Whether you’re with family, friends or a significant other, traveling together has its pros and cons. It also almost always includes a few stress-inducing moments. Traveling alone, on the other hand, may seem scary, but what if a solo vacay is exactly what you need for rest and recharging?
I recently took a trip alone to Flagstaff, Arizona and stayed at the newly renovated Little America Hotel. I arrived at Pulliam Airport, one of the smallest I’ve ever seen, and headed to the family-owned property, part of an eight-hotel chain with locations in Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Sun Valley, and even San Diego. However, if you prefer, you can rent a car and drive the two-and-a-half hours from Phoenix. With a great playlist, you’ll be there in no time.
Just 45 years old, the value-oriented Little America, has no parking or resort fees and has been recently upgraded with Canadian maple tables in the rooms, along with local art, photography and lovely fireplace suites. Some rooms are even two-story cabin-style with space for meetings and/or entertaining friends in the downstairs common area and a tranquil place for sleeping upstairs. My suite had a kitchenette, a nice-sized shower and overlooked serene greenery. It’s not too shabby for a wedding, either, with 10 meeting rooms that incorporate local art and furnishings and let in tons of natural light for an authentic Arizona feel.
On 500 acres of Ponderosa Pine Forest, this Northern Arizona getaway has hiking trails, a gym, spa, and pool. Its restaurant, Silver Pine Restaurant & Bar, hosts live musicians and has big windows throughout, overlooking the great outdoors. If you’re around for lunch or dinner, order the tempura green beans with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce), the Cedar Plank Salmon and a Prickly Pear Margarita (the plant is actually native to the region).
There’s more than enough to do on property, but a day on the town is highly recommended. Why not take a brewery tour? In a college town of just 65,000 people, Downtown Flagstaff has a handful or two of breweries all within walking distance. I made it to three during my visit: Lumberyard Brewery and Beaver Street Brewery, owned by the same folks, and the super-hip Mother Road Brewery with picnic tables, umbrellas, and fire pits outside for chillier days.
Lumberyard Brewing Company is named pretty literally. The space, once a lumberyard, is now a Green building where most everything you see is original. This brewery produces 1,240 gallons of beer a day including a heavy-bodied Flagstaff IPA and the German-style award-winning light and refreshing Humphrey’s Hefe. Order the wings, served dry with your choice of mild, medium or hot dipping sauce. There are more than 10 sauces on the menu, but my favorite was the cilantro lime.
From Lumberyard, head down to Beaver Street Brewery. The 10-barrel brewhouse is just south of the town’s historic train station and serves some of the same beers as Lumberyard. Try the Railhead Red, an award-winning full-bodied amber ale and pair it with a wood-fired pizza. Trust me, with this combination, you can’t go wrong.
The third and final spot on your self-guided beer tour is Mother Road Brewing Company. It’s the fourth largest independently-owned brewery in Arizona and is located inside a 100+-year- old building that used to be a laundromat. Get your craft beer, which comes in the coolest designed cans I’ve ever seen, and stay a while. Furry friends are more than welcome on the patio of this experimental brewery and tap room. Oh, and kids can tag along too, making it a true family affair.
After all that beer you’ll probably be ready to head back to the hotel and rest up before your big day at the Grand Canyon, but there’s one more stop you need to make in Flagstaff and preferably after dark. Lowell Observatory has been around for decades and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Hop on a tour to learn about the constellations or take a peek inside one of the observatory’s telescopes. Maybe you’ll even see Pluto since the planet was discovered at Lowell. Take your time here and take lots of pics! Just remember that flash photography is prohibited. You’ll definitely get a great night’s sleep after seeing more stars than you’ve probably ever seen in your life.
Grab some breakfast and head to the lobby bright and early. If you’ve signed up for a tour with Grand Canyon Adventures, your guide will be there to pick you up a little after 8 AM. Pack a sweater (it’ll be colder than you expect, for sure) and a phone charger so you can power up in the shuttle. The ride is a little over an hour and you’ll want to take plenty of photos when you arrive. This tour includes over a handful of stops along the South Rim for breathtaking views no picture or video compares to the actual thing and a lovely picnic-style lunch with real plates and silverware. Good thing because the McDonald’s here is the most expensive in the U.S., second only to NYC’s Times Square.
The last stop before heading back is a Navajo trading post with tons of cool jewelry and handmade goods. Don’t forget to tip your super-knowledgeable guide who’s probably spent the entire day pointing out the native flora and fauna. You may even be lucky enough to spot wild horses, coyotes, some javelinas (they’re hoofed mammals that look like furry boars) or a rare Mexican Gray Wolf.
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