By Allison Brown
Nestled under the majestic ponderosa pines surrounded by Flagstaff’s natural beauty sits Little America Flagstaff — a welcome sight for weary Route 66 travelers, a home away from home for returning families or a romantic getaway for couples.
No matter the reason for the stay, the Little America Flagstaff hotel can provide the rest, relaxation, hospitality and luxury guests are looking for. Little America Flagstaff general manager Fred Reese says their top priority is taking care of guests and making sure they get the most out of their stay.
“You’re going to be treated like family here because we’re a private, family-owned business,” he says. “We look at our customers as family members, and we look at our staff as family members. So we have this really strong emphasis on customer service and kind of following the golden rule, treating others as you want to be treated.”
And, after nearly 50 years in business, Reese says based on reviews and interactions he’s had with guests, the hotel’s customer service and family atmosphere is a big part of what keeps people coming back.
“We’re probably on the third generation of customers. I have customers come up to me all the time and say their grandparents brought them here when they were little,” Reese continues.
“When you’re in business for 50 years in one location, you’re going to get generation after generation. And, because we do such a good job, the upcoming generations like to come here because they have fond memories as children coming here and enjoying the forest.”
Of course, location is probably the biggest draw to Little America Flagstaff.
Just two and a half hours from Phoenix — the fifth largest city in the nation — and roughly an hour from Sedona, Flagstaff is withing driving distance from most of Arizona’s hot spots. Nearly 75% of the hotel’s business is from within the state, according to Reese, adding that its most popular time is May through October.
“The weather here is phenomenal. When it’s 110, 120 degrees down in Phoenix, it’s only 80 to 90 degrees up here,” Reese says. “So, it’s a great escape. The majority of our business is in state and comes from the Valley, where a lot of people like to get out of the heat and escape to the cool climate.”
With an outdoor pool, hot tub and playground, guests can soak up as much of the cooler weather as possible. The hotel also sits on 550 acres covered with ponderosa pines and other Indigenous trees and wildlife that guests can experience. Behind the main lodge is a nature trail that can be done in a 1- or 2-mile loop.
“(Guests) can really take in the natural scenery that we sit on,” Reese says. “Nobody else in Flagstaff can really claim that their resort sits on such beautiful land amongst the pines like we do.”
Little America Flagstaff is also just a short drive from Historic Downtown Flagstaff, which consists of several walkable city blocks filled with unique restaurants, breweries and shops — not to mention the murals, live music, and a mass of cute dogs out for a walk. There’s also history, as most of these buildings are restored from the 1890s.
While the hotel’s most popular times are during the warmer months, those who brave Flagstaff from November to February can experience a real winter and are more than likely to see snow. In fact, Flagstaff saw its first dusting of snow for the season the first week of October. Come mid-November, there will be skiing, snowman building and, at Little America, a magical winter wonderland with the chance to meet Santa himself.
Around the holiday season, Little America Flagstaff is transformed for the North Pole Experience and decorated with more than a million lights woven through the pines and hung around the lodge. The hotel has served as the trolley launch station for the North Pole Experience, which is provided by a separate company, for 10 years.
“You get on the North Pole Experience Trolley that transports you to the North Pole and you get to go to Santa’s workshop,” Reese says.
“It’s got a fully interactive workshop where you go into different rooms — there’s the toy hall of fame, a bakery, the toy-making room, toy-wrapping room, the elf university. It’s amazing for all ages to go through that experience, and then you end with seeing Santa at the end of the tour.”
The event brings in tens of thousands of people throughout the holiday season, Reese says, and has been a great partnership for the hotel and Flagstaff as a whole. People don’t have to stay at Little America to participate in the North Pole Experience — they just have to check in for the trolley there — but the hotel offers a special meal and lodging package and discounted room rate for those who do stay.
Also during the holiday season, the hotel provides guests a unique opportunity to experience its famous, up-close and personal North Pole Experience breakfast buffet with Santa and a memorable photo opportunity at the Little America Flagstaff from 7 to 11 a.m. Sunday, November 13, through Saturday, December 24.
Reese says the hotel’s holiday events have become more and more popular over the years, and people are starting to see Flagstaff’s winter beauty — not just its cool summer.
Little America Flagstaff opened its doors in June 1973 as the third hotel in the Little America franchise. According to Reese, Little America actually originated in Rural America, a small town in Wyoming. He says it started as a small truck stop motel but grew massively and transformed into the luxury getaway it is now.
The Flagstaff location was actually built from the ground up, with painstaking detail put into everything from the color scheme to the tiles in the bathroom and the feel of the carpet (it’s wool). The hotel has 247 guest rooms; 10 meeting rooms ranging from 225 square feet to a 6,000-square-foot ballroom; the highly rated Silver Pine Restaurant and Bar, which caters to any culinary desire; a 24-hour travel center with a hot grill and deli; gift shop; business center and fitness center.
According to Reese, the hotel underwent a massive renovation from 2016 to 2018 that updated nearly all the facilities. He says he has received a lot of compliments from guests about the renovation, specifically the materials used.
“We get a lot of comments that it’s on par with some of the finest hotels that they’ve been to. We feel like we give the best value for what a customer is going to buy — they’re going to get a luxury guest room with outstanding service,” Reese says.
“The rooms have been appointed with live edge wood tables, desks and headboard from British Columbia, the carpeting is English wool, the stone and granite comes from Spain. Everything is so high end and nicely appointed, so you’re getting a luxury experience at a great value.”