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This Is America’s #1 Most Up-and-Coming City

This Is America’s #1 Most Up-and-Coming City
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Given its rather unusual name, it should come as no surprise to learn that there is a tale to be told about how Flagstaff, Arizona came by its name.

Back in the 1870s, stories about Arizona’s fertile farmland as well as its hospitable climate were spreading throughout New England. In 1876, these stories convinced Bostonian settlers to set out for the Little Colorado River in northern Arizona.

When they arrived, they found the site occupied by Mormon settlers out of Utah, which convinced them to continue westward to what was then called McMillan Ranch. There, the Bostonian settlers cut down a Ponderosa Pine tree, trimmed it of its branches, and then used it to raise the flag of the United States, which has been brought with them to celebrate the Centennial out in the frontier.

Since that time, Flagstaff has spread to encompass a significant stretch of the Colorado Plateau’s southwestern edge. To its east lies a contiguous forest of the same Ponderosa Pines encountered by the Bostonian settlers, while to its north rise the San Francisco Peaks, which claim the honor of being the highest mountain range in the state.

Given this prime location, it is no wonder that more and more people are heading to Flagstaff, thus making it one of the United States’ most up-and-coming cities.


This Is What Living In Flagstaff, AZ Is Like

Flagstaff photo
Photo by Nicholas_T

In the earliest period of its existence, Flagstaff residents made their living by cutting timber as well as raising both sheep and cattle, which was a natural combination because one paved the way for the other.

These two economic sectors fueled the city’s expansion, thus enabling it to secure a position as one of the places where the railroad that connected Albuquerque with the West Coast would pass through when it was completed in the 1880s.

In turn, this enabled it to secure a position as one of the places where US Route 66 would pass through as well when it was completed in the 1920s.

The sheer volume that passed through these two routes ensured Flagstaff’s future because wherever people went, business followed in their wake. Something that is as true now as it was then.

In the present, cutting timber and raising livestock have faded from prominence in preference for other economic sectors. For example, a number of major manufacturers such as Nestlé, Joy Cone, and SCA Tissue base themselves in Flagstaff because its strategic location enables them to ship their products in an efficient and effective manner.

However, it is interesting to note that Flagstaff is also known for its education sector as well as its tourism sector, which show that it is more than just a logistical hub. The first had its start in 1896 with the Lowell Observatory but was bolstered in time by the future Northern Arizona University in 1899 and the US Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station in 1955.

In contrast, the second started when Flagstaff was connected to the railroad system, resulting in a rush of people interested in seeing the Grand Canyon. Some of the hotels that sprung up to cater to their needs have been in existence for so long that they are now sites of historical value in their own right, while their modern counterparts continue to spring up on a regular basis as tourists continue to flock to the region.

Another part of Flagstaff’s allure as one of the United States’ most up-and-coming cities is its thriving arts scene, which is, once again, connected to its involvement with the railroad system as well as US Route 66. After all, where there are people, there will also be artists seeking to entertain as well as broaden their horizons.

From a musical perspective, the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra is probably the city’s most famous institution. In total, it numbers at least 75 members, which enable it to hold a full calendar of events for interested individuals. Despite the popular perception of the city’s orchestras, it is interesting to note that the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra goes out of its way to cater to myriads of demographics, as shown by its Halloween concerts for younger audiences.

However, Flagstaff’s diversity is reflected in its wide number of musical institutions other than the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, with examples ranging from Orpheum Theater and Heritage Square to a number of music festivals that are held on a regular basis.

Of the former two, Orpheum Theater hosts regular shows by some of the biggest and the best bands in the world, while Heritage Square offers more casual events for people who want something to spend their time on while in summer.

Similarly, Flagstaff music festivals range from the bluegrass-oriented Pickin’ in the Pines to both the Flagstaff Music Festival and the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music Festival, with more and more bolstering their number as Flagstaff charms more and more people into making it their permanent home.

Of course, there is more to Flagstaff’s arts scene than just music. For example, its theater groups are known to put on a regular succession of shows in a number of theater situated across the city. The most famous is probably the Northern Arizona University Department of Theater, which has its shows on campus, but there is also both the Theatrikos Theatre Company and the Flagstaff Light Opera Company. Likewise, there are also a number of dance companies in the city that collaborate with their counterparts in other mediums to put on concerts as well as other artistic performances for the viewing pleasure of interested individuals.

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tags:
Alan Lee Travel expert, writer for America Unraveled.

Comment(34)

    1. i LIVE IN FLAG AND YES MY HUSBAND AND I WORKED FOR THE MUSEUM OF NORTHER ARIZONA, ANS YES PHIL AND I JUST TO COMMENT THAT SOME TIMES WE DIDN’T HEAR ONE WORD IN SPANGLISH ON THE STREETS BECAUSE WE ONLY HEARD AMERICAN INDIAN LENGUACES HOPI, NAVAJO AND OTHERS. WE ARRIVE TO FLAF. IN 1980S AND IT WAS NOT SO FULL OF TOURIST, AS IT IS NOW . MOST OF THE PEOPLE THAT CAME AFTER US WERE AND ARE FRM CALIFORNIA AND PHOENIX OR TUCSON… BUT IT SURE HAS CHANGE. WE HAVE A BOOK COMING AOT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF FLAGSTAFF AND THE VASCOS THAT CAME TO PASTURE AND LIVE IN FLAG OR RANCHOS THEIR MESTAS OR GOATS (BORREGOS) OR LAMBS, WHICH WAS BEFORE THEY DECLARE PROTECT THE PASTURES AND FOREST. IT IS JUST BEAUTIFUL BUT TOO MANY PEOPLE NOW.

  1. Great article… however, there is NO mention of the rich Native American connections that Flagstaff has. You can hear Navajo or Hopi spoken by people shopping in local stores, and enjoy Native American arts at many shops and the Museum of Northern Arizona, which also was not mentioned. Please note our true diversity!

    1. I was thinking the same thing, I kept waiting for the writer to mention the Native American culture in some manor. They should have at least mentioned it when talking about the artists in flagstaff or as a near by attraction. A lot of the reservation land is very beautiful and I have seen some great artwork not to mention the jewelry. I have to wonder if the author visited the city or how thoroughly he researched the area because the Native American culture would be hard to miss.

  2. Until you meet city council who has no intention of letting Flagstaff thrive. Education? Maybe at NAU but they cut the salaries of all the teachers in the public schools just a couple of years ago. Not to mention the lack of water…they are always under rationing. This city has the best AZ could offer but is constrained by land, water and the old boys club. Up and coming? How about stagnant?

    1. NAU is not interested in giving a quality education, otherwise it would not accept 96% of its applicants. It’s the largest community college in Arizona.

    1. Exactly! This is what it is like to live in Flagstaff? The article is for travelers, so they don’t care how much it costs to live here and how horrible the pay is. Just as long as they can get to the Grand Canyon.

    2. There is’nt one, It is freakishly expensive to live there. Some who tried end up moving back to Phoenix or Tucson

  3. Kathy, I thought the very same thing! Again, the overlooked and forgotten. The Native American community is a large part of Flagstaff. This is one of the reasons my wife (Navajo) and children (Navajo) are moving to Flagstaff in a few months. We considered Albuquerque but Flagstaff won out.

  4. But please mention how horribly un-family friendly this city is. I live here with 3 children and there is NOTHING for little children to do. All of the events and things listed in this article, save the Grand Canyon (which isn’t even in Flagstaff) are completely NOT family friendly. There is little for kids to do here. Unless they like hiking.

    1. How about movies on the square and music on the parks? Those events are loaded with small kids!

  5. Great. Now everything is just gonna get worse around here. More people, more construction, more rent, more Walmarts, more school shootings, and fewer trees. This article should be taken down.

  6. Very sad that the native arts and cuture scene was completely overlooked, as well as the winter sports. Do more research Mr. Lee… not everyone comes here for the Grand canyon and nau. Worth mentioning Heritage Square you talk about so fondly is owned by the Hopi Tribe? Nah, probably not.

  7. You forgot to mention that Pluto itself was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Also NAU’s satellite campuses are located throughout the state, not just Northern Arizona.
    Finally, most of the bands who play at the Orpheum in Flagstaff were popular 15 years ago… So it’s a little misleading to say the “biggest and best bands in the world” play there.

  8. “Of the former two, Orpheum Theater hosts regular shows by some of the biggest and the best bands in the world”

    Since when?!? Last I checked, it was all washed up and/or local bands that played there.

    Also, there’s a picture of downtown in the section about NAU.

  9. I love it when people dis their own city. (Justified with the majority on City Council.) However, the omission of the Museum of Northern Arizona is a gross oversight.

  10. This article is a joke right? number 1 city I try to avoid in my travels from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, or back to the midwest, or to Yellowstone or anywhere. Traffic has out grown what they can do with the streets,,,,worst town ever to try and maneuver around in, I always make sure I am gassed, up everyone fed, and stay on the I17/I40 to either Williams or Winslow and avoid getting off in Flag for anything….

  11. Great place to visit, lousy place to live. Glad I moved out 14 years ago. However, looking foward to the time I show my kids the surrounding areas. Lots of places to see. Great tourest town and that’s about it.
    #1 up and coming though? Most Everything listed here is the same thing There was 14 years ago when I left.

  12. My first encounter with Flagstaff was in the early 50’s when Uncle Sam sent me to the Navajo Ordnance Depot most recent visit was in 2015. The changes have altered the beauty of the City, both good and bad but you can’t turn back the hands of time. I found my “treasure” there , we married and came East spent 60 years together and visited “Flag” almost yearly and watched it grow, prosper and lose it’s small town friendliness.

  13. Who paid this guy to write this crap. Flagstaff is an intellectual wasteland. The nicest thing about it is the thunderstorms in the summer.Good old boys were running it thirty years ago…I left in 1980. It’s ok to visit but I am soon glad I moved away. Small-minded, ultra conservative, expats Californians, dull dull dull!

  14. Title of article is wrong, even the writer says later ” it is no wonder that Flagstaff has become one of the United States’s most up-and-coming cities” – Flagstaff is not the number one. –I will say it is a great place, or appears to be; and I agree no mention of any Native American displays or attractions is a mistake. The number one thing that stands out to me is how many employees every place has, no lack of customer service anywhere. There are so many, they stand out, grocery stores to the movie theater to food service establishments….

  15. This author is definitely not from Flag or he would have mentioned all of the above. My Grandfather used to tell us not to tell anyone about the deep beauty else others wound flock In and ruin it.

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