Nestled in the mountains of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff is a small town of approximately 60,000 people.
At just shy of 7,000 feet, the city is a mecca for athletes hoping to expand their lungs prior to competitions. Home to Northern Arizona University and part of Historic Route 66, the city is quite unlike the typical Arizona stereotype - with four distinct seasons, a plethora of pine trees, and moderate summers.
Many people choose to vacation in Flagstaff because it's blissfully free of humidity in the summer, replete with wildflowers in the spring, romantic with golden aspens in the fall, and a skier's paradise in the winter. Others make it a "home base" and then make day trips to Sedona (50 minutes to the S) and the Grand Canyon (90 minutes to the NW).
Our family stayed at the Embassy Suites Flagstaff and were pleased with the included amenities. The suite-style rooms allowed us to put our children to sleep and then stay up in the adjoining room. A sink, refrigerator, and microwave were available in each room. The complimentary cook-to-order breakfast was one of the better ones we've seen. Choose your own ingredients for an omelet (Try spinach, tomato, and cheese! Delish!) or opt for a pancake with bacon, sausage, or hash browns on the side. Bagels, pastries, oatmeal, cold cereal, melons, bananas, oranges, juices, Starbucks coffee, and yogurt were also available.
The hotel also has a complimentary Manager's Reception, nightly from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Enjoy beer, wine, and a light snack on-the-house. The lounge is reserved for those 21 and over, but you can always ask for Shirley Temples for the kids to enjoy in the breakfast area or in your room.
If the weather is nice, you'll find that the hotel provides an optimal location. It's walkable to Barnes & Noble (0.1 miles), Oregano's Pizza Bistro (o.2 miles), Safeway (0.3 miles), Target (0.6 miles), and the Flagstaff Public Library (0.7 miles).
Don't miss a stroll through Historic Downtown Flagstaff. It has a super cool vibe (great for pictures!) and a surprisingly decent restaurant scene for such a small town.
A little further east of Flagstaff, you can find great Mexican food and a family-friendly environment at Salsa Brava. Featured on the Food Network and voted "Flagstaff's Best Mexican Restaurant" by the Arizona Daily Sun, the colorful restaurant boasts a complimentary salsa bar and great signature dishes like the Navajo Taco (watch out - it's BIG).
Do drive an hour and a half northwest to the Grand Canyon National Park. The spectacular scenery will take your breath away. Bring your stroller for a leisurely walk around the Rim Trail (watch your little ones closely - the railings are very low in some areas). Or get adventurous and hike down one of the trails. As always, dress for the weather, bring lots of water, and take time for photos. To enter the park, you'll need to pay $25 per vehicle unless you have an America the Beautiful Pass. That pass is outstanding, by the way - $80 for your whole family to visit any National Park or Monument in the USA for one full year!
You can also venture 12 miles north of Flagstaff to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Roughly 900 years ago, the volcano erupted, forever changing the lives of people, plants, and animals in the area. Our family hiked the Lava Flow Trail, marveling at the cinders and the blackened mountainscapes. $10 for 2 adults (kids are always free) or free if you have the America the Beautiful Pass.
If you forget to bring a book for bedtime or if you'd like to pick up a new movie for the drive/flight home, make a quick stop at Bookmans Flagstaff (a used bookstore on Milton, just minutes from the hotel). The bookstore has a small kids area, an in-house coffee shop, and LOTS of books.
Temperatures for our early February getaway were in the 40s-60s, with plenty of sunshine. Because we were traveling in the off-season, we didn't encounter traffic or crowds. A definite bonus.
Have you ever been to Flagstaff with kids? What travel recommendations would you add?
* Special thanks to Flagstaff CVB and Embassy Suites Flagstaff for providing complimentary accommodations for review purposes.