Introduction to Flagstaff, Arizona
The city of Flagstaff, located in northern Arizona, is the county seat of Coconino County. It is served by two interstate highways, Interstate 17 which connects the city to Phoenix (145 miles to the south) and Interstate 40 leading to Albuquerque, New Mexico (322 miles to the east). Surrounded by national forests and situated only 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff sits at the foot of Arizona's highest mountain, the 12,634-foot tall Humphrey's Peak.
Local lore has it that the town acquired its name from a pole made from a stripped Ponderosa pine tree and hoisted as a flag on July 4, 1876 to mark the U.S. Centennial. The 1880s saw early signs of Flagstaff's growth, including the opening of its first post office and the introduction of the booming railroad industry into the city. By the 1890s, Flagstaff had become the largest city on the main line between Albuquerque and the West Coast. In 1894, astronomer Percival Lowell leveraged the benefits of the city's high altitude and clear astronomical sighting conditions when he chose Flagstaff to be the site of the now famous Lowell Observatory. It was at this observatory that Pluto would be discovered 36 years later. The year 1899 saw the establishment of the Northern Arizona Normal School, an institution that evolved into the present-day Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff became incorporated as a city in 1928.
Flagstaff is home to several attractions, starting with the Lowell Observatory, which welcomes visitors year-round for tours and telescope viewing. Winter at the Arizona Snowbowl means snow skiing and summer means scenic sky rides and disc golf. The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a 200-acre botanical garden and nature preserve offering visitors spectacular views and nature trail hikes through ponderosa pine forests. The Arizona Historical Society-Pioneer Museum explores the history of Flagstaff and northern Arizona. Coconino National Forest is the world's largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest and is home to a variety of wildlife. Annual events in Flagstaff include the Flagstaff Wool Festival, Independence Day Festival, the Coconino County Fair, and the Flagstaff Winterfest.
Flagstaff is an ideal starting point for day trips to attractions in neighboring areas. The Walnut Canyon National Monument, located 10 miles east of Flagstaff, offers a look at the dwellings and vegetation of life as it was over 800 years ago. Sunset Crater, named for the remarkable hue of its cone, is 12 miles outside of Flagstaff on US-89. Thirty miles north of Flagstaff is Wupatki National Monument, the ancient home of several tribal groups. Other nearby attractions include Oak Creek Canyon, The Arboretum at Flagstaff, Barringer Crater, and the Museum of Northern Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park lies 80 miles north of Flagstaff along U.S. Route 180. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area can be found about 135 miles north of the city along U.S. Route 89.
Baseball fans visiting Flagstaff during the month of March may want to make a day-trip about 145 miles south to the Phoenix area, where there is an abundance of Major League team Spring Training (Cactus League) sites, including:
- Oakland A's and Milwaukee Brewers (Phoenix)
- Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals (Surprise)
- Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres (Peoria)
- Chicago Cubs (Mesa)
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Tempe)
- San Francisco Giants (Scottsdale)
Summertime brings Major League regular-season baseball action to Phoenix, home of the National League's Arizona Diamondbacks. At other times of the year, visitors to Phoenix can see a variety of sports played by local professional teams, including the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns, the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), and the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes. Tempe, located 10 miles outside of Phoenix, is home to the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals.