- Things to Do
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I’m a huge champion for taking a solo trip. In fact, it’s something I think everyone should do at least once. Don’t get me wrong though. I also love to travel with my husband, friends, and family, but solo travel is undeniably empowering, mind-clearing, and puts you one-on-one with a new place for a deeper experience. I also understand how traveling alone for the first time can be completely unnerving!
During my trip to Flagstaff, though, I couldn’t help but notice how this gorgeous slice of northern Arizona is one of the best places to travel alone in the U.S. And, in particular, I think it’s the right destination for anyone who’s been nervous or reluctant to travel solo but can’t stop thinking about having a travel adventure all their own.
For travelers based in the U.S, a solo trip to Flagstaff eliminates any anxiety about language barriers, different currency, or foreign customs. But no matter where you’re traveling from, here are 5 convincing reasons why you should make 2019 the year you finally take that first solo trip and choose Flagstaff, Arizona as your maiden voyage.
1. Flagstaff is an action-packed destination. Part of the reason why big cities often appear on lists of solo travel destinations is that they keep you busy with an endless number of things to see and do. If you’re someone who feels a big city like New York or Chicago is too intimidating, consider Flagstaff. It offers all the thrill with none of the big city overwhelm.
You can hike, bike or walk on hundreds of miles of trails taking in gorgeous snow-capped mountain peaks and forests full of Aspen and evergreen trees. Follow the path of Flagstaff’s lunar legacy at places like Sunset Crater National Monument by day and the world-famous Lowell Observatory by night. Or walk in the footsteps of geology, dinosaurs, and Native Americans with visits to the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon.
For anyone fearing boredom would be a problem on a solo trip, you’ve met your match in Flagstaff.
And, just in case you’re thinking all these Flagstaff activities will be too expensive having no one to split costs with, you can take advantage of Flagstaff’s wide variety of free offerings. I spent a fun morning following the public art map on a free self-guided tour around town before popping into the local favorite, Macy’s European Coffeehouse & Cafe, for a chai and a bite to eat.
2. Speaking of the Grand Canyon, every great solo travel destination has an element of epicness perfect for any traveler’s bucket list. You’ll feel proud of that total WOW factor you get when you tell about your travel adventures to somewhere grandor majestic. And no, it doesn’t need to be some far-flung exotic international destination like Bali or Bora Bora in order to be an incredible travel story.
The Grand Canyon checks off all of these boxes and more. It also just happens to be an American treasure, 1 of only 7 Natural Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and only 90 short minutes from Flagstaff. Whether you’d like to walk and shuttle your way around the South Rim, hike down into the Grand Canyon or join a day tour to go rafting on the Colorado River or horseback riding, you can be as adventurous as you’d like in one of the most visited U.S. National Parks.
3. Flagstaff’s historic downtown is compact, easy to navigate, and safe! Oh, and did I mention, it’s full of one-of-a-kind shops, awesome public art, and trendy restaurants.
Nothing is more intimidating on a first-time solo travel experience than when you feel like you can’t get your bearings and it’s obvious you stand out as a visitor. Not only is downtown laid out in a simple, walkable grid pattern, but Flagstaff is also a college town. Full of students, their families, and a stream of visitors in town for all types of events and nearby attractions, solo travelers don’t stand out in Flagstaff nearly as much as they would in other places.
4. Traveling solo does not have to be all about taking risks and pushing yourself to go past your limits, either. Sometimes, you just need a solo getaway to clear your head, de-stress, or jump-start a mood change without any family or friends around. In my experience, big open natural landscapes and mountain air are the best ways to accomplish this. Flagstaff has plenty of both.
Not at all what you might picture when you think of the classic Arizona desert, Flagstaff is a true mountain town. It sits at an altitude of 7,000 feet and has 4 distinct seasons with dry air and bright sun. It’s hard to hold on to whatever’s been on your mind or even bringing you down as you breathe in that fresh mountain air while gazing out at the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument wondering how on Earth these early people survived. Or while you’re catching some rays as you carve your way down the slopes at the Arizona Snowbowl.
It may be cliche but you just can’t deny how being out in nature or at a National Park can make all of our struggles and worries seem so much less than what we make them out to be. So whether you want to take in the vastness of the Grand Canyon as you descend on the Bright Angel trail or head out to the open landscape dotted with the Pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument, there are plenty of places in and around Flagstaff to reflect and regain your inner balance.
5. Finally, would-be solo travelers often worry about eating alone and having no one to talk to dine out. First of all, Flagstaff’s food scene is so unexpectedly delicious, your taste buds will not want your tongue doing anything else but eating! Ok, I kid about that last part. ;)
Jokes aside, Flagstaff has nearly 200 tempting restaurants to taste-test and 7 award-winning breweries that’ll help you get past the fear of eating alone. Either that or you risk missing out on some seriously good eats! Add to that, the abundance of counter and bar seating and Flagstaff’s friendly, welcoming vibe and you’re almost guaranteed to strike up a conversation with the staff and other diners around you.
Take for instance the inclusive counter seats at the not-to-be-missed restaurant, Shift. You can see the master chefs preparing dishes right in front of you and, inevitably, end up chatting food with a pro. I’m about as introverted as they come and yet, from my bar seat at the Latin fusion restaurant, Criollo, I met Nigel the bartender who I chatted with about his university studies and upcoming travel plans.
Flagstaff, Arizona is a world-class destination with so much to offer all types of travelers. But, especially for would-be solo travelers looking to overcome the hurdle of taking that first trip alone, Flagstaff provides you with everything you’ll need to feel entertained, safe, well-fed, and accomplished making it one of the best places to solo travel in the U.S.A.