Sedona, Arizona – for the sporty and the sedentary

Airport Loop view

Once a Mecca for bohemians and hippies searching for a spiritual vortex, Sedona’s dramatic red rock beauty has long been a draw, especially for makers of Western movies. It has become a destination for adventurous outdoors types, as well those looking for other ways to enjoy the scenery. Its elevation and low humidity act as moderating effects on the temperatures in winter and summer, making it a year around resort town. And with a population of only 25,000 in Sedona and its environs, it provides a feeling of intimacy and escape.

Bell Rock

Why has Sedona become such a desirable destination, and why do we and others keep returning? Sedona is like the boxer who fights above his weight. It offers so much more than communities of comparable size, allowing the visitor to concentrate on a special interest or to spread into many different ones. Above all, Sedona is great for those with active lifestyles.  There are art galleries, spas and festivals throughout the year to appeal to lovers of movies, arts, food, wine, and more. Two hours from the Grand Canyon and from Phoenix, it is a great link in the Arizona tourism chain.

Chapel of the Holy Cross – a striking edifice, definitely worth a visit

Beauty abounds around Sedona. Driving from Phoenix in the south, you will take a designated Scenic American Byway, and coming from Flagstaff in the north, you will pass through 20 or so miles of the gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon. Once in greater Sedona, there are several ways to view its bounty. One of its greatest assets is the 80 or so marked hiking trails in the red rocks of Coconino National Forest. All levels of difficulty can be found, with distances of 0.3 to 12.4 miles, and from flat to elevation gains of 2,100 feet. Several trails have what some claim to be metaphysical vortexes, the vitalizing forces that spiritualists seek. Particularly popular are Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock,  the Airport Loop – an unlikely sounding destination on a plateau that offers 360 degree views and is popular at sunset.

Tlaquepaque Fountain Court

Another way to enjoy the countryside is in 4×4 tours. Most popular are the Pink Jeep Tours that visit formations that individual drivers cannot access, as well as specialty trips such as the exploration of a 700 year old Sinaloa cliff dwelling. Other sightseeing options include hot air ballooning, horseback riding, biking, rafting, and segway.

The community identifies itself as a “city animated by the arts.” Supported by a city ordinance, public art is profuse in Sedona currently with nearly 30 major pieces.  Most may be viewed in art walks in the three parts of town, Uptown Sedona, West Sedona, and the Gallery District. At the center of the gallery scene is Tlaquepaque, near the “Y” traffic circle that separates the three areas.  Included in the tens of art galleries, jewelry, and specialty shops, are Renee Taylor, a good source of contemporary art, and Kuivato Glass Gallery, which specializes in that commodity. Nearby are Exposures International, claiming to be one of the larger galleries in the world and carrying a large sculpture inventory, and the well-established Lanning Gallery.

Thai Palace’s Buddha Garden

Sedona offers dining options from a number of different cuisines. Three distinctive restaurants are among those we recommend for dinner. First off the lips of locals tends to be Elote Cafe. A Mexican/Southwestern restaurant with innovative offerings that we can recommend such as pigs’ cheeks and lamb adobo. This is no routine Tex-Mex cafe, but neither are the prices. Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill is one of great chef Lisa Dahl’s fine restaurants. This one has striking clean lines and a stunning view. Steaks and chops are popular as are seafood dishes from Latin America. Cowboy Club is a downtown relic of Sedona’s history where the Cowboy Artists of America was founded. A meat eater’s paradise, try its elk or buffalo selections for something different, in a red dominated decor filled with artifacts from another era.

A good choice for a salad and sandwich lunch is The Hudson. If you want to go ethnic, you might try Thai Palace Uptown. Select the heat of your curry on a scale of five while you sit in a charming dining room with southwestern bones and Thai decor. Alternatively, sit on the patio by the handsomely landscaped Buddha waterfall. Finally, Chocolate Tree offers organic fare from kale quinoa salad to Ayurvedic drinks.  You may be surprised to find cases of hand made chocolates and an agreeable wine list in this unlikely setting.

Mariposa Grill’s patio and view

Since grapes are fermented in every state in the U.S., it should be no surprise to find Arizona turning water to wine. What we didn’t expect is the opportunity for vibrant tasting room experiences. Only 15 minutes from town, four wineries along Page Springs Road are relaxed but very professional. Page Springs Cellars tastings take place on leather couches and coffee tables with individualized attention and a tasty small plates menu. Javelina Leap makes all its wine by hand the old-fashioned way and serves tastings in a more traditional bar like setting but with Western trappings. It offers daily lunches and hosts special events from casual to formal. It was our dog, Baci’s, favorite, as he was fed big chunks of home made sausage that we would have liked.  Further afield, you can visit wineries in Cottonwood or the ghost town of Jerome. Apart from self-driving, limosine tours are available, and you can even have a special experience of horseback riding or kayaking around wine country culminating with wine tasting and a meal at Javelina Leap.

Page Springs Cellar’s tasting room

Accommodations of all ilks are available, from camps and cabins to exclusive B&B’s. A number of timeshares are present. We will mention only one lodging that we enjoy.  That is Los Abrigados. It has some historical parts and is solid but not fancy. It does however have a full array of wellness services and is located in the heart of Sedona, adjacent to Tlaquepaque, Sedona’s finest shopping cluster.

For additional information, check www.visitsedona.com or www.sedonachamber.com.