Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona

Living in Flagstaff, Arizona, has its pros and cons just like any other city. With lovely weather, beautiful Ponderosa pine forests, and even skiing (yes, in Arizona!) What downsides could there be to such an oasis in the desert? Some of them may surprise you. Check out the good and bad, and see for yourself if Flagstaff, AZ, might be the place for you. 

Pros of Living in Flagstaff, AZ:

Flagstaff’s proximity to the great outdoors

If you think Arizona living is all desert living, think again. Flagstaff is close to the mountains, forests, and even gets snow during the winter months. For those who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and camping, Flagstaff is an endless playground. The higher altitude and shade of the thick forests makes Flagstaff significantly cooler than many other Arizona cities. This means you can enjoy these outdoor activities for more months of the year.

In fact, most consider Flagstaff to be a year-round activity destination. With the snow in the winter, lovely temperate conditions in the summer, and springs full of wildflowers, there’s always something beautiful to see in Flagstaff, and usually permissible weather to see it in.

Sunrise over a Flagstaff mountain, Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona (1)

Flagstaff is centrally located

Being located in northern Arizona means Flagstaff is close to much of the central and western United States.  Lake Powell, Sedona, and Las Vegas are all nearby, meaning no matter what kind of fun you are looking for, you can find something. Even skiing is an option in Flagstaff! Snowbowl, a local ski resort, is just a 25-minute drive from town. Skiers can enjoy alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and even ski teams for racing or park riding.

*You might notice that one of the cons on our list is Flagstaff’s isolated location, which seems to contradict this very statement. When we say Flagstaff is centrally located, that means it’s close to a great deal of activities and other places of interest. It isn’t necessarily easy to get to from other cities, and it doesn’t have an international airport, so travel isn’t as easy as it is in larger cities.

The beautiful weather

The sweltering desert heat is for many Arizona’s greatest detractor. In Flagstaff, however, the temperature is cooler than Phoenix by often as much as 25 to 30 degrees. During the summer months, the highs are usually in the 80s, and nearly every evening cools down into perfect patio weather.  Though the air may be cooler, the days are still full of Arizona sunshine. With an average of 100 inches of snow each winter these sunny mornings and days mean the snow doesn’t stick around for long. Just long enough to enjoy, but not have to worry about shoveling your driveway!

The only “problem time” of the year in Flagstaff is the spring, when wet winds can really pick up and make hiking and getting outside a little less comfortable. Still, the windy days are only here and there, and are not a huge price to pay compared to weather across the country.

Flagstaff AZ aerial, Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona (4)

Flagstaff has great education options

The public schools in Flagstaff are good, even though Arizona as a whole does not rank well when it comes to public education. The sense of community in Flagstaff provides public schools with a great deal of support, meaning happier students, teachers, and other staff. If private school is the choice for your family, there are options for every kind of student. Whether you want a charter school education, parochial school education, or secular private education, the options are plentiful.

Flagstaff offers great employment opportunities

Though the population of Flagstaff is on the smaller side, there are a few employment giants in the area making sure there will always be jobs for Flagstaff residents. Nestle Purina employs over 3,ooo people in the Flagstaff area. Since setting up shop in the late 1970’s, this plant pumps an average of $54 million into Flagstaff’s economy each year. That’s a lot of dog food! (Just kidding, Purina makes much more than kibble!) Another huge employer in Flagstaff is Northern Arizona Healthcare. This giant hospital system is renowned for the cutting-edge work performed here in the field of cardiology, including open-heart surgery. Those working in healthcare, administration, laboratory work, and even cafeterias, landscaping, and janitorial work can all find employment with NAH.

Northern Arizona University is located in Flagstaff

This “pro” could be a con to some, but for the sake of argument let’s take a look at all the great things NAU brings to Flagstaff. Being a college town means the options for fun things to do are constantly growing. Restaurants, bars, and other entertainment in Flagstaff is always evolving and growing as the student population brings new faces into town and keeps the young adult atmosphere alive. These new residents (and their visiting families!) support the economy and jobs in Flagstaff and help local businesses thrive.  

Flagstaff Arizona sign, Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona (3)

Cons of Living in Flagstaff, AZ

Traffic in Flagstaff can be bad

Traffic in Flagstaff gets worse as the city grows annually. This small town without big city streets doesn’t have the infrastructure to grow as fast as new residents are coming. The university is certainly contributing to the growth of Flagstaff, and certain parts of the year are busier than others (The population seems to thin out during the few weeks around Christmas and the summer months.) But for the most part, it seems the writing is on the wall. Flagstaff will not remain the charming and small “mountain town” it once was for much longer.

 The look of Flagstaff is changing

Nothing stays the same forever, but it can still be disappointing to watch a unique city turn into a carbon copy of thousands of other cities across the United States. As student housing has grown around NAU, the high-rise apartments are quickly changing the look of Flagstaff, and residents don’t like it. Much of the new construction has done a decent job of embracing the “log and stone” Northwoods look of Flagstaff, but there is no doubt the times are a ‘changin.

Aerial of Flagstaff AZ, Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona (2)

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Flagstaff housing is expensive

The median home price in Flagstaff is currently just under $600,000. This doesn’t mean you will find a plethora of options in this price range, however. The cost of housing has gone up exponentially across the country, but even as the seller’s market evens out, we are not likely to see housing get cheaper in Flagstaff. This part of Arizona is a destination town. That means people come to Flagstaff to vacation or otherwise enjoy themselves. Plenty to do, and plenty of people wanting to come here to do it, means housing in Flagstaff is going to stay expensive.  Over the years you will likely get less and less for your dollar when it comes to buying a home here.

Sunrise over Flagstaff, Pros & Cons of Living in Flagstaff, Arizona (5)

Tourists frequent Flagstaff year-round

The beautiful weather in Flagstaff all year long and the destination aspect of the city means there will always be visitors coming to enjoy all the city has to offer. You might not mind these interlopers, in fact it’s most certainly a compliment to your city if tourists flock from all about. But the traffic, excess of people in grocery stores, malls, and gas stations, as well as the inability to get reservations when dining out, and extra cars taking up parking spaces…well all the little inconveniences can add up. If the mountains get a good snowfall, if the weather is particularly nice, or if the university is having a football game, you can expect tourism to be heavier than normal.

Flagstaff is a bit isolated

If you have come to Flagstaff to hike, ski, or just enjoy yourself, you will likely find everything you need for even an extended stay. But when it comes to actually living there, this might not ring as true. As we previously mentioned, Flagstaff is a destination town, and outside of the city limits life can feel a bit isolated. There isn’t much going on in northern Arizona, so because of this some of the basics of your cost of living such as groceries and gas prices are inflated because Flagstaff is the first town for miles.

How can I know if these pros and cons are accurate?

 Pros and cons are extremely subjective. While our list might consider some aspects of town to be pros, another list could consider them a downside of living in Flagstaff. Some might think the lively young crowd from the university is a pro, while others find them rowdy and transient. Some people may think the job market is full of opportunity, while others might think “opportunity” better translates into competition. Remember to take advice with a grain of salt, the only person who can decide your perfect place to call home is you.

Looking to move to Flagstaff, Arizona?

Now that you have the skinny on life in Flagstaff, Arizona, are you ready to call it home? If so, reach out to me at AZLiveStyles, I would love to help you find your next home in The Grand Canyon State.