Flagstaff Arizona is often used by travelers as a place to stay on their way to the Grand Canyon or on their pilgrimage across the country on Route 66. By only using Flagstaff as a stopover I think they are missing out of my favorite city in Arizona.
Flagstaff is a city of 60,000 people that is located at 7,000 feet altitude in the pine forest of Northern Arizona. I prefer it in the summer when the temperature is usually in the 70’s and is about 30F degrees cooler than where I live in Phoenix. If you like winter sports you should visit in the winter. The have both downhill and cross country skiing as well as other winter activities.
I would recommend spending at least a couple of days in Flagstaff and enjoying the local area. I love just hanging out in the historic downtown and relaxing in the cool weather of Northern Arizona. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Listed below are some of the activities to do in and around Flagstaff.
Historic Downtown – Explore the historic downtown area. You can do this on your own or there are walking tours available at the visitor center located in the train station. Check with the visitor center to see what days and times the guided tours run.
Ride to The Top Of The Mountain – Outside of town are the San Fransisco Peaks which are the highest points in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m). You can ski at the Arizona Snowbowl during the winter and during the summer you can take the ski lift to the top of the mountain and hike around.
Hike or Bike – There are numerous hiking and biking trails around the city.
Festivals and Events – There are many festivals and events that take place throughout the year. These include car shows, 4th of July Parade, Art Festivals, Beer Festivals and many more.
Flagstaff has a compact downtown with many great places to eat and drink. The diversity of food types available is amazing considering the small size of the city. You can find all type of cuisines including Mexican, Gourmet Pizza, Spanish, Thai, Sushi, Italian, Fusion, Latin American, BBQ, Crepes, Gourmet Hamburgers, Wine Bars and many more in an area that is only a couple of square blocks. There are even four microbreweries located within a five minute walk of each other. Listed below are some of my recommendations.
Pizzacleta – This small pizzeria was started by a former Research Specialist at the local University who had a love for pizza. He spent time in Italy learning his craft and even built a pizza oven in his back yard to perfect his recipes. This place makes Neapolitan style pizza using high quality local ingredients when available. This restaurant was recently named by Arizona Highways as one of the best restaurants in the state. It is small place so arrive early or be prepared to wait. There is even a take out window if you want your pizza to go. The pizza is delicious and do not forget to try their homemade gelato. There are usually around six different pizzas and a few optional toppings and two flavors of gelato daily.
Diablo Burger – Located in the town square they serve hamburgers made from only 100% hormone and antibiotic free beef from nearby ranches. The burgers are served on english muffins that are stamped with the Diablo Burger Logo. They strive to get all their products from local vendors. The Frites (Belgiun Style French Fries) are excellent.
Bigfoot Barbeque – This restaurant is located in the basement of the Old Town Shops which is the same building that also houses Diablo Burger. They barbeque all kinds of meats including ribs, pork, chicken and brisket. There is also a large selection of sandwiches and sides. You will smell this place before you see it. Let your nose guide you downstairs to get some excellent barbeque.
Macy’s European Coffee – Macy’s is a Flagstaff institution. There is always a line and on weekends you will find people lined up to get coffee and brunch. They bake everything on site and it is a great place to start your day. I like the breakfast sandwiches on a freshly baked croissant.
Lumberyard Brewery – This brewery/restaurant is owned by the same people as the popular Beaver Street Brewery which is located a block away. It was opened so that they could increase their beer production and provide a different kind of food and atmosphere from their Beaver Street location. Fresh beer is the main attraction here and the do have a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers. I like hanging out on the patio when the weather is nice outside.
Madrid Tapas y Sangria – I was very surprised to find a Spanish restaurant in Flagstaff on my last visit. I love Spain and Spanish food but have a hard time finding good Spanish food outside of Spain. This place does a good job with many of my favorite Spanish foods. The Tortilla, Pan Con Tomate and Patatas Bravas were good and made me wish I was in Spain again. They have a good selection of Tapas as well as local beer and wine. The restaurant is located just off the main square in Downtown.
SLEEPING IN FLAGSTAFF
Chain Hotels – Flagstaff has a full assortment of the chain hotels and motels such as Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, Embassy Suites, Best Western and many more located just outside the downtown area.
Historic Hotels – If you are more adventurous you could try one of the the historic hotels located in downtown, The Hotel Monte Vista or the Weatherford Hotel.
Bed and Breakfast – There are also a number of Bed and Breakfast places located around the city.
Hostels – Budget travelers will like the Grand Canyon International Hostel and the Dubeau Hostel which are owned by the same people. Private rooms are available if you want a little more privacy and still have the hostel atmosphere.
- Visit the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau website for more information about Flagstaff.
- Bring proper clothing. It is cold in the winter and cool in the summer. You may need a light jacket at night during the summer.
- Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet altitude so be prepared to get tired faster when doing physical activities.
- Flagstaff is 150 miles from Phoenix and 80 miles from the Grand Canyon.
- Amtrak stops in Flagstaff once daily in each direction on the Southwest Chief line which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles.