Flagstaff with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Flagstaff is a beautiful city located on the edge of the Ponderosa Pine Forest in northern Arizona. Situated right on the famous Route 66 and just 75 miles south of the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff attracts thousands of visitors each year. With tons of casual restaurants, dozens of thrilling outdoor activities, and even a few cultural spots to excite teens, Flagstaff is an ideal destination for family vacations. So tell your teenager it's time to put away the iPod and enjoy at least one exciting day in Flagstaff! Read on for a suggested list of things to do in Flagstaff with teens.
Your day in Flagstaff with teens will be a busy one, so it's best to start off with a good breakfast. To that end, head over to Mike & Ronda's The Place on historic Route 66 (3518 E. Route 66; 928.526.8138). This quintessential diner is famous for its huge fluffy biscuits and pancakes. Especially delicious and filling are the two biscuits smothered in gravy. Although your teenager may have an appetite large enough to feed a small planet, those with smaller appetites may want to share a plate as the biscuits here are huge.
After filling up with a hearty breakfast, it's time to start your family adventure in Flagstaff. Head over to Absolute Bikes (202 E. Route 66; 928-779-5969) and rent bikes for the entire family. Flagstaff has a fantastic and unique network of more than 50 miles of off-street trails for hiking, running and biking. This network of trails is known as the FUTS (pronounced "foots"), which stands for the Flagstaff Urban Trails System.
You and your family can travel by bike to many destinations all around Flagstaff using the FUTS. For a ride with a view, I recommend biking Flagstaff's most popular trail, the Buffalo Park Loop. This trail is a relatively easy loop that starts and ends at the Buffalo Park trail head. As you bike atop this ancient lava flow, your teen will burn off some energy and you will all be wowed by views of the nearby mountains and wooded ravines.
For lunch, grab a quick sandwich at one of Flagstaff's many delis. My personal favorite is the mesquite grilled pulled pork sandwich from Malone's (1490 S. Riordan Ranch Rd; 928.913.0133). Then you're off to the next family adventure.
A visit to the Lava River Cave in the Coconino National Forest is one of the best things to do in Flagstaff with teens. With its slippery boulders and sometimes narrow passageways, this trip is difficult to navigate for the very young or the elderly. However, your teenager will be in absolute heaven spelunking in this lava cave.
This cave is a bit tricky to find. You will be directed to drive down a dirt road which ends in a parking lot. Here, look for a small sign pointing to the trail. Follow the trail to climb down rocks, and at the bottom you will be in the dark, mile-long lava tube cave. Make sure to bring a jacket (even in the summer there can be ice in the cave!), sturdy shoes and at least one light source (flashlight or headlamp) per person. Your teen will not be disappointed with these family vacation ideas.
After a busy day of outdoor adventure in Flagstaff with teens, no doubt you and your teenager will be ready for dinner. Head back to town and settle into one of the booths at Bun Huggers (901 S. Milton Rd; 928-779-0505), easily the best burger joint around. Your teen will be right at home here, with the casual Western atmosphere and the juicy burgers. Top it off with a big plate of fries, onion rings or (my personal favorite) fried zucchini. You can assure your teen that even though it's a vegetable, it's delicious! The large burger condiment bar allows even the pickiest eater to make the perfect burger. Make sure you get to Bun Huggers on the early side, though, because your final adventure of the day awaits. Many teenagers balk at the idea of visiting a museum or other cultural attraction. In Flagstaff, you can assure your teen that there is one cultural site that should not be missed. In 2001, Flagstaff received the honor of being designated the world's first "International Dark-Sky City". This means that Flagstaff tries to limit its night outdoor lighting. Founded in 1894, the Lowell Observatory (1400 W. Mars Hill Rd; 928-774-3358) benefits from this darkness, giving its visitors a near-perfect view of the night sky.
The Lowell Observatory is open many evenings from 5:30PM-9:30PM and truly comes alive after dark, when its visitors are able to look through high-powered telescopes to see the rings of Saturn and the craters on the moon. With admission set at only $4 for teens and $8 for adults, the Lowell Observatory is not only fun and educational, it's also budget-friendly. Check the website for special evening events and for hours, which vary over the year.