Nestled below the San Francisco Peaks on the Colorado Plateau, Flagstaff, Ariz., is an all-season destination.
Well-known as a ski resort in winter, Flagstaff is a very special place in the summer. Only a two-hour drive from Phoenix on Interstate 17, this university town seems a million miles away. Cool breezes off the mountains are redolent with the scent of pine. It’s an easy escape from Phoenix triple digit heat.
Stop at the Flagstaff Visitor Center in city’s historic downtown district on Route 66. The friendly staff can suggest dining spots, give directions and can offer a host of ideas for an interesting itinerary.
The historic downtown district features art galleries, restaurants and shops. Heritage Square, in the heart of downtown, has a live music series from Memorial Day through Labour Day. Movies on the Square are shown on Friday nights, and there is a summer concert series on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
A must-see is the Museum of Northern Arizona, considered one of the best regional museums in the world. Allow yourself plenty of time to view the culture of the Hopi, Navajo, Pai and Zuni peoples. The different galleries represent the geology, archeology and ethnology of the Colorado Plateau region. Exhibits can be viewed in the Kiva Gallery, the Navajo Weaving Gallery and the Babbitt Gallery. The museum has captured the essence of the plateau, including the Grand Canyon and the Four Corners region. A picnic on the museum’s grounds will make a perfect day.
The Riordan brothers, Michael, Matt and Timothy, worked for Ayers Lumber Company. In 1887, Matt purchased the company and changed the name to Arizona Lumber and Timber. They were successful and became the largest employer in Flagstaff. By 1903, they were ready to each build 6,000-square-foot mansions, attached to one another by a large common room. Their duplex mansions were built in the arts and crafts style, and furnished with Stickley and Tobey Company furniture. The mansions were bought by Arizona State Parks in 1978. Guided tours of the east mansion are given on the hour. The tour concludes at the west mansion in the common room.
The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a great place to explore. There are miles of trails through the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. There are guided tours daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The Arboretum’s “Americas Mountain Garden” has one of the largest collections of high-country wild flowers in the United States. The grounds include greenhouses, a meadow, wetlands, a picnic area and a gift shop.
The well-known Lowell Observatory is open during the day and offers guided tours. At night, you can look out the many telescopes and enjoy an interactive live presentation in the mini planetarium.
Whether you are looking for a winter ski destination or a great summer getaway, Flagstaff, Ariz., is the place to go.
For more information about Flagstaff, call the Visitor Center at 928-774-9541 or visit online at www.flagstaffarizona.org.