Flagstaff, Arizona, is frequently not a destination for travelers as they hurry between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, but we enjoyed the town during a long lunch break and two self-guided walking tours.
Our first stop was at the Flagstaff Visitor Center where we picked up directions to not one, but two, walking tours of Flagstaff. (We also took many pictures at the Visitors Center housed in the Historic Flagstaff Depot which opened in 1926, the same year that Route 66 was commissioned as a US Highway.) There is free visitor parking on one end of the center. Be careful on the tracks—the Depot is still the station for Amtrak!
We chose the historical tour first which took us to the north side of the railroad tracks and Route 66. Transportation is the reason Flagstaff exists, first the railroad and then Route 66. The historical buildings reflect the needs of the travelers and support personnel—hotels, stores, and a theater. We also were able to see some of the more than 100 fantastic public artworks that include murals, statues, mosaics and more.
Along the route we slipped into Pita Pit for a quick lunch. As a college town home to Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College, Flagstaff has many food options, from sushi to hamburgers to breweries and everything in between.
We returned to the Visitor Center to begin our Route 66 adventure along the “Walk this Talk Tour” with audio by Ted Danson, a former resident of Flagstaff. (The audio tour is well done, but we simply read the brochure at some points.)
Pausing here for a few facts about Route 66…
The name “Mother Road” was given by John Steinbeck in “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Route 66, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, was meant to be a primary east-west route across the U.S.
Parts of Route 66 were redone over time so many of the original sights are off the current route.
And back to our walking tour…
The Mother Myth Mural represents a brief history of historical migrations across Route 66 while across the street is the famous Motel Downtowner metal tower that soars over the area. The tower, which was built to pull tourists back to the Downtowner after Route 66 was rerouted in 1934, is a reminder of a place that served as a brothel, auto court, motel and murder site during its long history. The word “motel” came from “motor hotel,” a place where cars could be parked directly in front of the door.) The tour ends at the Double Circle Garage at the corner of Mikes Pike and Milton Road. The Garage, one of Flagstaff’s first gas stations, still repairs cars.
Flagstaff also offers tourists an Ale Trail and a Public Art Tour. (Several breweries are along the Walk this Talk Tour if you need a break for a drink.) Many restaurants are located in historical buildings so visitors can go inside these sites for a firsthand view. (The highly rated Pizziclette, located on the original Route 66, was closed due to Covid when we were there. Mother Road Brewing was only open to fill growlers at the time of our visit.)
Flagstaff was a fun break in our drive between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. History, good food, and friendly people made the stop worthwhile.
– Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers.