Awesome Flagstaff Attractions – The Barringer Meteor Crater
There are lots of great Flagstaff attractions to hit when you're in town, but one of its most unique and awe-inspiring spots takes a little driving. Meteor Crater, the best preserved meteorite impact site on earth, is located just 40 miles east of town on Interstate 40. Meteor Crater is one of the Flagstaff attractions you don't want to miss.
A Fireball from Space
What happens when a gigantic meteorite flies into the earth's atmosphere at 26,000 miles an hour, turns into a raging fireball, and smacks full-force into the middle of the rocky plain? It leaves a massive hole in the earth 575 feet deep and 2.4 miles around, and it kicks up lots of dust and debris.
Luckily, nobody was around when the meteorite hit 50,000 years ago. If you were there, you would have been vaporized on the spot. The impact caused an explosive force equivalent to over 20 million tons of TNT. Although you can't experience it firsthand (and don't want to!), the Meteor Crater visitor center offers a show twice an hour called "Collisions and Impacts" that puts you there and gives you a taste of what it would've been like. You can also see an animated version at Meteor Crater's website, www.meteorcrater.com.
These days, things are pretty quiet around Meteor Crater. The crater itself is enormous; it's one of those things that, no matter how many pictures you take of it, you can never quite do justice. An observation deck allows you to look in, with telescopic glasses that give you a closer look. You can also take a 1/4 mile guided walking tour around the rim, which stands 150 feet above the desert plain.
The Country’s Best Space Exploration Museum
Meteor Crater has an air-conditioned visitor center where you can learn more. It has an interactive discovery center, indoor areas for viewing the crater, a wide-screen theater and a chunk of the original meteor that you can actually touch. Don't worry, it's had time to cool down!
If you're interested in science and outer space, the visitor center is an excellent experience. It has simulations, exhibits and artifacts related to space exploration, earth science and the solar system. Meteor Crater was used by the Apollo Mission astronauts for training because of its likeness to the moon's surface. The visitor center has displays about the space program, as well as its Astronaut Wall of Fame and an actual Apollo Test Capsule.
At the gift shop, you can pick up unique Meteor Crater goods, as well as goods related to the American southwest, space exploration, Route 66, Native American culture and more. The gift shop is clean, friendly and convenient. If you'd like a bite to eat, you can enjoy a sandwich at the gift shop's Subway restaurant.
Spend the Night and Enjoy the Stars
The park also offers a great camping experience. Meteor Crater has a beautiful RV park and campground with 71 RV pull-through and camping sites. It's fully equipped with restrooms, showers and Wi-Fi computer access. Next to the park is a Mobil gas station, recreation center, convenience store, laundry room and the Hole Enchilada Mexican restaurant.
The campground is nice, but the real reason to make it a night stay is the spectacular light show you'll be treated to in the star-filled Arizona sky. You won't believe how many stars there are up there, and a night of stargazing goes great with a day of exploring the solar system at the park's visitor center. Take in the shifting colors of the twilight sky, or the awe-inspiring desert sunrise.
Tell the World about Your Trip
One thing that makes Meteor Crater unique among Flagstaff attractions is that you can blog your trip on their website. On the site, there is a visitors’ blog where you can write about your experience at the crater. Put in your 2 cents and tell the world about your trip to this unique attraction.