In December my mom, brother, and I (my dad and T had to work) vacationed in Sedona, AZ. Sedona had been on my bucket list for a long time and I was excited to check it off. We flew in to Phoenix airport and then drove two hours through the Arizona countryside to our hotel in Sedona. I’ve made a list of the things and places we saw that we really enjoyed in hopes that it might help you when planning your trip to Sedona!
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Inn of Sedona with a room that had an unobstructed view of Sedona’s Red Rocks that the locale is famous for. The third floor rooms have a terrace that you can view the mountains in comfy chairs with a fire going in the evenings. It had a microwave and fridge (for leftovers or groceries), as well as complimentary breakfast each morning. It’s also right next to a Whole Foods, which is a major score in my book. There are lots of hotels in the area but they fill up quickly during peak tourism season. Make sure to book a room early.
What to do:
Grand Canyon – We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon on our first day in Sedona. Who wouldn’t go here first? We rented a car so we took advantage of our jet lag and drove to Grand Canyon National Park before the sun was up. Since we arrived before 9 am, we were able to find parking easily and the park wasn’t swarming with people. FYI, there is a $30 fee to enter the park in a private vehicle. Instead of a tour, we decided to hike the South Rim Trail to get a more authentic feel of the canyon. The trail is well maintained, marked and roughly 12 miles long start to finish. We went to the park the day after a major snowstorm so the trail was covered in snow and ice. There are restrooms, restaurants, visitor centers and shuttle stops every few miles along the way. I would recommend this over a tour because the best views were between shuttle stops while we were walking along the trail. The trail is also much less crowded than the shuttle stops. If you have someone in your family who cannot hike the trail, a tour or utilizing the shuttle system would be the better option.
Horseback Riding – On the second day of our trip, we drove to Cottonwood, AZ (about 20 minutes from Sedona) to go horseback riding. I felt like I was in an old western movie and loved it! In case anyone was wondering, my horse’s name was Vidalia and she was very sweet. I’m not going to share the name of the company we used because we were not very impressed, but I WOULD recommend the horseback riding experience in general! The view was beautiful and we even saw a few different types of rabbits (jack rabbit and a cottontail) along the way. Make sure to call a few weeks prior to your trip because the rides book fast. Also, I recommend wearing a good pair of jeans and tennis shoes for the ride (regardless if you go in the winter or summer). I found some alternative horseback riding companies here, here, and here.
ATVing – Hands down my favorite part of the entire trip! We used Arizona ATV Adventures and I would absolutely recommend them. This was my first time riding an ATV and I really appreciated how they spent so much time teaching us how to ride correctly and safely. They even let us practice around the office before we got in the vans to ride to the National Forest. I was really nervous at first but once I started driving, I had a blast! If I could recommend one thing (outside of checking out the Grand Canyon) for your trip, it would be this. You drive 20-30 miles in Coconino National Forest with a few breaks to take in breathtaking views of Sedona’s Red Rocks. If you don’t feel comfortable driving an ATV on your own, they have doubles available so you can ride with someone else. Wear layers because it gets cold while you are driving at first but you might want to shed a few layers as you warm up.
Hiking – It’s hard to beat the hiking in Sedona. Because of all of our activities, we were only able to hike up Devil’s Bridge (pictured above), which turned out to be quite the adventure. The trail was solid ice and ended up being pretty dangerous. The ice was so bad there were a few times we actually had to crawl on our hands and knees or use trees to pull us up. Somehow we both made it there in one piece. If we had time for another hike we definitely would have taken the trek to Brinns Mesa. The Hike House recommended all of the best trails so don’t be afraid to stop in and ask for some advice. A few of the trails require a Red Rock Pass, so make sure you do a little research beforehand. If you are hiking Sedona during the winter, I would bring some actual hiking shoes so you have a better grip on the ice. For the summer, I think regular tennis shoes would be fine. The red dirt will get all over your shoes so I wouldn’t wear anything you wouldn’t mind getting a little dirty afterwards.
Shopping – If there’s rain or you’re a little sore from hiking, shopping is a great option in Sedona. We found the best shopping to be at Tlaquepaque which is a sort of shopping village with lots of stores selling unique and local products.
Where to eat:
Sedona’s restaurant scene was right up my alley. I saw so many signs for “organic”, “gluten free”, “vegan” and “vegetarian”. The best part was that while it was all healthy and there were so many vegetarian options available, they also offered options for meat eaters like my brother. We ate at a lot of places but below were my favorites:
Cucina Rustica – We ate Christmas dinner here and it was fantastic. The homemade Italian food hit the spot after a long day of traveling. We started with bruschetta and all had salads and pasta. I would definitely check this out if you’re looking for a nicer sit down restaurant in Sedona.
Local Juicery – Not to my surprise, I loved this place! They had all organic smoothies, juices, oatmeal, waffles and more. I wanted to try everything on the menu but we ended up trying three different smoothies, the avocado toast, oatmeal and waffles (a lot of food, but my brother eats a lot). Everything was delicious and I wish we could have gone back again before we left.
Wildflower Bread Company – This reminded me of Panera except a little fresher with a larger variety of options. You order at the counter and they bring your food to your table so this is the perfect quick breakfast or lunch before hiking. We went there for breakfast the day we left and everything we had was really good!
The Secret Garden Café – This had to be my favorite lunch spot. It is located in the Tlaquepaque shopping center so it’s perfect for a breakfast, lunch, or dinner before/after shopping. My mom and I split the vegetable quiche and the veggie burger and both were amazing. My brother had the regular burger and said it was great too.
Pisa Lisa – This place is actually owned by the same woman who runs Cucina Rustica, but it’s MUCH more casual. My mom and I split the Greek salad and the margherita pizza and it was amazing. Seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a solid pizza and/or salad, this is a great option.
Oaxaca Restaurant– Not only does this restaurant provide you with a wonderful Mexican menu, you also get an amazing view of the Red Rocks. Oaxaca is next to adorable shops that you can peruse before or after you eat. We tried the guacamole, shrimp tacos, vegetable fajitas and the beef enchiladas. Everything was delicious.
Dress in layers – The temperature changes throughout the day in Sedona so you could go from freezing to sweating very quickly. I wore two or three layers every day and was very thankful I did!
Bring snacks and water for hikes – Most of the hikes take around 2-3 hours so it’s smart to bring water and granola bars in case you need a pick me up. Since it was so cold, I had to remind myself to drink water because I never really felt thirsty.
Bring some extra cash – The town is on the pricier side so plan accordingly when putting together your budget. Every meal was around $15-20 a person and we ate at more casual restaurants (we didn’t go anywhere we couldn’t wear hiking clothes to besides Cucina Rustica).
Make reservations for dinner – Sedona is a big tourist town (especially in the summer) so it’s smart to make reservations when possible for dinner. We didn’t do this but instead ate really early because of the time difference. We usually ate at 4 or 5 and by the time we were leaving a restaurant around 6 there was a huge wait.
Leave nice jewelry – Like I mentioned above, the red clay/dirt gets everywhere especially if you are engaging in active hiking or sports. I didn’t wear any of my nice jewelry or wedding rings and I’m so glad I didn’t.
I hope this guide helps any of you planning a trip to Sedona in the future! If you haven’t visited Sedona, I highly recommend you do. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I was so happy to check that city off my bucket list!
Pin Now and Save for Later!