Frequent readers of this blog will know that our family generally chooses vacation rental apartments when we travel. We like the space and the feeling of homeyness. But when I was looking into places to stay in Flagstaff for our visit to the Grand Canyon on our big road trip, I kept coming back to the listing for Little America Flagstaff. The pictures looked lovely and the reviews were stellar. We decided to break out of our habits and try something new – after all, that’s what this year is about!
Where to stay in Flagstaff: the family-friendly choice
I’ll give you the Bottom Line Up Front: the only thing I wish I could change about Little America Hotel Flagstaff would have been to add a third night! We will absolutely return the next time we’re in the area, and we’ll happily send our friends and family for a stay. What did we love? In a nutshell, everything. Clearly there’s a reason it’s listed as one of the best hotels in Flagstaff for families.
The owners are part of the way through a massive renovation that has given the space the feeling of a cozy but modern mountain lodge. So far the main building and two of the guest room buildings have been completed, and the remaining lodges will be renovated by spring 2018. Check below for more details about the guest rooms.
Beyond the comfortable and classy look of the property, its staff is absolutely exemplary. We were greeted with genuine warmth and smiles by every single person. They went out of their way to provide us with insider recommendations and help at every turn. We could tell that management has put a huge emphasis on running a property that is inviting in all ways. Though the town is full of other “big chain” hotel options, in my mind there’s no question as to where to stay in Flagstaff.
Activities at Little America Hotel Flagstaff
The pool was amazing and if you go there you’ll get even more information from the guides and folks. Goodbye! -jacob.
The hotel’s layout is more like that of a mountain lodge, with one main building housing the lobby, gift shop, gym, restaurant and meeting rooms and four additional buildings for guest rooms. While these buildings are all accessible from the front via the parking lot, the better choice for guests is to walk the peaceful paths that connect that backs of all of the buildings and the outdoor amenities. All of the paths are nicely paved for strolling (or scooting – check here for top scooters for travel) but give the distinct feel of being out in nature rather than adjacent to the highway. There are even big grassy lawns for the kids to run on if they want to let loose.
The amenities available at Little America make it a perfect choice for a family weekend getaway. While we Angelenos are used to lounging poolside under palm trees, imagine going for an evening dip nestled among pine trees while breathing in the fresh mountain air. Our family especially enjoyed a visit to the hot tub after our drive up from Phoenix.
Just coming for the weekend? Check out our guide to packing light with kids.
Just beyond the pool deck is a full-size play structure and a pair of swings (one baby, one big kid), which kept the kids busy for an hour while I relaxed and enjoyed the views. It’s a big, modern structure that could easily accommodate a dozen kids during peak season, but since we visited just after school was back in session (which I highly recommend) we had the whole thing to ourselves. Poor Ronnie was stuck at the auto shop to get the car’s AC repaired, but even that was made more convenient by the hotel’s friendly shuttle service that ushered him to and fro.
Unfortunately due to the aforementioned car trouble, we didn’t get to explore the hotel’s most unique feature: a 2.5 mile nature trail that begins just behind the lodges a winds through the 500 acres of Ponderosa pines that back the property. Don’t miss it during your visit!
Perfect rooms for a family
Our newly-renovated room at Little America was a very generous size and easily accommodated our family. We had two queen beds as well as a sofa bed in 400 square feet of space. The aesthetic is contemporary but cozy. The beds and bedding were very comfortable, and the housekeeping staff made up the sofa bed for us while we were out at dinner. The kids loved watching Shark Tank on the big TV with the included DirecTV service and I was glad to hop on the free wifi to take care of some blogging. Our room also included a small bar with a mini fridge, microwave and Keurig. As I mentioned above, by Spring 2018 the remainder of the lodges will be renovated to reflect the more contemporary style of the room we enjoyed.
The bathrooms in the renovated rooms have a luxurious feel, with marble countertops, high end finishes and quality bath products. There are even two separate sink areas so that we could split up everyone’s morning prep needs.
Dining to satisfy everyone’s needs
The Silver Pine restaurant on site also got a beautiful remodel earlier this year and is a great place to enjoy a family breakfast or even afternoon happy hour. You can choose from a range of seating options depending on your mood, including the lounge and bar area, the light and airy dining room or the enchanting patio. My personal favorite was the patio, with its water feature and fireplace. As you can see, it’s a beautiful spot for an evening cocktail or family breakfast.
And speaking of food… the kids loved the breakfast buffet! It offered a huge range of both hot and cold options, including eggs, breakfast meats, oatmeal, cold cereal, fresh fruit and yogurt. We hear that the weekend brunch has even more choices! The kids were thrilled because they’re both picky eaters, though with totally different tastes. Though the cost of breakfast isn’t included in the room we found it extremely reasonable: $15 for adults, $7 for kids ages 5-10 and free for the littlest guests (with adult buffet purchase). While Ronnie and the kids enjoyed the buffet, I ordered from the regular menu and was very happy with the omelettes (only $9-10).
We didn’t have a chance to check out the restaurant for lunch or dinner, but those menus look great as well. Lunch has a standard selection of sandwiches and salads, but also includes some items with a southwestern flair. The dinner menu is more formal and includes substantial options like steaks and fresh seafood.
Ready to book your stay at Little America Hotel Flagstaff? Check prices here.
Fun things to do in Flagstaff with kids
You could plan an entire weekend just hanging out on the property at Little America, but you’re probably coming to explore the beautiful surrounding area. And there’s so much to explore! We wish we had been able to stay longer, but unfortunately we had to leave after two nights. We look forward to returning in the future to dive deeper, but in the meantime I’ll highlight these great Flagstaff attractions.
The Grand Canyon
Most people visiting Flagstaff will spend at least one day at the Grand Canyon, as we did. It’s just a 90 minute drive and your admission is valid for a full week, so you could actually go back a second time if you haven’t gotten your fill! Thanks to the car trouble we experienced, we only had about five hours at the Grand Canyon but if you can arrive earlier and stay later I recommend it! We saved ourselves some time and money by picking up made-to-order sandwiches and fresh fruit at the huge travel center on Little America’s grounds; they made for a great picnic while we sat on the benches at Mather Point!
Admission is currently $35 per vehicle. A better bet is to buy an America the Beautiful National Parks pass, which gets you into tons of sites all around the country. We’ve used ours at National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Seashores and more!
Per the recommendation of the awesome receptionist at Little America, we took highway 180 rather than I-40. The drive times are the same, but 180 is quieter and more scenic. Score! If you’re visiting with kids of any age, be sure to make your first stop at the visitors center to pick up the Junior Ranger activity book. Activities are broken down by age group just like in the booklet at Joshua Tree National Park (check out our guide to Joshua Tree with kids), and upon completion your little adventurer can be sworn in as a real Grand Canyon Junior Ranger! (I’m writing this from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacob wore his badge all day today… and yesterday… and possibly the day before.)
Looking for more outdoor inspiration? Check out these beautiful US National Parks!
If you’re visiting with very young children, know that Mather Point and the brief trail that stretches west from there are paved and stroller-friendly. For more serious hiking, bring a good carrier like the Tula; if you do plan on serious hiking with baby in tow during the sunny months you could consider the Deuter Kid Comfort line, which offers kids a higher position to enjoy the view and a great sun shade (in addition to excellent comfort for mom and dad). Here’s a quick guide to a day with kids at the Grand Canyon.
If you want a great off-the-beaten path experience at the Grand Canyon, head to Toroweap! For an in-depth experience on the Colorado Plateau, consider a few days of backpacking and roadtripping in the region.
You can find some more interesting information about visiting Grand Canyon National Park here.
Whether you’re visiting Flagstaff with kids or for an adults-only trip, make sure to include a late night stop at the Lowell Observatory! It was established in 1894, making it one of the oldest observatories in the world. Pluto was discovered there in 1930. Amazingly, some of the original telescopes and domes are still in use and are available for YOU to check out during nightly observation sessions! Nearly every night they offer lectures, multimedia presentations, constellation “tours”, viewing through small portable telescopes and a chance to look through the big telescopes housed in their original domes.
Fun fact: in my younger days, I was studying to be a planetary scientist! I actually visited Lowell for the first time on a college field trip. During both of my visits, I’ve been very impressed by the knowledgeable and approachable staff. They were happy to indulge our family’s many questions and seem to love their jobs as educators. Even if you’re not into space, the view from the top is lovely at night.
Pro tip: If you’re a member of your local science museum, bring your membership card to receive free reciprocal admission!
Another great option in northern Arizona is to day trip to Sedona, known for it’s stunning red rock vistas and laid-back, artistic and even spiritual vibe. There’s even a Buddhist stupa to visit!
Definitely consider making Flagstaff a stop on your family’s Southwest road trip itinerary!
Flagstaff, AZ restaurants
There are so many downtown Flagstaff restaurants that you’ll feel spoiled for choice – restaurants, bars and cafes are everywhere you turn in this hip little mountain town. Here are two great, family-friendly picks that offer wonderful food and a fun atmosphere:
La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop
Looking for good Mexican food in Flagstaff? Definitely stop in at La Santisima! We had already visited their Phoenix outpost and Jacob declared the steak to be “amazing!” and “better than the one you make, Daddy.” Nice. But he recognized the sign as we drove through town and begged to go for another meal there, and we were happy to oblige. The Flagstaff location has a beautifully lit patio in the back – perfect for nice summer evenings.
There’s no kids menu per se but the staff was gracious about preparing things the way our kids requested. Jacob prefers a deconstructed taco, with a double order of that amazing steak and some tortillas on the side. Shoshana isn’t big on meat so they brought her little bowls of rice and beans along with a stack of fresh tortillas. Both kids helped me out with the gargantuan horchata – seriously, you’ve never seen anything this big. For adults, there’s a salsa bar with over a dozen choices including interesting flavors like cilantro, walnut and strawberry (not mixed together, of course). Ronnie and I both agree that the namesake La Santisima taco is our favorite. Don’t forget an order of guacamole – it’s delicious and probably unlike any guacamole you’ve ever had.
Lumberyard Brewing Company
If you want comfort food and some brews in Flagstaff, look no further than Lumberyard Brewing Company (or its sister, Beaver Street Brewery). We sat inside, but on a nice evening the patio looks like the perfect spot. You can even catch a view of the brewery through the big viewing window. It was constructed in 1890 as an actual lumberyard, and is the last building remaining from that era.
The menu offers pretty standard pub fare but ALL DELICIOUS. You can sample a flight of six microbrews of your choice for only $10.50 – quite a steal! We went a little overboard on the ordering, but it all looked too good. The boneless wings, which you can order with a range of interesting dips, were great… but my personal favorite was the mac & cheese balls! They have a nice kids menu and provide crayons too, which we always appreciate.
Have you visited Flagstaff? Tell us your faves!
Many thanks to Little America Hotel Flagstaff for hosting one night of our stay; all opinions are my own.