Pure American West, Flagstaff, considered the hub of northern Arizona, lies amid some of the nation’s most gorgeous scenery. There’s the Coconino National Forest, the San Francisco Peaks, four national monuments and milewide Meteor Crater. Nearby are the Red Rocks of Sedona and the wide, craggy desert, long inhabited by Native American nations. And then there’s the Grand Canyon, perhaps Earth’s greatest geological showcase.
“Flagstaff is not what you’d expect when traveling to Arizona,” said Jessica Young, sales and marketing manager for meetings and events for the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re an artsy community with a small-town feel that is located in the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest with mountains all around. We’re a terrific four-season, outdoor destination.”
A year-round playground itself, the Arizona Snowbowl boasts 260 inches of annual snowfall. Wintertime brings exquisite downhill and cross-country skiing, with breathtaking scenery from a chairlift in summer and fall. Four lodges provide inside and outside mountain-view meeting spaces for 40 to 6,500 attendees. At 160-acre Bearizona Wildlife Park, groups can observe bears, bison, wolves and mountain goats roaming their natural habitat, then watch an intriguing birds-of-prey show.
Flagstaff’s major meetings facility, the High Country Conference Center near downtown, is connected by a skywalk to the 160-guest-room Drury Hotel, a bonus for planners seeking room blocks. The center’s 10,500-square-foot ballroom can accommodate 800. After meetings, attendees can stroll to historic attractions and nightlife.
Once known as the Mother Road, Route 66 bisects the city of Flagstaff. Quirky roadside attractions and to-die-for scenery still line the iconic route as in its heyday.
Planners can arrange hiking and mountain bike and ATV rentals. Northern Arizona University mixes it up with fun-to-watch Lumberjack athletic events and performing arts.
All this is merely 81 miles from the Grand Canyon. Groups can take a vintage train into the canyon and then saddle up for a guided trail ride, or take a day tour and watch rock layers change color in the setting sun.
For not-so-outdoorsy types, the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail is a milelong, level walking trail in downtown Flagstaff, with microbreweries where guests sample as they go.
“Flagstaff is a great hub-and-spoke with lots of pre- and post-conference activities and day-trip options for groups and spouses,” Young said.
High Country Conference Center
With 25,900 square feet of flexible meeting space, the High Country Conference Center is the area’s largest such facility and can also partner with Northern Arizona University to offer meeting planners even more space, including two auditoriums and a grassy outdoor area good for summertime corporate barbecues. IACC- and Gold LEED-certified, the center will complete a $600,000-plus renovation in March that includes upgrades to cutting-edge technology throughout.
“Our competitors have hotel space also, so their focus has to be on meetings and lodging,” said general manager Scott Thomson. “We take pride in the fact that our sole focus is putting on great meetings, conventions and events.”