You won't find any huge casinos or lavish resorts at Saint Johns. Neither will you find any amusements parks or shopping malls. In fact, you won't find any of the trappings you'd normally expect of a tourist destination. What you'll discover instead is a friendly, welcoming town with a rich history and enough spectacular scenery to keep nature lovers entranced for weeks on end. If you're ready to try a very different vacation from usual, get to know the best of this hidden gem with our guide to the 20 best things to do in Saint Johns, Arizona.
20. Visit the Becker Family Collection
Few families have left such a big imprint on Saint Johns and the surrounding region as the Beckers. To find out more about the role they and the Becker Mercantile Company played in the development of Apache County, pay a visit to The Becker Family Collection at the Springerville Heritage Center. With its vast collection of legal documents, correspondence, family photographs, and financial records, it's an intriguing place to while away a few hours.
19. Tame your appetite at Rest Ur Rump
If you're looking for one of the best places in town to grab some food, forget the chains and head for Rest Ur Rump instead. An old-fashioned diner with great service, small prices, and delicious food, it's a favorite with locals and visitors alike. The menu is filled with classic American comfort dishes like homemade coleslaw, fresh-cut french fries, and fish sandwiches. It's not complicated, but when the food's this good, it doesn't need to be.
18. Take a selfie with Madonna of the Trail
The National Old Roads Trail stretches from Cumberland, Maryland to Upland, California. In the 1920s, the Daughters of the American Revolution commissioned a series of 12 identical monuments to serve as memorials to the country’s pioneer women. Today, they serve as symbols of the invaluable contribution played by such women in the country's development. To see one of the monuments for yourself, make the short trip over to Springerville. It's free to view, and offers a fascinating insight into the past.
17. Grab a coffee at Junk And Java
Junk and Java is exactly what it says on the tin - one part junk shop, one part coffee shop, and two parts must-visit. Whether you go there for the java or the junk (or maybe a little bit of both), it's impossible to resist its quirky charms. The frosted sugar cookies are practically a local institution, and the cinnamon scones aren't too far behind. The junk shop element is weird but wonderful, with a big enough assortment of goods to guarantee you'll always be able to find a few interesting odds and ends to take away with you.
16. Check out Meteor Crater
Located around 37 miles east of Flagstaff and 18 miles west of Winslow on the iconic Route 66, the Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater measuring 3,900 ft in diameter and 560ft deep. The site is privately owned by the Barringer family, who've declared it the "best-preserved meteorite crater on Earth". Believed to have been created almost 50,000 years ago, it's thought that the explosion threw so much debris into the atmosphere, it triggered a great cooling period by blocking a large portion of the sun's rays. At the site, you'll find a fascinating collection of exhibits, an interactive area, a theatre, and a viewing center. There's also plenty of trails surrounding the crater if you want a closer look.
15. Tuck into the tacos at El Camino
If you visit Saint Johns expecting to find a good handful of Michelin-starred restaurants to choose between, you're going to be disappointed. It's a small town in a rural area and the food choices reflect that. Fortunately, what it lacks in award-winning restaurants it makes up for in diners like El Camino, an informal, warmly welcoming spot with great food, excellent service, and the kind of prices that won't leave a hole in your wallet. Visit on a Tuesday to enjoy the always popular Taco Tuesday.
14. Experience the delights of Apache County Fair
State and county fairs are always a great place to soak up some local culture, and the Apache County Fair is no exception. It's been running for over 75 years, but time hasn't withered its appeal one little bit. Held over four days each September, it offers a fun-packed schedule of live entertainment, a rodeo, performances, rides, live music, and more besides. The food is worth the trip alone, with a great selection of traditional fairground classics like French fries and corn dogs, along with a tasty selection of Native American treats like fried corn and fried bread.
13. Explore Canyon de Chelly
According to visittheusa.com, "Canyon de Chelly rewards intrepid travelers with spectacular views and glimpses into traditional Native American life." Explore centuries-old ancestral puebloan dwellings graffitied with rock art, discover ancient campsites, admire the etched images of the Archaic-era people, and get inspired by the clusters of petroglyphs. There's also the chance to buy some handmade pottery, jewelry, and paintings from the Navajo vendors. While you're there, be sure to grab as many photos as you can of this amazingly beautiful area.
12. Visit Red Rock Lavender
Rated by Trip Advisor as one of the best attractions in Saint Johns, Red Rock Lavender is a lovely place to visit, regardless of the season. As well as strolling through the beautifully fragranced fields, you'll also get to enjoy some wine from the vineyard, browse the lavender-inspired goodies at the store, sample some lavender-infused baked goods, watch a cooking demonstration, and a whole lot more to boot.
11. Admire the art at Renee Cushman Art Collection Museum
If you're an art lover, don't miss the stunning collection of European art at the Renee Cushman Art Collection Museum. The collection was donated to the museum by Renee Cushman and includes a vast collection of art objects acquired during her travels. Some of the key pieces to watch out for include a pen and ink by Tiepolo and a Rembrandt engraving, There's also an incredible collection of European antiques to admire, some of which date back to the 15th century.
10. Visit Casa Malpais Archaeology Park and Museum
Named as one of the best attractions in Saint Johns by The Crazy Tourist, the Casa Malpais Archaeology Park and Museum boasts a wonderful collection of Native American art, artifacts, tools, and jewelry that offers a fascinating peek into the area's cultural heritage.
9. Sunrise Park Resort
The last thing most people would expect to find in Arizona, a state known for its parched desert and sizzling heat, is a ski slope. But it's got one, and luckily for residents of Saint Johns, it's only a short drive away. Located in Arizona’s White Mountains, the Sunrise Park Resort boats almost 70 runs that run from easy to challenging, Regardless of your skill level, you're guaranteed to have a great time - there are even areas for cross country skiing and snowboarding if you prefer. If you visit during summer, it's still worth a visit for the biking, hiking, riding, and fishing opportunities, not to mention the awesome assortment of activities like zip-lining, golf, and disc golf.
8. Marvel at the colors of the Painted Desert
The Painted Desert is unlike anywhere else on earth. Running from the Grand Canyon National Park to the Petrified Forest National Park, the vast expense of desert was christened by Spanish Explorers almost 400 years ago. One glimpse of its ethereal beauty will explain exactly why they choose the name they did. Thanks to its unique geological makeup, it's a rainbow of colors, running from red and orange to pink and lavender. It's a truly breathtaking sight, and one that not only deserves a visit, but at least a few dozen photos too.
7. Discover the Hopi Reservation
The Hopi Reservation is a Native American reservation for the Hopi and Arizona Tewa people. The reservation covers more than 1.5 million acres and is home to 12 villages and three mesas, each of which has its own unique art and customs. Entrance to the reservation is free, and offers a fascinating insight into the artisan traditions of the tribe. Along with the pottery, baskets, and jewelry, it's well worth checking out the Kachina Dolls. The dolls are intricately carved from cottonwood root as a means of educating new brides and young girls about katsinas, the god-like figures the tribe believes control aspects of the natural world and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world.
6. Explore the Petrified Forest National Park
Like the idea of taking a stroll through one of the largest areas of petrified wood in the world? Then you're in luck. The Petrified Forest National Park is famous for its large deposits of undisturbed petrified wood, not to mention its numerous other attractions like historic buildings, prehistoric fossils, and Native American archaeological sites. Covering almost 346 square miles in total, it's a fascinating place to visit... as evidenced by the half a million visitors it receives each year. With so much to discover and explore, it's well worth the short drive from Saint Johns. While you're there, be sure to check out the remnants of the Native American communal house - according to historians, it dates back almost 1000 years.
5. Take a ride at Snowy Mountain Stables
If you want to explore Arizona's stunning scenery by horseback, head on over to Snowy Mountain Stables in nearby Greer. The accompanied rides will take you through the breathtaking landscape of White Mountain Apache Reservation, where you'll get to see wild turkeys, deer, elk, and, of course, some of the most picturesque panoramas in the country. Visit in winter to enjoy a scenic sleigh ride.
4. Join in the fun at Pioneer Days Arts and Crafts Show
Snowflake might have an unusual name, but that's far from the most interesting thing about it. Per Wikipedia, the town was established in 1878 by Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake (hence the town's name) as a place of refuge for Mormons to practice their religion free of persecution. Each year, the town comes together for the Pioneer Days Arts and Crafts Show, a two-day event in July packed with fun activities, including a traditional rodeo, a parade, an arts fair, fireworks dances, and more besides. Quaint, charming, and always a heap of fun, it's well worth the short drive over from Saint Johns to enjoy.
3. Take a tour of the Butterfly Lodge Museum
The scenery surrounding Saint Johns may be beautiful, but its wildlife is pretty spectacular too. To see it at its best, head on over to the Butterfly Lodge Museum. The lodge was built in 1913 by John Butler as a hunting cabin for James W. Schultz. Schultz named the cabin Apuni Oyis (Butterfly Lodge in Blackfeet) after the legions of butterflies in the surrounding meadows. It eventually passed to his son, Hart M. Schultz. Both men were artists (the father a writer and the son a painter) and both found inspiration in the cabin's idyllic surroundings. Today, it serves as a museum, offering visitors the chance to step back in time as they tour its original features and admire the artifacts. If you're lucky, you might even be able to see some of those legendary butterflies.
2. Check out the artifacts at Apache County Historical Society Museum
Arizona’s Apache County has a rich, long history that extends back in time to the days when the region was inhabited by numerous Native American tribes, including the legendary Apache. If you want to learn more about the area's pre-pioneer days, the best place in town to head is the Apache County Historical Society Museum, a fascinating center that promises to educate as much as it does entertain. According to the museum's official website, the center was established with the goal of collecting, preserving, interpreting, displaying, and otherwise protecting the history and historical artifacts of Apache County. With a rich collection of exhibits that cover everything from the area's geology to its prehistoric wildlife and ancient stories of lost cities of gold, we'd say it's achieving its mission statement extremely well.
1. Explore Lyman Lake State Park
Travel just a little outside Saint Johns you'll find Lyman Lake State Park. At its center lies the largest lake in the region, a vast, glistening body of water that covers almost 1500 acres of land. Teaming with bass, walleye, and catfish, it's an enduringly popular place for fishers. It's also a refreshing reprieve from the baking hot desert and a wonderful place to cool off regardless of whether you intend to fish or not. The surrounding park is equally worth exploring, with dozens of nature trails, gorgeous scenery, and even a selection of camping sites if you want to stay a few days.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn