Visit from An Orange County Mom

Grand canyon national park and arizona snowbowl were this family’s must-do’s

family posing in arizona snowbowl


When we first arrived in Flagstaff we immediately went to the Visitor’s Center which is located right off of old Route 66. We were greeted by the friendliest representative and began our journey into the downtown area. There are so many great restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques.

I loved all of the unique stores. One of my favorites was Salt + Peak. A tiny shop with lots of offer. If you love artisan candles, body creams, art, and jewelry you will feel right at home.

sweetshop candy store

My children LOVED Sweet Shoppe Candy. Of course, they did! Okay, I did too. Homemade gelato and chocolates, what’s there not to like? Even my husband who is not a big sweet tooth person couldn’t resist the candy apple licorice.

The feeling you get when you walk around Downtown Flagstaff is an overwhelming sense of calm. The hustle and bustle of Orange County can sometimes make me crazy, but in Flagstaff, I felt like I could breathe. Even though we had a lot of things to do I never felt hurried like I often do at home.

kid posing on top of a rock

My kids had so much fun exploring and especially loved all of the rocks – jumping is basically my two-year-olds favorite thing ever. A perfect place to take all of your Instagram worthy pictures!

But Flagstaff has even more to offer!

On our last day in Flagstaff, we went to the Walnut Canyon National Monument. The Monument was about a 1o minute drive from where we stayed at Little America. The canyon was similar to the Grand Canyon in its amazing geological formations. But the most amazing part of the Monument is that you could actually see where people used to live inside the walls of the canyon! I mean, unbelievable! I honestly was shocked at how these ancient people survived on the side of the canyon. You can visit the pueblos, which we did very, very carefully.

Because there are so many things to do in and around Flagstaff we couldn’t get to everything. So I have a few items on my to-do and to-visit list!

My NEXT trip to Flagstaff

Flagstaff truly is a vacation destination. It’s perfect for families who want to get out of Orange County and have a once in a lifetime experience every single day!


I love to eat, it’s just who I am. And I especially love visiting different cities and experiencing their eats. While we were in Flagstaff we were able to dine at so many delicious places. So here a few of my recommended stops for when you visit!

All of these are kid friendly as well!

diablo burger

Diablo Burger

This Burger joint is in the downtown area of Flagstaff – which is really cool on its own. The burgers here are 100% local, open range-raised, antibiotic-free and growth-hormone free. You can take your family here knowing they are getting super quality food. And did I mention the fries?! Oh, they were so good, especially with the sauces. I love sauce.

Fat Olives

This Italian restaurant was featured on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives so it has to be good, right? Well, it was! I had what Guy had! And I loved it. The pizza is certified Vera Pizza Napoletana which means they use only the BEST ingredients. Do yourself a favor and order the Italian sodas – the blackberry with vanilla is so perfect. And don’t skip dessert! If you’re going to eat here you have to get dessert. We did the s’more pizza which was actually developed by a four-year-old! Kids are so smart when it comes to yummy desserts. Excellent service at Fat Olives – our waiter was so knowledgeable!

Grand Canyon Cafe

We stopped here for breakfast before heading to the Grand Canyon – it was only right. You will need to fill up before taking the journey to the Grand Canyon and the breakfast there was everything a breakfast should be. Yummy pancakes and the bacon melted in my mouth. The kids menu was perfect, even the pancakes came out with cute smiley faces. The menu is eclectic but everything on it is delicious! It’s on the historic route 66 – a must stop on your way through Flagstaff!

The Fractured Prune

Do you love doughnuts? Of course, you do! So get on over to The Fractured Prune. The doughnuts are made right in front of your face and the combinations of flavors and toppings are unlike anything I’ve ever had. I would definitely do the French Toast doughnut.

Tourist Home

This coffee shop/breakfast place was really cool. Also in the downtown Flagstaff area – you’ll feel like a local. If you stop in on a Saturday you’ll be able to buy the fresh doughnuts as well as a homemade pop tart – which is what I HAD to have!!

Charly’s Pub & Grill

Right off of the historic route 66 is Charly’s Pub & Grill. The homemade Mac n’ Cheese was so good. And if you order the frybread (Navajo Taco) – you won’t need two! Trust me, when you go you’ll understand!

flight of beer from collins pub

Collins Irish Pub & Grill

Flagstaff has a lot of pubs and breweries so we couldn’t hit them all, but we tried! A sports bar with excellent food – comfort food to be exact, and fabulous service!

As soon as you get to Flagstaff make sure you go to the Visitor’s Center. You will be given a map with so many dining options that everyone in your family will find something they love!

I’m guessing you’re starting to get hungry? And how could you not with all of these mouth-watering restaurants?! Make sure you dine in when you arrive in Flagstaff – your taste buds will thank you!


Everyone wants to get to their destination more quickly, right? Especially if their destination is VACATION! Which is why it is so exciting that American Airlines is now flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Flagstaff!

Starting May 5, 2018, you can fly on American Airlines from LAX and in a little over an hour be in Flagstaff. Fly in luxury as the flight to FLG includes a first class cabin. Once you exit the plane you will be able to breathe easy as the hustle and bustle of Orange County fades away and the fresh air of Flagstaff welcomes you.

flagstaff airport

Just think, on any given Saturday you and your family can arrive in Flagstaff by 4pm – before dinner! Which means you still have time for shopping in downtown Flagstaff, relaxing by the pool, and dinner under the stars.

I had the great pleasure of meeting the airport director at Pulliam Airport in Flagstaff and he gave me some fantastic tips about FLG.

FLG Travel Tips

Book your trip 6-8 weeks out for lowest ticket price

Call the LOCAL rental car company at the Pulliam Airport {Enterprise, National, Budget, Hertz, Alamo, and Avis} If you call the local agent at FLG all of your specific rental car needs will be met with the best service for your arrival.

Take a few minutes to visit their Air Cafe which offers fabulous dining.

Let your body acclimate to the elevation change before exerting yourself.

One of the things I absolutely loved about the Flagstaff airport was their phone charger stations. They are bikes! While I was in my meeting my kids were doing their best to pedal as fast as they could to charge my phone. Because Flagstaff is such an active city it only makes sense that the activity begins upon your arrival.

My son thought we had walked into Great Wolf Lodge because of how the Airport is designed.

The other thing I loved about this airport was the ease in which it is to navigate. Just like our home airport, John Wayne, FLG is smaller, quiet, clean, friendly and a breeze to get in and out of. And isn’t that what makes flying with a family even better?

If I can get through security without a meltdown I’m winning at life! Which is exactly what it is like at FLG!

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!


There are so many wonderful places to stay in Flagstaff. We stayed at the Little America Hotel. The hotel has just gone through a major renovation and it is gorgeous.

As soon as you enter the lobby you will be swept away by its modern rustic charm. It’s warm and inviting. My children were obsessed with the gift shop that has to be the nicest gift shop inside a hotel that I have ever seen. Safe to say I saw a few items I wanted to snag as well!

The location of the Little America Hotel is fantastic. It is right off of the 40 which makes getting to all of your vacation destinations easy and quick! I loved knowing we didn’t have to add an additional 15 minutes just to get on the road.

The rooms are spacious. We were easily able to fit our family of five in our room which was the standard two queen bed with a pull-out couch. The modern renovations mixed with the rustic charm take you right out of Orange County. Being surrounded by the largest population of Ponderosa Pine will do that to you!

I enjoyed visiting the hot tub, while my children loved the playground! This hotel is perfect for a family with little ones. After our drive, we needed to stretch our legs and our kids needed to get all of that crazy energy out so a trip to the playground followed by a short dip in the hot tub was perfect!

There is also a fitness center, business center, and swimming pool. I didn’t have time to go to the fitness center, BUT I could have gone if I wanted to!

One big thing we loved was the amount of parking available! Yes, parking is a big thing to us Orange County residents, so knowing that every night when we got back to our hotel from our various travels we would easily be able to park was a big plus for me and my husband.

And did I mention their Silver Pine Restaurant??? Let’s just say this is not your average hotel food. Filet Mignon and Seared Salmon. Yes, please!

The staff is also amazing. If you need anything or have any questions about the hundreds of things to do in and around Flagstaff, they have answers. It’s like having your own little travel guides right at your fingertips. And if they don’t know they will find out for you.

We loved our stay at the Little America Hotel. Fresh, clean, peaceful and best of all RESTFUL! That is how the Little America Hotel felt the entire time we were there.

For a more expansive list on where to stay on your visit to Flagstaff click here!


family posing in arizona snowbowl

When I found out we were going skiing at the Arizona Snowbowl I was surprised. I called my husband and told him we would need to pack for skiing and his first response was, “there’s skiing in Flagstaff?”. And to our delight – there is!

And it’s really good skiing!

From our hotel Little America, the Snowbowl ski resort is about thirty minutes away. A very easy drive. And for someone who gets car sick really easily, I can attest that the drive up the mountain is smooth. I didn’t once think about digging through my purse for some Dramamine.

Once there we were greeted with extremely friendly staff who helped us get ready for the slopes. Be sure to get to the slopes early – Snowbowl is popular with avid skiers from all over the world so beat the morning rush and get there first thing!

My son who is almost six started the day with snowboarding lessons. This was absolutely the most adorable thing to watch! His instructor had him and two other children and she worked with them all morning. And then after a break for lunch (which they could eat together if they wanted to), they hit the slopes again for more lessons.


The Lowell Observatory is not only a destination within Flagstaff, but it is part of history. Which is why I was so excited to bring my family there.

We are all trying to get our children excited about learning. It can be really hard to grab their attention, but once we walked onto the campus of the Lowell Observatory my children were captivated. Even my two-year-old was in awe. It’s just a really cool place!

kids playing with science

Fun Facts about the Lowell Observatory

  • This is where Pluto was discovered!
  • It is home to the World’s First International Dark Sky City! Learn more about that here
  • They have a Junior Astronomer’s Program which is perfect for your kids!
  • You can schedule a guided tour
  • The Space Guard Academy Exhibit has just launched!
  • Take a trip back in time while visiting the Putnam Collection Center.

The very first thing we did when we went to the Lowell Observatory was walk through the Space Guard Academy Exhibit. The exhibit is fun for all ages (even 35-year-olds!) You can walk around the room and answer questions about the things you have learned from each station. We loved this part of the Observatory.

My son’s favorite thing was the Science demonstrations which are held almost every night except Sundays. Both of my little ones sat for 45 minutes and watched as the instructor described the sun using fire and Pluto using liquid nitrogen. We even got to name both of the balloons that the instructor used during his experiments.

We had so much fun!

We then explored more of the Observatory making sure to take a peek at the telescope that discovered Pluto. The story of how Pluto was discovered came to life before our eyes and it was something I hope my kids always remember.

Who says you can’t learn while on vacation?!

They even have an evening telescope viewing. With the guidance of the educators at the Lowell Observatory you can view the planets, moon, stars and more!

If your children are excited about space you won’t want to skip the Lowell Observatory. I always loved space as a child and being there brought me back to when I was younger.

The best part about visiting the Lowell Observatory was when it became dark and we were able to truly see the stars. Because they are a dark city the light pollution is very minimal. Unlike here in Orange County, the sky in Flagstaff is so clear! We were truly able to enjoy the night sky and pick out constellations that we had just learned about.

If you’re making a trip to Flagstaff make sure a visit to the Lowell Observatory is on your list of things to do!


family posing at rim of grand canyon

The Grand Canyon has always been on my bucket list. And when I was given the opportunity to visit I jumped at it! I didn’t realize how close to Flagstaff the Grand Canyon was. Or that you can actually see the Rim from the top of Snowbowl 404.

The drive from Flagstaff is about an hour and fifteen minutes – just like driving into Los Angeles but without ANY traffic! The drive is peaceful and quite beautiful – all leading up to the Grand Canyon.

As soon as we entered the Grand Canyon National Park we started to see elk. It was REALLY cool. My kids have seen animals before, but never quite like this. We definitely don’t have elk roaming freely in Orange County.

After we parked, which by the way is much easier to do than downtown Los Angeles, we started off on the trail. Just a few yards down the trail you could see the light shining on the Grand Canyon. I have to say it was amazing. You’ve seen it in pictures and you’ve seen it on shows, but to actually see it with your own eyes is pretty spectacular.

Even my 17-year-old was impressed, and do you know how hard it is to impress a 17-year-old?!

We walked to the Yavapai Geology Museum where we were able to listen to the free Geology Glimpse. I would highly recommend partaking in any of the free ranger programs that are offered there. The other program at that Yavapai Geology Museum is the Critter Chat. We weren’t able to stay to listen to that one, but don’t worry you can find it on YouTube! Such awesome information about the formation of the Grand Canyon. I’m a bit of a history nerd and I loved every minute of it.

Every so often along the path around the Grand Canyon, there are boxes with brochures about different aspects of the Park. My kids loved checking these out. We especially loved the one about animal life at the Grand Canyon.

Along the way, there were markers that took you 2 billion years through time. My five-year-old was SUPER excited about this. He loved to yell off each time we crossed a marker.

If you have been wanting to take your family on a trip they will never forget I would highly suggest going to the Grand Canyon. You can stay in Flagstaff and make your way to the Grand Canyon for a day or even camp there for a night or two. There’s even a hotel if camping isn’t quite your thing. {It’s not mine so don’t feel bad}

Travel Tips for The Grand Canyon

  • Pack WATER! Seriously with the added elevation and dryness, you will want to bring water with you. Especially with kids, as they are always thirsty!
  • Pack Snacks! I mean, you have kids, your entire backpack is basically a grocery store, but snacks. Just bring them.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes I realize this may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot of walking going on not only for you but for your little ones. Make sure you are all comfy.
  • Consider a backpack with a leash for little ones. I know that some people are against leashes, but we bought two for our boys and I don’t regret it for a second. The extra peace of mind – especially with our two-year-old who is basically a tazmanian devil was well worth the stares.
  • Expect to be there the entire day. It’s just so beautiful. Pack a lunch – picnic while overlooking the Canyon.
  • Go to the bathroom as soon as you get there! Seriously there aren’t a ton of bathrooms in the wild so go potty people.

Seeing the Grand Canyon was so worth it. It’s one of those things that you just have to see for yourself. So get out of the city and hustle of Orange County and go experience this unbelievable geological showcase.

About the Author

portrait maria hoey

Maria Hoey

A native of Iowa, Maria moved to Los Angeles ten years ago. It’s there that she met and married her husband, Brian. Then, life happened and they moved to Anaheim Hills. Maria is a stay at home mama to her step-daughter Hayley (17), her little rascal of a boy Luca (5), and her happy bouncing baby boy Beckham (2). When she isn’t doing all things “mom” Maria enjoys reading, writing, baking, eating, LAUGHING, and recording her Podcast - They See Me Mommin' She also loves all things fantasy and would gladly move to the Shire or Hogwarts if given the choice.

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