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For my 40th birthday this year, I wanted the opposite of a party: serenity, outdoor adventure, and introspection. So my husband and I packed our carry-ons and headed to Sedona, Arizona — the West’s most spiritual city and, according to the Sedona Tourism Board, one of the most beautiful places on earth. And after spending just one weekend there, I concur.

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Sedona is like a New Age Gatlinburg. Instead of taffy pulling, houses of pancakes, and putt-putt, you get spiritual vortexes, guided meditation, and smudging. Instead of foggy, evergreen covered peaks, you get cacti-studded red rock buttes. But the quaint mountain-town feel and the mountainous majesty surrounding the areas is the same (only different). A walk along main street Sedona (about three blocks long) is filled with giant cowboy statues, Mexican cantinas, and shops hocking gems and crystals that promise clarity, power, or healing properties. Most that visit here are looking for a sense of wellbeing, a great spa treatment, and a view of the wild Red Rock Country landscape. You can view Sedona’s geological features by foot, hot-air balloon, helicopter, or pink Jeep.  

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Ten thousand years ago,  indigenous settlers in Sedona were attracted to the year round spring-fed creek that snakes through the canyon to this day — an oasis in the desert. Pioneers settled there in the 1870s as squatters protected under the Homestead Act and began farming the region. In 1902, the bucolic mountain town got its name after T.C. Schnebly applied for a postal office named after his wife. Throughout the 20th century, the town became a favorite of artists and Hollywood, and was often used as the backdrop for westerns. Now, three million people visit the town each year.

We went in early December, the off-season, and were able to hike in 40-50 degree sunshine sans the crowds. A direct flight now runs from Cincinnati to Phoenix on Allegiant, making a weekend getaway there a budget-friendly concept. While we didn’t get to see all that Sedona has to offer (ancient ruins, meditation labyrinths, a thriving art scene, and vortex tours), we did manage to hike about 10 miles of red rocks, eat our way through the city, and relax. Sedona managed to do exactly what it claims: heal and rejuvenate.

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11pm → Flew from Cincinnati to Phoenix; rented a car and arrived at hotel for the night.  


8am → Drove from Phoenix to Sedona. A beautiful drive in December filled with Christmas-decorated Seguros and a morph from flat desert land to red rock mesas.

10:30am → Checked out visitor center. A must first stop to purchase National Forest parking pass and get the skinny on the best trails. Helpful staff and maps available.

11:30am → Arrived at Amara Resort and checked in. A bottle of birthday champagne was chilling in our room. Checked out heated infinity pool and hottub, registered for complimentary yoga, and walked along the creek at the back of the grounds.

1pm → Ate first of many, many tacos. These were fish and shrimp with locally prepared hot sauces.

2pm → Hiked 2.6 miles on Huckaby’s Trail (#161) in the Coconino National Forest: Beautiful views of Sedona and cacti as you snake along the ridges.   

5pm → Complimentary wine hour at hotel. I love free stuff, so I took two and got in the hottub. Drank free champagne, too, as we watched the sun set.

7pm → Ate dinner at hotel (Saltrock): salmon on a bed of purple potatoes and house-made bacon for my husband, and more tacos (carnitas) for me.


7am → Yoga at hotel, followed by breakfast.

9am → Hiked Brins Mesa (#119) to Jordan Cibola Pass, a breathtaking 7.4 mile loop that snakes through the red rock mesas and plateaus at the mesa top. On the way down, you travel through the forest and see some well-known Sedona sights: The Seven Sacred Pools and Soldier’s Pass. An amazing hike!

1pm → Coffee and crystal shopping in town.

5pm → Wine and hottub (I’m a creature of habit).

7pm → Dinner at The Hudson, an upscale yet casual American restaurant. Food and service was exquisite, prices (like most of Sedona) were high. Make a reservation if you plan to go.


8am → Drove back to Phoenix airport and departed for Cincinnati.

Extra Tidbit: How to travel solo and have a good time.  

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