We drove into Sedona late at night so with the exception of a beacon of light coming from Cathedral Rock; there was little to be seen. After navigating the traffic circles, of which there are many, we arrived at our hotel in West Sedona tired and cranky. I’ll admit, our first impression of the city was that it was quiet and quaint, but nothing special.
Sedona AZ – Breathtaking Views
When we stepped outside the next morning, we were struck by the incredible beauty that surrounded us. The red rocks of Sedona were visible in every direction.
With no itinerary in mind, we headed toward Uptown. It only took us a few minutes to drive there, but by the time we reached it, we were in love. Walking among the shops and talking with the locals gave us a real sense of the area and how much the people who live in Sedona, adore it. A few of the residents we spoke with shared that they had come to visit, but they felt a calling to move to the red rock city, and so they did. The city is marred by “tourist information centers” which are hosted by tour companies. There is also the thinly disguised timeshare operation that doubles as a film museum. Still, if you look past these, you’ll find a city with a small town feel filled with people with few exceptions that were kind and helpful.
Sedona AZ – Fine Dinning
We came upon two such people who very graciously suggested a place for us to have a late lunch. They promised that if we took their advice, we’d have a fabulous time and they were right.
They directed us to the Sound Bites Grill, which is billed as a “modern day supper club.” Having no idea what was in store for us once we pushed open the doors, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the red rocks as well as a friendly dining room with equally pleasant staff. Although we were too early for the nightly live music, we still enjoyed the ambiance, excellent service, and fantastic food.
Somehow our late lunch turned into dinner and dessert. We were enjoying the music and view so much we leisurely ordered an appetizer and then later main courses for each of us. We were in no hurry to leave our little find in the heart of Sedona, and we silently thanked our benefactors for sending us to this gem.
Sedona AZ: Scenic Drive via Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff
We spent our second day taking the scenic drive to Flagstaff via the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive. It’s a 2-lane drive with plenty of switchbacks and few places to pull over which was enough to give this weak stomach a workout. The trees here are Ponderosa Pine, and though there were warning signs to watch for deer and elk, we never saw any wildlife of any kind.
Our first stop was at Slide Rock State Park. It’s a must-see spot any time of year, but especially fun in the summer. The natural water chute is a favorite place for families to play. Above it are antique farm implements and other artifacts from the Pendley homestead.
We continued to the Oak Creak Canyon Vista Overlook where we were greeted by Native American vendors selling jewelry, pottery, and carvings. I spent some time chatting with one of the vendors talking about the origins of her pieces, where the stones were collected, and who created them. Included in the hundreds of pieces were a few of her creations, including some turquoise bracelets. Her handiwork was so beautiful and well made that I decided that I needed to purchase one as a reminder of my trip. It’s one of just a handful of unique souvenirs I brought home.
As we continued our journey, snow started to fall among the pines. We reached Flagstaff and took a quick tour through the historic Old Town before we headed back to Sedona before the snow made it impossible. Dinner that night was at the Barking Frog Grill, named for an actual frog that lives in Southeastern Arizona. The restaurant’s hacienda-style decor and menu are eclectic and inviting and no, they’d don’t serve frog legs. But what they do serve is some amazing Grilled Street Corn with chipotle butter, lime crema, and cotija cheese. Along with a fresh and tasty Strawberry Spinach Salad, and 72-Hour Short Ribs served alongside white cheddar grits with red wine sauce worthy of a bib. Yes, we ate well at the Barking Frog, and our server likely remembers the accidental double+ tip my husband left.
Sedona AZ – So Much to See and Do
As the days continued, we visited several of the many State and Federal Parks, visited the Airport Mesa Vortex and overlook, and took in the town from nearly every overlook and Vista. We sat in awe at the base of Cathedral Rock though we never managed to be there while it was open.
Sedona AZ – Friendly People
We spent hours at the Sedona Heritage Museum going through the exhibits, chatting with the dedicated and caring volunteers and caretakers, and learning so much about the area and its past. We attended a storytelling session entitled “Deception, Lies, & Alibis” by Michael Peach, an award-winning actor, and writer who impressed us so much we had to purchase his book from the gift store.
Uptown provided hours of entertainment. There was southwestern art, food, tour operators and more. It was here that we enjoyed some amazing pizza at the Sedona Pizza Company where the pies are hand-tossed for all to see.
We marveled at the public art that can be found all over Sedona. From western art, painted havalinas, tasteful nudes, and more. We spent some time creating music in the Freenotes Harmony Park, a place where outdoor instruments encourage visitors to stop and play. And we peeked into the windows of the New Age shops and fortune tellers for a glimpse of their secrets.
Sedona, AZ – Fine Art
We also visited several of the many galleries located both in West Sedona and Uptown. The most welcoming was the Goldenstein Gallery and their outdoor Sculpture Garden. We shopped at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village where I picked up beads to create some jewelry of my own and we walked among the fountains, sculptures, and plants admiring the art of the incredible artists displayed there.
Our hotel, the Sedona Summit Resort, turned out to be a great choice for location and amenities though it failed in other ways. In fact, our vacation turned out to be pure perfection from the beginning to end. Yes, it was cold and rainy and it even snowed for a while, but it never dampened our spirits, and we spent every day exploring new areas of the town.
As we drove out of town, we both said a quick “goodbye for now, we’ll be back,” before we headed towards Phoenix and our flight home to Seattle. Have you visited Sedona?