I visited Sedona for the first time in 2009. It was a short day trip–just enough time for a Pink Jeep Tour and a stroll through Uptown. Touristy stuff. But I was captivated by the scenic beauty. Those red rocks! And I’ve wanted to return ever since.
So when Eric and I started planning our Grand Loop Tour for 2016, I insisted that Sedona have its place on our itinerary. I’ve changed a lot since 2009, so I found the things I experienced seven years ago had lost their charm for me. But, fortunately, I made new discoveries this time that fulfilled my hopes for our visit.
I’ve heard it repeatedly from friends who have visited Sedona. The first time they drive in, they can’t get over the surrounding mountains of rock, with their varied shapes and brilliant colors. Go see them for a slice of Arizona beauty, and stay a while for good food, memorable hiking and browsing this eclectic town.
Things to Do in Sedona
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
Tlaquepaque, in addition to being fun to say (locals say “te-lack-ee-pack-ee,” Spanish language be darned), is a sophisticated shopping center modeled after Guadalajara. Artisans sell everything from sculptures to infused vodka.
The area has become so popular that an extension is being built across the street. Even if you’re not looking to buy (and most full-time RVers aren’t), you’ll enjoy just walking around.
It’s just around the corner from Rancho Sedona RV Park where we spent our first week, so we went to Tlaquepaque every morning during our work break. It was off-season in late February, so most of the shops didn’t open until at least 10 a.m.
336 AZ-179 – Website
Many of the hotels and resorts are located in Uptown Sedona, the most walkable strip in town, so the businesses respond accordingly. This is where you’ll find your trinkets and t-shirts, as well as many of the outdoor adventure companies.
Fair warning: most of the restaurants in Sedona will snap your wallet in two. But at Uptown, you can pay out the zing-zang for mediocre food. So do your research and don’t settle, even if you’re hungry from all that walking!
AZ-89A and AZ-179
A few people told us we had to go up to Airport Overlook to watch the sunset, and we weren’t disappointed. The failing sunbeams bring a desperate life to the rock formations that is brilliantly photogenic. We went on a week night with our friends, John Lupomech and Becky Brusen, and were surprised by the crowd that had gathered. Arrive early if you want a spot right up front.
If you aren’t ready for the night to end, stroll over to Mesa Grill for a drink at the bar. The four of us had a lot of fun over cocktails/wine/beer. We did it all.
Airport Overlook: 538 Airport Road
Mesa Grill: 1185 Airport Road – Website
Chapel of the Holy Cross
A quick, but interesting, sight to see is Chapel of the Holy Cross, just outside the main part of Sedona. It’s built right into the cliff rock and was completed in 1956.
780 Chapel Road
Red River Crossing Trail
If you love to hike, Sedona is your jam. I wanted a relatively easy trail that Eric could do with me (along with his new trekking poles!), so Red River Crossing was perfect. The official trail is a short 1.1 miles out and back.
If you’re feeling ambitious, head uphill to your left as you come to the farthest point of the trail. You’ll walk through a fenced empty field, and continue up the nearby hill on your right. Once you reach the gravel road, you’re in for a beautiful vista.
There is a $10/vehicle fee to enter Crescent Moon Picnic Site and access the trail.
The Hike House
There are a number of boutique stores in Sedona you may like, depending on your interests. The Hike House was one of our favorites. They have an excellent selection of hiking and outdoor gear, and the employees are knowledgeable and friendly. Eric ended up getting a pair of North Face, zip-off hiking pants, and I got an Osprey hydration belt.
431 AZ-179 #B-1 – Website
Things to Eat in Sedona
We had most of our meals at home, with a couple of exceptions.
What do you get when you wake up at 5:45 a.m. EST in Cancun, fly five hours to Phoenix, drive two and a half hours to Tucson, pack up your RV like a banshee, drive five hours to Sedona (back through Phoenix), arrive after dark, and have to set everything up in an exhausted stupor before the work day starts the next morning?
Well, you get a pretty hangry pair that hasn’t eaten for twelve hours. As a result, said pair drives aimlessly through Sedona, noting that pretty much every eatery is already closed. And they pick the first thing that looks A) open, and B) yummy. That first thing for us was Cowboy Club.
In Uptown Sedona.
Reference above notes on Uptown Sedona.
To be fair, most of what we had was good. But we paid $50 for two sandwich entrees, and that’s just painful.
241 AZ-89A – Website
Yay for local coffee shops with character! I visited a couple of times to work, and we also met a client there and took advantage of a large table. My heart stopped for joy when I walked out the door and saw this:
2155 AZ-89A #118 – Website
There seems to be a firm consensus that Elote is one of the best restaurants in town, if not the best. We arrived right at opening on a week night, and there was a line half way down the walkway! Fortunately, we were seated quickly.
Everything was good: my tradicional margarita, guacamole (with spicy almonds, fresh-cut corn), elote (fire-roasted corn with spicy mayo, lime, cotija cheese) and smoked pork cheeks. The pork was unbelievably tender and flavorful, but I could’ve had the guacamole as my entree! It went beyond your typical avocados, tomatoes and onions, adding almonds, corn, radish and other bits to craft an interesting taste combination.
Turns out our (extremely friendly and helpful) server lives in a school bus conversion that we saw on Loy Butte Road when we were out scouting for dry camping locations! Fun coincidence.
771 AZ-179 – Website
RV Camping in and Near Sedona
Rancho Sedona RV Park
Because I was greatly anticipating our return to Sedona, I wanted to be as central as possible. With that main parameter in mind, Rancho Sedona RV Park was inarguably the spot to stay.
We weren’t disappointed with the park or its location. Site #63 was large and our patio area was private. Majestic great blue herons were nesting in the trees high above our site. We could walk down to the babbling creek, although there isn’t much of a trail along the bank.
If you’re a rebel, this isn’t the place for you. There are a lot of rules that are strictly enforced. However, most of them make sense. We didn’t have any problems at all during our stay…’cause we’re good kids.
The downside is the price. Our site was $57.60/night with Good Sam, and no weekly or monthly rate is available for it.
135 Bear Wallow Lane – Website
Wild Camping on Loy Butte Road
Eager to save some money and take advantage of the gorgeous scenery, we chose Campendium’s spot on Loy Butte Road to wild camp for a week. It was an incredible spot: spacious, good Internet coverage, breath-taking views in all directions, conveniently located between Sedona and Cottonwood.
That goodness lasted for one night only. Read the full story of our failed wild camping attempt.
Loy Butte Road (FR-525) – Website
Cool Towns Near Sedona
The bottom line on Sedona is that it’s beautiful, touristy and expensive. We learned that most of the people who work in Sedona live and shop in Cottonwood. So we took a drive to check it out.
We could’ve spent hours at Larry’s Antiques & Things (796 N. Main St.). The small storefront is deceiving. Inside, the antiques and collectibles stretch on and on. Then you get to the yard out back. Then you get to the barn out back. And then it keeps going.
We love to browse antique shops, though we rarely get anything, and this was one of our favorites!
We strolled down main street and ended up eating dinner at Bocce Pizzeria (1060 Main St.). What a classy place! They had me at their craft cocktail menu. I tried the refreshing basil lemon drop, which has Tito’s Vodka, fresh lemon, basil and simple syrup with a sugar rim.
Our food was great, too. Italian meat stuffed bread and americano pizza. Fresh and tasty, all around. Can’t lie; I did not expect to find a place like this in Cottonwood.
Another day, after stopping to repair a flat tire in Cottonwood, we pressed on to the old mining town of Jerome. After a snaking drive through the hills, we approached the narrow streets and fought for parking (it was a Saturday).
The place to eat here is Haunted Hamburger. There will be a wait (ours was 45 minutes), so go ahead and put your name on the list and leave your phone number. They’ll text you when your table is ready. While you’re waiting, use the time to wander around. The town isn’t large, and you can walk off your calories in advance using the stairs that lead from street to street.
Haunted Hamburger was freaking delicious. There are a variety of specialty burgers on the menu, but we kept it simple with a cheese burger and bacon cheese burger. There’s a toppings bar inside where you can grab what you want.
The dessert case is strategically placed next to the toppings bar. I had heard crazy things about the size of the cake slices and gave into my curiosity (even though I had absolutely no room for dessert and had to take it to go). My slice of chocolate cake was larger than my head.
410 Clark St. – Website
What are your favorite things to do and eat in the Sedona, AZ area? Leave a comment and let us know!