Although it has a well earned rep for its new age-y background, Sedona, Arizona, has something for everyone, from hikers to art lovers. Golfers, too, can find gems, such as Sedona Golf Resort and Oakcreek Country Club.
SEDONA, Ariz. -- Mention this Arizona city to a curious traveler, and you might hear this response:
"Oh, isn't that the new-age place with the red rocks and all those people who believe in crystals and stuff?"
Yes, it is.
But Sedona -- which is located about two hours north of Phoenix and two hours south of the Grand Canyon -- is more than just a modern-day hippie hangout. Much more. From golfing to hiking to fine dining and luxurious resorts, the northern Arizona city is a vacation getaway that will please your senses without overtaxing your wallet.
There's a reason the city gets between 3.2 million and four million visitors per year.
"I would say they probably all come for the red rocks, but once they get here, they find a lot of the other things to do," said Heather Hermen, public relations director for the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.
There's no question Sedona has a new-age feel. Some people believe its red rocks have healing powers. Others say they draw energy from the rocks, which turned red centuries ago when water carrying dissolved iron drained through the sandstone.
Not surprisingly, Sedona -- which has been called the center of the new age movement -- is filled with psychics, crystals and everything from aura clearings to tarot card readings.
But it's possible to enjoy the city if you have no interest in your psychic energy.
Art lovers, for example, will have a field day in Sedona. The city has more than 40 galleries, and visitors will want to visit Tlaquepaque, an artist's colony that was fashioned after an authentic Mexican village with its cobble-stoned walkways and arched entryways.
Sedona has outdoor activities in spades, too. The city is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of the Coconino National Forest. There are dozens of hiking and biking trails to choose from, as well as horseback rides that include creek crossings and outdoor dining.
But if you truly want to learn about Sedona, two rides are a must: The Sedona Trolley brands itself as the "best first thing to do" in the city. While on the 55-minute tour you'll learn about the rock formations, the city's history, the movies filmed in Sedona -- bet you didn't know the original "Karate Kid" was shot there -- and a general layout of the area.
Then take a bumpy jaunt on the Pink Jeep Tour. For about $70, you'll take a two- to three-hour ride with a guide who will show you Sedona's wildlife and flora and fauna off the beaten highway.
"That's one of the biggest attractions in the area," Hermen said. "People come just for that tour."
Families will want to check out Slide Rock State Park at Oak Creek Canyon, located about seven miles north of Sedona. A natural water slide was formed by the creek's slippery bed, and kids and adults flock to the site to take a butt-thumping run down the rock.
Life Magazine called Slide Rock one of the 10 most beautiful swimming holes in the country.
Golfers can't go wrong, either. Sedona has three terrific golf courses to choose from.
Luxurious Seven Canyons, located about 17 miles outside the city, opened in 2003 as a private club but recently opened its doors to public play. The course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, will test a golfer's mettle, but the scenery is unforgettable.
Sedona Golf Resort is a high-end track that caters to out-of-town guests. Its par-3 10th hole -- with beautiful Cathedral Rock looming behind the green -- is one of the most photographed holes in the western United States.
Oakcreek C.C. is a step back in time, a classic, tree-lined course designed in 1968 by Robert Trent Jones and his son Robert Trent Jones Jr. The locals love the layout. You will, too.
Once the sun goes down, Sedona will pamper you. The city features several spectacular resorts, including Los Abrigados Resort & Spa, Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, L'Auberge De Sedona Hotel & Resort, Amara Resort & Spa and the Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa.
Be forewarned, though. Room rates aren't cheap, particularly in the summer months when Sedona is a welcome escape from the 110-degree heat in the Valley.
Fortunately, Sedona also has cheaper alternatives for the family. The Premiere Vacation Club at Bell Rock offers two-bedroom suites with a full kitchen, welcomes pets and is within five minutes of both Sedona Golf Resort and Oakcreek Country Club. There are also several chain hotels available.
Sedona has just 14,000 residents but more than 60 dining options. The well heeled traveler has several gourmet restaurants to choose from, but there are also breakfast nooks, western-themed joints and funky bistros, such as the Marketplace Cafe. Try the ribs. You'll thank me.
Want something cheap but tasty? Check out Pagos for its terrific pizza and huge portions. And while you're there, say hello to owner C.J. Sells. He's the kind of guy that might spring for a free dessert.
The best thing to say about Sedona: It has something for everyone, from the golfer to the hiker, from the art lover to the new age devotee.
And the red rocks are beautiful.
July 1, 2010