Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sedona, Arizona

We absolutely loved Sedona during the four days that we spent there with our friends, another family with two kids. Altogether we had four kids with us, ranging in age from 6 to 10. The locals are friendly, the food is excellent, the hikes are amazing, and the views just can't be beat. Everywhere you go, you get the insane views of the red rock — it was literally non-stop!

Where to Stay

We absolutely loved staying at the Orchards Inn in Sedona. It's an upscale motel located right in the middle of everything. Every room features a balcony with spectacular views, and the included hot breakfast at the on-premise Mexican restaurant is delicious. The pool is a bit small, but my kids liked it just fine. Below is the view from every room at the inn.

What to Do

The No. 1 thing to do with kids in Sedona is Slide Rock State Park. It's a natural water park along the Oak Creek, where the smooth rocks serve as slides into crystal clear pools of water. The creek was super cold during our visit in late August, so be prepared with towels and dry clothes. And water shoes or strappy sandals are a must, as the rocks are very slippery and can be pretty dangerous to walk on. To be honest, I'm surprised this place doesn't require life vests and helmets ... but the kids weren't complaining!

We also went on a Pink Jeep Tour while we were there, and while it's an expensive excursion, we found it to be worth every penny. Our two-hour tour took us along the Broken Arrow trail and included several impossible-looking climbs up and down the mountain, plus time out of the vehicle to  enjoy the beautiful views and take photos. Our guide was the best  knowledgeable about the geology in the area, and patient with our kids who let out ear-piercing shrieks with every bump and turn.

About half an hour from downtown Sedona is the Blazin' M Ranch, which is a must for families. The experience includes all sorts of neat western-themed activities set up in a frontier town for the kids, plus a chuckwagon dinner and stage show. Some of the activities we enjoyed were the cow roping (where you learn how to throw a lasso), the shooting gallery (where everyone, even children, can shoot a real Colt .45 loaded with wax bullets), and the wooden puppet gallery (where adorable hand-carved puppets come to life in exchange for a few cents).

Other activities at the Blazin' M Ranch include a vintage tractor pull, a petting zoo, and games like horseshoes and corn hole. At a certain point in the evening, the dinner bell goes off and everyone files into the main barn to eat their meal (barbecued meats, cole slaw, biscuits, baked beans, and a baked potato), served on tin plates. The show starts as dessert is being served, featuring a three-person band singing popular country tunes. Their gags are a bit hokey, but the kids seemed entertained!

A surprisingly fun activity that we came across while we were there was the fishing experience at the Rainbow Trout Farm. Anyone who wants to fish can do so for a dollar, but you have to buy what you catch (each fish is $10 to $13, depending on size). There are two ponds swarming with rainbow trout and they give you the poles, bait, and a bucket for holding the fish. We ended up catching four fish (one for each kid) in under 20 minutes. The people who work at the farm will clean and gut the fish right in front of you and provide you with a grill kit to cook it up on-premise. There's a shaded picnic area for eating your catch of the day.

If shopping is your thing, a must-visit area is the Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village. Even if you're not a big shopper, the village is worth a visit for its beautiful design, modeled after a traditional Mexican village. In addition to the many shops in the village (including an old-fashioned toy store), there are tons of cute little eateries. We ended up spending most of our time at The Chai Spot, enjoying iced teas and Indian snacks. The seating areas were so inviting and comfortable.

When in Sedona you have to do a few hikes, and we prioritized the adventurous yet safe West Fork Trail. It's three miles out and the same distance back, but we decided to just hike for about an hour and turn around. The majority of the trail is shaded, and it crosses Oak Creek several times, so there's many opportunities to clamber across rocks and logs. The kids all had a blast with this one.

The Doe Mountain Trail is slightly more challenging, but also really fun and doable with children. It's a one-mile uphill climb to the top of a mesa offering panoramic vistas. There are many rock scrambles as you wind your way up and the views are breathtaking. There's no danger in falling off as you climb (despite how it looks), but watch out for the many prickly pears growing along the trail!

And when in Sedona, you have to visit at least one of the four vortexes, just to see what they're all about. I didn't know anything about Sedona's famed vortexes until we arrived, but quickly learned that they're centers of energy, credited with healing people and lifting up their spirits. Of course, we wanted to feel this spiritual energy for ourselves, so we set out for Airport Mesa, the vortex that requires the shortest hike to be reached. It took only about five minutes of climbing from the parking lot to reach the top of the mesa. And while no one actually felt the power of a vortex, we were all awed by the panoramic view at the top.

So here's the takeaway: You may have to be more open-minded than we were to feel the power of the Airport Mesa vortex, but what's definitely real are the incredible views.

Where to Eat

The food in Sedona is ridiculously good (and accordingly priced). We didn't have a single bad meal during our entire stay. Some of the highlights included The Hudson for its upscale comfort food, Creekside Bistro for its New American fare, Hideaway House's amazing pizzas, and the hugely portioned Mexican dishes at 89Agave. Just about anywhere you dine will feature amazing views of the red rock.

What's Nearby

Sedona's location is great. It's within two hours of the Grand Canyon (where we stayed for three days) and three hours of Antelope Canyon (which we've visited on a past trip), so it's easy to make it a part of a larger trip to the American West.

It's also just an hour from Williams, Arizona, of historic Route 66 fame. The town appears to be stuck in time and is really kitschy but fun. It's also home to two animal attraction: Bearizona and the Grand Canyon Deer Farm. Both are worth a visit if your kids are into animals. I describe them in more detail in my post on the Grand Canyon.

You may also like:
Grand Canyon National Park: Hikes and Activities for Kids
Zion National Park: Hikes and Activities for Kids
Hiking the Narrows at Zion with Kids: Tips and Tricks