RVer's Guide to Flagstaff
Many people are under the impression that Arizona is all desert. We thought so too, until we stayed in the Coconino National Forest just outside of Flagstaff, enjoying mild temperatures and abundant shade. Plus, some great dining options! Upon sharing our surprise with a U.S. Forest Service ranger, he smiled and said we should keep it our little secret.
And we intended to, but we know the heat will begin to push those of you who wintered in Phoenix and Tucson out. And some of you may be planning a trip to the Grand Canyon this spring or summer. With Flagstaff's proximity to nearby destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend make it an ideal stop. But this small city on historic Route 66 is a destination in its own right. Read on to find out where you should stay, eat, and why Flagstaff is perfect for RVers.
Where to Stay
Flagstaff is perfect for boondocking. You can boondock for free in the Coconino National Forest. Our favorite spot is off U.S. Hwy 180 just northwest of Flagstaff. If you prefer, you can also boondock off Route 66 just east of Flagstaff. You can stay up to 14 days as with most USFS land. Both areas are just 15-20 minutes from downtown. Jon and I have boondocked in these areas in both our travel trailer and our new Class C, Winnebago Trend. For those of you in Class As, both of these areas are accessible.
Campground with hook-ups
If you prefer a campground with hookups, we recommend Black Barts RV Park. You see, this is home to Black Barts Steakhouse, and Black Barts Steakhouse is a singing steakhouse! You get a show along with your meal. All of the wait staff are talented singers, and most are Northern Arizona University music and theater students. The food is a little pricey, but the on-stage performances and the novelty of the restaurant compensate for the price. Plus, if you are staying at the RV park, you receive 10% off of your bill.
Where to Eat
Flagstaff has some great pizza joints, and we made sure to try more than a few. But there are some other great dining options as well, no matter what you are in the mood for!
If you love pizza, you are in for a real treat! Flagstaff has amazing pizza. Make sure to give Oregano's a try. Oregano's came highly recommended to us by a close friend from Chicago - and Chicago knows its pizza! Oregano's, was founded in Phoenix by a Chicago native whose father learned to cook traditional Italian recipes passed down to him by family.
I personally, love the deep-dish pizza, but our friend swears by the thin crust. It's up to you, really, but we went back more than once to try both. If you happen to be in a hurry, opt for the thin crust, as the deep dish will take about 40 mins to make. The 40 minutes are worth it though. We were presented with a perfectly baked deep-dish pizza. Just the perfect ratio of sauce and cheese and a crispy pan crust.
After the wonderful experience eating Chicago-style pizza at Oregano's, we were excited to try more of Flagstaff's pizza. Pizzicleta serves up Neopolitan-style pizza and opens at 5pm every day. So, plan on dinner if you want to try it. The pizzas are wood-fired and delightfully crispy. Our pizza was light, flavorful, and very obviously made with fresh ingredients.
For a very budget-friendly meal, try splitting a margherita pizza with your dinner date and stick to the water. If you're in the mood to splurge, go for the wine and try one of their starters or end with a gelato. If you are vegan or need to avoid dairy, try their marinara pizza which is made with no cheese. Pizzicleta's dough is fermented which they say makes it easier to digest. We loved that their produce is all organic and locally sourced. We dined outside, but the inside has a very cozy feel and a view of the wood fire pizza oven.
We dined at Fratelli's because a new location had just opened up on North Valley Road on our way into town from our boondocking spot. Their pizza is baked in a stone deck oven. We ordered the veggie pizza. The wait was a little long, just as they say on their menu. But again, it was worth it. The first bite was filled with hot, gooey mozzarella - perfect as far as we're concerned. This particular location had a comfortable patio, which was just right on a Sunday afternoon with gorgeous weather.
Pizza is not the only thing we eat. Jon and I love to try out Mexican restaurants when we are out West in search of the best tacos. Salsa Brava, though not necessarily known for their tacos, caught our attention because it had once been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I wouldn't really classify Salsa Brava as any of these. But it is on Route 66, so I'm thinking that's the connection. Jon had the fajitas, and I had the stuffed sopapilla which was designated as "What Guy [Fieri] Ate" on the menu. It was amazing! And here, I may spark controversy--I know New Mexico is known for their sopapillas, but this one ruined the New Mexico sopapillas for me. I suppose I can't really say which is more authentic, but I can tell you the one at Salsa Brava tasted better. The traditional fry-bread was indeed cooked golden brown and was the right amount of crispy!
The McMillan Kitchen & Bar
We popped into The McMillan because we were starving and couldn't agree on a specific cuisine type. Originally built in 1886, it is located in the oldest building in downtown Flagstaff and was once a bank with a hotel above it. When we first sat down we had second thoughts as the music was a bit loud and we were thinking perhaps we had walked into more of a college bar spot.
Luckily, at least while we were there in the early evening, the vibe was not actually a rowdy college one. I had the grilled chicken sandwich. And I usually don't really like chicken (isn't it a little boring?), but I thought it was the best chicken sandwich I've ever had. Jon and I weren't expecting much, so we were blown away. Ingredients were all fresh and the food tasted carefully crafted, rather than cooked.
Coffee and Tea
During our Urban RV explorations, one of our favorite things to do is visit coffee shops. Jon is quite the coffee snob (in a good way). We really enjoyed Late For the Train, which had a convenient location over by the Fratelli's near our boondocking spot. Jon would recommend an Americano and I, who doesn't drink coffee, rates coffee shops by their tea. If you're a fan of chai lattes try the Sweet Masala chai latte. We're heading back this year, and I will be looking forward to trying their Spicy chai, made with hot and spicy peppers.
Kickstand Kafe was another favorite. They were incredibly friendly and even made me a custom beverage.
Every so often we find cities that have tea houses. Steep Leaf Lounge is a great little tea house downtown. You can order tea by the cup or by the pot. They have a robust menu with black, white, and herbal teas as well as tea lattes. This year, a friend pointed out a hot chocolate menu I had missed. They also sell their loose-leaf teas, so you can take some home with you.
If these great spots were it for Flagstaff it would still rank high for us. But there is even more that we missed during our first trip. This year, we'll be looking to try the rest of the coffee shops, along with the many adorable coffee kiosks, and the Flagstaff breweries. There's even a brewery called Wanderlust Brewery.
As if the food and the boondocking weren't enough, Flagstaff is also very RV friendly. For those of you boondocking and looking to conserve water, or those of you full-timing and missing having a bathtub, you must head over to the Little America truck stop.
They have a hotel, but on the truck stop side they have a comfortable diner and best of all hot showers. These are no ordinary hot showers. For $12 (prices were raised from $10 last year), you get towels, shampoo, soap, and a private hotel-style bathroom with both a shower and a bathtub! We love this as a way to conserve water, enjoy a little luxury, and as a shower hack for visiting Sedona. It gets pretty dusty in Sedona. And if you boondock there, you may wish for a better shower than your RV shower and this is a great place. We love Little America, too bad more towns don't have them.
RV parking is another RVer comfort in Flagstaff. Downtown has a visitor's parking lot (across from Pizzicleta) which includes designated RV spots. There are six of these spots available and they would fit most, if not all, Class As. If you're in a smaller rig like we are, the street parking in downtown will work too. The cherry on top is a free RV dump station available at the Giant/Conoco just off of I-40 east of downtown.
We can't rave enough about Flagstaff. Enjoy the RVer's paradise that is Flagstaff and the surrounding area.
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