They are often the star of backyard cookouts, but sometimes you want to give the grill a rest and go out to a restaurant to satisfy a burger craving. Flagstaff’s dining scene offers a bevy of burger options that will make you want to place your grill on a permanent hiatus.
Flagstaff, Arizona is a beautiful and exciting place to visit all year round, but I was really excited to be taking a trip there in the heart of autumn when the weather would be crisp and fresh and the views incredible. This gateway to the Grand Canyon is a great destination for enjoying nature, Route 66 culture and a vibrant downtown lifestyle.
Sunrise at Coconino National Forest
When it was suggested that I get up at 5 a.m. to head to the Coconino National Forest, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. But it was worth it, once I reached one of the spectacular scenic overlooks just as the sun came up. The Aspen trees glowed in their vibrant fall colours of greens and yellows, and in the distance, I could see red rocks under a sky that seemed to be a hundred shades all at once. Behind me, mountains with snow-capped peaks looked simply majestic. After a short hike on the Aspen Loop Trail, one of many the trails you can take, I spent about an hour relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty of the forest.
Route 66 Motorcycle Tour
After a great morning, I was ready to see more of the gems Flagstaff has to offer, and what better way than via a motorcycle tour on Route 66? After climbing on the back of a gorgeous silver Harley, with my tour guide Harry driving, we set off to tour downtown Flagstaff and specifically the iconic Route 66. We made several pit stops at some of the Route 66 hot spots, including a classic diner and a very cool bar. What a wonderful way to see a new city! Next time I go, I plan to do another motorbike tour with the same guys, but instead, go up to the Grand Canyon.
Exploring Downtown by Foot
After the thrill of the motorbike ride, I began my walking tour of downtown Flagstaff with lunch at the beautifully renovated Weatherford Hotel. Following a delicious French dip sandwich and chips, I was ready to have a wander around the five blocks that make up downtown. The area is chock-o-block with gorgeous boutiques, delectable sweet shops and art galleries, as well as seven breweries that make up part of the Flagstaff Ale Trail.
Walking onto the deck of Mother Road Brewing Company, I had an immediate sense that I would like the place. When I see that almost every patron outside is joined by his or her pet, I know this is my kind of place. After sampling a couple of the craft beers – the Roadside American Ale and the Gold Road Kolsch – I was even more in awe of the laid-back pub. If only I could move the entire establishment, customers and all, back to my home town!
Moon Viewing at the Lowell Observatory
Next, the time had come to check out the Lowell Observatory, which sits at the top of a hill with an incredible view over Flagstaff. It is here that Pluto was discovered in 1930 from a cramped room in the pitch black. It was the Clark Refractor telescope that really blew my mind. As the roof opened up and the telescope was adjusted, I had no idea how closely I would be able to see the moon. Looking through the lens, I was blown away by details I could see – incredible.
I finished off my first day in Flagstaff with a lovely meal at the Little America Hotel and then off to bed ready for my next fun-filled day.
Six Flagstaff Kicks on Route 66
You’ll Kick Yourself if you miss these Route 66 Secrets
Since all you Flagstaff Route 66 aficionados are so well-versed on the Mother Road’s “Must-See” spots – like the Museum Club, Galaxy Diner and the Flagstaff Visitor Center – I’m here to tell you about lesser-known gems that you’d kick yourself if you missed. As a travel writer, I’m always looking for hideaways that earn bragging rights, and I want to slap myself silly if I learn about one AFTER I’ve left the place. With the following six insider secrets, you’ll score impressive photo ops, backstories and much to crow about.
Mother Road Brewing Company
Stationed on a lost portion of Route 66, this locally-owned craft brewery is off the beaten path. The original Route 66 followed the railroad spur (Mikes Pike) that serviced Flagstaff’s Riordan Lumber Mill. The reroute took place when an underpass was constructed to facilitate congestion caused by families moving west during the Dust Bowl at what is now Milton Road.
Discover that original alignment of Route 66 by walking or driving south on Beaver Street from the Flagstaff Visitor Center to Phoenix Avenue. Follow Phoenix Avenue west to Mikes Pike, and you’ll be tracing the original route of the Mother Road, John Steinbeck’s name for Route 66. Turn left onto Mikes Pike and go one block to Mother Road Brewing Company. The family-friendly taproom, located in the 1920s Milum Building, serves beer with Route 66 inspired names such as “Lost Highway Black IPA’ and “Gold Road Kölsch Style Ale. http://www.motherroadbeer.com
Route 66 Passport: Get Stamped Along the Mother Road
Not many peeps are aware of the 90th Anniversary edition of the Arizona Historic Route 66 Passport, but you’ll be “in the know” when you ask for one at the Flagstaff Visitor Center in historic downtown. The commemorative document reveals where in Arizona you can collect stamps for your secret Route 66 passport. http://azrt66.com/things-to-do/route-66-passport
Dog Haus: Undercover Backstory
Just when you thought that the Eagles hit “Take it Easy” was inspired by songwriter Jackson Brown’s experience on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, here comes the backstory. According to an interview with local entertainment producer Matthew Ziegler, Brown revealed, “The image of that girl driving a truck was an image that came from east Flag(staff). … It wasn’t really a flatbed Ford. It was a Toyota truck, and it was pulling out of Weinerschnitzel.” The drive-thru has since changed its name to Dog Haus, but you could reenact your own version of the hush-hush story by checking out who’s slowin’ down to take a look at you while you wait for your dogs or breakfast burritos. In case you don’t know them by heart, here’s the words to that iconic road trippin’ song penned by Brown and Glenn Frey:
Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me
Miz Zip’s: Serving Route 66 Motorists Since Elvis was a Teenager
This Route 66 roadside diner has been in the family since 1952. There’s a selfie photo op with the sign outside that flaunts a Route 66 crest. Inside, historic memorabilia and western bric-and-brac adorn the walls. Miz Zip’s clientele is mostly locals, many sporting cowboy hats and boots. So you’ll experience a slice of cowboy life served up with that slice of homemade pie, a specialty. Bring cash or check since this hole-in-the-wall does not accept credit cards. http://www.yelp.com/biz/miz-zips-flagstaff
Western Hills Motel Neon Sign
This is my favorite neon sign along all of Arizona Route 66. The feet on the team of horses trot as they pull the covered wagon, which, of course, makes the spoked wheels go round and round. How fun is that? Get out of your car to make the most of this photo op and try out the video mode on your camera to capture the motion. The sign shares the address, 1580 E Route 66, Flagstaff with Agave Mexican Restaurant, which gets dos thumbs up from this travel correspondent.
Phoenix Avenue Route 66 Mural
If you don’t know where this almost block-long mural is located, you could easily drive right past it. Decorating the south wall of the Lumberyard Brewery at 5 South San Francisco Street, it is worth the stop to get out and view the detailed mural. The mural depicting classic cars, Flagstaff’s historic Indian Pow Wow and local Route 66 icons, makes this a great selfie backdrop to document your Route 66 exploits. After capturing your selfie, turn around and get a shot of the historic Downtowner Motel sign across the street.
If you’re not so well-versed on the more familiar “Must See” Flagstaff Route 66 spots, then check out the mountain town’s 66 Kicks on Route 66.