Wild West vigilantes are long gone, but still, taking a room in the most raucous place in town on this night might not have been one of my smartest decisions. It’s New Year’s Eve at the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ. Inside, Charly’s Pub reeks of home town hospitality. A great selection of whiskies and beers keeps everyone in high spirits, as we await the main attraction of the night. For more than a decade, the Weatherford has hosted the annual Pine Cone Drop, ushering in the New Year. Bless whoever it was at the Weatherford who thought to have two drops – one at 10:00 PM (midnight in Times Square), and another at midnight, local time. The artistically sculpted metal cone is a bit over six feet tall, and electrified internally with colored lights. Manhattan has its Waterford Crystal ball falling at midnight, and Flagstaff’s crystals drift from the sky, create magic over the landscape, and remain until spring.
The Weatherford has been a mainstay in downtown Flagstaff for over a century. In addition to its great bar, it is well known for its fine food. The dining room is recognized for its French Onion Soup, Baked Dip (artichoke hearts, spinach, slow-roasted tomatoes, and three cheeses), and Crostini Tapenade. However, it is the Creekstone Farms beef that steals the show. JW’s Rib Eye Steak, Wyatt Earp’s Surf & Turf, and Boss Acher’s Prime Rib are superlative. Chicken, shrimp, and a host of Southwest specialties, perfectly seasoned and presented, round out the menu.
Western writer Zane Grey was a frequent guest at the Weatherford. In the early 1900s, Grey visited sites in the West, including the Grand Canyon – about 90 miles from the hotel. Earl Stanley Gardner (writer of the Perry Mason books), said of Grey: “He had the knack of tying his characters into the land, and the land into the story.” Perhaps that’s why Riders of the Purple Sage remains Grey’s most well-known title. The Weatherford’s main meeting room is The Zane Grey Ballroom.
While chilly celebrants braced icy breezes outside, I decided to soak up my turn-of-the-century decorated room, and steamy bath in the claw-foot tub. Shortly following, I got through about four pages of my new Zane Grey novel before dozing off, in preparation for the New Year – and more whiskies with a view.