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Sedona, Arizona Travel Guide

Weekend Getaway

Red Rockin' Arizona
Old West Meets Nouveau Chic
by Monica Galvan and Angele Sionna

The breathtaking landscape of Sedona, Arizona
Whether from the Sky or in a Pink Jeep, Sedona is Breathtaking

Sedona has many faces — an old Western town with deep cowboy roots, an outdoor adventurer's dream, a metaphysical mecca for relaxation and rejuvenation, and, increasingly, a destination for fine arts and culture. Whatever the motive behind your visit to this Arizona gem, the city's red-rock monoliths undoubtedly define its draw. More than 350 million years in the making, stunning crimson buttes and mesas surround this quaint town, leaving visitors awestruck as they watch the red rocks glow in changing light against clear cobalt skies.

Sedona, famous for its red rock formations, is located in between Phoenix and Flagstaff

Once just a dusty stop on the way to the Grand Canyon, Sedona has developed remarkably over the past half-century. It was founded in 1902 by T.C. Schnebly, who named the town after his beloved wife, Sedona, but it only became incorporated in 1988. The location, situated next to spring-fed Oak Creek, proved to be a habitable place for early settlers who farmed everything from apples to wine grapes in this high-desert climate.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a huge influx of artists to the area, after Egyptian sculptor Nassan Gobran created Sedona Arts Center with the help of local arts enthusiasts including German surrealist Max Ernst. Sedona became an artists' hub, where creative people flocked to learn and work together in a naturally inspiring environment. The Cowboy Artists of America, one of this country's most prestigious arts alliances, was formed in a back booth at a local tavern, now the Cowboy Club. Since then, many renowned national and international artists have called Sedona home.

For Western film fans, many of Sedona's red-rock formations will look familiar, more than 60 Hollywood flicks have been filmed here, including "Tall in the Saddle" and "Billy the Kid." Sedona's film connection continues today with the annual Sedona International Film Festival every February/March, which draws top actors, directors and writers.

The Amara Creekside Resort in Sedona, Arizona
Amara Creekside Resort

Obviously, a lot has changed since Sedona's early days, but locals are proud of this town's roots, even naming businesses and streets after the area's ancient Native American tribes and Western movies. Now prestigious galleries, renowned restaurants and award-winning resorts and spas thrive in Sedona, which make it a great place to reconnect with nature while still indulging in all the finer things in life.

Accommodations vary greatly in price range and amenities, but families might consider such options as the reliable Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa; a quaint bed and breakfast like The Inn Above Oak Creek; or the modern, centrally located Amara Resort & Spa, A Kimpton Hotel. Luxury accommodations include El Portal, L'Auberge de Sedona and the internationally heralded Enchantment Resort and Mii amo Destination Spa at Enchantment located in beautiful Boynton Canyon and surrounded by Coconino National Forest on all sides.


Uptown Sedona
Uptown Sedona

Get acquainted and don't be ashamed to be a tourist today. Start the day off with a sound breakfast that won't eat up too much of your time. Head to Wildflower Bread Company in uptown Sedona, where you can choose from such items as a honey-cured ham and brie frittata, banana walnut pancakes or a simple fruit salad drizzled with yogurt and granola. If it's not too hot, snag a seat on the outdoor patio, where views of this town's most famous red-rock formations abound; look for Snoopy lying on his back, and Sedona's icon, Cathedral Rock, in the distance to the southwest.

Now you're ready to take on Sedona's Main Street, which is host to all things tourist-friendly. Take your obligatory walk through uptown's galleries and souvenir shops. If you're looking for rubber tomahawks or red-dirt T-shirts, you've come to the right place. Art lovers will be pleased to find an eclectic selection of fine art at Goldenstein Gallery, beautiful Indian jewelry and Native American artwork at Turquoise Tortoise Gallery, and impressive locally-crafted sculptures, paintings and photography at Sedona Arts Center, the gallery that started it all. History buffs may want to stop by Sedona Heritage Museum, located on Jordan Road, to see old photos and learn about this city's past.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village

Next, head down Hwy 179 from Hwy 89A to explore Gallery Row. First stop: Hillside Sedona, a shopping center where pleasant landscaping complements shops, restaurants (including Javelina Cantina and Shugrue's Hillside Grill) and, yes, galleries. For a dose of contemporary art, visit Gallery of Modern Masters and wander around Hillside Sedona while taking in sweeping red-rock views in every direction. Continue back toward uptown to Hozho Center, where you'll find numerous fine-art galleries such as James Ratliff Gallery, Lanning Gallery and Turquoise Tortoise Gallery. Following the road north a short distance, be sure to stop at Garland's Navajo Rugs, a beautiful gallery featuring the largest selection of Navajo rugs in the world. If you're lucky, you may see some of the weavers bringing their work inside to sell at the gallery.

The Kuivato Glass Gallery in Sedona's Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Kuivato Glass Gallery

Across the street, you'll find Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, a beautiful Spanish-style town-within-the-town, where charming cobblestone streets, towering sycamore trees and stately fountains bring Old World appeal to this Southwestern town. More fine art galleries abound, including Kuivato Glass Gallery and Point of Sedona Gallery, which features an eclectic collection of southwestern art.

While at Tlaquepaque, stop for lunch at one of its popular restaurants: El Rincon, where Mexican food and margaritas are mainstays; The Secret Garden Café, a serene garden setting with fresh salads and delectable desserts in a small bistro atmosphere; Oak Creek Brewery and Grill for one of their many award-winning beers and a burger; or René at Tlaquepaque, which offers a more luxurious dining experience with menu selections ranging from Kobe beef burgers to rack of lamb carved tableside. If you want to let your big lunch settle in or have children with you on your trip, you may want to stop for a quick round of miniature golf at the back of Tlaquepaque. The mini golf and small adjoining park are hidden treasures under large trees that block the sun for an even better time.

Slide Rock State Park is a family favorite with its natural rock waterslide
Slide Rock State Park

Re-energized and ready to see more sights, drive north on Main Street (Hwy 89A) into Oak Creek Canyon. This lush riparian area is a welcome relief from the summer heat, and the red-rock mountains studded with cottonwood, oak and ponderosa pine trees make for one of this state's most scenic drives any time of year. Fall brings amber and orange leaves to this winding canyon road, and winter offers majestic views of snow-sprinkled peaks.

Approximately five miles into the canyon, Slide Rock State Park features a natural water slide eroded into slick rock surrounded by massive rock walls, as well as a 43-acre apple orchard and historic barn. The slide makes this park a favorite of kids and families, and summer days can get quite crowded. A green meadow is the perfect field for tossing a Frisbee, and picnic benches surround the park offer a welcome spot to enjoy sack lunches.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross offers breathtaking views and is accessible via the Sedona Trolley
Chapel of the Holy Cross

After you've dipped your feet into Oak Creek or taken a full-fledged swim at Slide Rock, head back down the canyon into uptown Sedona for a sunset trolley tour. Sedona Trolley offers two routes, one into the quiet serenity of Boynton Canyon and other breathtaking vistas, and one up to Chapel of the Holy Cross, a historic Sedona landmark offering divine views. Each option is about an hour long, and the tour guides will share all kinds of geologic and historical information about the area.

Uptown Sedona offers many dining options on Main Street, but for dinner try the famous Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits, where creative renditions of Southwestern fare grace the menu, from rattlesnake, cactus and buffalo to prime cuts of steak.

After dinner, a little window-shopping may be in order, or a drink at Canyon Breeze bar. Here, you can sit outside on comfortable chairs as you star gaze or watch how the moonlight changes the look of the red rocks below. The Black Cow Café, located a few doors down from Cowboy Club, serves homemade ice cream and pastries for folks with a sweet tooth.

Continue to Day 2


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* Top Sedona Photo from Uptown Sedona photo from Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Amara Creekside Resort photo from Tlaquepaque photo from Kuivato Glass Gallery photo from Slide Rock State Park photo from Chapel of the Holy Cross photo from


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