Planning your first trip to Flagstaff, Arizona? It's a great base for a Grand Canyon trip, and there are a lot of other fun things to do here too.
We teamed up with Discover Flagstaff – the official visitor's bureau – to plan our Spring Break trip. I'm glad we did because they recommended great local hotels, restaurants, and activities that we might have overlooked. Check their website, send them an email, or give them a call if you need help planning your Flagstaff family road trip.
We visited Flagstaff in Spring 2021, while many attractions were still limiting access and services due to COVID-19. This affected our experience somewhat, but with masks and distancing, there was still plenty of fun to be had. Flagstaff encourages visitors to “Stay, Play, Distance, and Mask Responsibly.”
Here's what to expect in Flagstaff, Arizona, plus tips for when to go, where to stay, what to do, and more.
Flagstaff is the largest city in Northern Arizona and the largest city near the Grand Canyon. It is the home of Northern Arizona University and Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort.
If you imagine deserts, cactus, and heat when you think of Arizona, Flagstaff is different. This mountain city is nestled in a green, ponderosa pine forest. Expect snow in the winter and warm (not HOT) sunshine in the summer.
When to Go
Flagstaff is a four-season destination. We were there for Spring Break in late March when temperatures were cool, but pleasant for most outdoor activities. And Snowbowl was still open for skiing.
Summer is warm – but not nearly as warm as Phoenix and other Arizona hot spots. Average summer temperatures are in the low 80's (F). Expect peak crowds on weekends and holidays.
Temperatures cool off again in the fall and it's a good time to find fall leaves in the mountains. Winter is a great time to enjoy some of Arizona's best skiing, sledding, and other snow sports.
Flagstaff is a great road trip destination – whether you drive your own car or fly in and rent a car. We drove from Salt Lake City to Flagstaff in about eight hours, with a stop at Horseshoe Bend along the way.
The Flagstaff Airport has flights to/from Phoenix, Denver, and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Phoenix Sky Harbor is the closest major airport. You can drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff in just over two hours.
Where to Stay
Choose from dozens of hotels in Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a down-to-earth place and most hotels here are family-friendly and affordable.
You'll find all the major hotel chains in Flagstaff, but we tried two local places and we recommend both Little America and Motel DuBeau.
Little America is a large hotel located just off of Interstate 40. It has many standard hotel rooms and a few larger suites. We loved the two-bedroom suite, which offered plenty of personal space, a full kitchen, and enough beds for 8 guests.
Little America also has an outdoor pool, playground, on-site restaurant, and a nature trail that connects to the Flagstaff Urban Trails System.
Motel DuBeau is a historic hotel that offers a great location for an affordable price. You'll find it downtown, right on Route 66, and within easy walking distance of restaurants, shopping, NAU, and the Flagstaff Visitor Center.
Motel DuBeau is old but clean. We stayed in the Family Suite, which has a queen-size bed and a set of bunk beds in separate rooms. I loved the convenient community kitchen, guest laundry, and free downtown parking.
Where to Eat
I have picky kids, including one vegetarian, so it can be tricky to find a restaurant that everyone likes. We found lots of great local restaurants in Flagstaff that had something for everyone on the menu.
Here are a handful of the Flagstaff restaurants that we enjoyed.
- Beaver Street Brewery – wood-fired pizza and burgers
- Brandy's Restaurant and Bakery – delicious for breakfast
- Downtown Diner – all-day breakfast or burgers
- Karma Sushi – we loaded up on rolls at Happy Hour
- Sweet Shoppe Candy Store – we loved the gelato here
Things to Do
I wrote a whole article about all the fun things my family did in Flagstaff. Click HERE to open it in a separate window.
To summarize, Flagstaff makes a great base for a Grand Canyon trip. There are places you can stay that are closer to the Grand Canyon, but none of them have as many other things to do.
Here are a few of our favorite activities in and around Flagstaff.
- Grand Canyon National Park – one of the world's best-known natural wonders
- Lowell Observatory – Pluto was discovered in Flagstaff's dark skies
- Flagstaff Extreme – 30+ zip lines on 3 courses. This was my teens' favorite activity.
- Segway Tour – 2-hour guided tour of historic downtown and NAU
- Wupatki National Monument – some of the largest ancient ruins in the region
- Sunset Crater National Monument – inactive volcano and lava fields
- Walnut Canyon National Monument – explore ancient cliff dwellings up close
Click the link below to see the rest of our list of favorite Flagstaff activities for families.
Related: 15 Fun Things to Do in Flagstaff
Tips for Altitude
Flagstaff sits at 7,000 feet, which is a higher altitude than most of us are used to. Sunburn, dehydration, shortness of breath, and even altitude sickness can be problems for visitors, but they are usually easy to manage if you plan ahead.
Here are my tips for a great high-altitude trip.
- Wear sunscreen – You'll burn faster at high altitude. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing to avoid sunburns.
- Drink water – Drinking plenty of water is the best way to combat altitude sickness and dehydration. You'll probably feel thirsty more often than usual.
- Ease in – Give yourself a day or two to adjust to the altitude before doing strenuous activities like skiing or hiking – especially if you are used to low altitudes.
- Expect shortness of breath – The air is thinner at high altitudes, so strenuous activities may feel more challenging than usual. Give yourself extra time.
- Watch for altitude sickness – Dizziness, nausea, and fatigue are common symptoms of altitude sickness. If rest and drinking water do not improve symptoms, drive to a lower altitude until you feel better. Altitude sickness is rarely serious – especially if you treat it early.
My family had a great time in Flagstaff, Arizona and we highly recommend a Flagstaff family road trip – especially for Spring Break because it was affordable, easy to plan, and not overcrowded.
Disclosure: Our trip was sponsored by Discover Flagstaff and its partners. We received complimentary lodgings and activities for the purpose of review. All opinions are genuinely my own.