Sometimes groups need to get away from the bright lights and big city, especially if they want to engage in creative out-of-the-box thinking or enjoy a restorative timeout. Flagstaff, Arizona, less than a one-hour flight from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and approximately 75 miles south of the Grand Canyon, feels worlds apart from California’s metropolitan areas.
For starters, it’s located in the world’s largest ponderosa forest, sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet, and has the majestic San Francisco Peaks as its skyline. Flagstaff is also an International Dark Sky City, and, in fact, was the first city in the world to earn that designation in 2001. It’s still one of only 11 International Dark Sky Communities in the United States that are dedicated to reducing urban lighting to protect views of the night sky.
Its commitment to starry nights aside, Flagstaff is in no way in the dark when it comes to offering epicurean, cultural and recreational activities. The Little America Hotel is the perfect staging place to experience the former pioneer town that is now buzzing with restaurants, breweries and shops, especially in the historic downtown that sits on the fabled Route 66. Part of the Grand America Hotels & Resort Group, the property is located on more than 500 acres of pine forest. Roughly half of the 247 guest rooms have been renovated and the remaining will be completed by summer 2018. The aesthetic is Western resort-chic; headboards are carved out of maple, photographs are by local artists; the bedding is luxe; the furnishings all customized; the bathrooms spacious with granite vanities and Spanish tile showers, and the bedside lamps have built-in USB ports.
The nearly 14,000 square feet of completely renovated meeting space includes a 6,000-square-foot ballroom and nine other meeting rooms; many have floor-to-ceiling windows that will make guests feel they’re gathered in the middle of a forest. Outdoor event space includes the East Lawn, with a capacity of 500 for a reception and 300 seated. The elegant and inviting Silver Pine Restaurant, which also went through a top-to-bottom makeover, serves a modern take on traditional dishes, and has one of the city’s largest dining patios, which overlooks the forest.
“The careful planning that went into every stage of the resort’s renovation is evident in the materials we selected, the attention to design and the focus on exceeding guest expectations,” says Fred Reese, Little America Hotel’s general manager. “Meeting planners and attendees will enjoy the modern design inspired by the local beauty of Flagstaff. With our updated meeting areas, our tradition of hospitality and our proximity to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and other state parks, I’m excited to welcome meeting-goers and vacationers to Flagstaff.”
While there’s hiking right on property, and the hotel can arrange guided nature walks with a botanist from the nearby arboretum, groups will certainly want to venture out. There’s a robust craft brewery scene in town, and a selfguided tour of the Flagstaff Ale Trail can include stops at Lumberyard Brewing Company, Beaver Street Brewery and Mother Road Brewing Company, as well as a half-dozen other breweries. The Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course offers zip line and obstacle circuits (including rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets and wobbly bridges) for daredevils of varying fitness levels. Group adventures, from one to four hours, can also be arranged with tailored experiences that can include team-building, catered lunches and party favors.
No trip to Flagstaff would be complete without experiencing the Grand Canyon. All-Star Grand Canyon Tours works in collaboration with local hotels, including the Little America Hotel, to arrange customized private tours for groups of any size. These include transportation in luxury vans, stops at several different vistas in the canyon from Hermit’s Rest, the westernmost point on the canyon’s south rim, to Desert View, the easternmost viewpoint. The tours can include hiking, fishing, mountain biking or horseback riding, river rafting and even overnight camping. And you haven’t experienced a room with a view, until you’ve enjoyed an on-site catered gourmet lunch set up on a picnic table that overlooks the 18-mile span of the majestic canyon.