For a taste of territorial history and insight into the lifestyle of the family who shaped Flagstaff’s culture, wander the grounds of Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. Built in 1904, and designed by the creator of the Grand Canyon’s iconic El Tovar Hotel, the sprawling 40-room property is a beautiful example of American Arts and Crafts-style architecture.
To get a complete picture of the mountain town’s history, visitors should look skyward. Established in 1894, Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory has hosted astronomical breakthroughs such as the first evidence of the expanding universe and, most famously, the discovery of Pluto. Whatever your position on Pluto’s planetary status, Flagstaff’s gloriously dark skies make Lowell’s famous telescopes worth a stop.
Those who’d prefer to sleep through the history tour can check in to downtown Flagstaff’s historic hotels. The Weatherford Hotel, opened in 1900, has hosted celebrities like author Zane Grey and publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hotel Monte Vista, built in 1926, touts ghostly inhabitants such as the phantom bellboy. Both boast quaint rooms, but keep in mind that the nightly music from their lively bars and ballrooms might deaden the historic charm a bit if you’re hoping to rise early for a hike.