Route 66 Flagstaff, Arizona!

Route 66 Flagstaff, Arizona!

Public interest in Route 66 tourism has dramatically increased in recent years.  Car clubs, motorcycle rally enthusiasts and motor home caravan organizers always seem to hold Route 66 destinations at the top of their list for summertime events.  Many modern tourists from Asia and Europe even plan their entire excursion abroad around the classic American Route 66 travel experience. This is all because Route 66 is the best for experiencing the nostalgic past when automobile touring was number one!  

The allure of the Route 66 experience revolves around the opportunity to relive the golden era of automobile travel, back when big comfortable cars were the king of the road.  The nostalgia is captivating, especially when tracing the footprints of the many legendary stars that immortalized the Route 66 lifestyle.  The rock ‘n’ roll music, the old fashioned food, the roadhouse saloons and the tourist traps made traveling this long road an entertaining adventure like no other.  

The little old motels with unique themes and big neon signs still capture the hearts of road weary travelers in this modern age.  Old Route 66 truly was a unique vacation experience that was left for dead when this road was bypassed by Interstate 40, but thanks to modern tourism trends, “The Mother Road” will never fade away!

Flagstaff, Arizona, is one of the few towns that faired well back when Route 66 was bypassed.  The reason why Flagstaff survived when so many other small cities along Route 66 turned into ghost towns is easy to see.  Flagstaff is where the two classic western tourism crossroads meet.  From Flagstaff by car, travelers can easily reach the Grand Canyon National Park, Glen Canyon, Monument Valley, Meteor Crater, The Petrified Forest, Sedona, Prescott, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Wupatki, Montezuma’s Castle, Moab, Canyon De Chelly, Canyonlands, Walnut Canyon, Two Guns and countless other scenic destinations within one day’s drive.  Flagstaff was a hub for vacation adventures in this region back in the old days and it still is today.  

In modern times, Flagstaff is where I-40 and I-17 meet, but these two freeways are like a thorn in the side to fans of Route 66.  There still are a lot of hard feelings concerning the detrimental effect of the Interstate Freeway System on local businesses and families that once thrived on old Route 66.  When Route 66 was bypassed, it was like the ruling elite intended to banish the counterculture that this road represented.  With this in mind, it is easy to see why so many folks prefer to take the road less traveled to support the rebirth of Route 66 with heartfelt sympathy in modern times.  It is as if one feels obligated to patriotically spend money at places along this road, in order to help keep the Route 66 culture intact.  

Thanks to local historical societies that strive to preserve items of cultural significance, Route 66 is still very much alive in Flagstaff.  The entire downtown area of Flagstaff is like a Route 66 preservation hall.  The billboards, street signs and business marquis all promote “The Mother Road” in one way or another.  Old original buildings from the peak of the Route 66 era still stand and towering motel signs touch the sky.         

There are historic landmarks along Route 66 in Flagstaff that have been around since long before the age of the automobile came to be. These old west landmarks still draw the attention of tourists just like these places did back in the old days, but with a modern touch.  Historic downtown Flagstaff has several old Route 66 motels that have been converted into modern boutique motels or bed & breakfast businesses.  A college is located downtown, so many of the old Route 66 watering holes in this area now cater to students and tourists alike with a laid back atmosphere.  

The old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Depot is a historic building located on Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff that was preserved for all posterity as tourism visitors center.  The Railroad Station Visitors Center offers a wealth of information about things to do and sites to see in this town.  Another historic site is the old Orpheum building, which has been standing since 1911 and this old theater now hosts concert venues.  While strolling around historic downtown Flagstaff it is easy to see the significance of the old buildings and the antique neon signs.  Flagstaff is where classic old west prosperity met Route 66 culture.      

Heading east from downtown, the old Route 66 Strip harbors many of the classic Route 66 era theme motels that still have the original big neon signs.  There are a few classic diner restaurants from the bygone era that still offer great dining value along this section of “The Mother Road.”  

A little further east on Route 66 is where The Museum Club can be found.  The Museum Club is a registered historic landmark, which happens to be the biggest log cabin building in the entire west.  This old building is stocked full of old west antiques and Route 66 memorabilia.  The Museum Club is a unique place to visit and rumor has it that this place is haunted, so there is some paranormal tourism in Flagstaff too.  Unfortunately, The Museum Club closed last summer and it is awaiting new owners to open the doors once again.  Hopefully it will be soon, because The Museum Club is a must to experience when doing the Route 66 tour of this town.  

Of course there are more things to do in Flagstaff than old Route 66 tourism.  The historic Lowell Observatory has been around since 1894 and this is where the planet Pluto was discovered.  The Lowell Observatory offers tours and every visit offers a new educational experience.  The Riordan Mansion State Park is another historic site that is well worth checking out.  This classic western style mansion hosts social events and tours too.    

Humphrey’s Peak hovers 12,000 feet tall over flagstaff.  This mountain is a hikers paradise and there are many trails that lead to unique points of interest.  Nestled on the mountain by Flagstaff is also a place called the Arizona Snowbowl.  The Snowbowl is a famous alpine ski area that caters to the snowboard crowd.  

There are several scenic drives around the Flagstaff area that lead to outdoor adventures.  Highway 180 runs through high elevation forests and meadows past some interesting mountainside red rock outcrops on the way to Valle, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon.  Hiking trails can be found along this road and there are campgrounds nearby.  Heading southeast on Lake Mary Road into the Coconino National Forest one will find two natural lakes.  Fishing, boating, water skiing and just plain old having a relaxing afternoon picnic are great options in this neck of the woods.  

As mentioned earlier, there are several National Parks and Monuments Nearby.  Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Walnut Canyon are all just a few miles away from Flagstaff.  Wupatki and Walnut Canyon both have some of the best preserved ancient pueblos and cliff dwellings in the region.  The lava flows and cinder cone at Sunset Crater look as fresh as yesterday, even though this volcano blew its cork about 1,000 years ago.  One can spend at least a full day exploring each of these scenic places and there are campgrounds on site. The Grand Canyon is the biggest draw in this region and Flagstaff is a good choice for a base camp for adventures in this vast wilderness area.  

As far as wild west vacation destinations are concerned, it does not get much better than Flagstaff!  Where else can one find historic Route 66, old wild west sites, mountains to climb, slopes to ski, lakes to splash in, an observatory to explore the heavens, ancient archaeological pueblos, volcanoes and a gigantic haunted log cabin?  Nowhere else other than Flagstaff!  Now it is easy to see why Flagstaff has always been one of the most popular destinations to be found along the “Mother Road!”                                                       


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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