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Sedona vs Flagstaff – Which One Should You Visit?

Both Sedona and Flagstaff are popular vacation spots located in Arizona. 

This post will look at the differences between them to help you decide where to visit on your next trip! It covers hotels, activities, atmosphere, nightlife and more!

Summary – Sedona vs Flagstaff

Desert, red rocksMountains, desert
tourist-centered town
College town,
less touristy
Lots of activitiesFew activities
Further from
Grand Canyon
Closer to
Grand Canyon
Little nightlifeLively nightlife
Very busyLess busy
Stunning sceneryNice scenery

Top Picks For Sedona

Best Hotel In Sedona

Top Activities In Sedona:

Top Picks For Flagstaff

Best Hotel In Flagstaff

Top Activities In Flagstaff

Sedona is a desert town in Arizona that is surrounded by impressive red-rock buttes, steep canyons and pine forests. Uptown Sedona has a fantastic range of shops, cafes and art galleries. 

Flagstaff, on the other hand, is surrounded by mountains, desert and pine forests. It’s known for having the tallest mountain peak in Arizona (Humphreys Peak) and also has a ski resort.

Sedona is very touristy and often gets busy especially in the main uptown area. Flagstaff, on the other hand, gets nowhere near as busy and doesn’t feel very touristy. 

Most of the shops in Sedona are souvenir shops and typical tourist shops that don’t feel very authentic. Flagstaff, however, is not overly commercial and is more of a college town as it is the home of Northern Arizona University.

Most people rate Sedona as having much better scenery than Flagstaff. In fact, Sedona has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The red-rock buttes are unparalleled and Flagstaff just doesn’t have anything like it.

Sedona has a much wider range of activities and things to do, from hiking to off-roading and even helicopter rides over the desert

Flagstaff doesn’t have much choice at all but there are still a few fun things to do including hiking up to Arizona’s highest peak.

Despite having few things to do, Flagstaff is located closer to major tourist sites such as the Grand Canyon. You can book onto a Grand Canyon full-day tour from either Sedona or Flagstaff.

To get to the Grand Canyon, driving from Flagstaff will take 1.5 hours, however from Sedona it will take around 2 hours. 

Which Is Bigger? Sedona or Flagstaff

Flagstaff is much bigger than Sedona in terms of area. Flagstaff covers 171.2km2 whereas Sedona covers just 47.4km2.

Flagstaff also has a much higher population of 72,000 compared with Sedona which has just 10,300 residents. 

As Sedona is much more popular with tourists and much smaller, it can get very crowded especially in the main uptown area of town. This area of Sedona is very commercial. 

Flagstaff isn’t very touristy and is rarely crowded however it is a busy college town with lots of students.

Which Has Better Activities? Sedona or Flagstaff

Sedona has a much wider range of activities to choose from compared with Flagstaff which doesn’t have many things to do.

Most people also rate Sedona’s scenery to be much better than Flagstaffs however Flagstaff is located slightly closer to other major tourist sites such as the Grand Canyon.

Activities In Sedona

Most people come to Sedona to see the epic red rock scenery and stunning landscapes. 

There are so many different ways to enjoy Sedona’s magnificent scenery both from the air or from the land.

Best Activities In Sedona:

Sedona has a huge focus on outdoor activities with a wide range of magnificent nature trails. Hiking is the most popular activity in Sedona as there are over 400 miles of hiking trails to choose from. 

Book yourself onto a day tour of Sedona to make sure you don’t miss any of the top sites and attractions in the desert.

Sedona has some of the most magnificent scenery in the whole of the US. Some highlights  include Bell Rock, Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock. These incredible giant red rocks & natural bridges look out of this world. 

There’s no better way to see Arizona’s incredible desert beauty than from the above. Get a birds eye view by joining a helicopter tour and see some of Sedona’s most famous red rock formations, including the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings.

Alternatively, you can also join a Sedona jeep tour and explore the epic red rocks from the road.

For incredible views, head up to the viewpoint at Airport Mesa. From here you get panoramic views over Sedona including some of the most famous rock formations like Chimney Rock and Capitol Butte

Other popular activities in Sedona are fishing, mountain biking and even ATV off-roading. The best place to go fishing is at Oak Creek Canyon.

You can also spend the day on a wine tour where you’ll visit local wineries and try out some of their beverages. This activity is super relaxing and gives you a chance to try some of Sedona’s best wines.

Sedona is only a 2 hour drive from the Grand Canyon so why not join a day tour to the Grand Canyon from Sedona! Everyone should visit the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime, it is not to be missed. 

If you want to do a bit of shopping whilst in Sedona then head over to the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This stunning collection of Mexican-style buildings is home to over 50 boutique arts & crafts shops and a great range of restaurants. 

This Sedona stargazing tour is also super popular. You’ll get an unparalleled peek at the astronomical wonders of the Arizona night sky.

Activities In Flagstaff

Flagstaff doesn’t have a ton of different activities to choose from however there are still a few fun things to see and do. 

Flagstaff is slightly closer to the Grand Canyon compared with Sedona . Flagstaff is also closer to landmarks like Antelope Canyon and the famous Horseshoe Bend.

You can book onto day tours to these locations from Flagstaff. 

Best Activities In/Near Flagstaff:

Flagstaff sits within close proximity to a number of popular Arizona tourist sites. The town is just a 1 & a half hour drive from the world famous Grand Canyon. You can book onto a day-tour to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff.

Flagstaff is around 2 hours away from the incredible Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Book yourself onto a day-tour from Flagstaff to experience these natural phenomenons for yourself.

Some of the most popular activities available within Flagstaff itself include hiking, mountain biking, golfing, camping, boating and rock climbing. During the winter months, Flagstaff’s ski resort attracts numerous skiers and snowboarders.

One of the most popular places to go hiking near Flagstaff is the once volcanic mountain range of the San Francisco Peaks which contains 6 of Arizona’s highest peaks. 

There are almost 30 trails to choose from in the area including the Lava River Cave Trail which takes you through a hollow lava tube and the Humphreys Summit Trail which takes you up to Arizona’s highest point for unbelievable panoramic views.

For a bit of fun why not join this fun haunted history tour. Hunt for ghosts as you explore downtown Flagstaff. Along the way, you’ll hear the eerie tales of the colorful western characters that have roamed the streets over the years. 

In the winter, head over to the Arizona Snowball which is an alpine ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks. The Scenic Chairlift offers an incredible bird’s eye view of Arizona which sometimes stretches as far as the Grand Canyon on a clear day.

Which Has Better Accommodation? Sedona vs Flagstaff

There are plenty of comfortable places to stay in both Sedona and Flagstaff. Sedona has a wider and better range of hotels including an impressive range of luxury 5-star hotels. 

The quality of accommodation is higher in Sedona compared with Flagstaff. Flagstaff does have nice hotels but they are nowhere near as nice as Sedona’s.

Accommodation In Sedona

In Sedona most people stay in the uptown area as this is where all the shops, restaurants and amenities are.

Accommodation in Sedona is very pricey as most of the hotels and resorts are luxury. 

Best Hotels In Sedona:

Accommodation In Flagstaff

Accommodation in Flagstaff is much cheaper than Sedona. 

You won’t find any luxury hotels here but there is still a good range of comfortable and clean hotels.

Best Hotels In Flagstaff:

Which Is Better for Nightlife? Sedona or Flagstaff

Flagstaff has a much more lively nightlife scene compared with Sedona. This is mainly because Flagstaff has a huge student population as it is home to Northern Arizona University. 

Sedona isn’t known for nightlife but it does still have a range of nice bars where you can spend the evening.

Nightlife In Sedona

Sedona isn’t really known for being a party city. There are no nightclubs in Sedona at all and almost all of the bars and restaurants close by 11pm even on weekends.

Despite closing early, Sedona does have a very sophisticated nightlife scene. 

Most of Sedona’s bars are within resorts, hotels or upscale restaurants. Here you’ll find hand-crafted cocktails and luxurious lounges. 

Some of the best bars in Sedona are The Hudson, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen and 89Agave

There’s also a great range of wine bars in Sedona such as The Secret Garden Café and Oak Creek Brewery & Grill.

Nightlife In Flagstaff

As Flagstaff is a college town, it has a fun and varied nightlife scene. There’s plenty of things to do in Flagstaff after the sun goes down.

You can head out to a bar for a relaxing drink, see a show or take a tour. 

See a show at the historic Orpheum Theatre. You can grab a drink and sit down to watch a film, music performance or even a comedian in this century old venue. 

If you’re just wanting to grab a drink then some of the best bars in town include Hops on Birch, which has an impressive drink list including a focus on Arizona beers, and the European style Uptown Pubhouse

Yucca North is a great place to spend the evening if you want to hear live music and play some fun arcade games like Pac-Man. 

Which Is More Affordable? Sedona or Flagstaff

Overall Sedona is much more expensive than Flagstaff. Things tend to be more pricey in Sedona as it’s more of a commercial, touristy town. 

Getting a hotel in Sedona will also cost significantly more than in Flagstaff.

If budget is an issue for you then Flagstaff will be much cheaper than Sedona. 

Both Sedona and Flagstaff are fantastic vacation destinations. 

I hope this article was helpful in highlighting the main differences of Sedona vs Flagstaff.

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