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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cool off and breathe with a visit to Flagstaff this summer

    Photo Illustration by Kate Newton/Arizona Summer Wildcat

    As you ascend past 7,000 feet above sea level into the pines, aspens and soaring mountain views of Flagstaff, Ariz., it may seem hard to believe you haven’t left this dusty state altogether. Here, the air is thinner, the stars are brighter and the nights are cooler, all of which contribute to this college town’s charm that sets it apart from other vacation destinations in the Southwest.

    One of Flagstaff’s most well-known attributes is its immediate access to some of the state’s best hiking and biking trails, with many located just minutes away from metro areas. Local favorite Hart Prairie Road, off Highway 180 and north of Flagstaff, circles the base of the San Francisco Peaks, traversing through grassy meadows and thickets of trees for nearly 15 miles. If you’re looking for an outdoor experience more off the beaten path, don your headlamps and heavy jackets and descend into the Lava River Cave, more commonly known as the Lava Tubes, a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike that remains between 34 and 45 degrees year-round as it leads you into a massive underground cave.

    If you’d rather explore the outdoors from a distance but still enjoy the scenery, drive up Snowbowl Road in the summer and fall months to the Agassiz chairlift, a thrilling ride to the top of Arizona at a height of 11,500 feet. Stop off at the peak and take a short walk, or let your camera do the work as you take in panoramic views that extend as far north as the Grand Canyon.

    Sports fans don’t have to turn to hiking or biking to get an adrenaline fix in Flagstaff, even if it’s just from the sidelines. The Arizona Cardinals football team makes a trip to the Northern Arizona University campus every year in late summer for training camp, escaping the blistering heat. Football enthusiasts turn out in large numbers to watch scrimmages, get autographs or even exchange a few words with the players.

    A short walk away from NAU is Historic Downtown Flagstaff, an eclectic, welcoming and possibly the best downtown district in the state. The First Friday ArtWalk attracts live music performances, local artwork and an exciting nightlife for culture-craving tourists every first Friday of the month through mid-September. Some bands coming to Downtown Flagstaff this fall are stoner-friendly hip-hop/rock outfit Kottonmouth Kings on August 29 and Dr. Dog on October 2.

    If your itinerary is geared toward exploring downtown’s shopping and culinary options, look no further than the Old Town Shops, on the corner of Birch and Leroux Streets, as a one-stop destination. You can browse clothes and gifts at hidden-gem boutiques like Black Hound Gallerie and Basement Marketplace, scarf down tasty wings and Southern cooking at Bigfoot BBQ and satisfy an insatiable sweet tooth at Flagstaff Chocolate Company all under one roof. Don’t limit yourself, though, as specialty shops and restaurants around every corner are sure to pique the interests of even the pickiest vacationers. Several highlights include the creative “caffeinery” Late for the Train Coffee, lunch favorite Pato Thai Cuisine and outdoor-shopping mecca Peace Surplus.

    If one last excursion out of the desert seems to be just what the doctor ordered before the semester-long stretch resumes, take the 250-mile drive up to Flagstaff for a weekend of fun not found anywhere else in the state. You don’t need to be a hardcore skier, yoga enthusiast or avid granola-lover to like what you’ll see.

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