learning about the local history and nature and taking a pledge to protect the environment. My boys become Junior Rangers at Walnut Canyon too, 15 minutes from Flagstaff, which we hike the next day beside 12th century ancient cave dwellings, sketching native cactuses and hugging giant fir trees.
We also go skiing in Flagstaff. Arizona Snowbowl, an eight-lift ski resort as good as any you’d find back home, is just 20 minutes away. Even in a slow snow winter, snowmaking does the trick with 2300 vertical feet of runs for me and ski school for the kids.
We’re back in town in time to take in the constellations of the northern winter sky at the Lowell Observatory, which they’ve been doing here since1894. We spend an awe inspiring evening peering through the original Clark telescope which was used to map the moon for the Apollo program in the 1960s. Lowell’s other humble credentials include discovering Pluto in 1930 and the rings of Uranus in 1977. The Apollo astronauts practised driving the moon buggy at nearby Cinder Lake Crater Field created by NASA for its moon-like topography.
Flagstaff is a Winter wonderland hitting peak form at Christmas, although it’s evident it retains its beauty all year ‘round. We wake to squirrels and woodpeckers in the trees outside our window at The Little America Hotel, much to my kids’ delight. It’s these critters they talk about most in the months since our visit. And the night they jumped aboard The Polar Express.
As another Christmas approaches and those memories start to fade, a tiny silver bell sits beside their beds, and they can still hear its “sweet sound”, proof that they didn’t imagine a thing. Sky News Presenter and author Jacinta Tynan and her children stayed as a guest of Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau and Little America Hotel