The mountainous northern part of Arizona offers a road less traveled with petrified forests, snowcapped peaks, and a vibrant craft beer scene. A ribbon of nostalgia, Route 66 runs through historic downtown Flagstaff. The area is also home to Northern Arizona University
as well as the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, resulting in a much cooler climate. This month, nighttime temperatures often fall below freezing.
The neon sign for Hotel Monte Vista, at the crossroads of Aspen and San Francisco streets, serves as a beacon for downtown Flagstaff. The 73-room hotel opened in 1927, and each room has its own unique character ($110 and up). Some of
the more famous guests have included Bob Hope (room 203) and Michael J. Fox (room 216). The hotel is also reportedly haunted by some spirited guests, including a dancing couple, as well as a phantom bellboy.
Downtown is the heart of Flagstaff, with its local flair. The Old Town Shops contain a collection of 10 independent retailers offering everything from handmade chocolates to whimsical gifts. The 1926 Santa Fe Depot, which houses the visitors center and a shop with Route 66 memorabilia, still welcomes passenger trains. The original 1889 depot, crafted from Moenkopi sandstone, is a few steps away.
PEEK INTO THE PAST
The Weatherford is Flagstaff’s oldest hotel, having opened in 1900. Dominating a corner in downtown, the hotel’s weathered stone fascia and white columned veranda provide a glimpse into the past when the likes of Wyatt Earp played poker on the premises and Zane Grey penned a few novels while in residence. The hotel has just 17 rooms ($170 and up) and recalls the past with turn-of-the-century decor and exposed brick walls.
Just south of the railroad tracks, you’re likely to inhale the aroma of wood-fired pizza before you even reach the entrance to Pizzicletta. The menu is simple and simply executed, resulting in slightly charred Napoli-style pizzas, starting at $13, with top- pings such as prosciutto, honey, and sage. Salads, cheese plates, and other nibbles round out the choices along with local brews and food-friendly wines.
STARRY, STARRY NIGHTS
Designated the world’s first International Dark Sky City, Flagstaff amazes at night, thanks in part to the city’s strict policy on light pollution. The best place to really see the stars, planets, and galaxies is the 127-year-old Lowell Observatory ($24 and up). As one of the nation’s oldest observatories, it is credited with discovering Pluto and its atmosphere as well as the rings of Uranus and the moon mapping for the Apollo mission. It is also a Registered National Historic Landmark.
PORK AND PARSNIPS
Located in a historic carriage house in downtown, Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar is an intimate dinner-only gathering place awash in exposed brick and stacked wine bottles. The seasonal menu uses locally sourced ingredients coupled with an impressive wine list offered by the glass or bottle. Signature dishes include pork cheeks with charred parsnips and horseradish salsa verde ($21) and shareable charcuterie and cheese boards (starting at $24).
“The Flagstaff Brewery Trail is a lot of fun for visitors and includes a free passport and brewery map. Visit all nine breweries and ask for a passport sticker. Once your booklet is complete, exchange it at the Flagstaff Visitors Center for a commemorative pint glass. It’s a win-win.”
—JOI JOHNSON, GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANT AT NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY
A trio of natural treasures—all within a short drive of each other—are managed collectively as the Flagstaff Area National Monuments by the National Park Service. They protect 40,000 acres of high deserts, expansive canyons, peaked mountains, mesmerizing mesas, volcanic grounds, and some 3,000 archaeological sites. Walnut Canyon is where ancient inhabi- tants once dwelled in the pueblo ruins. The Wupatki National Monument, where forebears of the Hopi and Zuni people once resided, features pueblo relics dispersed among the red rocks. Sunset Crater Volcano, one of 600 volcanoes in Northern Arizona, is the result of the earth splitting open some 1,000 years ago, unlocking gases and spewing lava from its cavity. Visitors can drive, bike, or hike through the park enjoying trails and lava flows.