Three Perfect Days in Sedona, Arizona

Best Things to do in Sedona for a Weekend Escape

Now that the temperatures have dipped in northern Arizona, it’s time to turn attention to warmer Sedona. October and November are perfect months for Sedona hiking, touring or just hanging out on an outdoor deck overlooking the spectacular Red Rock Country. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to spend three adventure-filled days in Sedona tasting exceptional food, experiencing new adventures and relaxing at the fabulous Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. Here are my recommendations for the best things to do in Sedona, and how to hit them all during your weekend escape.

Top Things to do in Sedona

        1. Sunset dinner at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill
        2. Pink Jeep Tours – My favorite is the “Broken Arrow Tour”
        3. Full Circle Body Treatment at eForea Spa
        4. Helicopter tour of Sedona’s iconic red rocks by Sedona Air Tours
        5. Hang out the bar at Cuchina Rustica for the world’s best appetizers
        6. Have breakfast in bed at Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock and then confer with their hiking concierge for the best hikes
        7. Sip some suds with the locals at Oak Creek Brewery’s hidden tasting room in an alley off Coffee Pot Drive.
        8. Visit the Coconino Red Rock Visitor Center and Ranger Station for interactive displays and tons of hiking information
Bell Rock in Village of Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona, USA

THINGS TO DO IN SEDONA: DAY ONE

I stop into the Coconino Red Rock Visitor Center and Ranger Station after my 30-minute drive to the Village of Oak Creek. The friendly National Forest Rangers give me free trail and road maps and offer advice on some of the newer trails. The Red Rock Country geology display and “Honor the Past: Human timeline of the Verde Valley Area” pull the curtain back on the mysteries of Sedona, even for those of us who have visited many times. Outside the modern facility, I take a selfie with Smokey, the Bear and chat with Japanese tourists. I’m reminded that Sedona truly is a world-class destination and people from all over journey to see what we have here in our own backyard.

My favorite bear (don’t tell Yogi) and me at Red Rock Visitor Center
Just 1.2 miles down the Red Rock Scenic Byway from the national forest visitor center, the approachable front desk staff helps me check into the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. I note that the lobby has been updated since my last visit. The clean lines and subtle colors reflect the calm of the surrounding high desert. A sculpture of long, frosted glass shards dances from the ceiling over a bed of beach glass that mimics the tranquility of nearby Oak Creek. The multi-million dollar renovation took place last year and included makeovers to the resort’s 219 guest rooms, which include 171 one-bedroom suites. The restyling reached all the way to a rebranding of the hotel (adding Bell Rock, the iconic Sedona rock monument and vortex, to the resort’s name) and includes new guest experiences focused on adventure and exploring the region.
Hiking themed lobby at Sedona Hilton Resort
Lobby of  Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

BEST THINGS TO DO IN SEDONA: DAY TWO

I enjoy the guilty pleasure of room-service breakfast on the balcony of my spacious one-bedroom suite and then meet the others at 8:00 a.m. for a Sedona Air Tours helicopter adventure. Angel 1 Limousines picks us up at the hotel and delivers us to the Sedona Airport where we meet our crew for the Ancient’s Way Tour. I’m happy when they don’t announce the results of my “weigh-in” to the other three passengers. Our pilot flies us into Secret Canyon, Long Canyon and Boynton Canyon, areas of Sedona that are not accessible by vehicle. I’ve hiked most of these canyons and gaped at the red stone spires from the trails, but this is the first time that I’ve flown high among the rock landscape. It’s a thrilling expedition, but I have to admit that it’s a real adrenalin rush to pass so close. When the former Blackhawk pilot takes one hand off the cyclic stick to point out an eyelevel 800-year old Sinagua cliff dwelling below the canyon wall, I stifle the impulse to yell out “Keep your hands on the wheel!”

Helicopter pilot points while Stacey with headset grits teeth
Sedona Air Tours over Red Rock Country

We debrief about our thrilling air adventure at lunch at the Sedona Golf Resort, home of the “Most Photographed Par 3 in the Southwest.” After lunch, I head back to my suite to change into something more comfortable for a relaxing afternoon in the eforea spa at the Hilton Sedona Resort. The 25,000-square-feet of fitness, wellness and spa amenities delivers a full-service spa experience for resort guests and club members alike. I’m scheduled for a “Cupping Massage” demonstration and then a 90-minute Signature Full Circle Treatment that focuses on indigenous ingredients and techniques that reflect the region of Sedona and the greater Southwest.

golfer on course with sedona red rocks in view
Sedona Golf Resort, home of the “Most Photographed Par 3 in the Southwest.”

Certified therapist Joanne teaches us about the ancient healing practice of cupping. Awareness of “Cupping Massage” has been heightened by the recent Olympics in Brazil where high-profile athletes like swimmer Michael Phelps used the therapy to increase physical performance. But not many know that cupping is an age-old treatment found in nearly almost all the world’s ancient cultures. Joanne asks “What could I help you with today?” I explain that I have pain in my left hip. She analyzes the problem and discerns that silicone cups would be the best method to relieve my pain. The silicone cups were developed to work around joints.

Cupping Therapy at eforea spa
After my cupping therapy, I am escorted to a consulting table complete with feather and Native American symbols. The Full Circle Treatment is inspired by the Native teachings of the Four Directions, and the unique experience touched the four aspects of my being: Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit. After the consultation that helped clear my mind, I was asked to choose an aroma therapy from one of four scents, each representing one of four directions. The aroma (to heal my spirit) was used in the cleansing and exfoliation and traditional massage portions of the treatment. The powerful and balancing therapy also included grounding stones, a cocoon wrap and energy work for body and heart.
The Full Circle Treatment is inspired by Native teachings
If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I have eaten in fine restaurants across the globe. Well, I am here to tell you that Cucina Rustica in the Village of Oak Creek is easily one of my favorite restaurants in all the world. I share this with the other travel writers as we walk to the restaurant. Yes, this world-class restaurant is located in The Collective Sedona within walking distance of the Hilton Sedona. Chef Lisa Dahl has created a space and a menu that reflect the rustic Old World setting of Tuscany, Italy. We make our entry through tall, authentic doors, iron gates and windows that Chef Lisa gathered from across the globe to bring here to our neighborhood. The décor was inspired by the mantra, “The doorway to the imagination awaits you.” The food and service are impeccable (as I have come to expect) and all the other travel writers are duly impressed. I learn that Hilton Sedona guests can charge their Cuchina Rustica meals to their rooms. Now THAT makes life easy!
Stacey Wittig and Chef Lisa Dahl, Cuchina Rustica

TOP THINGS TO DO IN SEDONA: DAY THREE

Pink Jeep Tours picks us up from the lobby of the Hilton at o’dark thirty. Actually it is only 7:30 a.m. but it was oh, so, convenient to stumble down from my room – coffee in hand – to the awaiting chauffeur. The concierge at Hilton Sedona made arrangements the day before, so I didn’t have to worry about how to get to the tour company in Uptown Sedona, find parking once there or stand in the dreaded line for tickets. Just like on a cruise, tours can be charged to your hotel room. We bounce and laugh through spectacular red rock country on the off-road Broken Arrow Tour. Our guide, David Hartlerode is a trained 4×4 and driving specialist (unlike my husband Dan) and Certified Interpretive Guide. So we hear unusual stories about the landscape and hoot at his sense of humor. We’re still high on the Adrenalin rush when the Pink Jeep chauffeur drops us back at the Hilton. Pink Jeep Tours are definitely one of the top things to do in Sedona.

Pink Jeep parked on Sedona Red Rocks
Travel writers yuck it up with Pink Jeep guide David Hartlerode
For lunch, we walk back to The Collective Sedona for a quick bite at The Village Grind. The hip neighborhood coffee shop/sandwich joint/wine tasting bar alone is worth a trip to the Village of Oak Creek. I enjoy the tasty salmon salad while others ooh and aah over their sandwiches on the sunny patio.

plate of food at Village Grind restaurant
Salmon salad at neighborhood hangout Village Grind
Angel 1 Limousines greets us at the Hilton Sedona lobby and escorts us to Oak Creek Brewery for a beer tour and Happy Hour. This back alley hideaway in West Sedona is where the famous brewery got its start. When I was single, I hung out here in the open air patio for live music and their smooth Nut Brown Ale. After 21 years, the brew house has grown to include a bottling facility to package their award winning beers including Amber, Hefeweizen and IPA in addition to my ol’ fave, the Nut Brown. I have been hanging out at the original Oak Creek Brewery since 1996, and so I know that it is one of the top things to do in Sedona.

Man stands in front of tall stainless steel beer vats
Brewmeister Jim Strelau at Oak Creek Brewery
For a sunset dinner, I snag an outdoor table at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, Chef Lisa Dahl’s latest venture. The architecture and décor bring the outdoors in and the food and wine selection is simply marvelous. My attentive server helps with my selections, and the meal could not be a more perfect capstone to my three perfect days in Sedona. This upscale restaurant is certainly one of the best things to do in Sedona.

Open Mariposa dining room looks to Sedona Red Rocks
Outdoor table at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

When You Go:

Cucina Rustica, Rustic Tuscan Kitchen https://dahlrestaurantgroup.com

Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock 90 Ridge Trail Drive, Sedona www.hiltonsedonaresort.com

Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill https://dahlrestaurantgroup.com

Oak Creek Brewing Company 2050 Yavapai Dr, Sedona, AZ 86336 http://oakcreekbrew.com

Pink Jeep Tours https://www.pinkjeeptourssedona.com

Red Rock Visitor Center and Ranger Station 8375 Arizona 179, Sedona, AZ 86351

Sedona Air Tours www.sedonaairtours.com

Village Grind, The http://thevillagegrind.com

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey is a travel writer based near Sedona, Arizona. Disclaimer: this trip was hosted by Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock and others. All opinions expressed are her own.

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