Flagstaff Arizona attractions were some of the most memorable on our epic 4-month trip to the American Southwest. Flagstaff Arizona is a gem of a city. What a lovely surprise, from Ponderosa pine forests, outdoor adventure, national monuments to iconic memorabilia! Flagstaff has it all, and it’s close to everything we wanted to see.
When a friend asked me, “If we only have 1 week to go to the southwest, where should we go?” My answer, “Flagstaff, Arizona.”
With small town charm surrounded by tree-lined mountains, it serves as the Capital of Northern Arizona, as well as the gateway to many of Arizona’s biggest attractions. Flagstaff has all the services a traveler needs, a large Visitor Center in a renovated Route 66 historic train station, many restaurants, food markets, drinking establishments, attractions in and around the area. We had all the amenities of a small city.
DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau – @VisitFlagstaff – for organizing and hosting us on this FAM Tour. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion of Flagstaff.
Top 4 of 11 reasons to make Flagstaff your base:
From Flagstaff, visitors can drive to most of the attractions that draw travelers to Arizona.
Flagstaff Arizona Attractions
1. Route 66
When touring Arizona from Flagstaff, it’s easy to explore the famed Route 66. ‘Get your Kicks on Route 66,’ the famous song was written about this very road, done originally by Nat King Cole in 1946, and many others – Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, George Benson and more.
On Route 66, you’ll find 50’s style diners, murals depicting the era, the old Santa Fe Plaza in the downtown district boasts historic stores, and a historic train depot with an original huge locomotive. Take the self-guided historic walking tour from the train station to many iconic locations. Or do the self-guided murals tour to see the talent and inspiration of Flagstaff.
Experience all Route 66 has to offer when you take a drive from Flagstaff to Kingman. We stopped in Williams, Seligman, in Peach Springs to visit the Grand Canyon Caverns, and Kingman. In Kingman, see historic cars, trains, museums and more. If you like the kitschy icons from that era – don’t miss Route 66.
2. Fantastic Museums
Lowell Observatory offers both day and evening programs. Flagstaff was the first ‘International Dark Sky City‘, which enables great viewing of the night skies. Lowell Observatory is famous for the discovery of Pluto. The telescope that discovered Pluto is now open to the public. We saw craters on the moon on our evening visit. Other telescopes are open to view other parts of the sky. If a day visit is preferred, the sun can be viewed. Guided or self-guided tours are available.
A special event series the ‘Lunar Legacy’ begins July 20, 2018, and continues for 18 months to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of man’s first footsteps on the moon. Preparation for moon exploration took place in the Flagstaff area including some astronaut training. Check with the Flagstaff Visitors Bureau for an events schedule.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is a comprehensive history of evolution in America, and the best one we have seen in our travels. You’ll learn about everything from the geological evolution of the United States, the evolution of animals, the dinosaurs, and Native American peoples. There are archaeological finds from ancient cities that were located in the southwest. Exhibits highlighting the different tribes, the beautiful jewelry each tribe is famous for, as well as special exhibits of modern-day Native American artists, are all very well done. Don’t miss it!!
The Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is a museum of the Riordan family home in the Arts & Crafts style architecture and rustic log slab exterior. It’s a 40-room home that housed 2 families and their servants. The Riordan family owned the town lumber mill and supplied the railroad with building materials, and later the hotels and materials needed to support the town’s growth. The Riordan family were patrons for many of the recreational facilities, resources for expanding Flagstaff in the early 1900’s.
Food and Drink when Visiting Flagstaff Arizona Attractions
3. Foodie Culture
After a busy day, enjoy one of Flagstaff’s fantastic restaurants. Flagstaff is known for its ‘Foodie Culture;’ Phoenix magazine recently did an article “Flagstaff for Foodies,” naming Flagstaff a foodie mecca with top eateries.
We had dinner at Beaver Street Brewery, which is a fun casual dining experience. An open kitchen invites viewing the chefs crafting meals. We tried and enjoyed a flight of 6 handcrafted beers. The menu includes tapas, salads, fondues, wood-fired pizzas, and more. We shared their Brewery Fondue – yum; Tom and I had the delicious Salmon Cobb salad. For dessert, we all shared the chocolate bread pudding – delish! Check it out!
Root Public House – We had a great contemporary American meal at Root. Root Public House is an upscale casual dining experience. Everything is done with care and attention to detail, from the drinks, the food, and desserts. Root sources its ingredients and drinks from local vintners, breweries, farmers and ranchers; it’s a farm-to-table exquisite dining experience.
We had dinner at Root Public House on a Tuesday night at 6 PM, and it was fully booked. I had a salad of local mixed greens, feta, walnuts and a marmalade dressing; my main was a perfectly prepared salmon, with broccolini, beet risotto, and crawfish soubise. I savored every morsel. For dessert we shared a chocolate & hazelnut torte with coffee brittle and vanilla ice cream. It was too good for the 1 bite that I had planned; I enjoyed every mouthful!
Root’s Chef Owner, Dave Smith, has been in the restaurant business most of his career. Dave was busy cooking in the kitchen the whole evening so we visited him at the servers’ window to watch him plate and put finishing touches on orders. Everything is beautifully presented. If you want a truly local excellent meal, go to Root Public House.
4. Craft Beer Brewery Culture
Flagstaff has 7 craft beer breweries; we were invited for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Historic Brewing Company with Trevor, the Director of Operations. Since 2013 in 6 locations with 150 employees, the Historic Brewing Company has been serving the Flagstaff and Williams areas with award-winning craft beer. Recently, they took 2nd place in Denver’s American Beer Festival.
Historic Brewing Company uses impressive scientific processes and technical equipment to brew their beers to perfection. Some of the craft beers are aged in oak wood casks. Everything we tasted was delicious; they serve 15-20 different brews at any one time. Historic Brewing Company bottles some brews; they sent us home with a Piehole Porter brew, which was one of the best Porter’s we ever tasted!
Historic Brewing Company’s Huntington Drive location opened an outdoor Beer Garden in May this year, with food trucks and games to enjoy with the brews. They claim that they are ‘makers of craft beer and awesomeness;’ employees make sure the customers enjoy themselves. It’s a fun atmosphere with dedicated staff. Can’t wait to go back!
Where to Stay
In addition to the many hotels and motels, there are Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins, Cottages and Yurts, RV Parks, and vacation rentals. There are many 3-star motels in Flagstaff.
We suggest staying at the GreenTree Inn when visiting Flagstaff Arizona Attractions. We were invited guests to stay at the newly renovated GreenTree Inn. While it’s rated as a 3-star accommodation, everything is new, clean, and extremely comfortable. Once in the room, it felt more like a 4-star hotel. I loved the comfy bed; we had a new large flat screen TV, small refrigerator and coffee maker. A full hot breakfast buffet is included. Check out The GreenTree Inn for great accommodations in Flagstaff – it’s reasonably priced.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Top 11 reasons to use Flagstaff as your base when touring Arizona. Part 2 will expand on touring in the outskirts of Flagstaff – reasons #5 through 11. See you next week for more Flagstaff Arizona Attractions.
Don’t forget to check out last weeks’ post on Santa Fe, New Mexico.