Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, web designers, freelance photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville.
Turns out it’s true what they say… that what happens in Vegas actually stays in Vegas. It’s true for our 4Runner at least. We dealt with total vehicle failure in Las Vegas but are finally back on the road! Our first dapperQ destination? Flagstaff, Arizona!
We were super psyched to visit Flagstaff because we’d heard that it’s a great city with a lot of our favorite things: excellent outdoor activities and attractions; several local breweries; and great places to eat. In addition, we learned a lot of new things about the area. (Did you know that it sits at 7,000 feet and that it’s home to some of the best star-gazing in the country?) We are already intent on planning a return trip!
Below are our recommendations of the best things to do, see and eat if you are visiting Flagstaff.
WHERE WE STAYED IN FLAGSTAFF
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Flagstaff | 1175 West Route 66
This hotel is in a great location within really close distance to all the major attractions downtown. You get a warm walnut chocolate chip cookie when you check in, the staff is really friendly and the room itself is super clean and modern. We had a nice view of the mountains, free, fast wi-fi and a really comfortable bed with extra soft sheets. Not much else we could have asked for in a hotel.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN FLAGSTAFF
Grand Canyon Café | 110 Route 66
This cafe is a throwback and one of our favorite things about downtown. We loved it before we even went inside. The sign is vintage and unique and the new owners have done a wonderful job of preserving the past. (There’s an old jukebox, original tables and re-upholstered booths, and even old photographs of menus with prices from the 60’s and 70’s.) Sometimes old places like this have a musty air and dingy feel to them but the Grand Canyon Cafe was exceptionally clean and inviting. We wholeheartedly recommend this place. Order the Crab Benedict (the lump crab meat pleased even the Maryland-er in me who can be downright picky about crab) and The Special Breakfast (two eggs, two buttermilk or buckwheat pancakes, hash browns and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage.) Caroline says they’re the best pancakes she’s ever had.
Historic Brewing Company | 4366 E. Huntington Drive
Science meets art at the Historic Brewing Company and the result is nothing short of awesome. We took a tour of the facility with brewer, Zach, who walked us through the brewing process, let us taste several different malts and even showed us some yeast under a microscope. Our education ended with a delicious flight of beers in the tap room among locals and friendly dogs. This is the kind of place we would visit regularly if we lived in Flagstaff.
Lumberyard Brewing Company | 5 S. San Francisco Street
The Lumberyard is a hot spot in downtown. When we visited, it was packed with locals, college kids and families. And for good reason. Their award-winning beers draw people in and their food is awesome, too. Go for the Santa Fe burger and the Colossal Atomic Burrito and pair it with a flight of beers! You can’t go wrong with this place.
Proper Meats & Provisions | 110 S. San Francisco Street
We wish every neighborhood had a butcher shop like this. Proper Meats and Provisions are the first exclusively local, whole animal butcher shop in the state of Arizona. They pride themselves on offering meat that is humanely and sustainably raised and offer not only the most common cuts but also specialty cuts of meat and other products that you won’t typically find in a grocery store, like house made dog food. Also, while we were there we overheard some people ordering bones for their dogs. Got to love a city that pampers it’s pups. Choose meat from the mouth-watering display case to take home with you or order from the menu like we did. The Banh Mi was delicious as was the burger. We’ve been thinking about both since we left.
Tourist Home All Day Café | 52 S San Francisco St.
If the cute exterior isn’t enough to lure you in, the smells wafting from the kitchen surely will. Step up the counter, order whatever tickles your fancy (we chose the fish tacos and a salad) and then pick a sunny spot out back or a seat at the long community table. Our food was delicious but our heads turned at every plate that came out of the back.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN FLAGSTAFF
Lowell Observatory | 1400 W. Mars Hill Road
Visiting the Lowell Observatory was literally out of this world. I’ve always had a fascination with space so this was quite the treat to visit the research facility that discovered Pluto! In addition to being able to stargaze through two telescopes, we also had the chance to sit in on a presentation in the mini planetarium. We highly recommend this one-of-a-kind experience, even if you’re not that into science.
Museum of Northern Arizona | 3101 N. Fort Valley Road
We took a tour with two museum docents who shared with us all kinds of information related to the Colorado plateau. There are over 800,000 artifacts at this museum – everything from dinosaur bones (you can touch some of them!) to Native American artifacts and artwork. Our favorite part was learning about Native cultures and coming away with a deeper understanding of beliefs and traditions. This is a Flagstaff must-do.
Orpheum Theater | 15 W. Aspen Avenue
Wear your dancing shoes! The Orpheum Theater is a great space for letting loose. There’s seats towards the back of the theater if you’re wanting to just kick back and relax. They just celebrated their 100th anniversary but their longevity is no surprise, the space is super cool. It’s the kind of place where every seat in the house is a good one. Pro tip: Arrive early and check out the murals on the side of the building. They’re some of the best we’ve seen in our travels.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park | 409 W. Riordan Road
Step back in time and see how one of the most influential families in Flagstaff lived. Their mansion was built in the Arts and Crafts style and has over 40 rooms in it! Tours are required to see the inside so allot about 60 minutes.
Walnut Canyon National Monument | 3 Walnut Canyon Road
We’d never heard of this place before and didn’t really know what to expect. Turns out it’s amazing. The canyon itself is gorgeous (you’ll get great views from the Rim Trail) but you can also visit actual pueblos of the people who used to live here by hiking the Island Trail. We were humbled and awestruck (as well as out of breath!) while exploring this park but we are so glad we visited. Be sure to bring lots of water and take your time coming back up the steps. The park sits at 7,000 feet of elevation and believe us, you’ll feel it!
We highly recommend Flagstaff as a place to visit. From anywhere downtown you can see the surrounding peaks of mountains, some as high as 12,000 feet. In addition to the sky-high views, the locals in Flagstaff are down to earth. They welcomed us with open arms. Flagstaff felt like one big neighborhood and in some ways reminded us of our home in Asheville: great food and beer as well as a thriving arts and outdoor scene. We’re already itching to come back and explore more.
About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville. When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady + @carolineperdue + @authenticasheville