Why Flagstaff, Ariz.? Start with the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was first spotted in 1930 (and don't forget to peek through the refurbished Clark refracting telescope, used in the 1960s to create maps of the moon). Consider the Pioneer Museum, which celebrates this "livestock, lumber and railroad" town dating to the 1880s.
And don't forget that Flagstaff, a mountain town that sits at 6,909 feet -- is also about the great outdoors: walking, running, hiking and biking.
After an eight-hour drive from Los Angeles, you might be thinking of a rest. My husband and I stayed at the Little America Hotel, a perennial traveler favorite just off Interstate 40 near famed Route 66.
Hungry? Our family's favorite restaurant, Black Bart's Steakhouse, Saloon & Musical Revue, was a hoot. Our waitperson (and other staff) served savory steaks and loaded baked potatoes, then disappeared at regular intervals to belt out Broadway tunes. (Order the fried ice cream for dessert.)
Are you an outside person? Bring your walking shoes and a "good attitude for high altitude." Then check out the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, a.k.a. "FUTS." Maps detailing the 56 miles of paved and unpaved pathways are posted online and around town. (Speaking of acronyms, if you see a "WTF" bumper sticker, it stands for "Welcome to Flagstaff.")
Miles one way from downtown L.A.
Little America Hotel, flagstaff.littleamerica.com; Black Bart's Steakhouse, Saloon and Musical Revue, www.blackbartssteakhouse.com; Hickory's Smokehouse BBQ, www.hickoryssmokehousebbq.com; Lowell Observatory, lowell.edu; Pioneer Museum, wwwl.lat.ms/pioneermuseum; Flagstaff Urban Trails System, www.lat.ms/futs.
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