Tag Archives: lowell observatory

Corner of Aspen Ave. and San Francisco Street in historic downtown Flagstaff, Arizona.

Flagstaff banks on Valley residents trying to beat heat

Compared to the Valley’s 100-plus degree days and stifling summer nights, Northern Arizona is an oasis of mild weather and cool temperatures. It’s no surprise that Flagstaff, the hub of the high country, is a popular tourist destination for Phoenicians in the hot summer months. Indeed, 40 percent of Flagstaff’s annual visitors are traveling from within the state of Arizona, with 18 percent coming from Phoenix, 8 percent from Scottsdale and 7 percent from Mesa.

“During the summer, we see that many visitors are simply visiting Flagstaff for climate relief,” says Heather Ainardi of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “During summer months, hotel occupancy ranges between 75 to 85 percent and our attractions see a dramatic increase in attendees.”

A yearlong study conducted by the Flagstaff CVB has shown just how much of an economic impact tourism has on the city. Flagstaff saw 4.6 million visitors from February 2014 to January 2015, garnering a total economic impact of $575 million and creating 7,311 local jobs. Tourism produced more than $38 million in state and local taxes, including an all-time high of $6.2 million from Flagstaff’s Bed, Board, and Booze (BBB) tax, a 2-percent tax on restaurants, bars and lodging. The BBB tax, which targets tourist-driven services, provides funding for parks and recreation, city beautification, tourism, economic development and arts and sciences in Flagstaff.

According to the study, 75 percent of the visitors that Flagstaff sees are overnight visitors and 60 percent travel with family. This means that family-friendly destinations are among the most popular tourist spots.

“Lowell Observatory, the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Scenic Chairlift Ride at Arizona Snowbowl still rank very high,” according to Ainardi.

While Flagstaff is the primary destination of 53 percent of its visitors, many also use it as a base to explore the rest of Northern Arizona. The Grand Canyon is an 80-minute drive from the city, while Williams, the departure point of the Grand Canyon Railway, is only 30 miles west of Flagstaff. Just east of the city are popular destinations like Meteor Crater, the site of a 50,000-year-old meteorite impact, and Twin Arrows Casino Resort.

“We see an increase in visitors each summer,” says Navajo Gaming CEO Derrick Watchman. “Our busiest months are from June through August.”

Twin Arrows is working on its second phase expansions, which include a spa that is sure to entice more valley visitors in the future.

The Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau kicks up its tourism campaigns in the summer, inviting Valley residents to escape the heat. Last summer the #VisitCool promotional campaign included a “Cool Zone” outside of Chase Field, where fans could escape the July heat before an Arizona Diamondbacks game. Visitors to the Cool Zone took in imagery of Flagstaff, including some of its most popular tourist destinations. The #VisitCool campaign will return this summer, reminding overheated Phoenix residents that they can retreat to cooler weather without leaving the state.

5 fun things to do in Flagstaff

Planning a summer getaway to beat the heat? Here are five things you can’t miss in Flagstaff.

Historic Route 66 & downtown district: A drive down the historic Route 66 will make your modern car feel like a classic cruiser.

Lowell Observatory at Mars Hill: This historic observatory will bring out your inner scientist.

Day hikes in the Coconino National Forest: From easy beginner paths to advanced heart-pumping hills, every hike is packed with beautiful nature and scenic adventures.

Museum of Northern Arizona: This museum will be a hit with any history, art or culture fans.

The Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail: This self-guided pub crawl offers up to $25 in food and drink discounts at some of Flagstaff’s finest craft breweries.


“Suited for Space” Exhibition Opens at Lowell Observatory

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy stated the United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. To achieve this ambitious goal, astronauts would need not only a spacecraft to launch them safely into space, but a spacesuit that would protect them as well. Without the proper clothing to keep them alive while traveling, living and working beyond the bonds of Earth, space exploration would not have been possible.

Suited for Space,” a new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is now open at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff through June 16. The exhibit explores the evolution of spacesuit development from the first quarter of the 20th century until the dawn of the shuttle era.

IMG_0316lowresThe exhibition features large-scale photographs of suits worn by astronauts from Project Mercury through the Skylab program as well as suits used in testing and training. X-ray images provide a unique view of the interiors of the spacesuits. While the fragility of these spacesuits prevents them from traveling, the exhibition will feature a replica Apollo spacesuit on loan from NASA and 10 objects from the National Air and Space Museum’s collection, including a glove, a boot and helmets.

Suited for Space” includes suits that made history—like the one Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon—and those that never left the ground such as the Mark V spacesuit designed for Project Mercury. Visitors can see an exciting visual timeline of the spacesuits’ evolution over the years.

Suited for Space” is accompanied by a richly illustrated book, titled Spacesuits: The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Collection available through powerHouse Books.

The exhibition has its own Facebook page for space trivia, curatorial insight, and general fun. Visit www.facebook.com/suitedforspace and www.facebook.com/lowellobservatory.

For more information, visit www.lowell.edu.

lowell observatory

Lowell Observatory’s 3-D Mars Exhibit Extended to Feb. 24

Lowell Observatory’s Mars exhibit, “A New Perspective on Mars: The Red Planet in 3D,” began in October and was set to end January 13. As of October, more than two million people have viewed this powerful 3-D exhibit at the observatory, located in central Flagstaff on Mars Hill. So due to popular demand, the stunning exhibit has been extended to Sunday, February 24.

Created and constructed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the exhibit features large 3-D topographical images of the surface of Mars. The European spacecraft called the Mars Express has been orbiting the planet since 2004, equipped with a German-made High Resolution Stereo Camera (HSRC). The images the Express has captured over the years have provided essential, invaluable information regarding the geological evolution of the Red Planet. The exhibit and tour guides at Lowell explain some of the recent discoveries the camera has made.

For instance, the HSRC has found erosion patterns that suggest glaciers once moved across the surface, and networks of valleys indicate that water once flowed from rainwater or glacial meltwater. These findings are remarkable, considering the fact that Mars’ current high temperatures prevent water from existing there now. Researchers are analyzing the images to identify how much water flowed over Mars and when, which would provide a much better idea of the history of the planet. Further study also suggests that volcanic activity could still occur there. On DLR’s Mars Express site, photos of these features and many others, including Mars’ moon, Phobos, can be found. There is also a breathtaking animated movie based on 3-D images taken of the Valles Marineris, which flies the viewer among mountain peaks and valleys.

The incredible detail of the pictures makes viewers feel like they are actually touching the surface of Mars. Lowell Observatory has a long history of astronomical research and discovery. Established in 1894, Lowell was the site where galactic redshifts were first observed, Mars’ canals were first sketched, and where Pluto was discovered. It boasts the 6,500 square foot Steele Visitor Center, featuring multimedia shows, presentations and a portable 3-D planetarium. Visitors can look through the original telescopes that were used to make significant breakthroughs in the field of astronomy and learn about the new Discovery Channel Telescope, located nearby.

When visiting, remember that Lowell is situated at 7,200 feet, so bring plenty of water and dress in layers. Because the observatory is only one mile west of Downtown Flagstaff, the two-hour trip from Phoenix provides the perfect opportunity for an educational day trip. While there, make sure to stop by the Starry Skies Shop and check out some of the upcoming events at the Observatory, including Uncle Percy’s Tykes Camp, a day camp meeting once a month where kids can build, learn, play and observe through science.

“A New Perspective on Mars: The Red Planet in 3D”

Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat.: Noon – 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Thurs., Sun.: Noon – 5 p.m.
Where: 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., Flagstaff
Adults: $12
Seniors, AAA, college students: $10
Kids 5-17: $5
Kids under 5: Free
Members: Free
Admission covers all programs; no reservations necessary
Contact: (928) 774-3358
Groups and private viewing: Mary DeMuth (928) 233-3235
Lowell Observatory’s website | Mars Express site


Flagstaff Adventures - EAZ Fall-Winter 2012

Top 5: Flagstaff Adventures (Fall-Winter 2012)

The Top 5 Flagstaff Adventures — as voted on by Experience AZ readers:

Lowell Observatory

1400 W. Mars Hill Rd.,
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 774-3358
Sitting atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, on the Mogollon Rim, Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope is the 5th largest telescope in the continental U.S. — and one of the most technologically advanced. Come for daytime guided tours, solar viewing, multimedia shows and evening gazing.

Meteor Crater

Interstate 40, Exit 233,
Winslow, AZ 86047
(800) 289-5898
The most well-known, most-preserved meteorite crater on Earth, Meteor Crater is the result of an asteroid collision about 50,000 years ago. It’s nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. Come for its outdoor observation trails, indoor viewing, interactive discovery center and more.

Sunset Crater Volcano

Off U.S 89, on Sunset Crater –
Wupatki Loop Rd.,
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 526-0502
When this volcano erupted 900 years ago, the surrounding landscape was reshaped, where twisted Ponderosa Pines and an array of wildlife now coexist. Hike the trail through the lava flow and cinders, located near Flagstaff.

North Pole Experience

2515 E. Butler Ave.,
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
(888) 469-8819
Families can enjoy a magic trolley ride to the North Pole, build toys with Santa and his elves, attend Elf University, visit Mrs. Claus’ bakery and more. Recently relocated to Flagstaff from Greer, the North Pole Experience has partnered with The Little America Hotel, which is always decked out in more than one million Christmas lights.

Arizona Snowbowl

Off Hwy. 180, on Snowbowl Rd.,
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 774-0729
When Flagstaff transforms into a winter wonderland, residents and visitors alike flock to Arizona Snowbowl for snowshoe hiking, skiing, snowboarding and more. With 25 rooms in a cabin setting, the Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins are also an ideal place to stay, whether in the winter or summer.

Experience AZ Fall-Winter 2012


Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory

If you are in Arizona right now, then you are in the only state in the America — in fact, the only place outside Europe — where a planet has been discovered. That’s right, an astronomer discovered Pluto at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff in 1930. Visitors can take advantage of this surprising distinction by visiting the Lowell Observatory, where both the history of astronomy and cutting-edge research in the field are on display.

Percival Lowell founded his observatory on a mesa to the west of Flagstaff in 1894. Though he occupied himself initially with drawing canals he believed he saw on the surface of Mars — supposedly signs of intelligent life on the planet — he later shifted his attention to a search for planets beyond Neptune.

After Lowell’s death in 1916, an amateur astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh continued Lowell’s search, meticulously comparing photographs of the night sky for movement that would indicate an object closer than the fixed stars in the background. In 1930, the observatory announced his discovery of Pluto.

Visitors to the observatory can take guided tours, which will take them to the original Alvan Clark telescope used by Lowell himself and the Pluto Discovery Telescope. The Clark telescope, remarkably, is still in operation today and is used for educational purposes. Other exhibits include the “blink” comparator Tombaugh used to discover Pluto and a spectrograph used to gather the first evidence that the universe was expanding. Visitors will also see interactive exhibits meant to demonstrate the basic principles of astronomy.

The Rotunda Library, originally built by Lowell to house his book collection, now displays exhibits showing the history of the observatory.

The Discovery Channel has teamed up with the observatory to build the 4.2-inch Discovery Channel Telescope. The device will be used to search for clues to the most fundamental mysteries of the universe.

For more information on the Lowell Observatory, visit www.lowell.edu.