15 Best Things to Do in St. Johns, AZ

St. Johns, AZ
Eugene Photo / shutterstock.com

St. Johns, Arizona, is a friendly and welcoming town with a rich history and incredible scenery.

Called the capital of Arizona’s White Mountain region, St. Johns is also the seat of Apache County.

St. Johns is an excellent destination for those who want to admire geology, connect with nature, and see Americana-flavored natural and historic sites.

Back in 1873, St. Johns was initially El Vadito or Little River Crossing.

Then, an itinerant traveler named Solomon Barth won enough land and cattle to settle in the area.

He established the townsite in 1880 and changed its name to San Juan.

In 1893, they anglicized the name to St. Johns.

Tourist destinations surround St. Johns, such as the Apache, Zuni, Navajo destinations, Petrified Forest National Park, Sunrise Ski Park, and Lyman Lake State Park.

Visitors can enjoy boating, water skiing, camping, and fishing in recreational areas.

They can also enjoy unique sights, such as petroglyph trails, prehistoric dwellings, and archeological excavations.

St. Johns prides itself on its sense of community and friendly nature.

Here are the best things to do in St. Johns, AZ:

Satisfy Your Cravings at Rest Ur Rump

Rest Ur Rump is one of the best places in St. Johns to chow down on food.

It's an old-fashioned diner with exceptional service, affordable prices, and delicious food.

It has long become a favorite for residents and visitors alike.

The menu contains classic American comfort food such as fish sandwiches, fresh-cut French fries, and homemade coleslaw.

Other favorites are spaghetti and meatballs, jalapeño baked poppers, specialty pizzas, boneless wings, and homemade cannoli.

They also make their own sauces from scratch, and their burgers are hand-pressed to order.

Some of their sandwich specials are a chicken fried steak, three grilled cheese sandwiches, a chicken parmesan sandwich, and a big Joe sub.

They also offer plenty of catering meal choices, and they will design meals to meet anybody’s budget.

Celebrate the Apache County Fair

State and county fairs are a great way to absorb the local culture.

The Apache County Fair has been running for over 75 years, its appeal only increasing with time.

It runs for over four days in September in ideal Arizona weather.

It offers a fun-filled schedule of a rodeo, live entertainment, rides, colorful performances, and live music.

The food alone is worth the visit, with an impressive array of the usual fairground classics: French fries, corn dogs, and Native American food like fried bread and fried corn.

You can enter all kinds of homemade items and crafts into the fair, such as photography, crafts and hobbies, creative writing, and art.

You can also enter field crops, floriculture, livestock, adult home economics, baked goods, and poultry.

At the junior livestock show, they judge the showmanship and quality of animals, and you can earn a blue ribbon.

Feel at Home Away From Home in St. John’s RV Resort

At St. John’s RV Resort, find plenty of family-oriented park activities, including barbecues, potlucks, RV community summer meetings, and ice cream socials.

Here, St. Johns upholds a good reputation as a town of friendly and gregarious neighbors.

The RV resort is conveniently located to all city services you might require, such as groceries, thrift stores, theaters, gas stations, libraries, churches, museums, and banks.

Take a tranquil walk on the nature trails, set up shop at the barbecue grill and gazebo, prepare a tasty lunch at the fire pit and picnic tables, and let your kids loose on the playground.

You can engage in all-American activities such as handball and tennis in the nearby city park.

You can also find a fisherman’s paradise only 1.1 miles from your RV with over 8 miles of shining water in Patterson’s Pond.

Explore Local History at the Apache County Historical Society Museum

Apache County has a long and rich history reaching back to pre-pioneer times.

Back then, many Native American tribes, including the iconic Apache, thrived in the region.

If you want to learn more about these days, pay a visit to Apache County Historical Society Museum.

Established over 45 years ago, the museum preserves, interprets, collects, displays, and protects Apache County’s historical artifacts.

This extensive collection of exhibits covers everything, from geology to prehistoric wildlife and ancient stories of lost golden cities.

It has many artifacts depicting the Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Zuni tribes and the Hispanic and Mormon settlers.

You can see written histories, diaries, arrowheads, firearms, photographs, tools, household items, musical instruments, and dioramas.

Wander the Lyman Lake State Park

At Lyman Lake State Park, you will see one of the largest lakes in northeastern Arizona.

It is a refreshing break from the blazing hot Arizona desert and an excellent spot to cool off.

You can explore the park and enjoy the dozens of nature trails, beautiful scenery, and idyllic camping sites.

On the lake, cross the water on a waterski, wakeboard, sailboat, canoe, or kayak.

The lake will allow anglers to catch a mixed bag of walleye, largemouth bass, or channel catfish.

At the nearby forest, glimpse bald and golden eagles, Rocky Mountain elk, and mule deer.

The birds there include egrets, sandhill cranes, mountain bluebirds, and osprey; reptiles include the plateau striped whiptail and sagebrush lizard.

Marvel at the Renee Cushman Art Collection

Arizona is probably the last place you can think of to see a collection of traditional European art.

But it is, in fact, home to such a fantastic collection.

Renee Cushman, a woman who lived in the area during World War II, donated the collection.

Renee Cushman was born in Paris, France.

Then, she traveled and lived in many places worldwide, growing up in an atmosphere of artistic appreciation.

Upon her death in 1969, she willed a valuable collection to the local congregation of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

Her family had assembled this collection over most of a century.

She willed it on the condition that it be displayed in memory of her parents, Victor and Marie Louise Chauvin Scharf.

The collection includes a Rembrandt engraving and a pen and ink by Tiepolo.

It also includes impressive European antiques, some of which date back to the 15thcentury, and dozens of other pieces of art and furniture dating from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Be Stunned by the Painted Desert

Scenic view of the Painted Desert
Genevieve_Andry / Shutterstock.com

At the Painted Desert, you will see breathtaking colors and sights unlike anywhere else on the planet.

This desert runs from the Grand Canyon National Park to Petrified Forest National Park.

About 400 years ago, Spanish explorers discovered this vast width of the desert.

Thanks to its geological makeup, you will see 100,000 acres of incredibly scenic and colorful vistas.

Daytime view of the Painted Desert
W. Bulach, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is a veritable rainbow, changing colors from red to pink to orange to lavender to purple, a truly jaw-dropping sight.

These flat-topped mesas, vibrant hills, and sculpted buttes primarily make up the Chinle Formation, with river deposits dating back 200 million years.

See the unusual Flattops formations, admire the beautiful amethyst and quartz of the Crystal Forest, and find gigantic trees at the Long Logs Trail.

View petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock, see the remains of homes at Puerco Pueblo, and explore the Painted Desert Inn.

Join the Pioneer Days Arts and Crafts Show

In 1878, Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake established Snowflake, a town 40 minutes from St. Johns.

They established the town as a sanctuary site for Mormons who wanted to practice their religion free from persecution.

Every year, the town gets together for the Pioneer Days Arts and Crafts show, a July two-day affair filled with activities.

These include a parade, traditional rodeo, art fair, fireworks dances, and more.

It also includes a car show, youth dances, softball and golf tournaments, 10K fun run, barbecue, quilt show, historic homes tours, and kids’ foot races.

If you’re looking for a quaint and charming dash of fun that you won’t find anywhere else, attend this event.

Be Awed by the Petrified Forest

Fossilised tree trunks at Petrified Forest National Park
Brian Lasenby / Shutterstock.com

Drive 37 minutes north of St. Johns to find the internationally renowned Petrified Forest National Park.

Walk among one of the world's largest deposits of fallen, petrified wood and explore many other attractions.

See prehistoric fossils, historic buildings, and Native American archaeological sites.

Ancient trees formed the Petrified Forest, morphing from wood to almost solid quartz and taking colors from carbon, iron, and manganese.

Welcome sign of the Petrified Forest National Park
Kelly vanDellen / Shutterstock.com

These trees used to be enormous conifers growing in a tropical forest until silica from volcanic ash permeated the trunks.

The process left the wood in its place, and the wood became a gorgeous rock.

Other sights at the park are the Old Studebaker, a rusty shell of a car and a remnant of the highway, and Native American petroglyphs or images carved into the rock.

You can also see the Teepees or haystacks made of bands of red, grey, blue, purple, and white rock.

You can find the Blue Mesa, a striking desert landscape made up of a richly varied palette of reds, blues, purples, and pinks.

The gorgeous colors of Blue Mesa desert
MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

Stroll through Red Rock Lavender

Red Rock Lavender has been called one of the best attractions in St. Johns.

Find it in Concho, Arizona, 23 minutes from St. Johns.

It is a beautiful place where you can stroll among the fragrant fields, browse lavender-inspired products at the store, and taste wine from the vineyard.

You can also sample lavender-flavored baked goods and watch a cooking demonstration.

Red Rock Lavender started in 1998 with its first field as the first commercial lavender farm in Arizona.

The farm now has 35,000 plants, and the business has expanded to a farm store, tasting room, and online store.

It also holds an annual lavender festival, lavender plant sales for commercial use and landscaping, and speaking engagements.

The farm grows several varieties, including Grosso, Royal Velvet, Provence, Hidcote Blue, Betty Blue, Mailette, Alba, and Phenomenal.

Besides, it has lavender plants in the greenhouse for people who need them acclimated to similar types, climates, and altitudes.

Get Your Caffeine and Antiques Fix at Junk and Java

Junk and Java is part junk shop and part coffee shop, a must-visit for those who love casual hangouts.

Find it in Springerville, Arizona, 27 minutes from St. Johns.

You will surely love the quirky hidden charms and treasures of Junk and Java.

It is a coffeehouse and baked goods haven that also houses a veritable museum of antiques and hidden gems for sale.

Try their iconic frosted sugar cookies, discover the delights of their cinnamon scones, and taste your way through all their pastries, chocolate, and candies.

Afterward, try their quality coffee straight out of the espresso machine.

Then, explore their strange and wonderful junk shop and leave with some interesting treasures.

You will have a swell time walking their maze of rooms filled with objects like jewelry, books, clothing, art, and antique furniture.

Take Pictures at the Madonna of the Trail

Madonna of the Trail statue at Springerville
teofilo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1911, the Daughters of the American Revolution aimed to mark the Old Trails Road from Maryland to California.

Initially, they planned to create painted mileage markers throughout the route.

However, they took inspiration from Portland, Oregon’s 1905 Sacajawea monument to commission 12 identical ten-foot-tall mother statues.

National DAR Commission chair Arlene B. Nichols Moss and her artist son collaborated with sculptor August Leimbach to design the statues.

The monuments symbolize the faith and courage of the pioneer women whose overwhelming strength helped conquer the wilderness and build their homes.

Each Madonna of the Trail strides westward, dressed in a wide-brimmed sunbonnet and simple homespun prairie gown.

The statues were cast from algonite, a form of cast stone produced from crushed marble.

The statues stand along key white migration routes, with the Springerville statue found 30 minutes from St. Johns, on East Main Street.

Admire the Butterfly Lodge Museum

Butterfly Lodge Museum dates back to 1913 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Find it in Greer, Arizona, 49 minutes from St. Johns.

John Butler built it for author James Willard Schultz as his hunting cabin, and it later became the home of his son, Hart “Lone Wolf” M. Schultz.

James Willard Schultz was an author, hunting guide, trapper, trading post operator, explorer, and historian of Indian lore.

Lone Wolf attended the Art Students League School in Los Angeles and the Chicago Art Institute.

He was a prolific painter of Western and Indian scenes, leaving his distinctive wolf-head signature on over 500 paintings.

The lodge housed the colorful careers of father and son, who used Butterfly Lodge as a base and art studio.

They both found much inspiration from the little cabin and its surroundings.

Today, you can enjoy stepping back in time at the cabin and gaze upon original furnishings, artifacts, and a gift and book area which holds the duo’s creative works.

Take a Ride with Snowy Mountain Stables

Have a fantastic adventure in the fresh air of the White Mountains with Snowy Mountain Stables.

Here you will experience the loveliness of the pine forests, streams, wildflower meadows, mountainsides, and trails.

From tall serene trees and vast views, ride through the breathtaking landscape of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, where you can see deer, elk, wild turkeys, and tranquil panoramas.

The stables offer horse-drawn sleigh rides for winter and horseback rides for summer, lasting from 30 minutes to several hours.

They offer many backcountry horseback riding trips, furnishing horses, tack, beverages, and Apache & Cowboy style family meals.

Explore a winter wonderland while bundled up in a sleigh and go on an adventure into a dense alpine forest.

Go dashing through the snow on a magical journey as you trot a snow-covered landscape led by a beautiful steed.

Have a Mountain Adventure at Sunrise Park Resort

Aerial view of Sunrise Park Resort
Mtntas12, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Would you believe Arizona has an alpine ski resort with its sizzling desert and blazing heat?

Sunrise Park Resort is Arizona's premier recreation destination, just a short drive from St. Johns and located in the White Mountains.

The resort has 70 runs available for skiers of all levels, running from easy to challenging.

The slopes spread across three peaks, covering 1200 acres, making the resort the largest in Arizona.

Here you can find the state’s longest zip line, lift-served downhill mountain biking, horseback riding, a rock-climbing wall, lake fishing, scenic lift rides, camping, and more!

Take a scenic ride up a lift where you can experience some of the most panoramic views in Arizona.

Feel the thrill of downhill mountain biking at almost 11000 feet, with frosty air and gorgeous scenery.

Fly among the trees on the Apache High Flyer, Arizona’s fastest and longest zip line.

See the Sights at Casa Malpais Archaeology Park and Museum

Casa Malpais is the premiere archaeological site in the White Mountains of Arizona.

You'll find it in Springerville, Arizona, 28 minutes from St. Johns.

Its name translates to “House of the Badlands,” although this was not the original name given by the people living here.

It is an ancient pueblo from the Mogollon culture built and occupied from 1250 to 1340 AD.

Check out a wonderful collection of Native American art, tools, jewelry, and artifacts that tell stories.

The site contains exciting features, including a Great Kiva carefully constructed out of volcanic rock, which is its centerpiece.

You can also see an ancient basalt staircase in the high basalt cliffs leading to the top of the mesa.

This staircase will take you to the top of the shield volcano, creating the lava flow on which the site is located.

Other discoveries are a solar calendar, 50-60 pueblo room remains, rock art, a catacombs burial area, petroglyphs, and astronomically aligned shrines.

Final Thoughts

St. Johns is home to tremendous historical sites that shape and define Arizona.

It is a warm and convivial city that will welcome everyone and guide them to some of the most exciting places in the state.

If you want to try a genuinely different vacation, head to St. Johns and discover it for yourself today!

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