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Good For Kids
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nice flowers, maybe sunflowers?
The Arboretum at Flagstaff
Closest available address
4001 S. Woody Mountain Road, Flagstaff AZ 86001
May-Oct., 9:00am-4:00pm every day except Tue., closed Nov.-April.
Best time to visit
The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a 200 acre garden and arboretum owned by a nonprofit foundation and which features both native and exotic plants on approximately 20 acres. There are also raptor shows, a gift shop, some basic nature displays, picnic facilities, and a short walking trail in a pine forest. A variety of events and presentations are offered here including guided nature walks, concerts, and classes, but the arboretum is only open seasonally.
The arboretum was established by Frances McAllister who first came to the area in the 1930s. Her husband purchased land and a seasonal cabin as a wedding gift. After her husband died, she began living in Flagstaff year round in 1967 and built a larger home which now houses the arboretum visitor center and offices. Frances established a nonprofit foundation to own and manage the property in 1981. It initially focused on research but then broadened its mission to include public education and habitat conservation.
The arboretum initially seemed like a dud as there was a 3-4 mile drive on a dirt road just to get here, and facilities seemed sparse and uninteresting. What made the visit really enjoyable through was an insightful and hands-on guided tour from a docent who talked about various plants in the garden and shared interesting details and observations. You should definitely take a guided tour if you can because without it, plant information is skimpy. Also, a 30 minute raptor show was a crowd favorite. It was fast paced, entertaining, and included a lot of audience participation. This will be a winner with kids, but adults should find it enjoyable as well. There was an opportunity at the end of the show to hold a falcon in return for a modest donation for the raptors' care. The short nature trail is worthwhile as well to learn more about the arboretum’s restoration of a ponderosa pine forest to a more natural environment. A number of informative signs on this easy walk discussed habitat restoration. While the visitor center could benefit from more educational displays and while the variety of plants and flowers are limited by the high desert environment, the quality of the garden tour, liveliness of the raptor show, and relaxing solitude on the short hike more than made up for it. August is a good time to visit to see a larger variety of plants. Mosquito repellant is a good idea following rains.
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