Harper’s Other Dad and I love visiting Flagstaff. It has many things to recommend it as a weekend destination.
It is only 2 hours away by car but, because it is 6000 feet higher in altitude than Phoenix, it is a totally different environment. In the summer it is about 30* F cooler. Their Pride event, “Pride In The Pines”, in mid-June, is a popular get-away from the summer heat in Harper’s Valley. In the autumn, the altitude means there is real autumn weather and Fall color. In the winter, there is snow; lots of snow. More than anything else, I think we like it because it feels like Michigan.
There is a lot of transportation history in the area. In the days before the Interstate Highway System, Flagstaff was a major stop along Route 66. There are still many remnants of the Highway’s history in town. Fortunately, instead of being bypassed by the Interstate, it became a hub of the Interstate System where I-17, the primary north/south highway in Arizona, meets I-40, the primary route across the northern part of the state connecting New Mexico to California. As a result, unlike many of the old Route 66 towns, Flagstaff is still a thriving community and a popular destination.
The city is also a major rail thoroughfare for both freight and passenger travel. Indeed, if one wants to take an Amtrak train from Phoenix you must take a bus up the hill to catch the train.
There are a number of tourist attractions of note in the immediate area. The Lowell Observatory is in the hills above town. The low levels of light and air pollution make it an ideal home for the observatory. Lowell is where Pluto was discovered. They are still grumbling about the whole ‘not-really-a-planet’ thing.
Within easy driving distance is Meteor Crater. It is 43 miles to the east of Flagstaff; on the way to Winslow, AZ where the billboards invite you to come “Stand On the Corner”.
Oh yes, about an hour north of Flagstaff they have a canyon many people think is grand.
We try to plan a couple weekends “up the hill” each year. On our first trip, in 2006, we found a wonderful B&B; The Starlight Pines Bed & Breakfast. They only have 4 guest rooms and Richard and Michael are wonderful hosts. We always look forward to staying there. Unfortunately, this trip was only an overnight because we needed to be back in the Valley early Sunday morning for the AIDS Walk.
Flagstaff is also a college town; home of Northern Arizona University. We had checked out of the B&B and were going into downtown to visit a couple of shops and were surprised to find many of the streets closed. There was also an extraordinary number of students on the street for a Saturday morning. Talking with one of the merchants, we learned that it was Homecoming Weekend. The game had been the night before and, by local tradition, the Saturday morning after the game is “Tequila Sunrise”; when the bars open at 6:00 AM. The merchant assured us that only about half the participants get up early for the event; the other half are enjoying it as a continuation of the previous night’s Happy Hour.
Most exciting of all was the Homecoming parade. Because Flagstaff is a small town, the community is very integrated into the life of the university. Homecoming is not just a university activity. The entire town is engaged. We staked out some convenient curb space to watch the fun.
After the parade we took the scenic route through the Tonto National Forest descending back down the hill to the cactus.