Your Guide to Exploring Sedona

Sedona is a desert town with new age flair. About halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, its elevation allows it to experience all four seasons in an otherwise arrid region. When we visited in October, the weather was cool and cloudy. Sedona is famous for its red rocks, many of which are named after the items they resemble. You’ll see Coffeepot Rock, Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and Bell Rock, just to name a few.

When you first get into town, stop at the Visitors’ Center located across from the Ravenheart Coffee shop in Pink Jeep Plaza on Hwy. 89A in Uptown Sedona. There’s plenty of information and helpful folks will get you started exploring Sedona. The Center also sells the Sedona SuperPass, a coupon book that includes savings and offers, for $10.00. Save on everything from shopping, food, spa treatments, and tours. You can get your $10.00 back just buy redeeming a few coupons.

Uptown Sedona is filled with shops and eateries. You can find southwest artwork, ceramics, the usual souvenirs, and the not-so-usual tarot card and palm readers. Watch out for the “Free Maps” desks. Representatives of timeshares in the area staff these desks. They can be very helpful with advice and directions, but expect a sales pitch. The easiest way to enjoy uptown is to park and walk. Traffic is heavy; Hwy. 89A runs through Uptown.

To get our bearings in town, we took a Trolley Tour. It was $18/person well spent. There are two tours. One explores the town, the other leaves town to explore the Dry Creek Valley. The in-town tour stops off at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, and you are given some time to explore the chapel. There are plenty of opportunities for pictures. We learned about the history of the town and the driver gave us some good tips for places to visit on our own. If you just want to take one tour, you can do so for $10/person. Get on the Trolley at the Depot in the middle of Uptown Sedona, or find the pick-up spot nearest your hotel.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth tour of the surrounding area, check out the Pink Jeep Tours. The Jeep holds about six people, so the tour is quite intimate. It’s a great experience to be able to be able to get your questions answered by the guide; not something you always get when participating in a larger tour group. We took the Ancient Ruins Tour and were able to see the past tribal dwellings complete with artwork left by the tribes people. Our driver was extremely knowledgeable about the area and could answer any of our questions about the history of the area and the tribes that used to inhabit the land. She rattled off details about the local plant and animal life and gave tips on things to do while in the area. Of course, with these tours, getting to your destination is half of the fun. It’s a great way to enjoy the scenery. Tours start at $65/person. You can reserve your spot online or visit their office in the Pink Jeep Plaza, mentioned previously, on Hwy 89A.

If you want to explore the spiritual side of Sedona, there are plenty of opportunities. There’s a lot of information on the energy vortexes said to exist there and many tours to choose from. In the same vein, you can have your aura photographed and analyzed. An aura is said to be the energy field surrounding you, which will evidently show up in this special photograph. Even if you don’t believe in that type of thing, Sedona is the perfect place to relax, meditate, and get in touch with your own energy source, in your own way.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to experience Sedona. Even in town the majestic red rocks surround you. Grab a beverage at a local cafÃ?©, (Ravenheart Coffee has an outdoor seating area with a front-row view of Snoopy Rock) sit back, and gaze at the scenery. Probably the most anticipated activity occurs on a daily basis – the sunset. Don’t leave Sedona without watching the sun set beyond the rocks, deepening the rustic colors. We were told the best place to witness the sunset is on Airport Mesa (which is also very popular), but there are hundreds of other places to enjoy the scene.

Lodging in Sedona
There are plenty of lodging options in Sedona, whether you’re looking for luxurious spa accommodations in the Sedona backcountry or a budget motel near Uptown. There are numerous bed and breakfasts in the area. Many of the resorts are timeshares, but you can still book rooms at most of those places through online travel sites without having to buy into the deal. You will, however, be asked to attend a sales presentation, usually lasting about 90 minutes. Most places offer some sort of compensation for attending. We stayed at a timeshare – the Hyatt Pinon Pointe Vacation Club. We listened to the sales pitch and received $100 for our time, which we were able to use for our Pink Jeep Tour to the Ancient Ruins.

The Hyatt offers Studios and 1- and 2-bedroom condos. Complete with a full kitchen, Jacuzzi tub, two balconies, a dining area, and a living area with a fireplace. We were on the 2nd floor, giving us partial red rock views. The resort has an outdoor pool and whirlpool, a gas-powered fire to gather around, a workout room, and limited spa services. Order from the spa menu a day or so in advance, they don’t have a full-time spa staff. The concierge is extremely helpful; she made fantastic restaurant and tour suggestions and made reservations for us. We were also impressed with housekeeping. Everything was clean and well stocked.

The Hyatt web site says their studios can fit four people, but personally, I wouldn’t book a Studio for more than two. Even though there is a sleeper sofa, I think four people would be cramped. A plus is that the Studios do come with a kitchenette. Studios are adjoined (by a locking door) to the 1-bedroom condos, which is how they create the 2-bedroom condos. If you really want privacy, I suggest reserving a 2-bedroom unit so you won’t have neighbors in the adjoining Studio.

Something to eat in Sedona
Food is always a vacation highlight and Sedona does not disappoint. American, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, it’s all here! Here are the culinary adventures we took.

The Silver Saddle Room at the Cowboy Club is an excellent upscale meal in Uptown Sedona. Located in the Cowboy Club Grille, the Room is just that, a room, so reservations are highly recommended. This is meant to be an adults-only, romantic experience.

There are about 12 tables in the Silver Saddle Room. Most of them are cozy, suede-covered round booths, while others are small, intimate tables down the center of the room. The fireplace and dim lighting help create a soft, romantic feel. The decor is rustic and charming. Dress is dressy casual. Jeans are just fine here.

The menu includes many unique dishes, such as cactus fries, rattlesnake skewers, and buffalo steaks. They also have traditional steakhouse fare for the non-adventurous types, plus salads, a couple of fresh seafood dishes and one vegetarian entrÃ?©e. The night we dined there, we were treated to complimentary shrimp salsa – a new appetizer the chef was trying out that evening. We weren’t quite ready to try the buffalo, so we ordered the tenderloin filet and the aged New York strip. The steaks were delicious – tender and juicy. The service was fantastic. With so few tables, the servers were able to cater to our needs much faster. It was the perfect setting for an anniversary dinner.

Just a few doors down is the Black Cow CafÃ?©, a coffee and ice cream shop offering baked goods. We visited this sweet treat shop several times while in Sedona, indulging in their homemade ice cream. Conveniently located in Uptown Sedona, it’s the perfect way to take a time-out from shopping.

Vista Cantina, also located Uptown, is the first place we ate in Sedona. We enjoyed the Mexican-style fare and the margaritas are first-rate. They also have burgers and other American grill items. The food was great, but what I liked most about this eatery were the windows with panoramic views of the red rocks. It was a great way to spend a lazy, late lunch.

Shugrue’s Hillside Grill is another place we tried out for lunch one day. We went here on a suggestion from a co-worker, but it didn’t end up as well as we had hoped. The service is slow and haphazard. We had to repeatedly ask for beverage refills. We were trying to work around a food allergy and the waitstaff/chef staff was less than helpful and didn’t seem very knowledgeable about their menu or the ingredients they use. They ended up serving my husband something he was allergic to. Luckily, we could tell before he ate anything. On top of the poor service, the food just wasn’t that good. They have an outside balcony with red rock views, but since we were seated as far inside as we could get, we couldn’t even enjoy the view. Maybe their dinner staff/food is better, but their lunch left much to be desired.

Bice Caf�© is located next door to the Hyatt Pinion Pointe Vacation Club. This was my favorite dinner in Sedona. Everything was wonderful. The concierge at the Hyatt reserved a table for two on the small balcony. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu and the wines they served and we enjoyed our conversations with him. We were there to catch the colors of the sunset and then we enjoyed a candle-lit dinner. They have a wonderful chicken parmesan. I found their menu casually elegant: they offered specialty pizza, sandwiches, salads, pasta, and specialties including mushroom cannelloni and lobster ravioli. Elegant d�©cor, a personable, attentive waiter, and good food.

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