Sights on the outskirts
More glimpses of local history are on display at the Pioneer Museum, northwest of downtown. It's in a former hospital for the indigent built in 1908. I laughed out loud over an exhibit about the hospital itself, where payroll records reveal that one of the official job titles was "flunky."
We couldn't ignore Flagstaff's most famous landmark, Lowell Observatory, best known as the place where apprentice astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto in 1930. After dark, visitors stand in line, sometimes for hours, to peer through the 1896 Clark Telescope, located under the observatory's soaring wooden dome.
A more contemporary portable telescope is set up outside as well. The evening star shows can be curtailed by summertime thunderstorms, but a visitor center built in 1994 offers an array of kid-friendly exhibits.
Astronomy buffs can pass the daylight hours at another attraction — free and not found in the standard guidebooks. The U.S. Geological Survey drafts its lunar and planetary maps in its Flagstaff quarters. The hallways in the USGS Shoemaker Building, northeast of downtown, are covered with colorful maps and photos — some with 3-D glasses provided — of the celestial bodies.
A display in one long corridor illustrates the relative distances in the solar system. At one end are colorful balls representing the sun and the closest planets, including ours; at the other end — far away — is Flagstaff's own favorite-son planet, Pluto.
They may not eclipse Sunset Crater or the San Francisco Peaks, but Flagstaff has some wonders all its own.
Budget for two
Two nights at Inn at 410, with tax $408
One round-trip airfare, LAX to Phoenix, rental car $239
Jackson's Grill lunch $20
Josephine's lunch $20
Pasto dinner $54
Other meals $38