Flagstaff has saved the sanity of many people from central Arizona. We know that, even on the hottest, most brain-baking weekends, respite is just two hours away up the I-17. That means you can squeeze relief from triple-digit temperatures into just one weekend.
Here are some tips for desert dwellers looking to get the most out of 48 hours. Out-of-state visitors can also use this to get their plans started.
Where to Stay:
Flagstaff has a little something for everyone when it comes to accommodations. Even the cheap hotels are pricier than they should be, but we’ll just have to grin and bear that. There are enough decent hotels that you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place. In fact, I’m not even going to name any specific hotels.
Here’s what I’ll do instead: I’ll tell you to mind the railroad tracks. The closer you are to them, the more you will hear train whistles and the roar of enormous diesel locomotives. Let the tracks be your guide. Unfortunately, some of the more fun places are walking distance from the tracks, too.
What to Do
Hiking, mountain biking, museums, shopping â€¦ take your pick.
Arizona’s highest point, the 12,667-foot summit of Mt. Humphreys, is on top of the San Francisco Peaks that overlook the town. Start at the Snow Bowl parking lot and hike. Plan to spend most of your day up walking. Schultz Creek Trail is the place to be a mountain biker. There’s also the Lava River Cave for underground fun, along with the truly awesome Sunset Crater National Park. Sunset Crater always amazes people, even longtime Arizona residents â€“ it’s really easy to forget about northern Arizona’s fiery, highly active volcanic past. This will make it impossible to forget. If you’re extra-adventurous, try SP Crater.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is perfect if you’re feeling more sedate, or if you’ve already hit all the outdoor activities. The downtown Flagstaff area is also loaded full of shops and stores. Time your visit right to check out the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival in July. Missed it? Worry not, especially if you’re a football fan. The no-longer-hapless Cards train in Flag every year, usually through most of August.
Flagstaff has an active nightlife. Flagstaff Brewing Company, The Green Room, the Hotel Monte Vista Lounge and several others are hopping all night.
Looking for something more cerebral? Check out the Lowell Observatory. Since summer often brings monsoon storms, you might not be able to see much through the telescope. But you can at least check out the exhibits and catch some good info about Percival Lowell, who was pretty convinced there were green men and women on Mars.
Heck, if it’s clear enough, head out toward Lake Mary. Watch the stars on your own. You’ll probably see some great shooting stars.
For such a small town, Flagstaff packs a lot of tasty food into its borders. American, Mexican, Italian, Thai and Vietnamese are all represented here. And coffee? There’s a lot of awesome coffee here â€“ but Late for the Train rises to the top for me. Try the Metro Retro or Dave’s Rockhammer.
As for your other meals, here are my favorites: Breakfast at Biff’s Bagels, lunch at The Black Bean and dinner at Beaver Street Brewery or Pho Dai Loc. I’d name a few of the Thai places, but they all have forgettable, interchangeable, generic names. Still, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
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