Nestled in the heart of the American Southwest, Sedona, Arizona is truly one of the prettiest cities we have visited. Life in red rock country seems to move at a slower pace, and the city offers great places to relax, shop, view spectacular scenery, and eat. Sedona is a dark sky community which means there is an ordinance against light pollution. On clear summer nights, the Milky Way can be seen arching across the sky from horizon to horizon! By day, the red rock scenery is enchanting, and to make it even better the city averages 278 days of sunshine per year. Sedona is a great year-round destination, but we particularly like to visit during the early fall. Sedona is:
- An ideal place for a couple’s getaway, girl’s trip, or bachelor/bachelorette weekends.
- Perfect for a long weekend or extended stay.
- A hub for several national parks and other attractions.
This 117-mile airport-to-destination road trip starts from the closest major airport located in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has a large selection of hotels, resorts, RV resorts and campsite options for overnight stays. Attractions in Phoenix include: a zoo, an aquarium, water parks, museums, hiking trails, and golf courses. Click here for more information about accommodations and attractions: Visit Phoenix.
Getting to Sedona
⇒From Phoenix, take I-17 north. Drive time: 2 hours.
Bonus stop: Montezuma Castle National Monument. See an ancient apartment complex tucked high into the side of a cliff. Then drive 5 miles north to see Montezuma Well, a sinkhole fed by natural springs and also surrounded by ancient cliff dwellings. A 7-day pass is $10.00 for adults (which also allows entry to Tuzigoot National Monument) and children 15 and under are admitted free. For additional information, here is a link to the National Park Service website: Montezuma Castle National Monument.
⇒Continue on I-17 north to Highway 179 north to Sedona. Note: Highway 179 is Red Rock Scenic Byway, a designated All-American Road, which takes travelers through some of the most picturesque scenery in the country.
Destination: Sedona, Arizona
The town of Sedona grew up from farm settlements along Oak Creek when the first homesteaders arrived during the mid-1800s. Near the turn of the century, a man by the name of T.C. Schnebly arrived and made his home where the ever-popular Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village sits today. In 1902 the industrious Mr. Schnebly applied for the first post office in the area, and it is his wife, Sedona, for whom the city is named.
While we can’t list or recommend the numerous hotel options in Sedona, we can say that accommodations in Sedona will cost anywhere from $170.00 per night to over $500.00 per night. From basic rooms at Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express to championship golf resorts and luxurious spas, Sedona has an accommodation for almost everyone’s preference and budget.
Meal options can range from inexpensive American fare such as burgers and brews at Oak Creek Brewery & Grill to high-end dining featuring prime meats and seafood at Rene. There is even a McDonalds which finally opened in Sedona after years of negotiation with the city over its famous golden arches. The city said the bright yellow sign did not meet its ordinance which keeps structures and signs from detracting from the natural beauty of the surroundings. Sedona won, and the McDonalds was constructed in a Southwestern motif with turquoise arches. We’ve been told it’s the only McDonalds in the world that doesn’t have golden arches on the building. And while we’re talking about places to eat, be sure to go to the Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits in uptown Sedona and order the cactus fries – you won’t be sorry!
Sedona has long been recognized for having mysterious cosmic forces that seem to emanate from the rocks. The forces are known as vortices. To quote Roger Naylor (RogerNaylor.com), vortices are “…swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy.” While some consider the entire area around Sedona a vortex, certain areas are said to have stronger powers than others. People often ask how many strong vortex sites there are, but the answer depends on who you ask. Some of the most popular higher energy areas are said to include Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Airport Mesa, and Courthouse Butte. Visit Sedona and decide for yourself if the vortices really do exist.
Our Top 10 favorite things to do in Sedona:
1 – Hop on a trolley. Want to take a tour of the city and get some helpful information about the area? Sedona Trolley has you covered with 55-minute tours starting at $23.99 for adults and $15.99 for children 12 and under. Several tour options and times are available. Do this first for the best introduction to the city. Here is a link to the website: Sedona Trolley
2 – Shop. Tlaquepaque (Tuh-lockee-pockee) Arts & Shopping Village is a can’t-miss venue featuring shops, galleries, a chapel, and restaurants. The beautiful courtyard setting has an Old Mexico vibe with plenty of shade trees, colorful flowers, and a bubbling fountain. Visitors will want to spend a few hours strolling through the shops and galleries followed by a relaxing lunch or dinner on the patio at one of Tlaquepaque’s restaurants.
We recommend spending time in uptown (aka downtown) Sedona too. There are many stores and restaurants that offer a wide range of shopping and dining options. Word of caution: the Merry Christmas Sedona shop may be hazardous to your budget. With so many beautiful things to buy, it’s hard to choose just one – or ten! And don’t forget about the cactus fries and other great food at the Cowboy Club Grill & Spirits.
3 – Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building, Arizona sculptor and rancher, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, commissioned the construction of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Initially, she sought to build the church in Budapest, Hungary in the 1930s, but with the outbreak of WWII the plans were scrapped. In the early 1950s Senator Barry Goldwater helped Staude get a special use permit to build the church on Coconino National Forest land. The gorgeous church was completed in 1956.
4 – Enjoy the scenery at Red Rock State Park. If there really is something to that vortices thing in Sedona, then this place might just have it! We experienced peaceful calm – an almost spiritual feeling – at this park. Hike one or all of the trails or simply find solitude along the banks of Oak Creek. This park is also an excellent picnic destination.
5 – Take a pink jeep tour. The tour company, known for their signature pink vehicles, can arrange a variety of off-roading adventures, hiking tours, and trips to the Grand Canyon, among other exciting experiences. We highly recommend the 1-day, Grand Canyon tour to the south rim. Here is a link to their website: Pink Adventure Tours.
6 – Drive through Oak Creek Canyon. Embark on a scenic 14-mile drive on State Route 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona. This is a slow road because of the corkscrew twists and turns, but the scenery will take your breath away! While the northbound drive is beautiful, we recommend driving south from Flagstaff for the best views.
7 – Play at Slide Rock State Park. Visit this scenic park in Oak Creek Canyon featuring a natural rock water slide. Go to play in the water, go to hike, or go for the scenery in this historic park.
8 – Gaze at the stars. There are several astronomy tours available in Sedona, and the state parks host them periodically too. Learn about the constellations and take a peek into outer space through their telescopes. We recommend Sedona Star Gazing – Evening Sky Tours. Here’s a link: Evening Sky Tours.
9 – Watch the sun set. We love a great sunset (or sunrise), and Airport Mesa is the place to be in Sedona just before the sun goes down. Here’s one we were lucky enough to capture.
10 – Take a side trip to a national park:
- Grand Canyon National Park is 2 hours north of Sedona via Flagstaff.
- Petrified Forest National Park is 2.5 hours northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
- Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Page, Arizona and Lake Powell are 2.75 hours north of Sedona via US Highway 89.
- Tuzigoot National Monument is 30 minutes southwest of Sedona.
- Walnut Canyon National Monument is 45 minutes northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
- Saguaro National Park is 3.5 hours southwest of Sedona via Phoenix and Tucson.
Now that we’ve given you our top 10, we should add that Sedona has so much more than what we’ve covered. There are numerous hiking trails for all levels of hikers, with Cathedral Rock Trail and Devil’s Bridge Trail being two of the favorites. Additionally, climbing and bouldering are popular in Sedona, and guided climbs can be arranged through several companies. ATV rentals and tours are available for those who want to have a little off-roading fun. There are several mountain biking trails as well as motorcycles to rent for wind-in-your-hair rides through the red rocks.
As you can see, Sedona has something to delight every visitor. While we can’t guarantee anything, we’re pretty sure you will love Sedona as much as we do!
*This is an update of an original post from September 22, 2018.
Click to see more exciting Arizona destinations:
Petrified Forest National Park
Thank you for joining us for our recap of Sedona!
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.