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Playback: Arizona

Playback: Arizona

Flick through Aefa Mulholland’s Flagstaff slideshow to discover some of the secrets of Northern Arizona.


This wonderfully laidback high desert town (population 60,000), home of Northern Arizona University, has a few fun, gay-popular nightlife options. We loved the Breeders-esque band on stage at the historic, LGBT-popular Monte Vista and the eclectic, mixed crowd swilling stiff drinks throughout the downtown venue. Fall is a beautiful time to visit Flagstaff. The hordes of summer have melted away to be replaced by the annual influx of NAU students and cold, clear nights are perfect to watch the skies at the Lowell Observatory (


Even if you?re just speeding through Flagstaff on your way up to the Grand Canyon you absolutely must stop at Brix en route. I insist. Honestly, the food at Brix is as impressive as that famous gouge in the ground further north. Food is sourced from small farms, focuses on natural, organic, and sustainable produce, and is utterly delicious. We had dinner with Gordon, the delightfully loquacious host of the nearby Inn at 410, and devoured an artisanal cheese plate with poached apricots and house-made lavosh, calamari with smoked tomato salsa, and Sonoma County duck with a tart cherry gastrique, all accompanied by sumptuous Sonoma and Napa vintages. We dined in the cozy cellar area of this warm, slickly understated restaurant, and were most impressed by staff?s provision of appropriate pairings.


We drove up Highway 89 and stopped to peer over the brim of the Little Colorado River Gorge at a point where the harsh gray limestone gorge is half a mile deep -- half the height of the Grand Canyon. Sure it was high, it was impressive, but neither of us was blown away. Peering unconcernedly over the brim into the shadows, we could see a small trickle of a river flowing along below. That?s when we heard it: the faint roar echoing off the canyon walls -- the roar of an incredibly powerful river crashing over rapids and rocks. The kind of river you wouldn?t stand a chance of crossing. Then we realized just how deep the gorge was. I peered back over the brim, but this time I held on to the railing.


I?ve wanted to see the Grand Canyon ever since I first saw Thelma and Louise. Okay, that final scene was actually filmed near Moab, Utah, but even with all the crowds of tourists milling about, you see and feel what Ridley Scott was going for in the film as you near the edge of this grand chasm. You really do feel like you?re a mile high when you perch on the hem of the mighty, ragged, mile-deep canyon.


Downtown, just minutes? walk from the historic district?s restaurants, bars, theaters, and all that Flagstaff has to offer, basks the gorgeous, antique-adorned, gay-owned Inn at 410. The luxurious, turn-of-the-century Craftsman (built 1894) offers 11 individually decorated rooms, hearty, three-course breakfasts in the dining room or on the summer terrace, plus cookies, hot cider, and complimentary drinks whenever you feel like availing of 'em. We had the decadent Monet Room -- a self-contained suite with French doors opening out onto the terrace and its own two-person, jetted tub.


If you want to opt for something wonderfully quiet and relaxing, stay at gay-owned Starlight Pines, an appealingly priced, four-room Victorian B&B at the toes of Mount Elden. Starlight Pines is just off the old Route 66, on the outskirts of town (perfect placed for a Grand Canyon expedition). There?s a porch swing for idling away sunny afternoons, three friendly wee mutts to pet, and wonderful period features, such as claw-foot tubs and stained glass. Rooms are full of character, well-chosen books, and (in some) intriguing medical equipment. Richard and Michael are utterly charming hosts, an absolute delight to stay with, and the exquisite breakfasts they concoct will have you extending your stay indefinitely.

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Aefa Mulholland