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Cool summer nights and snowy winter days are not typically associated with Arizona, yet that’s just what you’ll find in the beautiful city of Flagstaff, Arizona. The pine mountains, Native American ruins, and volcanic lava flows surprise and delight visitors of all ages. Discover why Flagstaff is a favorite retreat of Arizonans, and find fun things to do in Flagstaff with kids.
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Fun Things to do in Flagstaff with Kids
- Tackle obstacles and zip between trees at Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Park. Each adventure course offers a range of obstacles such as rope swings, hanging nets, and wobbly bridges. This is a great way to experience some thrills in the Flagstaff area. Participation is open to kids as young as seven years old.
- Enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds of The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Buy a take-out lunch at Woody’s Sandwich Shop or bring your own. During the summer months, kids also enjoy visiting the seasonal Butterfly House.
- Getting hot? Go swimming at Flagstaff Aquaplex, a multi-generational recreation center. In case of poor weather, head indoors for the climbing wall or open gym time.
The diverse landscape of Flagstaff makes it ideal for outdoor adventure. The mountain range was formed by volcanoes, leaving awesome formations to explore.
- Hike through a tube where lava once flowed in the Lava River Cave. You will have to crawl over some rocks and boulders but the hike is easy enough for preschoolers to manage. Bring some flashlights and jackets because the cave stays dark and cool year round.
- At Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, families walk through black lava fields beneath a dormant volcanic crater. Pick up a Junior Ranger packet and trail guide from the visitor center before heading out to the trails. The visitor center is full of family-friendly exhibits as well, so plan to spend some time there.
Native American Ruins
- Included in admission to Sunset Crater is entrance to Wupatki National Monument. The drive between the two parks is gorgeous as pine forests give way to red rocks. At Wupatki, stop by the visitor center to learn about the native people who lived in these prehistoric pueblos (and to grab your Junior Ranger packet and trail guide).
- Flagstaff is home to amazing cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument. The hike down from the visitors center (don’t forget to grab that Junior Ranger packet!) to the cliff dwellings contains a daunting amount of steps, but is well worth it. Along the trail, you can pop inside the 900-year-old structures and imagine what life was like for the Native American’s who lived there.
Historic Things to do in Flagstaff
- Explore the history of Flagstaff by visiting the Pioneer Museum, housed in the 1908 hospital building. Kid-friendly outdoor exhibits including a train they can climb on and antique cars and farm equipment. There is also a kids room with dress-ups and touchable artifacts.
- If your kids are old enough to keep from touching things for a little while (probably ages eight and up), check out the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. While half the 1900’s home is hands-off, the other half is an interactive museum where families are encouraged to touch and play. Arizona State Parks offer their own Junior Ranger program so kids can enjoy earning that here too.
- Museum of Northern Arizona explores the history of the Colorado Plateau. Visit the hands-on geology gallery, a recreated Hopi kiva, and artifacts from the tribes of the Colorado Plateau.
- Historic Route 66 goes straight through downtown Flagstaff. Feel the nostalgic vibes by visiting the historic downtown district. Or head to the Northern Arizona University campus to see the lumberjack mascot who once welcomed diners to the Lumberjack Cafe.
- Did you know Pluto was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff? Take the Pluto tour to learn all about the fascinating discovery of this distant planet. Or skip the tours and enjoy Coconino National Forest with spacial walks representing the relative distance between planets and solar systems. The inside of the observatory offer a few activities for kids, too.
- When the weather turns colder, one of the fun things to do in Flagstaff is snow play. Sled down groomed hills at Flagstaff Snow Park. Sledding tubes are included in the entrance fee.
- For downhill skiing, you’ll want to head to Arizona Snowbowl. They offer equipment rentals and lessons for all ages. This ski resort in the San Francisco Peaks also boasts the largest beginner terrain in the southwest.
- If you are lucky enough to visit Flagstaff for the holiday season, plan ahead and buy tickets for the North Pole Experience. From the Little America Hotel you will be magically shuttled to Santa’s workshop for an exclusive tour lead by elves and ending with a private visit with Santa himself.
Where to Stay
- Flagstaff, AZ is home to some amazing family-friendly hotels. Check out Embassy Suites Flagstaff for their all-suite rooms and awesome made-to-order breakfasts.
- The spacious rooms at Springhill Suites provide lots of room to relax. And the kids love the fresh waffle bar at the free buffet breakfast.
- If you are visiting in the winter, you’ll want to stay at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff. As the portal for the North Pole Experience, the hotel is decorated with twinkling lights and filled with elves. It is also located in the middle of a Ponderosa pine forest so there is lots of wilderness to explore right outside your door.
For more holiday fun, check out our full guide on Christmas Events in Flagstaff.
Where to Eat
- Bigfoot BBQ in downtown Flagstaff not only has a tasty selection of southern fare, it also has a fun kids area.
- Satisfy your craving for some south-of-the-border food at Flagstaff’s best Mexican restaurant, Salsa Brava.
- If you have some picky eaters, head over to Beaver Street Brewery where you’ll find a vast menu that is sure to please everyone.
Day Trips from Flagstaff
- Did you know the Grand Canyon South Rim is only an hour and a half from Flagstaff? The massive canyon carved by the flowing Colorado river astounds millions of visitors every year. Although the view is the main attraction at this national park, you can find more to do with our article Things to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim with Kids.
- Visit bears, bison, and bighorn sheep at Bearizona Wildlife Park. This unique attraction allows visitors to see wild animals in their natural habitat. Bearizona is located about 30 minutes west of Flagstaff in Williams, AZ.
- About 40 miles east of Flagstaff, find evidence of a meteor that collided with earth 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater offers indoor viewing for when it’s hot, and outdoor trails to enjoy when the weather is nice. Families live the Interactive Discovery Center and 4D Experience Room.
- The peaceful serenity of Sedona is just a short drive from Flagstaff. Hike through the otherworldly landscapes at Red Rock State Park. Or play in a natural waterside at Slide Rock State Park. We have an entire article dedicated to visiting Sedona with kids that you should check out!
Visiting more of Arizona with the kids? Check out our Top 10 Things for Families to do in Arizona.
Featured photo by: Shutterstock