Northern Arizona is a beautiful region of the U.S. that is filled with history and natural wonders. Flagstaff, Arizona sits in the middle of this wonderful region and serves as a perfect hub from which to explore. Flagstaff is a college town at around 7000 feet elevation. Set amidst pine forests at the base of the San Francisco Peaks your family will enjoy exploring the town and the surrounding area. Expect it to be sunny and dry in the summer, and cold and snowy in winter. Here are the top 8 family travel attractions within easy driving distance from Flagstaff divided into proximity for easy planning.
In and Around Town –
- Historic Route 66 runs through the middle of downtown. There are themed restaurants, motels, and shops lining the road. A walking tour map is available at the Visitor’s Center. For young Disney/Pixar fans, think of the Cars movies. Radiator Springs in the movies and at Disney’s California Adventure is based on Route 66.
- Lowell Observatory is where (former planet) Pluto was discovered. It is located on a hill in town. Flagstaff has laws limiting the use of outdoor lights at night so as to not interfere with telescopes. Evidence of an expanding galaxy, found here, helped lead to the Big Bang Theory. Although, this may sound dry, it is presented in a manner that is educational and quite enjoyable. Daily tours, video, lectures, and night-time viewing through the famous telescope are available.
- Walnut Canyon National Monument is a beautiful site that home to the native Sinagua people until about 800 years ago. It is an easy 10-12 minute drive southeast of Flagstaff. There is a small visitors center. A 1 mile trail descends into the the canyon along a ledge and past 25 of the 80 cliff dwellings. You will be amazed at the views into the canyon and into ancient dwellings. It is another educational opportunity that your family will enjoy.
Northeast Loop –
- Wupatki National Monument is home to the ruins of a multifamily dwelling of the ancient Pueblo people that inhabited this site from about 500 – 1200 A.D. The “tall house” was once the home of up to 100 people and can be explored up close and personal. A ball court and a geologic blowhole are also here to be explored. This is yet another inspirational and educational site for you family to visit.
- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument offers another educational and entertaining opportunity for your family. You will walk through 1000 year old lava fields left from the last eruption. This is a truly unique experience. You will be amazed how the land has not completely recovered in all of those years. You can no longer hike up the crater. There is a trail at the base with plaques that tell about the site and the lava. You can also hike up other hills for views of the lava fields, crater, and the San Francisco Peaks.
- Painted Desert is visible from the same loop as the previous two sites. There are vistas overlooking the pastel reds, yellows and browns that blend together into a mosaic more beautiful than any art gallery.
Day Trips –
- Sedona, Arizona is a tourist town 45 minutes south of Flagstaff. You drive along a windy road, descending 2700 feet through forest and into town. The drive itself is worth the time. The town is quite touristy and a little too hip for my personal taste, but the surrounding area is stunning. Huge red rock monoliths are visible from your car. Miles and miles of trails are accessible to hike through and view the natural beauty.
- Grand Canyon is about 80 miles, a 90 minute drive, north of Flagstaff. The Grand Canyon will leave you in awe. At least a full day should be spent here; more if you wish to hike into the canyon or camp. We will dedicate a future article to this Natural Wonder of the World.
Flagstaff, Arizona is a perfect location from which you and your family can explore this region filled with natural and man-made wonders. Add it to your family travel plans.
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