First timers’ guide to the best things to do in Sedona and idea on how to spend a day in Sedona in summer.
The first time I heard about Sedona, Arizona, was a couple of years ago. I was watching a TV program about retreats in the area and I got immediately attracted by the local scenery and by the fact that Sedona is popular with New Age types, who come here for the ‘vortexes’ of energy Sedona is said to be the centre of.
I then found it mentioned again in a book called ‘10% happier‘, which again mentions Sedona’s spiritual heart and finally spotted it on a map of Arizona, about 0.5 cm away from the road we were on.
The decision was quickly made: we couldn’t possibly drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix without stopping in Sedona, and so we did.
I have a complex relationship with New age practices (many believes I don’t embrace, but I am attracted by many elements of it) and I was curious to see what I would feel in Sedona.
Because we only had a short time in this town, I didn’t have the chance to experience it fully, but I loved what we saw and spent ages reading about all you can do here and seeing as much of it as we possibly could.
I recommend a stop there no matter what your take on energy and alternative practices may be. If nothing else, Sedona will treat you to a wonderful scenery, pleasant shops and delicious food!
This is our overview of the best things to do in Sedona.
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One day in Sedona: what should I do?
If, like us, you only have a limited amount of time in the city, you may be wondering what is the best way to organize your day. This is a good sample itinerary for one day in Sedona:
- Start your day with a good breakfast to get your energy up for the day. Sedona town centre has many options should you not have a satisfactory breakfast option in your hotel
- Take a jeep tour to see large parts of this area fast
- Have a healthy lunch, either in the form of a picnic of coming back into the town centre
- Discover what Sedona vortexes are all about and stretch your legs with a hike among Sedona’s red rocks.
- Relax back in town and make the most of Sedona’s many spas to rest and energize your body after the long day
As an alternative, you can pick you favorite among the many things on offer in Sedona.
Things to do in Sedona on your first visit
The best things to do in Sedona are those allowing you to enjoy the wonderful scenery of red rocks surrounding the city and experience the peculiar atmosphere of Sedona’s center. Our top picks for what to do in Sedona are:
- Take the scenic drive to / from Flagstaff
- Stroll around Sedona town centre
- Experience Sedona’s vortexes (or people watch their visitors)
- Stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross
- Take a jeep tour
- Go hiking
- Try mountain biking
- Slip slide away on Red Rock Slide Park
- Explore Red Rock State Park
- Learn and marvel at ancient ruins
Let’s have a look at each of them more in detail.
Take the scenic drive to Sedona
Sedona is located amidst red rocks and high peaks and there is no better introduction to this wonderful scenery than driving into town, may it be from Flagstaff or Phoenix.
We drove this road on a summer day, with the kids in the back, half asleep after an early wake up in Monument Valley and it was a real treat. The road is a bendy scenic route framed by tall trees and meandering though the red rocks that are peculiar on this area.
The place is simply stunning. The peaks reveal themselves among the vegetation, before opening up in front of you as you reach the city and they are a powerful yet soothing site: their distinctive red and earth tones mix with the green to create a canvas of color that is wild and inviting at the same time.
No matter how little time you have in the area, if you do nothing else in Sedona, take the scenic drive!
Soak up the atmosphere of Sedona town
Sedona town centre is a pleasant and welcoming place. The town caters for tourism very well and has a main street full of shops selling crystals and nick-knacks, restaurants and bars, all overlooked by the beautiful Sedona red rocks.
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We took a short stroll around the shops and let the kids play with the musical instruments on display on the pavement before sitting down for a meal.
Just in the town centre they found a huge xylophone that sounded like a wind chime and that kept us (like many others, adults and kids) entertained for ages – see the photo below!
I enjoyed the city but felt that this should be a base to explore the area rather than a town you visit just passing. If you only have few hours, add a stop in one of the locations below to make the most of the area and add a different experience to the shopping and dining extravaganza of the town centre.
Experience Sedona’s vortexes
Sedona is famous for its vortexes (this is the spelling used here), energy centers that are said to be conducive to healing, meditation and self knowledge.
The whole of Sedona is said to be a vortex (is this why I was so drawn to its peaks, I wonder?) but there are 4 locations specifically where the energy is at its strongest: the 4 vortexes in Sedona are Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon.
You can visit the vortexes on your own or use one of the many tour providers in the area. Whatever you make of the vortexes idea, they are a peculiar aspect of this area that attracts many visitors so a visit is an interesting experience even just to tap into this sociological aspect of Sedona.
Stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross
If you have seen photos of Sedona, chances are you have come across the image of the striking chapel of the Holy Cross.
Designed in 1956 by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the chapel sits amid Sedona’s impressive boulders and almost melts against the red rocks, standing out thanks to its striking angular shape.
The chapel is easy to reach by car from Sedona and is a wonder to see inside and out. You can find information abot it on the chapel website.
Take a jeep tour
One of the most popular activities in Sedona is to take one of the city’s famous Pink Jeep tours. These tours allow you to reach several destinations in and near the Sedona area and cover different types of terrain, some smooth, some very much not so!
The pink jeep tours company is family friendly and has lower prices for children, making it a good option if, like us, you are traveling with little ones.
If you like hiking, there is no better way to see and experience Sedona’s famous red rocks than exploring its many trails. Sedona offers hiking experiences for all levels of fitness and some are even suitable for kids.
The best way to get up to date information about trails, safety and suitability of specific itineraries is to pop into Sedona’s visitor centre. Some that regularly get positive reviews are Airport Mesa, Cathedral rock, and Boynton canyon (please check suitability with local authorities before embarking in any hiking!)
Try mountain biking
Sedona is great for many outdoor pursuits and, I hear, in particular for mountain biking. When it comes to cycling, especially in death defying high places, I am not the person to talk to so I will refer you straight on to this site for basic info on biking in the area.
If you suffer from fear of heights, maybe give it a miss but if you are the adventurous type, you will love it!
Slip slide away on slide rock state park
A wonderful place that allows to have fun while keeping yourself secure onto the ground is Slide Rock state park. Located immediately to the North of Sedona, this state park is perfect on a hot day as here the rocks turn into slides that get you straight into the creek!
The place is popular with kids and adults alike and a great place even just to break up a long car journey in the area. Bring rock shoes to avoid the wrong kind of slipping onto the rocks.
Explore Red Rock State Park
Another nice park to visit (to see,now to swim) is Red Rock State Park. Here, you can enjoy the scenery following the many trails or join the rangers for ranger led activities such as bird and nature walks.
Check out ancient ruins
Sedona is not just famous for nature but also for ancient dwellings that visitors can easily visit when spending time in town. Some of the most famous in the area are: Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of the best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America, Montezuma well, Honanki Heritage site, and Fort Verde historic park.
Things to do in Sedona with kids
We visited Sedona with the children and we found the town to have a family friendly vibe and pleasant pace.
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Enjoy Sedona town centre
Restaurants catered for kids no problem with kids menus and we noticed many of the companies offering out door pursuits do include children friendly options.
Some of the activities that piqued our attention were the already mentioned jeep tours and rock slide park, the hop on hop off trolley connecting the Village of Oak Creek out to West Sedona and the Junior Ranger program at Arizona State Parks like Slide Rock and Red Rock, suitable for kids age 6 to 12.
If your kids love star gazing as much as ours, you can take part in one of Sedona’s astronomy tours or just make the most of the beautiful natural surroundings to look at the night sky in your own time (in that case, we recommend you bring your own telescope: you find a good selection portable ones that are suitable for kids here)
Let them play
If you are making Sedona your base for a longer period of time, you may also want to check out kids attractions such as Out of Africa wildlife park (zoo), Cliff Castle Casino (bowling and an arcade) and Kids Quest, a child care center huge indoor playground, karaoke etc. (We haven’t been but heard about them).
Catch the train
If you have children who love trains, you may consider also taking a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad. This is vintage train ride that over the course of 4 hours brings you amidst wonderful scenery.
Best hotels in Sedona and other Sedona lodging options
Sedona has a a good choice of accommodation options. This is a selection of those we were most recommended in the area.
Enchantment Resort, 5 star resort in stunning surroundings recently nominated in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. This is the place most families recommended when asked for both a romantic escape idea and a place suitable for kids. Check availability and prices here
L’Auberge de Sedona Another address very popular with families and not only, the Auberge has a score of 9.1 out of 10 on booking. com and gets regular raving reviews about its facilities, locations and welcome. You can check prices and availability here
Hilton Sedona at Bell Rock (family friendly). Good 4 star Hilton hotel set in a wonderful location amidst Sedona’s red rocks. Check out their website for the best offers and Hilton Honor discounts
Sky Ranch Lodge: lovely well riced lodge with great views over Sedona’s scenery. The family rooms, pool and the availability of microwave and fridge in the room make this a very handy options for families traveling with kids. You can check prices and availability here.
I hope you found our overview of the best things to do in Sedona and we helped you answer the question: what can I do in Sedona?
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