As a city, Flagstaff carries its own, unique charge of cultural energy. Far from a remote mountain town (as evidenced by our recent growth—for better or worse), our community at 7,000 feet features all manner of bustling events, soaring live music, welcoming venues and spaces as well as a general sense of goodness.
For students new to town, we want to share some ins and outs of this place we call home—where to go, what to do, what to see. After the books are bought, the classrooms found and the dorm room is in order, the time will come to venture out. For returning students, the town is changing. We have lots of new restaurants, venues, events, establishments and so much more. Flagstaff is crazy-on-the-move these days. So, here’s a chance to stay in the loop.
We have compiled some of our favorite elements of what Flagstaff has to offer in the following pages, but by no means is it everything, or do we claim that we know everything, what’s fun, or what you should do. And if all else fails, just ask a local. Be sure to pick up a new issue of Flag Live every Thursday at locations all around town. Visit us on the web at www.flaglive.com. Enjoy!
Welcome to the Shows
Explosions in the Sky (Sept. 16). For almost 20 years instrumental post-rock band Explosions in the Sky has been on the scene delivering melancholy guitar phrases to listeners’ ears and providing the calming soundtrack to help de-escalate countless existential crises. Quite fitting, as the band sometimes refers to their songs as “cathartic mini-symphonies.” Although the band remains completely instrumental, they don’t need lyrics getting in the way of their emotionally-charged, swelling guitar riffs. It’s perfectly fine without that, though, as it allows fans to experience the music differently and take away their own meaning. Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen. www.orpheumtheater.com.
The Menzingers (Sept. 24). With choruses written with audience sing-alongs in mind and recurring motifs on falling in and out of love, if you’re not yet listening to the Menzingers, the question remains: What are you doing? Earlier this year, they released their fifth studio album, After the Party, where they wax nostalgic on living as 20-somethings without a care in a world that didn’t ask people to tip-toe around issues. And their clever lyrics sometimes go by so fast that it’s not until a second listen that a chord is struck and the music’s full impact is felt. Green Room, 15 N. Agassiz. www.flagstaffgreenroom.com.
Moon Taxi (Sept. 26). We’ll start by saying we have it on good authority that this band is way fun live. As for the music, this Nashville-based indie rock five-piece has released three albums worth putting on repeat: Cabaret (2012), Mountains Beaches Cities (2013) and Daybreaker (2015). A number of their songs, like “Morocco,” “Red Hot Lights” and “All Day All Night,” are catchy as all get out. And such is the case with their latest single, “Two High,” which hints that a new album is en route. Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen. www.orpheumtheater.com.
Less Than Jake (Oct. 11). Back when Warped Tour could still be called “punk rock summer camp,” this five-piece ska punk band was a familiar name. Formed in 1992, the group first played the festival in ’97 and have been regulars ever since. They’ve seen the music scene change over the years, but have been able to remain down-to-earth and focused on their upbeat music above all else—as evidenced by their 2017 release, Sound the Alarm. They’ll be celebrating 25 years with a show at the Green Room, 15 N. Agassiz. www.flagstaffgreenroom.com.
Saul Williams (Sept. 9)/T.J. Miller (Oct. 13). NAU’s SUN Entertainment has some new folks pulling the strings, which means some great stuff is in the works. Two of those that we already know and are most excited about are Saul Williams and T.J. Miller. Williams is an all-around bad-a** rapper, musician, slam poet, writer and actor; and Miller is an actor and comedian, most notably known for his role as Erlich Bachman in Mike Judge’s HBO series Silicon Valley. Learn more by visiting jan.ucc.nau.edu/cto-p.com.
Colorado River Days (Sept. 1–15). One of the most revered and protected—yet horribly threatened—resources on the planet flows through Arizona. The Colorado River is constantly under siege, and the Sierra Club Grand Chapter has fought for decades to protect this wonder, which is both sacred and invaluable to almost every life in the Southwest. Colorado River Days Flagstaff brings together 15 days of musicians, artists, river runners, authors, photographers and all those who share a connection to the waterway and surrounding lands. It’s all in support of the mighty and wonderful Colorado River. Various locations. www.coloradoriverdaysflagstaff.org.
Flagstaff Festival of Science (Sept. 22–Oct. 1). Flagstaff plays host to some pretty epic festivals. And one of them is the annual Flagstaff Festival of Science. Now in its 28th year, and as the 21st century has ushered in a new era of technology, this year’s festival will explore engineering solutions, with featured guest mountaineer Kyle Maynard. Beyond that, and as always, the free 10-day event will include field trips, guided hikes, star parties, open houses, hands-on exhibits, presentations and archaeological excavations. www.scifest.org.
Northern Arizona Book Festival (Oct. 6–7/Oct. 13–14). So, after you have gotten used to hitting the books, be sure to hit the Northern Arizona Book Festival. The gathering this year, now in its 22nd year, is a little different. Instead of one full week of events, it’ll take place over two weekends, and will feature the likes of Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz, as well as a number of other readings, workshops, and book signings. Check it out at multiple locations around downtown. www.nazbookfest.org.
Community/Urban Flea Markets (through Oct. 15/end of October). For a million years—OK, that’s an exaggeration—but for what feels like a comfy bit of forever, the Flagstaff Community Market has been a summertime staple in the way of compiling dozens of farm-fresh products from across the state, bringing northern Arizonans the freshest of the fresh food every Sunday through October from 8 a.m.–noon. And last year, the very same organizers have also hosted dozens of artisans, home-made creatives, professional artists and so much more every second Saturday through October. Flagstaff City Hall parking lot, 211 W. Aspen. www.flagstaffmarket.com.
Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival (Feb. 15–18). Outdoor films? Check. Environmental films? Check. Politically conscious cinema. Check? The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival—soon to be in its 14th year—has a great lineup of movies from around the country. And while technically this doesn’t happen until February of 2018, once a month they feature a seasonal showcase at the Orpheum Theater, and, as of late, they’ve been really great. So, keep a watchful eye on their website at www.flagstaffmountainfilms.org.
MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace. One of Flagstaff’s most beloved breakfast joints is MartAnne’s, on Route 66 just east of the San Francisco intersection. It is long celebrated for its signature chilaquiles, a plate piled with eggs, green or red chiles, chips, beans, rice, hash browns and at least three other things we’re forgetting. No one leaves hungry. Ever. Anyone who is feeling daring can try to clean their plate and forget about lunch (possibly dinner). And MartAnne’s expanded last year with a dinner menu and chilaquiles all dang day. Stay for the ambiance and Emma Gardener art. Or perhaps more hash browns? Trust us, it's one of the best breakfasts in town. You can visit them on Facebook.
Dance Parties. Flag is a town that loves to dance. For a night out with your favorite kicks, look no farther than our three big dance parties: Payback, BLUME and ElectricKingdom. Each brings a flavor to suit varied needs, just like the resident DJs who started and continue to foster the evenings, like BLUME’s DJs spinning wax in fluid rhythm and flawless transition. Payback is the happening spot for throw-back jams that track the ages of funk, disco, Motown soul and well into the synth-driven jams of the ’80s. ElectricKingdom—or EK—is the go-to for EDM sweat fests with friends and good times that seem to stretch into the cosmos. For more, check out each on Facebook.
Craft Breweries. We’d be remiss to not mention that Flagstaff loves beer. In fact, we practically swim in it. With seven (that’s right, seven) brewing companies in town, the options are endless, and each offers its own unique menu filled with tasty suds hand-crafted by loving and talented minds. The majority of them, like Mother Road, Dark Sky, Historic, Beaver Street, Lumberyard and Flag Brew are all situated blocks apart downtown, but don’t forget about the oh-so-good Wanderlust just a short drive or bike ride east down Route 66. Learn more by visiting their respective websites, or just pop on in and order up.
ArtWalks. The first Friday of every month, even in the darkest hours of winter, turns downtown Flagstaff into a hopping place with the First Friday ArtWalk. It has become one of the most popular nights on the town, and a way to catch with up with everyone known to man. The fall ArtWalks are particularly festive. www.flagartscouncil.org.
Flag Brew Patio. Beer or no, Flagstaff Brewing Co. (please, just call it Flag Brew) is often the hub of the universe during Flagstaff’s warmer months. Late-night Friday and Saturday patio parties are regular, and live music, often of the bluegrass, folk and Americana variety, happen every Sunday afternoon. Bask in the glory, poutine, and whiskey. They’re located downtown, right across from the train station on Route 66. www.flagbrew.com.
Il Rosso Pizzeria & Bar. In 2014 Bob Verderame opened one of the best Italian and pizza joints in downtown Flag only to be forced out to make way for the new Marriott hotel. But, he persevered, and with a little bit of luck and fellow restaurateurs keeping him relevant, he found a new home in Heritage Square this spring, where his cult-like following can once again enjoy his oh-so-tasty grub. They’re also a great late-night spot. See them on Facebook.
Morning Glory Cafe. If you know where to look, Flagstaff still has its hidden gems, one of which is Morning Glory Cafe. And with all of the new businesses racing each other to town, it’s nice to have a spot where you can relish in the comfy feels of the downtown Flagstaff of old. Serving up delicious local, organic and vegan breakfast and lunch, Morning Glory Cafe is one of the most underrated eateries in town. www.morningglorycafeflagstaff.com.
My Pita Wrap. Lately, one of our favorite places to nosh has been My Pita Wrap Mediterranean Grill. A few doors down from Campus Coffee Bean off of Milton Road and right next to NAU’s campus, this little hole in the wall offers up fresh food that is both yummy and authentic. It’s also very reasonably priced. Oh! And how could we forget to mention that the service is some of the best we’ve had in town. www.mypitawrap.com.
SoSoBa/The Commerce. Flagstaff’s own nonstop noodle shop certainly lives up to its name. One of the few restaurants in downtown that serves food late, it’s become a go-to for many people since it opened in 2014. Shortly after, they opened a partner cocktail lounge right next to SoSoBa called The Commerce, which cranks out specialty drinks and sandwiches and small plates. And don’t forget about their “halfy hour” which occurs daily from 5–6 p.m. for SoSoBa and 6–7 p.m. for The Commerce. They might be the best happy hours in town. Visit both on Facebook.
Oscar’s Burritos Fiesta. People in Flagstaff will argue day and night about who makes the best Mexican food in town. And since Cafe Olé left us years back, it’s a fair debate. But for our money, we’ll head over to Burritos Fiesta, a few doors left of Sprouts. Seriously, how can you go wrong with a place called Burrito Party? Everything on the menu is authentic and fantastically delicious. And don’t forget to say hello Oscar. Find them on Facebook.
Explore the Outdoors
Fall Foliage. If you are in Flagstaff during the month of October, it’s almost a legal requirement that you go spend some time in the aspen groves to soak in the Technicolor bounty that’s the turning of the leaves. The entire San Francisco Peaks are splendidly adorned with the gold, and there are tons of places to explore. Some of our favorites include the lower Weatherford Trail off of Schultz Pass Road, where a side trail passes through a doghair thicket bumper crop of aspens, and West Fork in Oak Creek Canyon. And Lockett Meadow into the Inner Basin is an autumn classic. www.fs.usda.gov/coconino.
Oak Creek Canyon. Just a short car ride south of town winding a lazy course down State Route 89A is this bit of heaven on earth, which for many locals remains a place of sanctuary. Marked by spectacular scenery, it’s a quick getaway for those in search of relaxation creekside and great day hikes among stunning and colorful rock formations. Certain hot spots have become increasingly crowded over the years, but if you know where to look and put in the time, you can find solitude amongst nature. Littering has posed an issue, so please pack out what you pack in, and when the temps start to drop and the fall colors fade, head a little further into Sedona. www.fs.usda.gov.
Urban Trails. Not enough gas money? Or no car? No problem. Flagstaff is home to more than 50 miles of urban trails. Running through and out of campus is the Sinclair Wash Trail, an urban woodland favorite. And few open spaces are as glorious as Buffalo Park and its trails. www.flagstaffaz.gov or on Facebook.
Grand Canyon. This is the big no-brainer on the list. Of course there’s the Grand Canyon. But take it in the cool temperatures and off-season to really dig in. Hit the lesser explored trails for some solitude. Or gas up the tank for the North Rim. The wonder is there for the basking. www.nps.gov/gcra.
Humphreys Peak. If you’re looking up at the San Francisco Peaks, only a short distance from town, that big ol’ mountain shooting up into the sky is, in fact, not Humphreys—it’s Agassiz. Humphreys, which is actually right behind it, resting at a comfy 12,637 feet, is the highest point in the state, and at 9.5 miles round trip, it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’re into bagging peaks, or good with sucking air for half-a-day, it’s so worth it. The trail starts at the Heart Prairie parking lot at the Arizona Snowbowl. For the adventurous, we recommend full moon and sunrise pushes. But steer clear if monsoon storms and thunderheads are quick on the horizon. www.fs.usda.gov.