Where can you experience all four seasons in Arizona? Flagstaff offers powdery snow in the winter, color in the fall, wildflowers in the spring, and gorgeous, green summers.
In less than four hours, you can leave behind the Tucson desert (which has its own magnetism) and be immersed in towering Ponderosa Pine trees at almost 7,000 feet.
Home to Arizona's tallest mountain (Humphrey's Peak) and an incredible skiing/snowboarding destination (Arizona Snowbowl), Flagstaff is a quaint and lively college town with a population of just over 76,000.
Flagstaff offers strong appeal as a medium-sized city (not too large, not too small) with a beautiful nature backdrop. Avid hikers and bikers love the area for its peaceful, mountainous terrain - while hunters and fishermen also find plentiful wide open spaces for their sport of choice.
The route from Tucson to Flagstaff will take you right through the heart of the Phoenix valley. As such, you may want to try to avoid peak rush hour times (weekday mornings & evenings).
As the fifth largest city in the United States, Phoenix offers big city restaurants, attractions, shopping, and resorts. If you want to make a stop between Tucson and Flagstaff for food or fun, you will likely find what you are looking for in Phoenix.
Flagstaff offers a full four-season experience with temperatures to match. Even in the winter, however, you can still expect the ubiquitous Arizona sunshine to splash on your cheeks. On average, Flagstaff has 288 days of sunshine per year, which is more than the national average of 205 days.
Be sure to check the forecast before you go, but you can use the below temperature averages as a general guideline.
No matter the season, be sure to pack layers, to wear sunglasses, and to slather on sunscreen. The higher elevation can lead to sunburns - even in frosty weather.
Because Flagstaff has 76,000+ people and is home to Northern Arizona University, there are a number of convenient hotel options.
Residence Inn Flagstaff is a Marriott-branded hotel that has a premium location right in the heart of Downtown Flagstaff. Walk out the front doors and you're steps away from restaurants, bars, a sweet shoppe (with specialty caramel apples), the public library, and the visitor's center (which is housed in an old train station).
The rooms are modern and spacious - with open floor plans and functional kitchenettes. The decor style is minimalistic chic - with splashes of color that are reminiscent of Arizona sunsets (cheerful yellows, pumpkin oranges, and fiery reds).
Enjoy complimentary breakfast every morning - which includes scrambled eggs, make-your-own waffles, bagels & toast, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, a veggie crumble, egg whites, coffee, and juice. This Residence Inn also offers a fitness center, an indoor pool & jacuzzi, and pre-mapped running routes via the MapMyFitness app.
Parking is $9 per day in two adjacent lots. Be sure to note that almost all of the roads in Downtown Flagstaff are one-way.
NOTES ABOUT RESIDENCE INN FLAGSTAFF
Five other hotel options you might want to consider in Flagstaff are:
Note that there are no large-scale resorts in Flagstaff, but you can find charming bed & breakfasts in addition to standard hotels and quirky motels.
Flagstaff Visitor Center
A smart first stop when you arrive in Flagstaff is the Flagstaff Visitor Center. Located in an old AMTRAK station right next to the railroad tracks, the visitor center is centrally located in the city and easily walkable to Downtown Flagstaff's restaurants and shops.
The visitor center offers brochures and information on area attractions, as well as Flagstaff and Grand Canyon-themed souvenirs.
Downtown Flagstaff is quaint, quiet, and charming. You'll find cafes, candy shops, bookstores, breweries, pizzerias, and bars - along with large-scale murals, which will be perfect for your instagram feed.
Sweet Shoppe Candy Store
Located conveniently on Aspen Drive in Downtown Flagstaff, this adorable treat shop is like stepping into Candyland or Willa Wonka's Chocolate Shop. You'll find creamy gelato, rich fudge in an assortment of flavors, and decorated candy apples standing up proudly under glass displays.
The popular locally-owned shop, which opened in 2011, also offers decadent hand-dipped chocolates and old-fashioned candies (including glee gum, jelly belly beans, taffy, and pop rocks).
On a warm summer day, indulge in a scoop of gelato, which is available in both traditional and unusual flavors - cherry amaretti cookie, cactus pear, strawberry cheesecake, and lemoncello, among many others.
If you are intrigued by the case of pastel macarons, try one! The smooth circular cookies, originating from France, are probably nothing like the ones you have tasted. The pastry shells are cool and soft with a subtle cream frosting that will delight your palette.
Visiting with your dog? No problem! Sweet Shoppe is dog-friendly and you can even purchase a candy-coated dog bone for your precious pooch!
Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course
Consistently rated among the top 3 attractions in Flagstaff, you and your family won't want to miss Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course!
Intelligently designed for maximum safety and fun, you will be challenged to face your fears and to try new things. Go beyond your comfort zone and make memories with the people you love.
For the kids in your party, there is a Kid's Course specifically designed for ages 7-11 (minimum height requirement: 4'7''). The cost is $30 and your child can complete the course up to three times.
Anyone over age 12 can take on the full Adventure Course, which has five different "levels." Conquer one or conquer them all. You will be able to stay on the course until sunset so plan your arrival time accordingly. Teens, ages 12 to 15, must be accompanied by an adult. The first three levels are relatively comparable, but the final two levels significantly up the ante in the amount of strength and stamina required. All levels include ziplines as part of the course. The cost is $60 per guest.
Both courses feature a treehouse like environment that will make you feel like you are leaping through the pines.
Hiking, Biking, and The Outdoors
If you love the outdoors, you will find many kindred spirits in Flagstaff. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and hunting are all popular pastimes - not to mention wandering the nearby national parks and monuments (including Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Coconino National Forest). PRO TIP: If you have a 4th grader, you can get a FREE National Parks pass!
The Griffith Spring Trail is a terrific hiking option if you have little ones. The peaceful one-mile loop features towering pine trees, a bubbling creek, and many rocks for leaping or climbing over.
Winter Activities & Snowplay
In the winter, you can hit the slopes to ski or snowboard at Arizona Snowbowl - or go tubing at Flagstaff Snow Park.
Sledding and tubing are popular pastimes during the winter months, but be sure to go Discover Flagstaff for a winter recreation map that identifies sledding area locations and to clean up all of your litter and sleds before you leave. You can call the Snowplay Hotline for current conditions: 1-844-256-SNOW.
Interesting fact: Pluto was discovered in Flagstaff in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Where? At Lowell Observatory!
Lowell Observatory, which was established in 1894, is a 750-acre non-profit research foundation and a working science center. Open to the public, the observatory offers multimedia presentations, exhibits, and telescope viewings (dependent on weather conditions). The observatory is open year-round, 10:00am-10:00pm every day except Tuesday and 10:00am-5:00pm on Tuesdays. Adult admission is $29; child admission (ages 5-17) is $17. Admission for college students is $19. Children under age five are always free.
Top Tips for Visiting Lowell Observatory:
Other local attractions to look into include: The City of Flagstaff Aquaplex, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, and Museum of Northern Arizona.
Like Tucson, Flagstaff has a vibrant culinary scene - with fresh foods, inventive entrees, and alfresco dining. Pictured above: Cajun barbecue and comfort foods from Satchmo's.
Flagstaff also has a growing number of breweries as well as a self-guided beer trail (Flagstaff Brewery Trail) if you are inclined to follow it.
Up for a short drive? Flagstaff is an excellent "home base" for exploring the grandeur of the state.
Grand Canyon National Park
Because the Grand Canyon is only 60-90 minutes from Flagstaff, many people choose to stay in Flagstaff and day trip to one of the most visited tourist attractions in the USA. Offering truly spectacular views, the Grand Canyon is an excellent place to hike, take pictures, do an ultra-run, or ride a mule. For a unique experience, consider taking a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Sedona & Oak Creek Canyon
Just shy of an hour from Flagstaff, Sedona is a scenic retreat - world-famous for hiking, mountain biking, spa treatments, boutique shopping, and breathtaking red rock views.
Other Nearby Attractions
You may also want to consider adding Bearizona Wildlife Park, Out of Africa Wildlife Park, or Canyon de Chelly to your itinerary.
Watch this page for continued updates and top tips for planning your next trip to Flagstaff.