I don’t know about you guys, but the first I ever heard of Flagstaff, AZ was as the lesser expensive hotel option when visiting the Grand Canyon. And, since I booked my road trip during the swarms of spring break, that’s exactly where I was headed for my second night in town.

Yahoo! New city to explore!

…But What the Heck is in Flagstaff?

About an hour south of the Grand Canyon’s south rim, Flagstaff, AZ is a small town along Historic Route 66 that came to be in 1876 when settlers heading west posted an American flag up on a pine tree. This became the mark of the area, and eventually how Flagstaff got it’s name.

After finding the best-ever drive-thru coffee at Wicked Coffee (gem I tell ya), I took to downtown for some more answers.

Chatting with a local college student at The Rainbow’s End boutique, I learned that Flagstaff is the U.S.’s first dark sky city. All of their street lamps are dimly lit at night and point downward to minimize light pollution for star gazing (umm… why don’t more of us do that?!).

It’s definitely a college town (home to Northern AZ), loves thai food, has a burgeoning craft beer culture and the East side remains undeveloped.

The local observatory, Lowell, was the first to discover Pluto and one of the oldest in the U.S. today. The original telescope is still in use.

rainbows-end-flagstaff-az

The oldest building in Flagstaff? That’s The McMillan — originally a bank and hotel, then repurposed to an opera house, now one of only three local craft cocktail bars. Easy. That’s where I was headed next.

Walls adorned with a local photographer’s west coast images printed on sheet metal, the McMillan oozes with ambiance.

Exposed brick and Cards Against Humanity at the bar, leather-bound booths, the friendly bartender just as enthusiastic to tune me in to her city of choice.

mcmillan-flagstaff-az

The Flagstaff craft beer culture is so real — the 68k population hosts more than 37 breweries, and most of the local brewers don’t export outside of town, or at least only within the Arizona limits. Hops on Birch around the corner has 28 rotating craft beer taps including one called Wanderlust (score!).

The other two craft cocktail spots? Tinderbox Kitchen Annex and coffee-house-by-day turned martini-spot-at-night Rendezvous at Historic Hotel Monte Vista.

Into coffee? Fire Creek Coffee just south of the tracks roasts for all of the Whole Foods in the state.

The people? It’s kind of a weird mix. Students, lawyers and PHD professors. Flagstaff is a service industry town but close to 90% of the population has or is working on an advanced degree.

Most importantly: “You have to drive down to Sedona. Cave Spring Campground is one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

It was pretty close to sunset so I made the drive about halfway through Oak Creek Canyon and stopped for a break in the creek a bit before heading back north.

Next day: Vegas.

Thanks so much to the friendly faces of Flagstaff for sharing your local recommendations with me!

midnight-books-flagstaff-az rainbows-end-flagstaff-az mcmillan-flagstaff-az oak-creek-canyon oak-creek-canyon oak-creek-canyon oak-creek-canyon Over and out — any fave Flagstaff, AZ spots to share?