Photo Post: Walkable Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona

Historic stone storefront on a treelined downtown street in Flagstaff, Arizona
Babbitt Brothers Building

You can think of Flagstaff, Arizona, as the gateway to all that northern Arizona has to offer. From Flagstaff, it’s easy to daytrip to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, encounter the enduring cultures of the Hopi and Navajo people, retrace historic Route 66 in all its kitschy glory, or go hiking and skiing in the San Francisco Mountains. But all these activities, as attractive as they are, require you to be stuck in your car for hours at a time.

Historic hotel with second-story patio at sunset in Flagstaff, Arizona
The Weatherford Hotel

Flagstaff’s historic downtown gives you the freedom to get out of your car, stretch your legs, and begin to acclimate yourself to more than 7,000 feet of elevation. This district’s regular grid of streets makes it easy to navigate the neighborhood, while dense, human-scaled development makes cars unnecessary to get from one hotspot to the next. Here in downtown, a new storefront opens up every few steps, from bookstores and hiking outfitters to healing crystal stores and candy shops.

Customers sit at tables on a café patio in Flagstaff, Arizona
Macy’s European Coffeehouse & Bakery

Locals, college students, and tourists alike keep the sidewalks busy at all hours of the day. People are constantly walking—rather than driving—to the office, to church, back home, or for a meal at any of the coffee shops, bars, and restaurants tucked between historic buildings like the county courthouse, a Catholic parish, the train station, or hotels as old as Arizona.

Historic hotel with a neon sign at the blue hour in Flagstaff, Arizona
Hotel Monte Vista

All the town’s best places to get a drink or something to eat are found downtown. Start with a burger of open-range Arizona beef at Diablo Burger and pull up a seat on the communal patio tables that look out onto Heritage Square. Then, move on to the bar on the second-floor balcony of the Weatherford Hotel. With a drink in your hand, take in the atmosphere from above, both the crisp, clean mountain air as well as all the people-watching opportunities. You’ll probably be back in your car soon enough, but for now, savor this experience that requires no car to enjoy.

Pedestrians walk in front of a historic storefront at the blue hour in Flagstaff, Arizona
Downtown Flagstaff at the Blue Hour

How to get there

From Phoenix, the easiest way to get here is to take Interstate 17 north until it ends. Continue onto Milton Road for a couple miles until you turn onto Historic Route 66. If you’re coming from Albuquerque on Interstate 40, hop off the highway on the exit for Butler Avenue, which will take you to Route 66. Or for visitors from Los Angeles, there’s an I-40 Business exit that will direct you to downtown.

There’s plenty of (paid) on-street parking, but you can also park in an underground garage beneath Heritage Square or in a lot south of the train tracks on Phoenix Avenue. That same parking lot is home to the Downtown Connection Center, which every Flagstaff city bus stops at.

The Southwest Chief from L.A. arrives every day at 5:19 a.m. at the historic Flagstaff train depot downtown, while its counterpart from Chicago rolls in at 9:32 p.m. Low-cost intercity bus FlixBus also stops here, as do shuttles operated by Groome Transportation (formerly known as Arizona Shuttle). Old standby Greyhound has a bus depot east of downtown at 880 Butler Avenue.

Have you ever been to Flagstaff before? What’s your favorite American historic downtown? Start a discussion in the comments below!

Flagstaff, July 2016

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