The 2020 fall semester has begun, albeit differently. Whether you’re returning to Northern Arizona University or seeing the campus for the very first time, it is the novel coronavirus that is likely dominating all discourse surrounding university, registration, move-in. But it’s for good reason. Though the number of cases is slowly declining, there have still been 114 deaths in Coconino County, 2,928 positive cases as of last Friday and Flagstaff Medical Center wings still hold overwhelmed nurses and doctors. COVID-19 is a reality here too. It is a reality on the adjacent Navajo Nation, where cases surpassed New York in per-capita rate of infection early on.
NAU president Rita Cheng declared that all classes would begin online, postponing the originally scheduled in-person classes from Aug. 12 to 31. And then what?
In Flagstaff, there is currently a city mask ordinance in place; each person 5 years of age and older must wear a face covering when in public. This week it came out that a handful of NAU residential assistants had tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, Aug. 10, county health inspectors were sent to restaurants to make sure people were sticking to mask mandates, following up on customer complaints that people weren’t following these guidelines.
Despite what some say, NAU students are important. Many of you stay here, make art here, have families and then call yourselves locals 30 years down the line—or 50, or 70. Even if you don’t, do not let anyone convince you that you are not somehow part of the fabric of town. And fabric? It is held together by threads, each of which possesses its own graft to hold together and load-bear—make sure the other threads are not in danger of breakage.
Quarantine for two weeks when you arrive and whenever necessary, take advantage of the testing on campus, frequently email your professors if you have concerns. Help your peer who might not have access to internet. Social distance. Wear a mask. Speak out. Engage in self- and community-care. Wait, because giant ragers can wait. And remember that it’s OK to stay home if you feel sick; don’t come to class and risk spreading germs to your professors and fellow students.
Welcome back, or welcome for the first time, to unprecedented times at NAU. On the coming pages are some things you can do in Flagstaff while maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing. Eat outdoors or grab takeout, enjoy the bevy of trails the area has to offer—the world, as altered as it might be, is your oyster.
The Toasted Owl. Two of the vastest patios of eastside and downtown Flagstaff belong to the locally-famous and delightfully kooky brunch mavens at the Toasted Owl. Full of owl-inspired tchotchkes and vintage light fixtures, the Owl serves up some of the best breakfast burritos and vegetarian scrambles in town, not to mention some seriously satisfying bloody marys. The hometown Tortilla Lady green chili and sweet corn breakfast tamales with pork green chili, cheddar cheese, black beans, eggs and mixed greens are also a total home run. 12 S. Mike’s Pike & 5200 E. Cortland Blvd.
Fratelli Pizza. Flagstaff is the proud home of a lot of pizza places. And we meant a lot. Take a pizza tour of town, making sure to stop at the artisan pizza shop that is Pizzicletta—also conveniently attached to Mother Road Brewery, another one of our favorite outdoor spots in town. Oh, and add Pizza Patio to that list too. Then head to that New York-style slice offered up Fratelli Pizza. For those interested in dining in, Fratelli is has outdoor dining options at their downtown locale as well as their Fort Valley pizzeria. Start with basil pesto, add mozzarella, grilled chicken, roasted cashews, red onion, sautéed mushroom and top it with a delectable gorgonzola crumble and you’ve got one of our all-time favorites from Fratelli. Word on the street is that the pesto cashew pizza tastes even better while enjoyed out on one of Fratelli’s lovely patios. 119 W. Phoenix Ave. & 1850 N. Fort Valley Rd.
SoSoBa. Downtown’s late night ramen mecca, Sosoba is also home to one of our favorite outdoor dining spaces, though the restaurant is currently only doing take-out. Most people are well acquainted with their beloved noodle bowls, like the pork loaded Mic Drop (pork broth, pork belly, udon noodles, chicharon, carnitas, ham fries, egg, bacon, scallions and house-made kimchi) as well as the vegan-friendly Mothra (vegan green curry, broccoli, bok choy, marinated fried tofu, topped with mint, Thai basil and fried garlic) but we suggest trying some of their appetizers and small plates while sipping cocktails al fresco. The blistered shishito peppers with ponzu and miso aioli as well as the sweet chili chicken are two classic go-tos. 12 W. Historic Route 66
The Tourist Home & Annex Cocktail Lounge. With a lovely shared patio and building side dining, Tourist Home and Annex Cocktail Lounge offer some of the best outdoor breakfast and cocktail options in town. Tourist home’s newly unveiled take-out window offers yet another way to conveniently socially distance as well. If you arrive early enough (they usually sell out) order a French cruller (or two) and enjoy one of their many cold brewed and iced coffee offerings. Their dog friendly patio is yet another reason to patronize this cherished Southside institution. 52 S. San Francisco St.
Late for the Train. Late for the Train is a Flagstaff mainstay since it opened in 1996, with its world-class coffee, kombucha on tap and friendly baristas bringing customers back day in and day out. But it’s not just worth a visit for the brews and delicious pastries—and breakfast burritos, lest we forget to mention those, Late for the Train also boasts a beautiful back patio at its brand new location on Aspen Avenue—right in the heart of downtown. The downtown LFT has bounced around during its many years in Flag, beginning on San Francisco Street where Shift Kitchen & Bar now lives, then leaving for the corner spot behind Vino Loco, but the coffee house has settled down once more. This time LFT has made its home in half of what used to be Pasto, taking full advantage of the back courtyard patio, with its lush vines and brick walls. Sit down with LFT’s signature Mars Hill Mocha and enjoy the view. 19A E. Aspen Ave.
Rainbow’s End. Visit this downtown boutique for unique jewelry, clothing, soap and more. Like the many small shops that make Flagstaff the thriving community it is, owner Miranda Sweet relies on business more than big businesses like Target and Walmart. “My heart is definitely in this, so I just can’t turn my back and close up,” she said in March. “I’ve been very honest [with my customers]. I can’t [stay in business] without them. I’m like, ‘Hey, if you need something, now’s a good time to shop.’” 12 E. Route 66
Mirror Gallery & Flagstaff Tattoo Company. Let’s face it; even better than retail therapy is tattoo therapy. These two sister shops boast a handful of talented artists waiting to carve your design of choice into your skin forever. Want a bold traditional piece? They’ve got you covered. Want an intricate geometric design? Colorful new-school? Simple black outline? You got it—as long as you wear a mask during your appointment and don’t bring in 12 of your closest friends. Of course, tattoos can be personal, and there are no shortage of tattoo shops in Flagstaff to choose from—that’s not a decision we can make for you. Find more artists at Avail Tattoo, Burly Fish Tattoo, Tat-Fu Tattoo Studio or Sacred Ground Tattoo. Call your shop of choice directly for its COVID protocols.
Flagstaff General Store. This is the everything-but-the-kitchen sink store. First opened in 2014 and modeled after small town general stores, what began in an unassuming building just outside of town on Highway 89 soon outgrew its modest home base, moving to its current location on Leroux Street in the historic Raymond building downtown in 2017. The shop may appear small from the outside, but its depths contain a kaleidoscope of vintage furniture, signs, home décor, books, art, kitchen wares, jewelry, candles, kitsch, soaps and canned foods. Most of the craft items come from more than 35 local artists, from woodworkers to painters and candle and soap makers. 9 N. Leroux St.
Crystal Magic. For all your crystal, candle, aromatherapy, gem, tarot needs and more, Crystal Magic is here for you. With friendly workers available to help you pick the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one, this is a fun stop for locals and visitors alike. Crystal Magic has been family owned and operated since 1984, and has a Sedona location as well. Be sure to think of the local shops first when taking on your to-do list. 1 N. San Francisco St.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
San Francisco Peaks. You can’t walk a hundred yards without getting a view of the San Francisco Peaks. But it’s a little more driving to get up there. Take a cruise to the Inner Basin and camp and hike from Lockett Meadow. For those more fit that some of us here at Flag Live!, hike to the top of Humphreys Peak, the tallest point in Arizona at more than 12,600 feet. www.fs.usda.gov/coconino
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 the aforementioned Lockett Meadow welcomes all into an autumn wonderland—just get there early before the trails are crowded and cars get turned away. 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.
Red Mountain. A truly otherworldly scene takes center stage at the end of Red Mountain Trail. When this cinder cone volcano erupted around 740,000 years ago, rather than lava bursting from the top, it blew out the side of the volcano, revealing its insides. As hikers make their way toward the center of the volcano along a normally dry creek bed, a sturdy ladder requires a six-foot climb. Those hiking with a leashed dog can potentially bypass this by scrambling up a steep hill of loose cinders to the right of the ladder. Towering rock formations called hoodoos, eroded by wind and water over the years, rise up as high as 1,000 feet in places to form a natural amphitheater at the end of the short out-and-back trail.