Sedona, Arizona. What does that place conjure up in your mind? Maybe it’s the red rocks, maybe something spiritual, and maybe something simple and splendid like a great meal. There is so much to see and do in and around Sedona! We spent three days exploring the area recently and here’s what we saw and experienced. Quick note: We couldn’t do it all in three days, so we plan to return as soon as possible.
The City. Sedona is a self-described sleepy little retirement town that has a rather large tourist component. Located about a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, you begin to realize the uniqueness of this place as you drive in and witness the great expanses of red rock all around. At an elevation of about 4350 feet, Sedona is nestled into an area that is lush, full of trees, at least one flowing stream, and all those beautiful rocks. The scenery alone will put you in a mood of peaceful tranquility. Sedona really does have that chill vibe that is truly wonderful to absorb and enjoy.
The Hotel. We stayed at the Sedona Hilltop Inn, which is strategically placed near the arts and cultural center of Sedona. Across the street are a variety of shops and restaurants. Take a walk up the hill and you’ll find the “touristy” part of Sedona with more shops and a lively atmosphere. Take a walk down the hill and you’ll find a plethora of high-quality art galleries and shops at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. More on the latter a bit later. Besides the great location, the Inn has a very helpful staff, a very artsy entryway, and rooms that are comfortable and spacious.
Amitabha Stupa & Peace Garden. Our first stop on our visit brought us to this peace garden located in the north-central part of Sedona. It doesn’t really matter if you are religious, spiritual, or none of the above because it is worth a visit. You’ll find walking paths, a large mahogany Buddha statue, a large and small stupa, and a Native American medicine wheel. The setting is quiet, peaceful, and designed for reflection and contemplation. If you want a place to be at one with nature and with yourself, then this is it.
Dining in Sedona. We had the fortune to experience some exceptional dining in Sedona. From casual cafe dining to fine dining, any foodie will enjoy sampling the cuisine and culinary talents of the area. We had an exceptional evening meal at Rene’ Restaurant at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. How about some escargot with a parsley-garlic butter sauce for an appetizer? Delicious! For the main course, we enjoyed the Mediterranean Octopus and the Petit Filet. Both were prepared perfectly — the octopus grilled and the filet cooked medium-rare — along with a tasty side of lavender-infused fingerling potatoes. The staff and service were also excellent.
Not to be upstaged, we ate at the Creekside American Bistro across the street twice. It becomes obvious very quickly here, and throughout Sedona, that the people and businesses are friendly, genuine, and worth getting to know. We sampled menu items such as the double-patty gluten-free burger, the high country shrimp and grits, the vegan hummus, and the chicken quesadilla. All were uniformly well-prepared and delicious. Feel the pounds add up (but who cares, ya know?).
Finally, we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at The Secret Garden Cafe. How does a pile of gluten-free pancakes sound? Or a slice of traditional Quiche Lorraine? If you aren’t hungry reading this yet, then we don’t know what will! Top it all off with some great drinks and a relaxing atmosphere, and it’s no wonder there was a line people waiting to go inside once they opened in the morning.
The Shopping. That brings us to the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village down the road from the Sedona Hilltop Inn. Simply put, the setting is beautiful, historic, lush, and relaxing. Water fountains abound everywhere among the old Mexico-inspired architecture that abounds throughout the complex. The shops are eclectic and range from upscale to some pretty funky art galleries and wine shops to a diversity of restaurants and snacks shops. We spent an entire morning walking around the village and just loved the vibe and scenery of the place. If you love art, great food, and old world charm, then this place is for you.
Antelope Slot Canyon. For one day of our trip, we ventured north to the area of Page, Arizona, which features some excellent geology and attractions for people to visit. One of those sites was Antelope Slot Canyon – a carved sandstone canyon that offers some amazing views. The sunlight shines down from above creating some surreal views at the canyon floor. Walking through here is a surreal experience thanks to the diffuse lighting punctuated by beams of light at different places. The rock of the canyon is all layered and cross-bedded sandstone — and an example of active geology. Heavy rains come into the canyon and continue carving the walls while moving around vast amounts of sand. There are great photos to be taken here, but you will be limited to your cell phone or SLR camera. No backpacks allowed. Visitors are also told to not touch the canyon walls during their visit.
Horseshoe Bend. Another local must-see is Horseshoe Bend. This is a lookout area where you can watch the Colorado River meander around a large rock outcrop. It’s scenic, the vistas are wide, and the views are amazing. It’s about a 15-minute hike to the viewing area. Be sure to stay on the wide path to avoid encounters with any of the local wildlife! Also, it tends to get rather windy along the way, so hold onto your hat and don’t get too close to the edge at the viewing area. The viewing area does include a guard rail along a short portion of the edge, but it’s easy to get around and you may be inclined to try to take some photos. Our advice: Don’t do it.
Glen Canyon Dam. Finally, we had a short visit to Glen Canyon Dam and its visitor center. There is a wide and scenic view of the dam from the visitor center, which is a must-do. It’s interesting that the water levels are currently so low at the dam that the future of this dam is in question. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the fossil dinosaur footprints in front of the visitor center. This is an excellent example of the intersection of nature and human ingenuity as we transform the natural landscapes to meet human needs.
Conclusion. Sedona and northern Arizona offer many beautiful places to visit and enjoy — both natural and human-made. The views inspire awe and a realization that the landscape and bedrock have been around much longer than people. In our world today whether it’s in a city or in the countryside, let’s enjoy the beauty of the world while minimizing our impact.