When I was growing up in Chicago one of my favorite things to do was play tourist and explore the popular places that were mainly visited by tourists. You know, the places everyone who came to visit went to see, but people who grew up there had NEVER been to? Those places. Museums, Sears Tower (I know it is the Willis Tower, but that just sounds not right to me), Michigan Avenue, and Shedd Aquarium. Some of my favorite days were those spend exploring my home town. I feel like I wish I had done this during the time I was living in Washington, DC, but could never really find the time.
After living in Flag for a few years, I realized I have never seen many places the city and surrounding area has to offer so I set off to make a list of the things to do to “Play Tourist.” Take one of these summer days and explore with your husband, kiddos, or a solo day to enjoy our mountain town!
- Sunset Crater– This monument has a 34 mile scenic loop that takes you through all the beautiful different terrains Arizona offers. It starts off in the Ponderosa Pines and winds through the red rocks and painted desert down 2,000 feet to Wupatki. If you are feeling like a hike is in order they have plenty of trails to let your kiddos out to burn off some energy or to take some time to appreciate the scenery.
- Snowbowls Scenic Chairlift Ride-The chairlift ride is one of my all time favorite things to do in Flagstaff. You get to ride the chairlift ride from the lodge; where you can grab a snack or drink (even a beer or cocktail) to take on your ride with you. The ride takes you all the way to the top of Mt. Humphreys. It is about 30 minutes each way and offers breathtaking views of our surrounding area. Once you reach the top you are able to get off the ride and stretch your legs, hike around and take in the amazing views. Most days they have a park ranger at the top to answer questions and direct you around the area. This is a fun thing to do with your spouse or with the family. You can fit 3 people per chair. Groupon frequently has tickets available at a discount.
- Lava River Cave– If you are adventurous or have curious kids, this one is for you. It can be a bit difficult to find, but is one of my favorite things I have done here. Both tourists and locals alike can agree is a must do here in Flagstaff. Be careful when you do find it, as it is pretty much just a hole in the ground and we wouldn’t want any of you to fall in it is a cave that is about a mile long which was formed 700,000 years ago by molten rock that erupted from volcanic vent in Hart Prairie. Super fun thing to do with an interesting story sure to intrigue both younger and older generations. The temperature is the same year round between 34 to 45 degrees, so be sure to have a long sleeve or jacket to layer on. Remember to also bring head lamps and flashlights as it is pitch black once you hike down the initial decent. This isn’t really baby backpack friendly or pet friendly. The cave gets pretty tight and the rugged lava rock is too hard for our pets paws.
- Lowell Observatory– Being 100% honest I have never made it to the observatory- YET, but is a popular attraction outside of downtown Flagstaff. The observatory was established in 1894 and has been home to many discoveries, including the discovery of Pluto. Side note: is Pluto officially a planet again? They offer a few different tours each day and even have a summer camp that goes through middle school age. The observatory has a jr. astronomer program and has tours during daytime and evening hours where you can view our preserved night sky from a different perspective. This is at the top of my list of things to do next time I have a free day!
- Lockett Meadow– If you have been daydreaming about an easy hike with AMAZING reviews, we have a dream come true for you! This beautiful slice of heaven has been increasing in popularity the past few years and has always been one of my favorite places to escape to. It is close, beautiful and a great trail to hike with kids, parents and pets. Lockett Meadow is also a camp ground if you feel like escaping and having a fun overnight adventure. The stars look amazing up there and there is a good chance you will see some wildlife. If you want to camp at the sites I recommend arriving early and going on a weekday as they are on a first come first serve basis and to avoid large crowds with a backed up road. You will need a capable vehicle as the primitive road from the base of the mountain up to the meadow can be quite rough, especially with the long (NEVER ENDING) winter we have had.
I hope these ideas help inspire you get out and explore Flagstaff like a tourist and maybe even introduced you to some options you haven’t heard about or forgot about!