We’ve been itching to get down to Sedona for years but, living in Calgary, we haven’t been able to justify the 23 hour drive to Sedona when Moab is a mere 16 hours. But, this year we decided to take the plunge and it was well worth it! There are so many things to do and explore in the area, it is truly beautiful and, most importantly, it is warm and dry!
We went during the school spring break while the kids were out of school and I was surprised at how popular Sedona is during spring break. We booked our hotel room a couple of days before we left and were fortunate enough to get one of the last rooms. Once we were there, we realized that dinner reservations were mandatory if we didn’t want to deal with grumpy, tired kids for an hour or hour and a half while we waited for a table. I was also surprised to realize that if I didn’t plan my day properly I would find myself stuck in a mid-afternoon traffic jam. So, word to the wise – if you are heading down at spring break be aware that it is a very busy time and plan accordingly.
Where to Stay
There are 4 main areas to stay; check out the Lonely Planet Map overview. The Village of Oak Creek is a 5-10 minute drive from “Sedona” but there are many great rides you could do from your base here. Uptown Sedona is the “main street” for tourism with lots of restaurants, gift shops, coffee places, etc . West Sedona is pretty much a 4 lane highway with some side streets and is not really walking friendly, but there are several hotels, shops and restaurants there. The Arts District is a neat area with several hotels, restaurants and art shops you can walk to and check out. The advantage of the Art District is that it is close to the trails, providing access to loads of rides without having to drive.
We stayed at the Kings Ransom in the Arts District and found it to be ideal for us. It was close to our favourite restaurant, the Javelina Cantina, easy access to the rides, busy, but not too busy and it was also close to the Los Abrigados park and Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village.
Our friends, Barb and Sylvain, camped in several of the free camping areas (aka dispersed camping). From the stories they told us, it sounded wonderful; with stars, sunrises and hot air balloons to wake up to. For more information on camping, click here.
Where to Ride With the Family
There are a couple of nice things about the rides here: 1) with many of the trails being short you can adjust the length of the ride depending on how the kids are doing. 2) many of the rides are close enough together that you could easily switch riding/parenting duties. Depending on the skills of your kids there are several options for riding as a family.
Bell Rock – This wide road like trail has a very moderate uphill and very little technical making it a great choice for kids to gain their confidence and move their legs. From this trail you can park your bikes (there is even a bike rack) so you can go hike up Courthouse Butte. The return ride back to the parking lot is great fun with small easy staircases that make the kids feel like superheroes, especially with the hikers cheering them on.
Big Park Loop
This was easily our kids’ favorite ride and definitely the most scenic too. Clockwise, it is a fun, flowy, twisty ride with little elevation change on hard packed sand making it a good base to ride on. There were many dips in the trail with some rocky stairs for the kids to improve and test out their skills (and skids) on. Just be aware that for the farthest loop I would definitely recommend having a bike with a handle bar brake.
Arizona Cypress \ OK \ Dawa Trail
This trail will forever more be known as the sand monster trail in our house. It is a sandy trail that a 20” wheel can ride but a 12” wheel will find the sand trap monster grabbing at his or her wheels. There is little to no technical (except the sand for small wheels) making it a good choice for getting the munchkins moving. And, as an extra bonus, it had the fewest cacti of all the trails we rode!
We made the mistake of taking the kids (4 & 6) on this one, but it definitely was too much for them. There are some long technical climbs and short, steep, loose descents that were pretty technical. I would only recommend this for kids that are solid on their bikes, unless you enjoy walking a lot.
For a great list of “must do” adult rides, check out Doug’s blog. My favorite was definitely Hangover with some pretty crazy sections that you just don’t want to fall on.
Other Fun Things to Do with the Kids
Although it would be great to just ride, ride, ride kids don’t necessarily feel the same way. There are lots of other fun things to do with the kids while you are there.
Kids and water are almost synonymous, so having a pool in the hotel was mandatory for us. In addition to a hotel pool though, we went to Slide Rock Park where the Oak Creek has carved out natural water slides in the rock. It is AWESOME and a MUST DO with kids!!! There is also a community pool that opens April 1.
Other activities our kids love are visits to the parks, and there are lots of them here too. In town there is a little park close to the river at the Los Abrigados resort with mini golf, chess game, etc. that is open to the public. As well, Sunset Park has play structures, picnic areas, fields, etc. Click on the link to a few others.
If shopping is your thing, check out Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village (it’s a replica of a Mexican village) or the nearby Hillside Shopping Centre with some neat art galleries. As well, there is the “strip” in uptown Sedona. If you want to take the kids on tours, there are the jeep tours, train tours, an old west show, helicopter tours, wine tours, yoga tours and much more.
Outside of town, there are numerous state parks to check out: Red Rock, Slide Rock, and Deadhorse Park. We also went to Jerome – an old mining ghost town that has been recently brought back to life as a funky arts and craft village. It’s pretty cool. If you want to venture further than that, the Grand Canyon is 2 hours away and Las Vegas, baby, is 4 hours.
Apparently Sedona is the centre of some mystical energy and vortexes but, the only energy infusion I felt was when I thought I was going to fall off a cliff on my bike….or was that adrenaline? Maybe next time….
As for restaurants, we tried a few different restaurants but ended up going back to Javalina’s Cantina again and again not only because it was a block away from our hotel, but because the food was great, prices were reasonable, portions were huge, had a great kids menu, the staff were fantastic with the kids and they have some javalinas (kind of a small pig) in the pen beside the restaurant. And in case that isn’t enough, they have a fantastic margarita selection. What else could you ask for??!!
There is so much to do Sedona that one week just isn’t enough time to see and do it all.
Fun Fact – Did you know that Young Guns II and Easy Rider were both filmed in Arizona?