When a band of Bostonian emigrants stripped a Ponderosa pine of branches and bark to create a “flag pole”, they had no idea that they had sparked the beginnings of a settlement that would provide so much opportunity and value for generations to come. At one time a mere stopping point for those heading towards California, Flagstaff soon developed into a bustling, industrious railroad town. Early settlers, mesmerized by the beauty of the majestic landscape, stayed on because of the ability to start anew, and create prosperous lives. Today, with the grand San Francisco Peaks as a backdrop, the highly elevated city of Flagstaff (some 7000 feet, to be exact), is a central landing spot for anyone who thrives on history and adventure.
Flagstaff is centrally located amongst some of Arizona’s most exhilarating landmarks, such as the Grand Canyon, the red rock formations of Sedona, the Wupatki Indian Ruins, and natural wonders such as the Sunset Crater Volcano. With four distinct seasons, there is absolutely no shortage of breathtaking vistas for anyone who wants to be immersed in nature, and the view is constantly changing!
For history buffs, Flagstaff is chock full of memorials, parks and museums which display homage to the past, and the settlement of the West. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is a terrific starting point. You can learn about the lives of the Riordan family, pioneers in building and developing Flagstaff’s economic and social structure. Move on to Arizona Historical Society’s Pioneer Museum, which offers over 10,000 artifacts from early costuming to a 1929 steam locomotive.
If you seek knowledge about the Native American cultures of northern Arizona, visit the Wupatki National Monument to explore some of the ancient pueblos. Travel to the Hopi Indian Reservation and delve into the story of this peaceful tribe, by way of a private tour with Hopi Guide Gary Tso. Wander amongst meticulously created rock carvings at the Dawaki site, which is only accessible with a guide, and into the homes of Hopi artists to inspect hand-crafted pottery, exquisite silver and turquoise jewelry and other incredible works which exhibit their pride and love for this land.
Flagstaff offers traditional tourist fare, with unique local shops, eateries, and lodging options. Public transportation is provided by Pine County Transit, with bus routes around the city, or local shuttle services which are available for hire. For those who seek more than just rest and relaxation, Flagstaff has myriad activities that call out to anyone wanting incredible physical challenges and adventure. From hiking and horseback riding in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, exploring the sacred landscapes of this dormant volcano, to a more homogeneous, non-commercial skiing experience in the breathtaking Snowbowl, with over 21 feet of snowfall annually, sitting still is not an option! For Arizona Cardinal fans, visiting Flagstaff in late summer provides the opportunity for a face-to-face experience with the team during annual training camp.
After seeing some athletic stars, do some celestial star-gazing at the famed Lowell Observatory. Founded by Andrew E. Douglass, in 1894, chosen for its clear, unobstructed view of the sky, this private, non-profit, research facility gained prominence in 1930, when astronomer V.M. Slipher discovered the planet Pluto. Back down on earth, learning more about the local flora and fauna is as simple as visiting The Arboretum at Flagstaff. This spectacular 200-acre botanical observatory gives visitors the opportunity to hike through a Ponderosa pine forest, and inspect one of the largest collections of highland wildflowers in the United States.
If you’ve still got energy to burn, Flagstaff has some terrific free entertainment options. Head down to Heritage Square, at the heart of the city, and discover live music series and performances, family movie nights, and much more. If you prefer a little risk, take a chance on the Cliff Castle Casino. Owned and operated by the Yavapai-Apache nation, this is more than just a gamble! The luxurious facility also houses plenty of activities for families, such as a bowling center, live performances by national artists, fine dining, and a play center just for kids.
No matter what you’re seeking, be it nature, history, sports, or culture, Flagstaff puts you at the heart of Northern Arizona and it’s points of interest.