Sedona, Arizona: Day Trip or Weekend Getaway

  • 01 of 05

    Spend a Day in Sedona, Arizona

    Cathedral Rock looms over valley in Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ
    Cathedral Rock in Sedona. WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

    Sedona, Arizona is well known for its glorious red mountains and outcroppings, a popular spot for the filming of western movies, even before the color red could be seen on film. In recent decades it also became known as a mecca for what used to be referred to as New Age. Not so new any longer, Sedona still attracts individuals who believe in a holistic spirituality that seems to thrive among the red rocks, and can be felt by people who proclaim the existence of vortexes or vortices here.

    But Sedona is much more than a place for crystal-toting meditation lovers. It is also a place for outdoor activities like hiking, visiting natural and ancient places, fine food, great shopping, and excellent resorts.

    Recently I decided to get out of the city for a short respite in Sedona. I spent just over 24 hours there. If you only have a short time to visit Sedona, these highlights of my trip might help you decide how to plan your itinerary.

    Arizona is a very popular day trip from Phoenix. The weather is typically very moderate, 10 to 15°F cooler than Phoenix in the summer. In the winter, it doesn't snow in Sedona very often, and when it does, the snow doesn't stay around for very long. Red rocks and snow make a beautiful combination!

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  • 02 of 05

    Getting to Sedona, Arizona - Midday

    Driving into Sedona, Arizona
    Driving into Sedona, Arizona. Judy Hedding

    Getting to Sedona

    Sedona is about a two-hour drive from most points in the Phoenix area, less from north Phoenix and more from the East Valley. As one drives into Sedona, from the moment you can first see Bell Rock, you feel an excitement about what will unfold. I wouldn't call it a vortex, but I am always impatient to finally get into Sedona when I see Bell Rock, even though I know that it will take about 20 more minutes of driving to get to the heart of the city.

    Arizona drivers are not as familiar with roundabouts as those from other parts of the country. Sedona opted to put in more than ten roundabouts instead of traffic lights to control and slow traffic moving into town. Be patient!

    First Stop: Lunch

    I arrived in Sedona in time for a late lunch and decided that I wanted to see more of that wonderful view. Creekside Sedona was my choice, just off 89A on Highway 179. As you are driving into Sedona it is on your right. A quick lunch of soup, salad and a delicious crab cake was just perfect, as were the views of the creek and the red rocks looming above.

    Psychic and Aura Reading

    After lunch I ventured over to the west side of Sedona (the less touristy, more residential side) where I had my first-ever appointment with a psychic. I had arranged for a 20-minute reading with a psychic, who was “…certified in many modalities such as Hypnotherapy, Past Life Regression, Reiki, and Tarot.” She began by asking me what I wanted to know and I told her that I didn’t have any particular questions or issues in mind. I let her know that I had never been to a psychic before; I just wanted a fun to do in Sedona. I did not tell her anything about myself, nor did I tell her that I would be writing about the experience.

    I had not specified what kind of reading I wanted, so the Tarot cards came out. I won’t go into specifics, but much of what she had to say to me was general and positive. Early in the meeting she did tell me one thing about my mother, who passed away years ago but appeared to her to have entered the room with me. That tidbit was very specific, and something that she had no way of knowing and could not have guessed. After the reading, I had my aura photo taken. You aura is determined by the electromagnetic energy emanating from your body. It seems I am a yellow (creative, easy-going, intellectual, philosophical, optimistic). About half of those are true. Honestly, when I look at all the different aura color descriptions, I could be almost any color if half of the personality traits are true.

    Both the psychic reading and the aura report are intended for entertainment and educational purposes, and are not intended to provide medical, business or relationship advice.

    How do you find the right psychic or aura reading in Sedona? There is no easy way to sort them out. I simply read quite a few online reviews, evaluated the results, and selected Mystical Bazaar. The retail store there also had hundreds of gemstones, crystals and gifts. I purchased several gemstones which are naturally found in Arizona.

    Prepare for a Hike

    If you are not familiar with Sedona hiking trails – there are more than 100 of them in the general area – your best bet is to stop in at The Hike House. They open at 9 a.m., so if you intend to hike early the next morning you’ll want to make this stop the day before. There you can get expert free advice on selecting the best trail, using their Sedona Trail Finder program. That allows you to narrow down the options for your preferred distance, changes in elevation, difficulty and time. When you have a few great hikes from which to choose, the team there will help you find the trail on a map and provide directions. If you need any supplies, this is the place for hiking packs, appropriate hiking shoes, socks, hats, shorts, jackets, snacks – everything you need. There is no purchase requirement for using the Sedona Trail Finder.

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  • 03 of 05

    Sedona, Arizona - Evening

    L'Auberge de Sedona in Arizona
    Dining at the Creek, L'Auberge de Sedona. Judy Hedding

    Check In

    On this trip I chose to spend the night at one of Sedona's wonderful resorts. L’Auberge de Sedona is one of the most highly acclaimed resorts in the area, and is nestled down by the creek, below the main drag in Uptown Sedona. One can walk to many shops, restaurants and tour depots from this resort. I recommend requesting a creekside cabin.

    Dinner at L’Auberge

    L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek is La’Auberge de Sedona Resort’s highly acclaimed dining spot. Although it was a cool evening, I could not pass up dining outside, alongside the creek. Seasonal selections and availability of locally sourced ingredients means that the menu may be continually changing, but you can be assured that it will be special. You won’t want to rush through a dinner at L’Auberge.

    Evening Relaxation

    Sedona is not especially known for its active nightlife, although you can find some bars with music or a few shows if you'd like to go out after dinner. As for me, it’s been a busy day, and it’s time to relax in my cabin after dinner. The room here is spacious and there is not only a desk with chair to catch up on some emails and notes, but also a comfy chair for reading or watching a movie. A glass of wine on the deck overlooking the creek, and then inside to start the fireplace. Complimentary use of robes and slippers — your room may even have a Jacuzzi. When it was time for bed, I snuggled up in those plush linens.

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  • 04 of 05

    Sedona, Arizona - Morning

    Sedona, Arizona
    Sedona, Arizona. Judy Hedding

    In the morning, you might want to lounge on the deck with some complimentary coffee or tea from your room, or head to the lobby for complimentary scones or muffins. Feeding the ducks is a daily morning ritual at the resort, and you are welcome to join in. Yoga or jogging might be how you start your day. When I am in Sedona, I want to get to the red rocks, so I chose to go on a hike.

    I had stopped at The Hike House yesterday, so I knew where I was going. I was starting out early, but I didn’t have a great deal of time, so I chose a relatively easy hike on Soldier Pass Trail. The trail dips and then climbs to the Devils Kitchen sinkhole, then goes to the Seven Sacred Pools (there was water in them when I hiked there) about another ¼ mile.

    I don’t know why they are so-named; as far as I can tell they are simply a geological occurrence. They were probably unexpected watering holes for ancient peoples in the area. I stopped here, relaxed and enjoyed the views for a short time, and then turned around, making the total hike just over a mile. That is the easy part of the hike, suitable for nonhikers like myself, kids and dogs.  If you keep hiking past the Seven Sacred Pools the hike would be rated moderate, as you’ll head to some steeper inclines to see more great views. The trail becomes increasingly steep and rocky and levels out on top of Brins Mesa, about two miles in.

    Spa Time

    After the hike and a bit of cleaning up, my next stop was L’Apothecary at the Spa at L’Auberge, where you can design your own body care products from healing botanicals, herbs and flowers. Think of it as a combination of shopping and chemistry lab.

    I chose to create a Clear Mind Scrub. All the ingredients are provided, and the spa staff assists. The recipe for my scrub included organic cane sugar, dried rosemary leaves, hulled cardamom, sage and safflower/sunflower oil. There is a relaxing and satisfying aspect to the exercise. When I was finished, I had a personal scrub for exfoliating. After one use and just a few seconds, my skin was amazingly soft and smooth. At L’Apothecary you can make just one item, or, for example, you can arrange to have your bridal party or other guests join you. Men welcome!

    Shopping and Lunch

    A visit to Sedona wouldn’t be complete without some shopping or gallery hopping. Sedona has art galleries for every taste and wallet. If you are short on time, and short on patience driving back and forth on Hwy 179 and 89A, your best bet is Tlaquepaque. That’s pronounced: tuh-lock’-uh-pock’-ee. More fun to say than to type, it has been a focal point for Sedona visitors for more than 35 years. The closest thing to a mall in this part of Sedona, it is a lovely village of shops, galleries with art, jewelry and clothing, and a few restaurants. Walk around cobblestone streets, adorned with fountains and flowers. According to the website, this shopping village is “…fashioned after a traditional Mexican village,” and the name means the "best of everything.” People looking for an upscale and traditional dining experience outside of their resort often come here to René. My favorite store at Tlaquepaque is Environmental Realists, one of the original shops at Tlaquepaque, where the work of over 120 craftspeople and artisans is represented.

    Not unlike the Thursday evening Scottsdale art walk, quite a few galleries in Sedona open their doors on the first Friday of every month and invite guests to visit, and enjoy their exhibitions, some with music, entertainment or refreshments.

    After browsing at Tlaquepaque, I stopped across the street at Javelina Cantina for an early casual lunch. Tilapia Fajitas? Sounded good to me, and they did not disappoint. 

    A Pink Jeep Tour and Uptown Sedona

    The last item on my 24-hour agenda was a Pink Jeep Tour. Reservations in advance are highly encouraged, especially during peak seasons March (Spring Break) and October. Find a parking spot either on 89A in Uptown Sedona or get off the beaten path a block or two and find a public lot. I have taken Pink Jeep Tours several times, my favorite being the Broken Arrow, which is their signature tour. On this trip, however, I really wanted to get a better understanding of the spiritual side of Sedona, and I was booked on the Sedona Vortex Tour. For 2-1/2 hours your guide will tell you about and show you Sedona’s the areas of magnetic fields and why so many people feel a different energy in Sedona. You may or may not feel it yourself. 

    After the tour I walked down the main street and stopped in one or two shops. I admit that I am not especially interested in Arizona souvenirs since I live in Arizona, but if you are, you’ll find many here. You’ll also notice an incredible number of sidewalk cafes and shops with edible treats. My favorites stops Uptown? Touchstone Gallery, simply because I love rocks, minerals, gems and fossils, and Whiskers Barkery, where I purchased some all natural treats for my dog.

    All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.

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  • 05 of 05

    Sedona, Arizona

    Swimmer in whitewater of Oak Creek at Slide Rock State Park.
    Slide Rock State Park in Sedona, AZ. David C Tomlinson / Getty Images

    It’s been just 24 hours, and my mini-vacation in Sedona is done. It’s time to head back to the Valley of the Sun. It was a perfect combination of outdoor activities, fine dining, shopping, and becoming more knowledgeable about my energy.

    If you can only spend one night in Sedona, this itinerary may work for you. You can tell that I don't spend much time during the day lingering over meals or shopping when there are such other wonderful things to do and to see in Sedona. Alternatively, you might have more interest in shopping than hiking, or more inclined to work on your Chakra than on making cocktails. My intention was to give you an example of how you might spend your time. If you are planning your own short trip to Sedona, here are some ideas for itinerary substitutions:

    Other Activities in Sedona

    • Visit Slide Rock State Park. Weather permitting, this is a favorite spot for the kids to get wet and enjoy the natural surroundings in the red rocks. There is a fee to enter the park.
    • Go to the Sedona Community Pool in the summer.
    • Bring your skate board to the Jack Malmgren Skate Park at Posse Grounds Park.
    • Check with your hotel for information on stargazing programs. The skies are beautiful here!
    • Hit a little white ball. There are three 18-hole golf courses in Sedona. GolfNow.com might have discounted tee times if you prepay. Here is how that works. Check the Northern AZ section
    • Sedona is very dog-friendly! If your dog is with you, but not a hiker, try the Sedona Dog Park.

    For Another Day or Two

    You won’t be able to squeeze these in on a 24-hour visit to Sedona, but if you have an extra day…