12 Things To Do With Family In Flagstaff, Arizona

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the heart of northern Arizona’s pine forests, Flagstaff is a charming mountain town with no shortage of fun family activities. From exploring ancient Native American ruins to riding the longest scenic chairlift in America, there are plenty of unique adventures to enjoy.

The crisp mountain air, scenic vistas of the majestic San Francisco Peaks, and historic downtown filled with boutiques and cafes further add to Flagstaff’s family-friendly appeal. Whether you want to connect with nature, soak up some history, or simply enjoy quality time together, Flagstaff has something for every member of the family. Here are 12 fantastic things to do with your family in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Explore the Ruins at Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon offers a peek into the lives of the people who once called this beautiful and rugged land their home more than 750 years ago. As you descend the Island Trail loop down 185 feet into Walnut Canyon, you’ll get a close look at the well-preserved cliff dwellings where the Sinagua people lived. The short one-mile hike is suitable for families, with only 240 stairs in and out of the canyon.

As you walk, picture ancient life here while admiring the 25 rooms along the way. Make sure to stop at the many viewing points to spot additional ruins tucked high in nearly inaccessible alcoves. The Island Trail hike brings this remote canyon and its history to vivid life for kids. Plan to spend at least two hours exploring.

Stand in Awe Before Meteor Crater

What happens when a fiery space rock slams into Earth at 26,000 miles per hour? Find out as you stand at the edge of Meteor Crater, an enormous impact site over one mile across and more than 550 feet deep. This crater was created nearly 50,000 years ago and remains remarkably preserved, providing the best evidence found to date of our planet’s violent collision history.

Walk along the Rim Trail for scenic overlooks with interpretive plaques explaining the crater’s history and geology. The Apollo Astronaut Trail highlights NASA’s astronaut training for the moon missions here in the 1960s. Kids will enjoy the Interactive Learning Center’s engaging displays and theater with videos dramatically depicting the meteorite impact. The views into the deep, colorful layers and rocky walls of the crater itself will leave your whole family in awe.

Stroll Through Downtown Flagstaff

Historic downtown Flagstaff retains its Old West charm, family-owned shops, and railway legacy with restored train cars on display. Kids will love old-fashioned candy and ice cream parlors like Late for the Train. The town square corners feature oversized metal locomotives that beg to be climbed on. There’s a small park and splash pad for little ones needing to cool off or blow off some steam.

Colorful Route 66 themed gift shops, boutiques, bookstores, cafes, and eateries ring Heritage Square and surround the train depot. Take selfies in front of the towering Hotel Monte Vista sign and beloved mural depicting Route 66 history. Peek into hobbyist stores and galleries for local Native American artwork or custom leather goods. With frequent community events and street musicians setting a pleasant small-town mood, downtown Flagstaff puts a smile on every visitor’s face.

Enjoy Scenic Views on Lake Mary Road

For picture-perfect mountain scenery, take your family on a gorgeous drive around Upper Lake Mary. This paved road winds past shimmering blue Lake Mary, nestled beneath towering pines and the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff’s iconic mountain that dominates the horizon at 12,633 feet.

Pull over at a lakeside picnic area or simply get out to skip rocks and enjoy the crisp mountain air. Visit in fall for fiery displays of golden aspen trees. Stop to capture Instagram-worthy images of the rugged landscape at scenic turnouts. Note the depth gauge on mile marker 11 for peak snowpack levels, often topping 16 feet! Smiley Rock near Upper Lake Mary resembles a sun-kissed smile locals affectionately call “Mona Lisa Rock.” Your family will cherish special moments spent bonding together in nature’s splendor. Allow time to explore side forest roads for free dispersed camping and hidden lakes like Margaret and Laura.

Ride the Lifts up Mount Humphreys

Soar to new heights both in elevation and family fun aboard the lifts at Arizona Snowbowl. Your family will fondly remember a day spent on 12,300 foot Mt. Humphreys after riding the scenic chairlift four miles to the top. The Agassiz lift is the longest continuous chairlift in America! As you ride, enjoy astounding panoramic views of the Painted Desert and far-off Grand Canyon.

In winter, schuss down beginner and intermediate slopes or go tubing at lower elevations. Warm up with hot cider in the colorful base lodge. Ski rentals and lessons are available to learn a new sport together. At the Sunrise Summit, hike easy trails on a carpet of wildflowers in summer. Or just breathe deep and relax at the top of the world. No matter the season, Mt. Humphreys never fails to uplift. Plan to stay all day!

Get Soaked at the Aquaplex

When Flagstaff families need to chill out, they head straight for the Aquaplex! Northern Arizona’s largest indoor waterpark features body slides, inner-tube slides, a 500-gallon tipping bucket, lazy river, aqua climb, hot tubs, and an expansive splash play structure with small slides. Little ones love the Splashpad zero depth entry, Activity Pool with basketball hoops, and dedicated Kiddie Kingdom area.

Bigger kids clamor to conquer Avalanche Summit’s towering multistory slides Turbo and Black Hole before racing each other down Sidewinder body slides. Parents can relax riverside or join in the fun! Aquaplex life jackets are provided free of charge for non-swimmers. Private cabanas with fans, TV and fridge rentals mean the whole family can stay comfy while playing all day. With fun for all ages, the Aquaplex guarantees smiles and happy memories.

Tour Sunset Crater and Wupatki Volcano Landscapes

For families intrigued by volcanos, a day exploring vividly colored volcanic landscapes makes the perfect adventure. Watch your kids’ eyes widen as they first glimpse the deep red and jet black terrain of Sunset Crater, evidence of an eruption here just 1,000 years ago in which lava and ash spread across 800 square miles. Walk the one-mile Lava Flow Trail among the crater’s jagged lava fields twisted into incredible shapes like ropy pahoehoe and volcanic bombs. Marvel at multicolored cinder cone peaks tinted sunset shades.

Then drive just 15 minutes north to discover even more remarkable volcanic remains at Wupatki National Monument, where 800-year-old pueblo ruins perch dramatically on an eerie landscape seemingly devoid of life. Short easy walks let you explore multiple dwelling sites like 100-room Wupatki Pueblo, inhabited at the height of eruption activity here, either confident the danger had passed or coerced into trade. Contemplate the eruption’s catastrophic impacts on ancient cultures as your family ponders volcanos’ raw power to utterly transform a landscape for centuries.

Witness the Past at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

Step back into the Gilded Age at this historic Arts and Crafts style mansion built in 1904 using locally quarried mossy basalt volcanic rock. Filled with original furnishings, the Riordan home brings Northern Arizona’s pioneer logging era to life through living history tours, exhibits like the astonishingly modern steam-powered Otis elevator, and hands-on activities for kids like scavenger hunts.

Stroll 13 acres of manicured grounds and gardens landscaped with ponderosa pines the Riordan brothers helped protect from overlogging. Peek inside the 46-room mansion to witness how Flagstaff’s prominent lumber baron owners lived with astounding opulence. The striking Craftsman architecture, handmade furniture, and intricately stenciled walls offer a glimpse into Flagstaff’s formative years when timber was king. Getting to explore secret passages used by servants makes any kid feel like a pioneer! Families come away with insights into how early industry shaped local history.

Play Disc Golf at Thorpe Park

Treat your active kids to some forest frisbee fun with a round of disc golf! This beloved Flagstaff park features an 18-hole championship disc golf course that loops through towering pines with creek crossings. The course incorporateselevation changes that add challenging variety. Cement tee pads and steel baskets serve as holes to aim for after booming drives or graceful putts across open meadows.

Rent discs affordably on-site or bring your own. Little ones can tag along the wide paths or detour to playgrounds. Reward everyone with soft serve ice cream from the park concession after all that fresh air! Located just three miles from downtown Flagstaff off Rte. 66, Thorpe Park also offers lighted tennis courts, basketball, and a dog park for the whole family to enjoy. Playing disc golf together creates priceless memories.

Tour the Lowell Observatory

Glimpse giant planets, galaxies, star clusters and more through the famed telescopes at Flagstaff’s acclaimed Lowell Observatory. This renowned astronomical complex where Pluto was discovered hosts incredible public nightly viewings for amateur stargazers plus daytime solar viewing. Visit the Rotunda Museum’s engaging exhibits explaining historic scientific discoveries here.

Interactives like the live Giant World Globe and Solar System Walk vividly bring astronomy to life, especially for kids. Ensure clear dark skies by taking the popular Behind the Scenes tour to see the 24” Clark Refractor telescope that first spotted evidence suggesting Pluto’s existence. Families bond over a shared sense of wonder! Cap your visit by gazing at infinity inside the Steele Visitor Center’s innovative Giovale Open Deck Observatory under the watchful eyes of photographic murals of Apollo 11 astronauts who trained using Lowell telescopes. The night sky comes alive here for every generation.

Hike Lava River Cave

Looking for a cool family adventure? Lace up your sneakers, grab flashlights, and head underground to explore the longest lava tube cave open to the public in Arizona! This mile-long subterranean passage stays a constant 42 degrees, making it the perfect diversion on a hot day near Flagstaff.

Trek through the prehistoric underground lava flow, gazing up at lava dripping frozen in place like candle wax. Have contests to see whose flashlight beam reaches farthest into the velvety darkness. Listen to eerie dripping water and your footsteps crunching on loose rocks underfoot. Search the frosty cave walls for springtime ice formations as you learn how volcanos shape the land above and below ground. Watch little adventurers beam with pride as they conquer any lingering nighttime fears. End your lava cave conquest at nearby volcanic ash beds for grey moonscape selfies with the kids!

Cheer on the Team at a Lumberjacks Game

No trip to Flagstaff is complete without supporting the hometown favorite Lumberjacks college baseball team! Attending an NAU team game is a beloved family tradition. Kids will be captivated watching future major league all-stars competing fiercely out on the field. The loud cheers and energetic atmosphere leave everyone feeling part of a community coming together.

Before the game, enjoy a cookout tailgate with other families in the parking lots surrounding scenic Walkup Skydome stadium in the cool pines. Let the kids dash about with their newfound friends while you toss beanbags and relax over chips and hot dogs fresh off the grill. Once inside, take silly selfies posing with LOGO the mascot in his logger costume before finding prime seats to cheer on the Jacks. Wave giveaway thundersticks wildly after big plays and impressive homeruns sailing out across the outfield. The whole family will be on their feet screaming joyously if the home team snags a win!

Conclusion

With stunning mountain scenery, rich pioneer history, exciting outdoor adventures, hands-on museums, scenic drives, and plenty of Old West charm, Flagstaff serves up vibrant experiences for families of all ages and interests year-round. From thrills like racing down ski slopes to more relaxed moments bonding over backyard astronomy or rides aboard a historic railway, there are always special memories to be made. When you’re looking to disconnect from devices and reconnect as a family, Flagstaff’s wide open spaces and wealth of activities beckon your whole crew to come explore!

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