Compared to the desert-urban enclave of Phoenix and resort-filled Sedona, Flagstaff often gets written off as a pit stop – a place to pause on a long road trip to the Grand Canyon. But it shouldn't be dismissed so swiftly. This city of 69,000, in the shadows of the San Francisco Peaks and hemmed in by ponderosa pine forests, exudes a laid-back, outdoorsy charm. Locals, who bike, ski, hike – and enjoy a craft beer or two – infuse the city with life, and neighboring Northern Arizona University's college students lend the city some youthful energy, too.
For an easygoing vacation – 7,000 feet above sea level – complete with outdoor excursions, local eats (many of which are priced for college students), and a handful of unique natural attractions, including Walnut Canyon National Monument, Flagstaff should be your vacation destination, not just a stop along the way.
The best time to visit Flagstaff is between September and November when the summer crowds have dispersed, the trees are alight with color and the weather is crisp and clear. The three months between December and February are popular among winter sports enthusiasts, but Flagstaff typically has very snowy winters, which can make travel difficult. In March, April and May, the city starts to thaw, but this time of year is also known for having high winds. June, July and August are high travel season when visitors descend on Flagstaff to take advantage of the beautiful 80-degree weather.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
The dining scene in Flagstaff is influenced, in part, by its college-student cohort. You'll find an array of budget-friendly pizza and burger restaurants scattered near campus, which is located in the center of the city. Students at Northern Arizona University keep a lot of these establishments busy, but travelers should try to drink in the ambiance and the coffee at Macy's European Coffeehouse & Bakery and grab a slice at Oregano's Pizza Bistro – two popular spots near NAU. Other nearby restaurants like Cottage Place, which serves filet mignon and sea scallops, and Coppa Café, which brings "a taste of Europe in Flagstaff," offer more of a fine dining experience. Other local favorites include Satchmo's for barbecue and Delhi Palace for Indian.
When it comes to drinks, craft beer is a big deal in Flagstaff. In fact, there's even a Flagstaff Ale Trail that guides travelers on a bike or chauffeured tour of a handful of the best breweries in the city, including the beloved Mother Road Brewing Company. Wanderlust Brewing Company and Flagstaff Brewing Company are also popular among locals and travelers alike.
The best way to get around Flagstaff is by car. Although there is a public bus that makes regular routes throughout Greater Flagstaff, a personal vehicle will give you the most freedom to explore the best things to do and dining scene on your own time. Although there are pedestrian-friendly areas, such as the Historic Downtown and Railroad District, the city is too spread out to get around on foot alone.
The Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is located about 5 miles south of downtown Flagstaff. The airport is small and only welcomes flights from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which is the next closest airport about 150 miles south. You won't be able to book a nonstop trip directly to Flagstaff, unless you're coming from Arizona's capital. From the Flagstaff airport, visitors can take a taxi or rental car into the city. Amtrak and Greyhound also operate out of Flagstaff.See details for Getting Around
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