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Weekend Escape: Giving Flagstaff the old college try

Weekend Escape: Giving Flagstaff the old college try
The supposedly haunted Hotel Monte Vista looms at the corner of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Ariz. Ask, and the clerk will hand you a sheet of paper detailing building's ghosts. (Kerrick James / Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau)

If you're 25 or younger, you'll enjoy downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., walking distance to Northern Arizona University. The area is populated with people your age, an independent bookstore, an independent record store, restaurants and plenty of watering holes with cheap drinks. If you're older than 25, you'll enjoy downtown Flagstaff as a fun, inexpensive reminder of what it feels like to be a college student. Either way, you'll have a good time. The tab: Rooms at the Weatherford start at $75 and top out at about $139. Or if you are adventurous, there is a room two feet from a bar for $49. The pineapple tofu salad at Mountain Oasis International Restaurant is $8.95, while prime rib, served Friday and Saturday nights, is $18.95.

The bed

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The Hotel Weatherford has only 10 rooms, so plan ahead.
The Hotel Weatherford has only 10 rooms, so plan ahead. (Michelle Koechle)

The Hotel Weatherford (23 N. Leroux St.; [928] 779-1919, http://www.weatherfordhotel.com; rooms from $75 a night) has only 10 rooms, but book one if you can because the location is also home to Charly's Pub, Charly's Grill, the Zane Grey Ballroom and a balcony with a great view of the area (and at least five bars). Five rooms in the hotel, opened in 1900, come with private baths; two rooms on the second floor have claw-foot tubs and televisions.

The meal

The deluxe Middle East plate served at the Mountain Oasis International Restaurant.
The deluxe Middle East plate served at the Mountain Oasis International Restaurant. (Mountain Oasis International Restaurant)

The ambience at Mountain Oasis International Restaurant (11 E. Aspen Ave.; [928] 214-9270; no item more than $18.95) is more elegant than that of its neighboring college-town eateries. Art adorns the walls, the lights are low and indoor voices are used while guests enjoy pasta, Middle Eastern dishes, curry or a black bean burger. For a late-night snack 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, there's the Gringodillas food truck (behind 7 E. Aspen Ave., http://www.gringodillas.com; quesadillas and hot dogs $5 to $7), which offers a slow-cooked pork quesadilla and the Flag Dog with hummus, veggies, tomatoes, onions and honey mustard sauce. Whatever you order, add the red and green hot sauces.

The find

The supposedly haunted Hotel Monte Vista looms at the corner of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Ariz. Ask, and the clerk will hand you a sheet of paper detailing building's ghosts.
The supposedly haunted Hotel Monte Vista looms at the corner of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Ariz. Ask, and the clerk will hand you a sheet of paper detailing building's ghosts. (Kerrick James / Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Start your evening at San Felipes Flagstaff (103 N. Leroux St.; [928] 779-6000, http://www.sanfelipesflagstaff.com), where you pay a dollar to throw four ping-pong balls into the mouth of a fake shark behind the bar. Get two to stick inside the mouth and you win a T-shirt, which is more challenging than you can imagine considering the drink specials. Then walk eight-tenths of a mile to the Hotel Monte Vista (100 N. San Francisco St.; [928] 779-6971, http://www.hotelmontevista.com) and ask the clerk about the haunted rooms. He or she will give you a piece of paper telling you where you'll find the ghosts, who haunts the rooms and why these guests never check out.

The lesson learned

Old Main on the Northern Arizona University campus held its first class in 1899. Today, it's an art gallery, museum and offices. The college population means you're sure to get carded too at downtown Flagstaff bars.
Old Main on the Northern Arizona University campus held its first class in 1899. Today, it's an art gallery, museum and offices. The college population means you're sure to get carded too at downtown Flagstaff bars. (Northern Arizona University)

Flagstaff exemplifies the term "college town" in more ways than one, but perhaps none better than getting carded by doormen at every bar. You can be a 34-year-old writer from Los Angeles with graying hair or a 23-year-old student from Reno, Nev., with an expired California driver's license and you're getting carded. Regardless of how old you think you look, don't forget your ID.

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