Moving to Flagstaff – 10 Things to Know

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So, you are either thinking of, or already in the process of, moving to Flagstaff, AZ.

Welcome! It’s a beautiful place to live and a wonderful community to be a part of. Many residents are not born-and-raised in Flagstaff, and there’s a large population of transplants. I polled several moms to ask what they wish they had known prior to moving here. Keep in mind everyone is unique and these are individual observations. Still left with questions? Join our Flagstaff Mom Community and Conversation Facebook group and ask away or search for your question, it might already be there! If you’d like more information on Flagstaff neighborhoods check out a post created in collaboration with local moms.

  1. Distance to other towns

There’s a joke that Flagstaff is like an island on a mountain. We are 2 hours from a major city (Phoenix) and there are other smaller communities (Williams, Sedona, Camp Verde, Prescott) within a 2-hour drive. We do have an airport but many flights are not direct and you will route through PHX. Many of us drive down to Phoenix for medical needs, recreation, or retail as needed.

2. Spring winds and pollen allergies

Spring is a magical time in Flagstaff. Full of sunshine, melting snow, and LOTS of wind and pollen in the air. If you’ve lived in other areas without seasonal allergies you might be in for a new experience here. There will be Spring days when our patios and cars will be covered in a thick layer of yellow pollen. It’s not often a deal-breaker, but certainly a part of life in Flagstaff.

3. You might take a pay cut

This is an important one. A truly honest comment you might hear about living in Flagstaff, “welcome to poverty with a view.” Yes, we do have a higher minimum wage – $15.00/hour. But, high-paying jobs can be sparse and competitive. It’s best to explore living in Flagstaff with an informed view of the local job market.

4. The air is thin and dry

We are a town situated at 7,000 feet elevation. The air is clean and fresh, but also thin. Altitude sickness can happen and oxygen saturation levels are important. High country living can also take a toll on your skin. Plan to wear lots of sunscreen (you can and will sunburn year-round) and plan to get acquainted with moisturizers and humidifiers. My family has 4 humidifiers in our home, one in every bedroom.

5. It’s a college town

Northern Arizona University is a central fixture to our community, which has pros and cons. Employment in higher education and scientific research is positive, as is the influx of available college-aged babysitters. However, it can often feel like the students take priority over families and full-time residents. University events, student housing initiatives, and traffic can make you feel a little salty toward NAU sometimes.

6. Cost of living and home prices

Another crucial bit of information – the cost of living is high and the housing market is bananas. See #3. You might earn less money working in Flagstaff, but groceries and housing costs are still high. Working with a local realtor (even for rentals!) and/or mortgage lender should be among your top priorities when planning a move to Flagstaff. There are multiple factors for the housing crisis in town, the simplest explanation being very low supply and extreme demand.

7. It snows, learn how to live in it

We get around 100″ of snow each year. All-wheel drive can be helpful but not always necessary. Having a sturdy snow shovel to clear your driveway, sidewalk and walkway are important. Drive SLOW when road conditions are slick, icy and visibility is low. Be prepared to invest in cold-weather clothing for your entire family. Keeping an eye on buy/sell/swap Facebook pages can be helpful to keep the investment costs down for growing children. Finally, learn to care for our open spaces and join the effort to keep plastic snow sled trash out of Flagstaff. If you have friends visiting from out of town to enjoy the snow, help educate them on this issue.

8. It’s a beautiful community with access to so much nature

There’s a reason why people travel from all over the world to visit Flagstaff – it’s awesome! Tourism is a big component of our local economy and many visitors enjoy hiking trails, skiing, camping, mountain biking, and snow sledding in Flagstaff – the same as residents. It can be tense between residents and visitors during peak tourism (fall leaves, winter snow, cooler summer temps) and traffic can be a pain. But, it’s an incredibly special place to live and raise a family with access to miles and miles of trails and forest. Residents care deeply about our natural spaces; please join us in that mission.

9. The town is growing, but maybe not at the pace you want

Flagstaff is a “small town” by comparison to many other cities, maybe even the one you are moving from. You may not have some of your same beloved amenities, and that could come as a shock. We don’t have a dedicated children’s museum or a ton of indoor entertainment options for families (no trampoline park or zoo, one bowling alley, and movie theater) but it’s not without growth. New businesses are coming to Flagstaff every month – and you could have mixed feelings about this. Many residents certainly do. There is no Trader Joe’s – yes, we’ve tried to appeal and we’ve filled out the request forms. Embrace the “small town” vibe that Flagstaff is known for. Afterall, that’s likely one of the reasons you wanted to move here. The town will grow over time, and if you’re really missing 8-lane freeways and major retail you can always drive south two hours to Phoenix and get your fix.

10. Flagstaff is quirky and awesome, but not without challenges

I’m personally a transplant resident (from Los Angeles, CA) that elected to move to Flagstaff with my family for a variety of reasons. I love this community, deeply. I’ve made some amazing friends and my children have access to great schools and programs unique to their needs. I’m happily employed by Northern Arizona University and my husband and I own a home. I will openly admit that I am a privileged resident and I know that our community is not without its challenges. There is a deep economic disparity here. Racism is present and interactions can range from micro-aggressions to overt. Our Navajo (Diné) Nation neighbors face unique challenges many Flagstaff residents turn a blind eye to. Un-housed residents are common. Panhandling is frequent and highly visible. If you choose to join our community, I encourage you to see all of it – even the parts that might make you feel uncomfortable. Find ways to get involved in improving the quality of life for all residents.

Flagstaff is unlike anywhere I’ve ever lived or visited and I’m immensely proud to call it home. One of the reasons we chose to live in Flagstaff is that we wanted to immerse ourselves in a community we would care about, and one that we could make a difference in. I have long-term goals for leaving a lasting positive legacy in Flagstaff, but for now – I want to welcome you to our beautiful, unique, complex community and I hope you will love to call it home.