Flagstaff Visitor and Attractions Analysis

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Flagstaff Attractions

The top 10 attractions in and around Flagstaff, Arizona, include the famous Grand Canyon National Park, Historic Downtown Flagstaff and the National Museum of Arizona.

#1 — Grand Canyon National Park

  • The Grand Canyon is a geographic spectacle and is often described as "Earth’s greatest geological showcase."
  • It was granted National Park status in 1919 and was afforded federal protection as "a forest reserve" between 1893 – 1919.
  • There are many ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon National Park, from rafting trips to hiking trails to museums.
  • The attraction had an annual visitor count of more than 6 million people in 2017.

#2 — Historic Downtown Flagstaff

  • Flagstaff's historic downtown is its central hub of itinerary with must-see attractions, such as self-guided walking tours, the brewery trail, restaurants, and art galleries.
  • Downtown Flagstaff has many restored buildings from the 1890s, that house many restaurants, shops, and breweries.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Historic Downtown Flagstaff was:
    • (44.0%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 2,400,411 visitors

#3 — Route 66 Nostalgia

  • Route 66 is a classic road trip consisting of various stops along the way. The route was made into a highway in 1921.
  • Flagstaff has many major and minor attractions on Route 66, and people seeking nostalgia come for these attractions.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Route 66 nostalgia was:
    • (34.2%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 1,865,744 visitors

#4 — Lowell Observatory

  • Lowell Observatory is famous for the discovery of Pluto in 1930. It was built around 125 years ago and houses six advanced telescopes.
  • The observatory hosts the "I heart Pluto" festival every year to celebrate the discovery of Pluto.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Lowell Observatory was:
    • (28.2%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 1,538,445 visitors

#5 — Sunset Crater National Monument

  • Sunset crater is the youngest active volcano on the Colorado plateau. It erupted for the first time around 1085 and changed the nearby landscape.
  • Visitors explore the lava flow from the volcano and enjoy hiking expeditions. The site is rich in flora and fauna which makes it a picturesque destination.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Sunset crater national monument was:
    • (17.6%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 960,164 visitors

#6 — Walnut Canyon National Monument

  • Walnut Canyon was home to ancient inhabitants and contains intricate geological patterns.
  • The park also has some days on which it provides free entry each year.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Walnut canyon national monument was:
    • (16.8%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 916,520 visitors

#7 — Museum of Northern Arizona

  • The Museum of Northern Arizona showcases southwest native cultures and is popularly called the "Smithsonian of the Southwest."
  • The museum covers an area of 200-acres and is situated on the way to the Grand Canyon.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Museum of Northern Arizona was:
    • (14.4%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 785,589 visitors

#8 — Wupatki National Monument

  • Wupatki national monument is a wide stretch of prairie dotted with ancient pueblos.
  • It is located between the ponderosa highlands of northern Arizona and the Painted deserts.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Wupatki national monument was:
    • (12.7%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 692,845 visitors

#9 — Arizona Snowbowl

  • Arizona Snowbowl is a ski resort that houses state-of-the-art snowmaking machines and is home to Arizona's longest ski season.
  • It gets more than 260 inches of annual snowfall and features 2,300-foot vertical rise, multiple terrain parks, and a variety of trails.
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Arizona Snowbowl was:
    • (9.1%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 496,448 visitors

#10 — Riordan Mansion State Park

  • Riordan Mansion was originally built to house two Riordan families in the 1940s, who were instrumental in "establishing Flagstaff's early lumber industry."
  • The mansion boasts of 40 rooms expanded over a region of 13,000 square feet. It stands as an example of "American Arts and Crafts style architecture."
  • During the survey period of 2017 – 2018, the visitor count of Riordan Mansion state park was:
    • (6.3%) x (5,455,480 visitors) = 343,695 visitors

Research Strategy

To find the top 10 attractions in and around Flagstaff, AZ, the research team looked for the availability of any pre-compiled lists to this extent. Many such lists of top attractions were found, but none of them were based on the visitor count. Following this, the research team shifted their focus to surveys and data files related to the Flagstaff region's tourism. The results of this research found a survey conducted by Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center (AHRRC) at Northern Arizona University, in association with Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau. The survey provides a list of top 10 attractions by the percentage of visitors. The survey was completed by 2,349 visitors and was spread out over the region of Flagstaff, and hence, is an approximate representation of the total visitor population in the region. We used these percentages to calculate the visitor count of each attraction. According to said survey, the total visitor count in the Flagstaff region for the survey period (of 12 months) was approximately 5,455,480. Out of these, 5,264,539 were out-of-region visitors. The visitor count for each attraction was calculated using the visitor percentage and total number of visitors to Flagstaff.
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Flagstaff Attractions- 2

Flagstaff is a popular beer craft destination that sees a substantial amount of international visitors. The majority of its tourists visit because of the beautiful nature and amazing festivals organized by the Chamber of Commerce.

Hub position for many regional attractions

  • Amazing natural wonders, enlivening outdoor recreation and interesting cultural experiences make Flagstaff the ideal getaway to rejuvenate one's body and replenish the mind.
  • According to a 2017-2018 visitor survey by the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center (AHRRC), 68% of respondents indicated that they visited the town to see the Grand Canyon National Park.

Natural environment and weather conditions

  • Spring, summer and fall attracts hikers, mountain bikers and campers, while winter brings skiers and ice skaters to Flagship.
  • The healthy natural environment of the region, coupled with its pleasant weather, also encourages tourists to come in for activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing.
  • Better snowfall attracts a considerable number of skiers from Phoenix because of the cool, sunny weather in the area.

International tourism

  • Flagstaff has been a popular destination for foreign travelers for a long time, particularly from Europe.
  • 13% of visitors to the town were international visitors from 44 countries led by those from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
  • Flagstaff saw 17% of the total international tourists coming to the US in 2009. That number dropped to 11% in 2014 but increased to 13% in 2018.

City Image

  • Flagstaff maintains a reputation as a romantic getaway for big city dwellers. Downtown renovation, fun dining, boutique-style shopping, exposure to many outdoor activities and the presence of a university adds to the charm of this mountain/college town.
  • The city's image is also supported by various festivals organized by the Chamber of Commerce.

Local attractions

  • With a mean score of 3.2, experiencing Flagstaff’s museums and observatories were the next most important reason for visiting the Flagstaff area.
  • Hiking/mountain biking/recreation on the national forest lands around Flagstaff, featuring a mean score of 3.0, with 42.9 percent going to the forest in the fall.


  • Flagstaff is the only destination in northern Arizona capable of providing a decent nightlife, a wide variety of dining options, and connections to northern Arizona's large and small retail establishments.
  • Many tourists continue to visit Flagstaff because of its position along two interstate highways and a major Amtrak route.


  • A sizable majority of all visitors (71.8%) came to Flagstaff for vacation or leisure purposes.

Research Strategy:

We began by looking through each of the listed Flagstaff attractions' website to find common factors for people's visits but we were not able to find any specific factors that are common to each attraction. We also consulted with local news publications but the information we gather mostly focused on the general reasons people visit the area and not what draws people to the top specific locations.

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Inter-Mountain West Region Attractions

Ten of the top attractions in the Intermountain region of the United States by annual visitation are Lake Mead Recreation Area, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Jackson Hole, Bryce Canyon, and Arches National Park. Details of each location have been provided below.

Lake Mead Recreation Area

Grand Canyon

  • Location: Arizona
  • Annual Visitors: 6.38 million
  • The Grand Canyon covers 277 miles and is 18 miles wide. The canyon is so large that half of it has to be closed during the winter months, however, the south section is open year round for visitors.

Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Location: Colorado
  • Annual Visitors: 4.59 million
  • Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 miles with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, and starry nights.

Zion National Park

Yellowstone National Park

  • Location: Montana
  • Annual Visitors: 4.12 million
  • Yellowstone is famous for its unique features due to the geothermal conditions across the park. In addition to the "3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls," the park features several multicolored pools and other unique features.

Grand Teton National Park

  • Location: Wyoming
  • Annual Visitors: 3.49 million
  • Grand Teton national Park covers 200 miles and features wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain.

Glacier National Park

  • Location: Montana
  • Annual Visitors: 2.96 million
  • Glacier National Park borders Canada and covers 1 million acres of land. The park features 700 lakes, waterfalls, and two mountain ranges.

Jackson Hole

  • Location: Wyoming
  • Annual Visitors: 2.6 million
  • Jackson Hole is a valley that measures 42 miles long and 8 miles wide located near Grand Teton National Park.

Bryce Canyon

  • Location: Utah
  • Annual Visitors: 2.6 million
  • Bryce Canyon is a park near Zion that features Hoodoos, which are unique rock formations made from wind erosion. The canyon features a 3-mile hike called The Navajo/Queens Garden Loop.

Arches National Park