic explosion at Sunset Crater (see later tip) between 1040 and 1100 AD. The people built the pueblo around and on the sandstone rocks. It's built in the open, not on cliffs and stood three stories high and included storage rooms in which to gather harvests.

    Wupatki became a national monument in 1924. A visitor's center is open 9am-5pm daily.

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    Walnut Canyon National Monument

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Walnut Canyon National Monument
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    The Sinagua Indians inhabited Walnut Canyon from about 1125AD-1250AD and are the ancestors of the Hopi tribe.
    Their ancient dwellings number 300 or so and perch on high ledges dotting the canyon above Walnut Creek (picture #2).

    Ledges or caves provided the shelter needed, then rock walls were built that were held together with clay mortar to form rooms. In some rooms, you can still see the marks of fingerprints as clay mortar was smoothed by hand (picture #3)

    The .9 mile ISLAND TRAIL followed a steep pathway nearly to the bottom of the canyon. (People with heart or respiratory problems should not try to navigate this trail)

    You descend 240 steps or 185 feet (picture #4), passing some ruins which can be accessed and others merely to observe, as they hang high above the canyon beneath ledges unreachable by any trail. The solitude of the place was really impressed upon us.

    A visitor center and small museum is open from 9am-5pm daily. The RIM TRAIL is a shorter, easier trail that is paved and wheelchair accessible.

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    Walnut Canyon--How They Lived

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Sinaguan Dwelling
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    It was amazing we could actually step inside some of these cliff-side dwellings (picture 1 & 2 & 5)! They are located in the quiet isolation of Walnut Canyon. (picture 3).

    The Sinaguan people were able to find a variety of food sources here, such as bighorn sheep, deer, small mammals and rodents, as well as, pinyon nuts, yucca seeds and the Arizona black walnut.

    They farmed in washes wherever they could find room to place a crop of corn or squash. 'Check-dams' were also built in washes to catch run-off and create terraces for additional farming.

    It seemed strange to learn that this location has two very different conditions: the north slope is cooler and more moist where ponderosa pine and Douglas fir like to grow. The south slope is more desert-like and cactus, yucca and juniper thrive.

    Traces of this cliff-dwelling culture are still being found (picture #4).

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    Amazing Montezuma Castle National Monument

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Montezuma Castle National Monument
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    As we drove to Montezuma Castle National Monument we witnessed some exquisite views of the Verde Valley, which extended for miles and miles.

    We descended to enter Yavapai Indian lands, where a casino and hotel were situated, but more importantly where Montezuma Castle National Monument rested. It was located 100 feet above us, nestled beneath a cliff overlooking the Beaver Creek (picture #5).

    Although no one can enter the ruins, they still stand in a good state of preservation. The Sinaguan culture built a sturdy pueblo which at one time contained 40 or so rooms. Sinagua means "without water" although this group fortunately had the creek nearby. Corn and beans made up their crops, as well as cotton and squash.

    The Sinagua used sycamores for roof beams (picture #4) and if you look hard, they can still be seen. The various rooms of the main structure were added at a later point and some of the rooms were expanded to create a series of stacked rooms which form a tower.

    Other rooms can be seen along the cliff--where caves are located, the walls are built to partition the rooms off, thereby creating space in which to live (picture #2).

    This site is only opened from 8am-5pm or a bit later in summer and the gates are securely locked after this time. A visitors center and gift shop are located here. Admission was $5 each.

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    Sunset Crater-A Volcanic Eruption Preserved

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Sunset Crater and Bonito Lava Flow
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    Sunset Crater was caused by a volcanic eruption between 1040 and 1100 AD. An estimated one billion tons of material was spewed all over the area, with the ashfall extending 800 square miles. The crater is 1,000 feet high with a diameter of one mile.

    A trail (1.6 mi.) snakes around the Cinder Hills and Bonito Lava Flow area. It looks like this explosion could have taken place weeks ago, rather than over 1,000 years ago.

    Sunset Crater is considered a geographical 'infant' compared to other volcanic activity in the San Franciso Peak volcano field, which overlook this site.

    It's a good example of a CINDER CONE--with sides no steeper than 33 degrees and composed of a pile of loose fragments easily eroded by the wind. This means it can change shape and become less steep as the years go by.

    Cinders colored by iron oxidation in the magna piled up to form hills (picture #2).

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    Meteor Crater--An Extraordinary Site!

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Overlooking Meteor Crater
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    The Meteor Crater was created 50,000 years ago by a huge iron-nickel meteorite. It's estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several thousand pounds, unleashing an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT when it struck the earth.

    The crater it made is 550 feet deep and over 4000 feet across(picture 5). Along its sides, large pieces of limestone were hurled up and away and sit even now at the edge of the vast hole (pictures 3& 4). At its center, astronauts once trained for Apollo space missions.

    Although, previously thought to have been created by volcanic forces, the late Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (former Chief of the Branch of Astrogeology of the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff) proved in 1960 that Meteor Crater was the product of a giant impact event. An actual piece of the meteor is on display inside.(picture 2).

    The price was $15.00 pp adult admission charge. Meteor Crater has seasonal hours, so please see www.meteorcrater.com for more information.

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    FLAGSTAFF--The Historic District

    by VeronicaG Updated May 20, 2007

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    The Old Train Depot
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    The dramatic San Francisco Peaks, which include snow-capped Mt. Humphries at over 12,600 feet, appeared in our window as Flagstaff neared. We spent some time here as we drove to and from the Grand Canyon which is 81 miles away.

    The town (formally established in 1882) has a nicely preserved historic district. Come along to see some of the sights:

    (Picture 1 and 2) The original Flagstaff railroad depot (1889) and a tribute to the *gandy dancer sit at the same site along Rt. 66

    ( Picture 3) The 1926 railroad depot/visitor's center is located about a block from the original depot. For maps, restrooms or general info. stop at 1 E. Rt. 66 (928-774-9541)

    (picture 4) The Coconino County Courthouse

    (Picture 5) The Old Post Office (1917) now utilized as another business

    We were informed that out of 110 trains which continue to stop at Flagstaff, only two are passenger trains.

    FYI: *A gandy dancer is a worker who helped to build the railroad tracks. Since they had to work in unison, they used their tools to keep a beat as they pounded the spikes. The bronze sculpture is by Clyde Ross Morgan (2000)

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    Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

    by Yaqui Written Apr 14, 2008

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    When we started to explore Flagstaff, I noticed these signs for a historical landmark, so we followed them. This historic mansion is well within the university grounds now, but once was sprawling property. There were some structures and items of historic content to browse around, which was neat. Yet, there is not a lot of parking space available so be prepared during the busy summer months.

    Tours take you through one side of the home that is furnished with many of the original furniture. The tour guide we had that day was filled with so many facts and information about the family. She was really good. After this tour, they let you explore the other half of the house on your own to enjoy many artifacts, movies and photographs of the family. Outside on the grounds, is a self-guided tour of many of the mansions outside buildings.

    The Riordan brothers, Denis (Matt), Tim and Mike Riordan were Flagstaff pioneers who help develop the economic structure of the Flagstaff. These very prominent businessmen were successful in managing the mining and lumber industry. Matt was the first to migrate to Flagstaff in 1884 and worked managing the Ayer Lumber Company after many successful adventures with the mining industry. With this newfound success, he encouraged for his brothers Tim and especially Mike who was suffering from tuberculosis to join him in the clean dry air of Arizona that would hopefully heal him. Ayer Lumber Company was soon bought by the brothers and renamed the Arizona Lumber Company in 1887, but Matt decided he needed to move on to other adventures with his wife and family. He sold his shares to his brother Tim and Mike who decided they are staying and starting their own families. Tim and Mike married the Metz sisters who were cousins of the prominent Babbitt Family. Tim and Caroline had two daughters and Mike and Elizabeth has six children.

    Being a very close net family decided to build in 1904 a beautiful arts and crafts style home of forty rooms with over 13,000 square-feet of living area, and servant's quarters. It consisted of two very separate but almost exact living quarters on each end that was connected by a huge middle section that was designated as the common area, which was a billiard room, so both families could enjoy there company, but at the same time, enjoy there privacy. This home is very rustic and yet it was considered very modern during its time. It had all the current luxuries from within, although the exterior was very rough looking like a cabin. A 13,000 square foot cabin……LOL.

    Park Hours
    May - October: 8:30a.m. to 5:00p.m.
    November - April: 10:30a.m. to 5:00p.m.
    Open 7 days a week
    *c*

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    Flagstaff Visitor Center Station

    by Yaqui Updated Sep 30, 2012

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    Built in 1926 to replace the original railroad depot, it still serves the community as an Amtrak train station and a Visitor Center. I can never say enough about visitor centers and what a wonderful gem they are for travelers and tourist alike. Free local and state maps as well as other destination brochures are available. Let us not forget the knowledgeable staff who can always point you in the right direction of many local attractions. And this visitor center is very unique since it is located in the historic train station with some wonderful displays of historic photo's of Route 66 days, some other displays dedicated to the trains, to the stars and it also has some unique Route 66 gifts, Flagstaff souvenirs, gifts and books.

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    The Citadel--Wupatki National Monument

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    The Citadel
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    As we climbed the trail to The Citadel, it seemed as though it was perched atop this butte for defensive reasons, but archeologists aren't sure.

    You get a sense of its height (picture #4)as my husband scans the horizon from the top and the ground appears below (picture #5).

    The Citadel was inhabited over 800 years ago and is one of the larger pueblos that make up the Wapatki National Monument. It once stood one or two stories and contained about 30 rooms. From the top one can see the remains of other pueblos. It's thought that the people farmed and hunted in the valley below .

    At the beginning of the trail which leads to the top, a pueblo known as Nalakihu sits to the right. The Hopi name for it means, "House Standing Outside the Village" (picture #2).

    The Citadel overlooks a massive sinkhole (picture #3) which is a depression formed by a crack in the limestone that allows water to enter that dissolves the rock, eventually causing it to collapse. The sinkhole does not hold any water.

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    The Museum of Northern Arizona

    by VeronicaG Updated May 1, 2007

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    The Museum of Northern Arizona
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    Knowing that we would be visiting many of the ancient Indian ruins, we thought a tour of The Museum of Northern Arizona would be good preparation for what we would see--it made for good background information!

    These items displayed came from ancient sites:

    A black and white Sinaguan bowl, which is fairly rare, since white and red colors were mostly used for decoration (picture 2)

    A Chevelon storage basket found in a prehistoric pueblo dating from AD1150-1300 (picture #3)

    Projectile points determined to be from the Desert Culture period (picture #4)

    A permanent fine arts collection of early and late 20th century artists was wonderful. These artists portrayed scenes from around the Colorado Plateau/Grand Canyon that were stunning!

    Katsina Dolls carved in 1942 by contemporary craftsman, Jimmy Kewanwytewa (picture 5)

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    Sunset Crater--Bonito Lava Field and Trail

    by VeronicaG Updated May 1, 2007

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    'Squeeze Up' Lava Effects
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    The Bonito Lava Field appeared as if it could have flowed and hardened as recently as last week because the gray clumps resembled freshly overturned chunks of earth.

    Some of this unique topography was caused by "squeeze up", which is formed as pasty lava from beneath the surface oozes through a crack in the lava crust like toothpaste through a tube.

    The Bonito Flow was created when lava broke through the base of the Cinder Cone spilling out for six miles into a narrow valley below.

    There are two trails taking you into the crater: the longer trail (picture #2) stretching 1.6 miles curves through the Bonito lava field and beneath the Cinder Hills, while the shorter trail (1/4 mile) winds back to the parking lot.

    We paid $10 admission charge, which included Sunset Crater, Wupatki Monument.

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    Prehistoric Creatures at The Museum of N. Ariz.

    by VeronicaG Updated Aug 9, 2008

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    A  Fiercesome Therizinosaur
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    UPDATE: a fellow vter has told me that the creature pictured is a Dilophosaurus. I appreciate his input!

    A THERIZINOSAUR welcomes guests to a small, but interesting section on prehistoric creatures.

    Behind a glass case, a sloth skull and two immense mammoth teeth await your attention (picture 2).

    A mud cast of dinosaur tracks from thousands of years ago is placed nearby (picture 3).

    Besides all the superb collections, The Museum of Northern Arizona offers many classes for children of all ages. This museum is definitely doing its job in making people cognizant of the history of their area.

    If you're traveling through Flagstaff, bring your family to enjoy this wonderful museum! It's opened each day from 9am-5pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission price is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students and $4 for children 7-17.

    There are at least two gifts shops at the museum that are worth your time investigating through. We found several gifts to take home as souvenirs here (picture #4).

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    Wupatki Ruins-Part 2

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    The Ballcourt
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    As we wandered through the ruins, a pathway led us to this ballcourt and a very interesting site known as the 'blowhole'.

    The Watpatki ballcourt is considered unusual for this area. It may have been used for competitive games, children's stickball or maybe used as a reservoir to collect rain--it might have been a multi-purpose structure.

    Some archeologists think items were exchanged here when clans gathered in competitive sport. This ballcourt could have functioned as a link between the many regions.

    A blowhole (picture #2) is a crevice in the earth's crust that appears to breathe. It connects to an underground passage called an 'earthcrack'. Earthcracks are the results of earth quake activity in the Kaibab limestone bedrock that have been enlarged over time.

    The Hopi, descendants of these people, refer to them as EARTH SPIRITS.

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    Meteor Crater Museum, etc.

    by VeronicaG Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    The Meteor Crater Museum
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    Within the crater compound you'll find a small, but excellent museum with many displays on space and space travel.

    There is quite a wealth of information on planets, stars, asteroids, meteoroids and other astronomical facts.

    There are two displays in which you can take a picture of yourself either side by side with an astronaut suited up for travel or exploring the surface of the moon (picture 2).

    The Wall of Astronauts (picture 3) listed most of those who traveled into space or lost their lives attempting to do so. A few recent names have to be added to the list.

    Don't forget to have your photo taken in front of a full size space capsule which is on display as you enter the building (picture 4).

    A theatre which gives the whole story of the Meteor Crater(picture 5) and a great little gift shop carrying all types of space souvenirs, including meteor samples for sale at $4.99 and up.

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